EMERGENCY - washed passport two days before flying home

15 posts in this topic

Please hold the laughter, yes it's my own damn fault. I'm a US citizen currently working in Germany and am (hopefully still) flying back home to the US for Christmas for the first time in three years. The flight is 11am on Wednesday, and in the routine of prepping everything I decided to wash my overcoat, which I never wash - and in which I usually carry a pouch carrying my US passport, for safekeeping.

Luckily my flatmate heard the metal clip of the pouch inside the washing machine, and I got it out - but the passport's decently wet - not sopping wet, but the page edges are recognizably wet and slightly deformed. Even worse is that the Aufenthaltstitel sticker inside, while not ruined, discolored - I assume the ink has blotted a bit. (will post picture if needed)

While obviously not as bad as losing the thing, having this happen two days before leaving is really shitty. Plus the US embassy is closed so I can't annoy them. I have one day tomorrow to do whatever the hell I can to rectify this. Thoughts, advice as to what I should do? Does the US embassy (and German consulate in the US) issue emergency travel authorizations?

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I'm sorry about your passport, but if the airport security won't accept it, you might not be traveling as you planned.  Even if the airport security does accept it, you might have problems with it when you go through the US immigration check.

 

Here is a link to the U.S. Embassy page detailing what to do in order to receive a replacement passport.  According to the website, you must make an appointment, and the processing time for the replacement passport is two to three weeks after the appointment date.

 

https://de.usembassy.gov/u-s-citizen-services/passports/replace-damaged-passport/

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I would go to the airport and do what Spidey suggested. I'm 100% sure they have heard this case before.

 

Damn, I'm so sorry this happened. Could happen to any of us. 

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48 minutes ago, JG52 said:

I'm sorry about your passport, but if the airport security won't accept it, you might not be traveling as you planned.  Even if the airport security does accept it, you might have problems with it when you go through the US immigration check.

 

Here is a link to the U.S. Embassy page detailing what to do in order to receive a replacement passport.  According to the website, you must make an appointment, and the processing time for the replacement passport is two to three weeks after the appointment date.

 

https://de.usembassy.gov/u-s-citizen-services/passports/replace-damaged-passport/

There are services that replace passports within 24-48 hours, expensive but they exist.  Also, within the US you can go directly to an office.  My son had to do that once for business travel when he lived in the Bay Area and discovered at the last minute that his passport was about to expire. Of course his employer paid for the speedy processing fee.  So you might want to do some internet searching and/or chat with the embassy in Berlin where you might have a shot at getting something quickly accomplished.  Good Luck!  It could happen to any of us.

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1 hour ago, Pandekage said:

Please hold the laughter, yes it's my own damn fault. I'm a US citizen currently working in Germany and am (hopefully still) flying back home to the US for Christmas for the first time in three years. The flight is 11am on Wednesday, and in the routine of prepping everything I decided to wash my overcoat, which I never wash - and in which I usually carry a pouch carrying my US passport, for safekeeping.

Luckily my flatmate heard the metal clip of the pouch inside the washing machine, and I got it out - but the passport's decently wet - not sopping wet, but the page edges are recognizably wet and slightly deformed. Even worse is that the Aufenthaltstitel sticker inside, while not ruined, discolored - I assume the ink has blotted a bit. (will post picture if needed)

While obviously not as bad as losing the thing, having this happen two days before leaving is really shitty. Plus the US embassy is closed so I can't annoy them. I have one day tomorrow to do whatever the hell I can to rectify this. Thoughts, advice as to what I should do? Does the US embassy (and German consulate in the US) issue emergency travel authorizations?

 

Same thing happened to me about 15 years ago I accidentally washed my passport. I dried  the passport by leaving it out to dry and used it for another five years with warped edges.  There were a fews of comments that the passport look like it had been through the wringer, I smiled sheepishly and said "I accidentally washed it".

 

My passport after the washing still had the serial number intact and my photo clearly visible. 

 

 

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2 hours ago, SpiderPig said:

Talk to the airline or the Airport security.

Just came back from both the Hbf and airport federal police stations, Hbf police was able to read the chip, airport police wasn't (though he only tried once). Not sure how I should feel. Although he did say that the water damage was nowhere severe enough, that a readable chip isn't necessary to travel (is that true??) and the Aufenthaltstitel would be accepted upon reentry to Germany.

 

Guess my heart's beating slower but still.. the big question now is whether or not the US CBP (I assume is stricter than German controls) would accept it.

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Did you try to contact the US Consulate in Munich? I can see they are open throughout the holidays. Perhaps they can give you some info. Best of luck. 

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9 hours ago, Pandekage said:

the big question now is whether or not the US CBP (I assume is stricter than German controls) would accept it.

 

 

This is the one thing you do not need to worry about.  A US citizen cannot be denied entry into the US.  If you make it to the border, CBP absolutely must let you in, even if you have no travel document or your travel document is damaged.  They can delay your entry while they use alternative methods to verify your citizenship, but you cannot be denied entry.

 

Any real challenge for you will be at the airport in Germany.  The biggest challenge is this:  if an airline flies someone to the US who is then deemed inadmissible at the border, CBP requires that the airline pay for the inadmissible person's return travel.  Obviously the airlines do not want to pay for this, so they err on the side of extreme caution.  If your US Passport cannot be validated at the airport, it is likely the airline will not allow you to board your flight.

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I suggest that he goes back to the police station where they could read the Passport chip, then ask them to write a letter theát confirms the PP is genuine and legal....   Then hand the letter at the airport if you get refused...

 

Then whilst in the states.. get a replacement.. 

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14 minutes ago, Space Cowboy said:

...

Any real challenge for you will be at the airport in Germany.  The biggest challenge is this:  if an airline flies someone to the US who is then deemed inadmissible at the border, CBP requires that the airline pay for the inadmissible person's return travel.  Obviously the airlines do not want to pay for this, so they err on the side of extreme caution.  If your US Passport cannot be validated at the airport, it is likely the airline will not allow you to board your flight.

 

Exactly.

The airlines are not just responsible for the cost of return travel, but are also fined. 

 

The average fine is 3,500 USD per passenger with some countries charging up to 10,000 Euros!

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A damaged chip is not a barrier to travel, at least with US passports. Chips often stop working. They're simple electrical devices, and passports go through a lot.

 

I expect you made it, but next time first contact the embassy. They can issue locally produced emergency passports. Whether or not they would have is unknown.

 

The biggest issue in this case would have been the airline, and possibly the Federal Police. Airline representatives are very cautious because of the fine mentioned above, and want to avoid any chance of incurring one.

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Thanks for the info everyone, indeed I'm back home stateside. Really wasn't an issue it turns out, as Space Cowboy mentioned the airline reps were a bit more questiony (moreso about my extended EU stay) but CBP didn't blink and waved me through.

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