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8 things to remember when maintaining a passport

A passport is very crucial to an international student like you and YOU; here are a few passport-maintenance tips we hope you will follow.

Ashwin Sriram

It’s not advisable to travel with a passport that is facing expiry soon. There are some countries that won’t let you travel if your passport is six months away from its expiry date.

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Even after you are done with your studies abroad, your passport is something you must carry with you for life. It is the one travel item that still must be carried and maintained in paper form. You will need it whenever you travel abroad and must look after it well. Any damage to the passport could result in travel complications. Even minor damage could mean having to reapply for a new passport.

A passport is also like a physical souvenir reminding you of the various destinations you’ve been to outside of your country. But despite its importance, the passport is not always taken care of well.

Below is a list of things that you should be wary of when maintaining a passport.

Name Change

If you've had to change your name because of a marriage or due to other reasons then it’s important to get your new name on your passport. You could encounter problems if you travel with a passport carrying your old name. To change the name in the passport, you have to apply for a re-issue of the passport.

Along with your application form, you need to submit a gazette notification specifying your changed name, a fresh identity certificate specifying your changed name and a sworn affidavit as per Annexure "E", to get a new passport.

If there has been a typographical error on one of your particulars — such as your name or date of birth — in your passport, then it’s important to get the mistake rectified right away. You may be charged a fee to initiate the correction process. But the fee is not mandatory and can vary on a case-by-case basis. 

If there is a misrepresentation of facts, then a penalty fee could also be imposed. However, you can avoid the entire problem of typographical errors by applying online for a passport and correctly listing your own personal information. 

Avoid Damages

Sometimes even a minor damage to the passport could result in you having to apply for a re-issue of the passport. Damages are reviewed on a case-by-case basis. The extent of damage is determined by the passport officer based on how legible the passport is. Any tear, water spillage and ink smudge can put a halt to your travel plans. So take good care of your passport to avoid having to pay too many visits to the passport office.

On rare instances, even the mishandling of your passport by the airport staff could result in damage to your passport. Journalist Cory Doctorow once made an angry tweet blaming a Canadian airline staff member for ripping off a page in his passport. It sucks when you have to end up paying for damages caused by others’ reckless handling. But you can avoid even such unfortunate incidents by always being prudent when handing over your passport for checks.

Facing Expiry

It’s not advisable to travel with a passport that is facing expiry soon. There are some countries that won’t let you travel if your passport is six months away from its expiry date. Here's a list of countries that follow this particular rule.  

India allows you to apply for a re-issue of the passport if your passport is set to expire in a year. To avoid facing a fresh address check by the police, apply for a re-issue of the passport within three years after the expiry of the existing passport. 

Additional Pages

If you are planning to travel frequently between your study destination and India, or even travel to other countries, then you may run out of pages in your passport. There are some countries that provide their citizens with the option of paying extra and purchasing a passport with additional pages. Unfortunately, India doesn’t offer that to its citizens. In the event that you run out of pages in your passport, you’ll have to apply for a new one.

Passport Stickers

Needless to say, you should not stick any material or apply stickers on your passport. Putting anything on your passport as covering material is not legal in most countries. In a few airports abroad, the immigration staff may add easily-removable stickers to mark your passport for their internal verification process. These stickers are permitted within the airport and would not pose you any issues during your travel.

Passport Photo

Some countries are very relaxed about passport pictures — for example, you are allowed to smile for a few passport pictures. But it’s generally advisable to follow the international regulations for passport photos. You don’t have to make a cold, dull face, but it’s best to avoid those big smiles. To quote the Indian passport photo guidelines, you should have a “neutral expression” on your face, and your photo should have a “white background”.

Safety Measures

Keep your passport in a water-tight plastic bag to prevent water seeping into your passport. The other purchase you can make to ensure the safety of your passport is to get a passport holder. The holder resembles a small carry pouch and allows you to store your passport and cash. Some holders come with air-supply holes and have a moisture-proof lining, which keeps your passport clean and dry. To help prevent moisture from damaging the outer layers of your passport, you should add a desiccant packet (silica gel) in the passport holder and your travel bag.

Stay With it

When you are in the airport or in your study destination, you may have to handover your passport to many different people. Never let your passport out of your sight when handing it over to the airport authorities, friends, travel agents, tourist sites, hotel staff members, Uni staff members, hostel or accommodation staff members. Be careful not to give your passport as your proof of identity when hiring a cab or scooter. You can give your driver's license or some other ID proof, like your Uni ID card, in place of your passport.

Never leave your passport as a deposit at hostels or other tourist sites; give your student ID card if necessary. Don't even let cops take your passport, unless it's really necessary.

Don't leave your passport unattended or lying around in your accommodation or hotel room. Always keep it in a safe place. If you are in a hotel, you can use the hotel safe, which you can ask for at the reception desk.

Never surrender your passport to anyone, unless you are sure it's a valid request and a trusted figure. Don't lose track of your passport when you are in possession of it. You may end up leaving it unattended in odd places or misplace it near the ATM counter when you are taking some cash.

Follow our guidelines to ensure a scratch-free and protected passport. You can use all this information to draw up protective plans for your passport. If you have any suggestions to add to our list of pointers here, please feel free to comment below. We’d love to hear from you.

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