Joi Ito's Web

Joi Ito's conversation with the living web.

I stupidly got a 10 year passport (instead of a 5 year) which is now approaching the final year in its life. It has become reasonably tattered. In particular, there is a corner of the passport cover just where the row of OCR characters starts. This corner is also the closest to my picture. It started as a minor peel. However, several immigration officers have picked at it trying to see if it was a fake (making it worse). Each time a brutal agent swipes it through the OCR scanner, it gets a little worse. I figure a little bit of glue would help protect this corner of my passport, but I wonder if putting glue on my passport to mend a tattered corner is some sort of crime... I googled around and couldn't find anything. All I found was an article about a Chinese woman who was thrown in jail for trying to enter the US with a tattered passport. Yikes!

The Oregonian
In their latest outrage, they jailed a Chinese businesswoman, whose misfortune -- and only crime -- was to arrive at the Portland International Airport with a tattered passport.

Portland immigration inspectors deemed Guo Liming's passport "suspicious." They forced her to strip to her underwear, searched her, interrogated her, handcuffed her for transport to The Dalles and jailed her for two nights -- before concluding [how inconvenient for them] that her passport was valid.

The problem is, getting a replacement passport in Japan requires giving up the one you have for a period longer than I am able to be in Japan for awhile.

Does anyone know anything about whether it would be dumb to try to put glue on my passport and if not, what sort of glue I should use? Basically, the corner is peeling into 3 layers. The cover, the paper and the lamination inside...


Hmm, it's hard to say without being able to see the extent of the damage, and I imagine your remedy would attract attention in some places while not in others. Perhaps you could ask an officer on your next trip to the US.

Anyhow, you might consider a transparent plastic sheath. This will keep the passport intact and possibly allows OCRing without removal. At the same time, it CAN be removed if they wish to inspect it further. Should hopefully get you through the year...

See: Concise Clear-tone Passport Case for Japanese passports for an example of what I mean.

Ahh, looks like you have some sort of spam protection parser that strips urls. Here's what I meant to link to:

I can lend you my passport. It has a valid re-entry permit. Just fake my Dutch accent and when they ask about the picture, you just had a really bad hair day.

No way. Not a chance. I'm not an authority by any means, but just from TV documentaries about airport security - if it went through any form of X-ray (not sure if that's the right term, 'sophisticated scan they use to detect organic material'), it could quite likely show up as being of a different composition to the original, and then you're in real trouble.

Yeah. That's what I'm worried about. What looks worse, a tattered corner or a gob of glue. I wish they would stop picking at it though. It's like a scab that keeps getting worse.

Odd, though - check with your Foreign Affairs Dept or whatever - for example, in Australia: They tell you to allow 4-8 weeks for passport issuance, and that's their 'official' policy. The reality? If you can provide a letter stating a need for travel, or a boarding pass, it can be done 'on the spot'. I did this a few years ago, turned up at passport office at 8.30 am, 1pm flight booked. Had to wait about an hour, but had it by 10am.

Though further to that, you'd presumably have to front up at an office with the actual facilities, not just a forwarding office. And with all the usual caveats about Japanese bureaucracy being rather different to Australian bureaucracy.

The gob of glue will get you in trouble. How does that look different than a bad attempt to change the picture and glue it shut? What happens if you lose your passport?

If I lose my passport, I can easily get a replacement, but I just have to wait. I've lost my passport once in my life. (Actually, my mother had it in her bag by accident.) I had to wait a week or so while the consulate sorted out a new one I think. I think getting a new one is just an inconvenience that will screw up my travel schedule at worst. What about a tiny drop of superglue? Maybe I should put a post-it saying, please do not make it worse and peel me... or something. I guess there is no official point at which a passport is officially tattered worthless. I guess I'll keep traveling with it until someone warns me. Or detains me. The flip side is that I've got so many stamps in it right now that by the time they get to my appended supplement pages they they know that I've been to the US many many times...

Mine is doing the same thing, but I wouldn't touch it. That's way more suspicious.

The problem started with a very good looking and expensive leather passport cover I got at Brooks Brothers. It got wet and the leather held the water, causing it to de-laminate and stain.
I replaced it with a plastic passport cover that cost me about twenty cents from a subway kiosk in Moscow. I wish I had the sense to grab more of those at the time — they work great. I just tell the customs people to be careful and they haven't had a problem with it.
My old passport was so beat to hell that the passport people gave me a lecture about "destroying government property".

I once had a brown coffee stain in my passport which got me in a bit of a jam. The immigration officer refused to stamp the page and said that no other pages had enough room for a stamp so I could not be allowed to disembark in the U.S., even though that is my country of orgin and I hold a U.S. passport! After giving me some grief he found some room on another page and stamped my passport. There was actually plenty of room on the other pages as well!

Maybe it is possible to get the process of getting a new passport started before you actually have to hand over you old one?

I used to have rather tattered passport for years (which, among other things, had been stolen and then most miraculously returned to me with clear marks of intention to change photo) and was able to travel without problems for years. Of course, I had to accept comments like "Did you arrive by ship or swimming?".

Seems they are (up to some point) willing to accept worn passports, but adding glue would probably make them wonder "why?"...

Peeter... hmm.. Was this before or after 9/11? It sounds like I should just keep it like it is...

My solution to this in the UK is to have two passports - perfectly legal, I just requested the second with a letter from my employer stating that I frequently need to travel whil applying for visas (they also accept the need to travel to both Israel and arab states as a reason to have two passports). So I now have a (full) old passport full of useful visas and a (getting full way too fast) new passport that I actually use most of the time.

This isn't exactly the right time to get a new five- or ten-year Japanese passport, IMHO.
I understand the Japanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs managed to sneak into next year's government budget some funds to prepare for the (2006 ?) introduction of new passports with a tiny embedded chip containing some biometric data, as clamored for by one paranoid country that shall remain nameless.
If I were you, I'd try to survive on your old, tattered passport for an additional year or so, and then upgrade to biometric passport v1.0 when it's released ;-)

You can do what we do here in the US when we have passport problems--go overseas and get it fixed at the embassy. Nearly every embassy and consulate has the ability to issue new passports on a walk-in kind of basis. On your next trip you should go to your embassy's citizen services and explain that your passport got really tattered by the machine and you are afraid they won't let you back in and can you get a new one.


I don't know how Japanese diplomatic missions work, but next time you are in a country where Japan has a small(er) consulate/embassy and see with them what they could do. My experience with French consulates is that while they normally only give new passports to French citizen living in the country, AND duly registered with the consulate, the smaller the representation, and the more open they are to bending the rules. They usually can file it as a tourist who lost his passport.


In Finland I can get 2-4 weeks "instant temporary passport" from airport police if I loose mine. I would imagine similar system works in Japan? Just loose it and get a temp while waiting for new ?

I'm wondering, Joi, if this is a Japanese or US Passport. I know you lived in the US for some time...

In the US, there are agencies that expedite passports (and visas) for you at a modest cost. Or you can go to the passport office, downtown SF, for example, and stand in line and get it the same day.

It does seem like throwing yourself on the mercy of the local consulate somewhere might be a good try.

See you in SF sometime...


The lamination on my US passport is starting to come up, but no one in the US has ever haslted me about it, except to point out that I will be getting a new one next year anyway.

I very recently was on a business trip to India, and there it caused a problem. The immegration officials actually theatened to send me back to the US, which was their opportunity to get a bribe out of me:

When I arrived back in the US, the immigration official noted that my passport was in bad shap, and that I was going to get a new passport next year anyway.

I personally wouldn't glue it, that is clearly a form of tamptering. I would get it replaced as soon as you can. I know mine is getting replaced early

Don't mess with your passport. A mended passport will look much much worse to an immigration officer than a tattered one. I think you want to avoid giving the impression that you would even think about modifying an official document in any way.

How about tape? A small piece of type will help carrier you until you get your new passport and it is obvious that you aren't trying to hide the modification. Also very easy to explain.

Just ask the Japanese Passport Office to process the passport fast. They can do this if they want to. You can generally also get temporary passports issued, although with strings attached. Providing you can show that it is important for your business, and you are in good standing with them (i.e, don't have a record of repeatedly 'losing' passports or not returning temporary passports) I would think they will do this. The Irish authorities certainly would.

One experience a friend of mine had some years ago was that his passport was rejected (by US authorities in Dublin, I think) because the front cover was splitting, like yours is.

The reason this is such a big issue for immigration officials seems to be because it seems as if your passport has extra pages, and extra pages are a big no-no for the passport bureaucracy. Anyway, my friend went and glued them together with regular glue he bought in a shop at the airport, tried it again, and got away with it.

Personally I would get a new passport if I could.

The newer style of UK passport with the extra security features is designed to cope with this to a degree. The OCR-able number isn't on the inside cover page; it's on a separate laminated page, so the cover doesn't need to go through the machine. Much better design, although I have a feeling it might not work as well in some readers.

semi-off topic. i live in the portland metro area.

good news - the case cited is from 2000 - old news already.
more good news - the head of portland ins was fired over this kind of stuff.
bad news - post 9/11, it could still happen

i spent 10 years traveling extensively all over the world. my passport is now about 2 inches thick with add-in pages.

other's recommendations, especially visit a japanese consulate while overseas to get the passport officially repaired or replaced is the easiest and best fix. embassies and consulates know you're in a time crunch and can't wait around days for help. they fix stuff like this on the spot.

My dad's a frequent business traveler, passing through customs of some country about 4-5 times a month. Sometimes more. Over the years, his U.S. passport would always end up looking worn out, and extra-thick with the supplemental pages.

About six years ago, he arrived in Japan... I'd like to think it was in Osaka, but it might have been Narita. In spite of his credentials he presented customs (executive, work documents, U.S. passport, Japanese meishi, blah blah blah) the fact that he was of Philippine descent and the condition of his passport raised sort of flag with customs and was sent in for interrogation.

(Aside: We're no strangers to discrimination against Filipinos in Japan. When we all lived there in the 80's we would experience occassional minor acts of racial discrimination. It usually wasn't so bad since we looked more generic east-Asian than dark-skinned southeast Asian. At any rate, my dad was pretty damn sure it was because he said he was born in the Philippines that they started getting suspicious.)

At any rate, after much questioning they would not let him go, and he was detained in a holding cell and deported back to the U.S. the next day. To add insult to injury, there was no one at the U.S. Embassy to take his call to help him out. Apparently former ambassador to Japan (and of course former vice president) Walter Mondale was back visiting and all the embassy's officers were out with him. Or so he was told.

Long story short, it screwed up with his schedule for the next five weeks. The only good thing to come out of this was that he was able to spend Thanksgiving with us.

Hallo, I glued my passport and have been traveling with it ok but the glue has moved out the sides on to the pages and now I have to apply for my ilr in the uk and they will have stick it in a page I am scared they will see it and think it has been tampered with!

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