A friend of a friend recently had a traumatizing experience of being deported after his passport was rejected by the Immigration at NAIA. The reason was simple? A torn area, about the size of half a centavo coin, on page 2 of the document where the traveler profile is located.
The incident made me think — can we get deported or refused entry if our passport is damaged? And what constitutes a damaged passport?
This concern wasn’t new. In fact, a year ago, ruckus was raised after a very ill young boy due for treatment in Vietnam was not accepted in a Cebu Pacific flight due to a damaged passport. After an intense back and forth between the family of the boy and Cebu Pacific, and through the intervention of the DFA, a replacement passport was issued to the boy and he was able to get his treatment in Vietnam.
First things first — how do you know if your passport is damaged?
A passport is considered damaged if it contains any of the following:
1. Torn pages, or if the main pages were dislodged from the hard cover. There were many incidents of these when the DFA first introduced the Machine Readable passport, specifically those issued in 2010. Due to more than 500 cases of passports detaching from their cover, the DFA had to announce a recall and free replacement (SOURCE).
2. Worn edges or tear on its pages (punit), specifically the very important Page 2 where our information is indicated. Definitely, your passport is considered “mutilated” and needs to be replaced.
3. Water damage or you forgot it was in your jean pocket/suit pocket and got washed in the washing machine.
4. Obvious puncture marks and holes.
5. Stains on the inside pages
Of course, a passport displaying obvious wear and tear, i.e. a bit bent due to being kept at your back pocket most of the time, or displaying signs of fading on the cover due to constant use is not considered damaged. As long as you keep the inside pages pristine, then you are on the safe side.
I think my passport is damaged, what do I do?
If your passport shows any of the items mentioned above, aside from the superficial wear and tear, make sure to head to the Department of Foreign Affairs office in order to get a replacement.
Here’s a step-by-step process based on the DFA website:
1. Submit Notarized Affidavit of Mutilation (with detailed explanation on when, where and how passport got mutilated or damaged)
2. Original and photocopy of first and last page of mutilated or damaged passport
Bottom line, it’s always better to err on the side of caution. Let’s keep our passport protected at all times. I actually read of someone whose passport was chewed on by his dog. Rather than face the inconvenience of having to go for a replacement passport, make sure that we keep our travel documents, like all important document should, safely hidden away.
In the rare chance that it gets damaged due to fault of others (like a very zealous immigration agent), never attempt to mend any of it. Do not use scotch tape or paste or anything that would invalidate your passport right then and there. Note that our immigration laws does not look kindly on tampered passports and the people who do them. When we try to fix our damaged passports on our own, we are essentially tampering with a government document.
(SIDE NOTE: I managed to research photos and videos on how to identify damaged passport and the step-by-step process of getting a replacement at the DFA. However, WordPress’ uploader is not cooperating. I will update this post once the uploader is back to normal).