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Around two years ago I washed and dried my passport by mistake at the laundry room. My ID, my old US student visa and my stamps from european countries are still readable but the pages are not "flat" anymore and the front cover is kind of erasing (some parts of the Brazil symbol is gone).

In April I'll travel to US for a conference, I'll need to get a new US visa (B1/tourism visa) but I'm worried if my passport is not "good to go" anymore because it was "washed and dried". Apparently there is an electronic chip in it and I don't know if it is still working.

Should I get a new passport or can I save some money and time and use this one? It expires only in 2019.

  • When this happened to me my picture was damaged (colors altered) and most of my US stamps were gone. In your Q you mention what is still readable, but is there anything that is no longer readable or that, while still readable, has been altered in some way that you forget to mention in the Q? – Some wandering yeti Feb 12 '17 at 22:42
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    Anecdotally, I did the same, and while most everything was readable, I was given a LOT of grief traveling. I got a new one and never will do that again. Note, if it means anything, I'm American living in the middle east, and traveling everywhere - I got grief everywhere on the first trip after the washing incident. – Mikey Feb 13 '17 at 6:13
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    As far as the chip goes, the only requirement is that you have a passport with a chip: the chip doesn't have to be working. But the safe thing to do is to replace your passport. – David Richerby Feb 13 '17 at 9:31
  • The lettering on front covers tends to wear away over time anyway, the foil they use often isn't that hard wearing. The front cover is usually purely decorative though, the Immigration officer won't care about its condition too much. – Crazymoomin Feb 13 '17 at 14:40
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    You should replace your passport as soon as possible. Currently you are allowed to travel only to very wrinkled countries. – A. I. Breveleri Feb 13 '17 at 17:46
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Let's assume the USA will use the same standards to evaluate a damaged US passport as it will use to evaluate a damaged foreign passport. Well, this is what the USA says about damaged US passports which you can use as a guide:

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. Damage that might require you to replace your passport includes water damage, a significant tear, unofficial markings on the data page, missing visa pages (torn out), a hole punch, or other injuries.

Normal "wear and tear" of a U.S. passport is expected and likely does not count as "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.

How much do you save by waiting till 2019? That's 2 years. If you have a passport normally valid for 10 years, that's only 20% savings. For a $80 passport, that is $16 of savings. Is it worth getting denied boarding, getting your visa application rejected etc? The numbers I use are only assumptions.

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    Great point and I think you're right. Thanks, I'll get a new passport this week :) – Eduardo Castro Feb 13 '17 at 3:18
  • "How much do you save by waiting till 2019?" The expensive part is from replacing the visa, not the passport. – Zsbán Ambrus Feb 13 '17 at 13:02
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    Replacing which visa? He has not yet applied for a visa. Read his question. – ThE iLlEgAl aLiEn Feb 13 '17 at 13:06
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    Generally the most expensive part of getting a passport is the time spent. Depending on location, you might have to prepare your own photos / go to an embassy (only open on weekdays, meaning you have to take time off) / travel / stand in line for all eternity etc. But I fully agree that it's probably way better than the hassle of having a bad passport. – Amani Kilumanga Feb 14 '17 at 0:15
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    @woliveirajr Correct. However my point is IF the passport is damaged, they would not put a new visa in it and that could delay him. – ThE iLlEgAl aLiEn Feb 14 '17 at 16:16
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The chip should still work - and you can easily test it using any phone which has NFC reader. However there may be other marks - which are only visible in UV light - which could be damaged, and thus make your passport not acceptable for travel.

Considering the vagueness of "still readable", and considering that you're flying to USA, I'd say it is definitely worth investing in a replacement passport. With the current attitude of our new government coming in with a washed passport is basically asking for a trouble. And if you're turned back, your saved money won't be much of saving.

But if you insist of using your old passport, you need to check it with UV light against an undamaged passport issued in or around the same year (as the marks might change). If yours look much different, don't use it.

  • Worth noting that it's not the NFC chip, but the machine-readable two lines of text on the bio page that matters for most passport readers. If that text is not clearly visible you are likely to have problems. – foobarbecue Feb 14 '17 at 16:22
  • @foobarbecue I think passport readers/automated gates using the chip to get a digital version of the picture are becoming common… but they still need the machine readable strip to decrypt what's on the chip! – Relaxed Feb 27 '17 at 8:56
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I left my US passport in a pants pocket in the washing machine about nine years ago, the night before an international trip. My dear mother found it and carefully dried it page by page. It came out looking almost good as new, and very clean. I've been travelling on it ever since, with no issues. Mom says if you are going to wash your passport, use cold water & gentle cycle!

Seriously though, don't wash your passport. You might not be as lucky as I was.

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    Your mother should consider going pro ;) – Lightness Races in Orbit Feb 13 '17 at 11:15
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    Can confirm, my washed US passport is also valid. – lazarusL Feb 13 '17 at 23:06
  • If you do accidentally wash your passport, try drying it by ironing to prevent wrinkles. One page at a time, with a cotton sheet pillowcase between the iron and the page. I'd use low hear on the page with the chip. The pillowcase/sheet will absorb some of the stamps, but they will wash out. (Better to not wash it, though. – WGroleau Feb 14 '17 at 9:20
  • The last sentence is a conclusion which might have occurred to the OP already. – glglgl Feb 14 '17 at 15:53
  • Ok that's a joke about ironing, right? You had me for a second. – foobarbecue Feb 14 '17 at 16:18
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Other answers are wrong.

Your passport is damaged, and regardless whether the chip works, you need to get a new. Now, depending on the conditions of the passport and the person checking it, you may have problems.

  • +1 for this, even though I answered that I am still using my washed passport. BЈовић is right that it's not worth the risk. – foobarbecue Feb 14 '17 at 16:21
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If your passport is not electronic and it has no chip, it is probably still good for your next travel if all text are still clearly legible. However, I suggest that you change it as soon as possible after you return.

But you passport is electronic, so you might run into problems because the chips might be damaged. You should apply for a new passport ASAP. As long as the US visa in your old passport is still in good shape, you should encounter no problems. Just present both passports to border inspection.

Personally, I have also did something similar, but much less serious - I soaked my passport (non-electronic!) in oil and had to wipe the oil on the surface off. Later, it dried, and the state emblem on my passport was not clearly visible anymore. However, obviously all my visas and my identity page were fine. However, my passport was going to expire in a year, so I didn't get a new one.

Last year I got a new, electronic passport, and have been keeping it carefully (so as not to soak it in anything). My US visa is still in my oil soaked passport, and I had no problems travelling (with both passports).

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