Common mistakes on a passport
—and how to avoid them

Passports—they're the one item you can't leave home without when you embark on an international trip. As essential as they are, though, applying for one isn't always the easiest thing to get right. If you are rushed, not paying attention, or simply unaware of the most common ways to make a mistake on a passport application, you can easily be caught out. Even a small mistake—such as from a data or printing error—can result in an incorrect passport application that can delay or thwart your travel plans entirely.

Fortunately, CIBTvisas has helped thousands of travelers just like you through the passport application process. Below we explore some common questions and mistakes when it comes to making a mistake on your US passport, as well as what to do if you need to get your passport corrected.

What are the most common passport mistakes?

Applying for a passport too close to your departure date is a common issue. Delays are not unusual, so it's best practice to start at a minimum of three months before your trip. Passport renewals can take even longer. Keep in mind many countries require your passport to be valid for six months after your scheduled departure date from their country before they will grant you entry, so it's best to start the application process for a new or renewed passport at least eight months before the planned start of your trip.

In order to have a successful passport application, you’ll need to send proof of citizenship and official passport photos. A birth certificate or driver's license are the easiest to use, but whatever document you send, it must be the original or a certified copy. Don’t try to use a hospital certificate or a photocopy. Make sure your proof of citizenship has a registrar’s raised seal, signature, and the official date the certificate or license was filed.

Also ensure that you send in the correct form. Most US passport applications require a Form DS-11, but double check that your circumstances—such as living or applying abroad—don't require another form.

Passport photos can’t just be selfies taken on a phone or even from a professional photographer—your best option is to go to a photographer or self-serve kiosk who specializes in passport photos. They know the exact measurements needed for the photo and how to frame your face in them. Photos also need to be from within the six months of the start of your application, so old passport photos won't suffice.

You will also need to send the fee to pay for the passport process. The United States government dictates that the fee is paid via a check or a postal money order since you will be mailing in your application. Unfortunately, you can’t simply send cash. It may be possible to pay electronically if you go directly to the passport agency, but that isn’t an option for everyone. If you are applying by mail, it is best to also send a check or money order.

The other common types of passport mistakes are typos, errors, or a misspelled name. This can result from rushing an application, not paying attention, and/or not double checking your application for spelling errors and other inconsistencies, like incorrect information. It can also happen if your application has cross-outs, white-out, or erasure marks.

These mistakes can make it difficult for the authorities to correctly enter your information on your passport and usually result in errors or delays. In some cases, it could also be the fault of the passport agency, which may have made a printing error in the process of issuing your passport. This is more common than you might think.

What happens if there is a mistake on my passport?

So what do you do if you've finally received your new valid passport by mail, only to find it contains a passport error? If the error seems minor—just a wrong digit in your date of birth, a slight misspelling of your name, or an incorrect place of birth—you may be tempted to see if you can travel on it anyway.

While it's technically possible to travel on a passport that has minor errors, it does incur a large risk. It may mean international authorities deny you entry upon landing in a new country. Furthermore, if you travel on an incorrect passport, it will cost you more to get it replaced with a new passport that contains the correct information.

How do I get a passport mistake corrected?

The best thing to do if your passport was issued with errors is to get your passport corrected. It's actually relatively easy to do. For minor errors, passport corrections are free if you have not yet traveled on the incorrect passport.

Simply fill out a form DS-5504, sign a statement declaring the error, and submit proof of the correct information, such as a birth certificate showing your correct date of birth or the correct spelling of your name. Don't forget to also include your incorrect passport book, which won't be returned to you. Depending on how long you've had your incorrect passport in hand, you can either send this information to the passport agency that issued your passport, or to the address on the form. You will typically need to wait two months to receive your corrected passport.

What's the fastest way to correct a mistake on a passport?

If you're traveling internationally in less than two month's time, you may need an expedited service to change or correct a passport. To change your document urgently, you'll need to visit one of the roughly two dozen regional passport offices in the United States. Doing so requires an appointment and may also incur other fees, but you can typically get your corrected passport within two weeks.

You can also hire a passport-expediting service to help you change your document if you live far from a regional passport office, or if you need a new passport within a few days. This is typically an expensive service, but can help fix any printing errors in the fastest time possible.

Travel well-informed with CIBTvisas

CIBT has the experienced industry knowledge you need to help you avoid passport errors. As the leading global provider of immigration and visa services for corporations and individuals, you’ll get professional assistance from attorneys and qualified migration consultants. No matter where you want to travel with your new passport, we’re located in more than 70 offices in 25 countries, so we can help from anywhere. Contact CIBTvisas for a quote today.

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