Having spent a bit too much time in the pocket of my trousers, the name and emblem of my country have been erased from the front of my passport. The relief is still visible if you look at it under a lamp, but at first glance the front is entirely red with no text or graphics. To know what country I live in, you'd have to look at the page opposite the laminated information page.

In addition, the pages are rather ragged, although there are no tears, water damage or similar.

Is my passport now "damaged" enough that I will not be let into countries with strict border guards? It has worked fine for the occasional passport check at airports in Schengen, but I suspect border guards in Turkey or China may be considerably stricter.

  • 2
    It sounds like your passport is worn rather than damaged. Legibility of the cover is unimportant. Your nationality is also noted on the laminated information page, and that's what counts.
    – phoog
    May 6, 2016 at 8:10
  • My passport went like this within a few months, and I used it to cross a land border into China from Central Asia with no problems. The Chinese officials did, however, try to confiscate my Lonely Planet China book as anti-government propaganda because its map showed Taiwan... but that's a different story! May 6, 2016 at 11:44
  • I has a NZ passport that had minor fraying along an internal seam line on one page. NZ customs said it was OK for China (where I was going) but that it would be rejected in eg USA and that I should get a new one. May 6, 2016 at 12:36

2 Answers 2


The front of my old passport (which I had to change early because of USDHS new rules) was pretty much unreadable like yours for several years, but immigration seemed unconcerned about it for the places I went to. I think they are probably much more concerned about the condition of the inside of the passport than the outside, so if your ID page is still intact, and all your visas and stamps are still legible, I don't think you will have a problem.

That said, the bigger issue often with older passports is that the photo might not look like you any more. I got mine when I was 17 and was still using it at 26, so that did get me a few hard stares from immigration officers (more often when I was returning home to the UK for some reason).


I seriously doubt there exists an international standard for what counts as "damaged passport". Surely missing or torn pages and any damage to the machine readable strip rendering it not-machine-readable will make it damaged but beyond that? I am afraid this falls under "I know it when I see it".

The UK Government has a document on it, though;

A damaged passport is one which is not in a condition to be accepted as proof of identity. Damage may include the following:

  • Details are indecipherable.
  • The laminate has lifted enough to allow the possibility of photo substitution.
  • Discoloration to the biodata page.
  • Chemical or ink spillage on any page.
  • Missing or detached pages
  • The chip or antenna shows through the endpaper on the back cover for the new style e-passports.
  • The chip has been identified as damaged following investigation.

but note even this is not an exhaustive listing, it has the word "may" and in general, the first sentence is the key.

Here's what the United States says has on the matter:

The passport has been materially changed in physical appearance or composition, or contains a damaged, defective or otherwise nonfunctioning chip, or includes unauthorized changes, obliterations, entries or photographs, or has observable wear or tear that renders it unfit for use as a travel document, and the Department either takes possession of the passport or sends a written notice to the bearer.

  • I understand that such standards don't exist, but if there is anybody here who has been in the same situation it would be interesting to hear about their experience.
    – haroba
    May 6, 2016 at 8:03
  • You are talking about millimeters and opinions of border guards. No two cases are the same. Very cautiously I will offer my opinion: it is fine as long as it is indeed not torn. If by ragged you only mean creased, it probably is fine.
    – chx
    May 6, 2016 at 8:04
  • Well, it's all a question of probability -- the probability that a border guard in Turkey or China will reject my passport. Even though there are no certainties, hearing others' experiences will help me decide if the probability is high enough that it's worth getting a new passport.
    – haroba
    May 6, 2016 at 8:07

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