Travelling with a damaged passport is an expensive risk. Here's why you should get it replaced

2019-05-11 05:30 - Selene Brophy
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Applying for a new passport can seem like a rigmarole. But with online applications and the department of home affairs creating partnerships with banks to improve the process, avid travellers really should just get it done. 

The list of unintended things that could go wrong with your passport include not having enough blank pages or not having a sufficient validity window in relation to your expiry date (it’s usually a pre-requisite 3 to 6 months – see more here).

I personally have a quirky conversation point with immigration officials (my last US visa application springs to mind) thanks to my eldest son who got hold of my passport when he was three and scribbled all across the first opening page. Thankfully, I’ve not been refused entry to a country or been denied a visa application as a result.

UPDATE: What travellers need to know about SA's airport e-gates and e-visas pilots

However in some extreme cases the condition of your passport can see you shipped back home, no questions allowed.  

Travel and Leisure recently reported how US comedian and actor Jordon Peele was not allowed to board a flight due to the condition of his passport. The comedian was meant to be travelling to London with his wife, comedian Chelsea Peretti - however his passport was deemed too "worn".

Peretti is quoted as having tweeted (The tweet has since been deleted), “Big shout out to the LAX employee who barred my husband from getting on our flight (our honeymoon) bc his passport page was a little worn.... Solo honeymoon should be cool too!”

In a poor condition 

If your passport is damaged it is cause for suspicion. While most countries have upgraded the design of their passports to decrease passport fraud risk, anything that causes an immigration official to question the authenticity of your passport could see you hotfooting it back to good ol’ SA - wasting any flights, accommodation or activity bookings you might have. 

Essentially, the US Department of State advises travellers to replace a passport if it has “water damage, a significant tear, unofficial markings on the data page, missing visa pages (torn out), a hole punch, or other injuries.”

Similarly, the Department of International Relations advises, "If your passport is damaged in any way it is advisable to replace it before travelling."

READ: Frequent traveller? Don’t thwart your trip with too few blank pages, apply for this special passport  

"If your passport is due to expire within the next six months or has less than two blank pages, check with the embassy or consulate of the country of your intended destination in South Africa for its rules and restrictions regarding passport validity and expiry."

So next time you're given one of those branded passport protective cover things - I suggest using it, just in case.

READ: Passport-free international travel? Boarding a flight might soon involve little more than posing for a photo 

When travelling, you should seriously store your passport in a protective travel pouch, otherwise a plastic bag will do. And as an added safety measure, keep certified copies of your passport (including the visa pages) with you for identification purposes. It can't hurt to leave a copy with a relative or friend for quick reference when needed in an emergency - should your passport be damaged while travelling.   

To contact the Department of Home Affairs: 

  • Telephone from abroad -  +27 12 395 4307
  • From within SA - 0800 60 11 90
  • Via e-mail on 

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