When you submit your passport for a passport renewal or a name change, you’ll get your old passport back when the new one is issued. But what happens when you replace a damaged passport? Will you get your damaged passport back?
What Happens When You Replace Your Damaged Passport?
In order to replace your damaged passport, you will need to submit the mutilated passport book and an explanation of how it got damaged. Even if there are only a few shreds of your passport left, you have to submit them! You’ll have to appear at a Passport Acceptance Facility to have your application reviewed and your identity and citizenship verified. The Passport Acceptance Agent will then seal your passport replacement request into an envelope, which you will send to G3 for processing.
G3 will hand-carry your sealed envelope to the Passport Agency for rush processing of your damaged passport replacement. As soon as your new passport is ready, we will pick it up, check it for accuracy, and send it out to you. You’ll receive a brand-new passport, valid for ten years from the date of issue. You’ll also get your proof of citizenship document back.
You will not, however, get back your damaged passport book. The Passport Agency keeps all the mutilated passport books that are submitted for replacement.
Why Doesn’t the Passport Agency Return Damaged Passports?
When your passport gets damaged, it is considered compromised. It’s no longer valid for travel, or as proof of your identity or US citizenship. The idea is that if a passport is damaged, it could be altered in some fraudulent way. This was especially an issue before US passports were redesigned. If you had a passport 15 or 20 years ago, you may remember that your photo and personal information used to be on the inside of the front cover, underneath a sheet of plastic lamination. Back then, the most common reason for passports to be considered mutilated was if the lamination began to peel up. The government was understandably concerned that criminals might put in a different photo or otherwise falsify the passport. It’s safer for the government to keep the damaged passport that’s been turned in for replacement, so it can’t fall into the wrong hands.
What if There are Valid Visas in a Damaged Passport?
A few countries, most notably Brazil, China, and India, issue long-term multiple entry visas to US citizens. These visas may be valid for as long as ten years! It’s quite common for these visas to remain valid even after the passport has expired, been cancelled, or been renewed. Usually, any visas that are in your passport are cancelled when the passport expires or is renewed. However, China, Brazil, and India will allow you to keep using valid visas on your old passport! You can travel carrying both your new, valid passport and your old passport with the visa sticker.
If you have a valid visa for India, China, or Brazil in your damaged passport, you can ask the Passport Agency to return your passport so you can keep using the visa. It’s worth a try! Include a letter with your mutilated passport replacement request, asking for the passport to be returned. In the letter, explain that you have a valid visa that you would like to be able to use for future trips. Whether or not they will return your damaged passport is up to Passport Agency discretion. They sometimes return passports on request if the damage to the passport was minor.
But if you don’t get your damaged passport back, and you need to get a new visa, G3 can help!