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My passport is due for renewal however it got a little wet and there's some smudges on some of the pages. My picture is a little faded but you can still clearly see it's me and all of the information is still readable.

Can I go through the normal renewal process or do I need to order a brand new one?

  • 1
    When you "renew" a passport, you actually get a new one anyway. – phoog Mar 2 '16 at 18:33
  • No one here can accurately tell you which route you have to follow, because we can't see how extensive the damage is. Best thing to do, is to take the passport to your post office and ask the clerk which you need to do. – user13044 Mar 3 '16 at 1:47
  • @phoog - the new versus renew questions has to do with the fees you have to pay and steps you have to take, as they are different. – user13044 Mar 3 '16 at 1:50
  • @Tom the application requirements are different, but the fees are the same. – phoog Mar 3 '16 at 3:35
  • @phoog - A new passport has an additional $25 acceptance facility fee, a renewal does not, so overall costs are different. – user13044 Mar 3 '16 at 3:52
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The State Department has this to say, in its FAQ:

My passport has been damaged. Can I continue to use this passport?

If your passport has been significantly damaged, especially the book cover or the page displaying your personal data and photo, you will need to apply for a new passport. Conditions that may constitute damage requiring you to replace your passport include water damage, a significant tear, unofficial markings on the data page, missing visa pages (torn out), a hole punch, or other injuries.

Normal wear of a U.S. passport is expected and likely does not constitute "damage." For instance normal wear includes the bend of a passport after being carried in your back pocket or fanning of the visa pages after extensive opening and closing.

If you need to replace your damaged passport, you will need to submit the following in person (See Where to Apply):

  • The damaged passport;
  • A signed statement explaining the damaged or mutilated condition of your passport book and/or card;
  • Form DS-11; and
  • All documents required by Form DS-11, including citizenship documentation (i.e., birth certificate).

Any water damage on the personal data page appears to qualify as damage.

Note that this requires you to appear in person at a post office or other passport acceptance facility, while regular renewals can be done by mail. Aside from that, there is not much difference.

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After calling the Passport Agency's customer service line, they said the general rule of thumb is that if there's even a question about damage, then it is better to be safe than sorry and apply for a new one instead of renewing. Even if all of the information is readable.

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