Extra pages in my passport: how can I make sure they are sewn (not taped) in?
July 17, 2008 3:20 PM   Subscribe

Getting new pages in my (US) passport. Which way am I more likely to get the pages sewn in, rather than pasted/taped: send to the US passport agency (expedited, prob through a 3rd party) vs going to a US Embassy/Consolate in another country.

I am currently traveling, and my passport is almost full (only room for a couple more stamps... just enough to get me home basically). I know that you can get additional pages added to your passport by mailing it in to the US government passport agency. I have also heard that you can get pages added as a same day service by going to a US embassy/consolate abroad (I will be in Mexico City next week, so this is also an option).

Here is my question (and please indulge me in my OCD here): I am a tad sentimental about my passport, and really want it to look as nice as possible. I have seen some people whose extra pages have been sewn in, and others that have been taped in. I would really prefer to have them sewn in if possible. Does anyone know which way I would be more likely to get the pages sewn in? The consolate option is more convenient, but I feel like they are more likely to just tape the pages in. I will be traveling again a few weeks later, so if I got the pages added domestically, I would probably send it through a 3rd party expediter (work is paying, so cost isn't a factor here). Would they be more likely to sew it?

Thanks so much!

[Extra information: US passport, and it's about 4 years old, which means it's from before passports started to have those trippy biometric covers and soaring patriotic imagery on each page]
posted by stilly to Travel & Transportation (10 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
just a guess - but wouldn't it be likely that a same-day service is taped in, just because of time constraints? same might be true of expedited service, of course...

you could argue that labour would be cheaper in, say, mexico, and so expect to find someone in a back street hand-sewing pages. but my experience of consulates (foreign operations of rich countries in general) is that they will go to quite extreme lengths not to spend money in the local market - they probably fly over the papers and stick them in themselves.
posted by not sure this is a good idea at 3:41 PM on July 17, 2008

I think this is not your problem.

I've had customs officers hunt to find a place in my passport too. If they have to, they stamp over other stamps. Sometimes they add little temporary pages for their entry visas and such, too. If anyone could ever be denied travel for a "full" passport it would be me I think. But this doesn't happen.

That is, unless you're really concerned about the aesthetics (?) here, I don't think you should worry.
posted by rokusan at 3:57 PM on July 17, 2008

Full passports can and do cause trouble--sometimes an extra "fee," sometimes the denial of a visa if there isn't a pristine page or two on which to stick/stamp it. It's less likely to cause trouble with entry and exit stamps if you aren't in a bribe-prone area.

I've never done it in the US (the Consulate-General in Hong Kong uses tape), but why don't you call up the consulate in question/the State Department and ask? If you care that much about the appearance of your passport (the tape isn't so bad-looking--I have two sets), you might as well skip the "more likely" and go straight to the source.
posted by deeaytch at 4:25 PM on July 17, 2008 [1 favorite]

Have you looked into whether it's possible to just ask for loose extra pages, and do the sewing yourself? I can think of no reasonable objection (of course consulates aren't always reasonable). But if they tape them in sometimes, there's not reason they can't just give them out loose. I say go to the consulate, ask if they sew or tape, and if you need to, ask for loose pages. If they think it sounds fishy, tell them you're concerned about the pages coming out, so you just want to make sure to have them sewn in.
posted by gauchodaspampas at 4:44 PM on July 17, 2008

Okay, straight to the OP's specific situation, then: I promise that the specific customs clowns in MEX airport, in particular, are very unlikely to even look once, let alone twice, at your passport. (If they even bother waving at you, it's extra effort. This is a country with a red light/green light screening process, for crying out loud. They are not picky.)

They stamp seventy five things there, and wow do they love stamping, but the D.F. stamp itself is a narrow little thing that isn't ostentatious or space-hogging. I have five of them in my passport now, and three of those are overlapping other stamps. :)
posted by rokusan at 5:13 PM on July 17, 2008

US Passports have changed a lot over the last ten years. New passports are *completely* different from older passports. The exact vintage of your passport may determine the method they use to add pages. My husband has had extra pages put in his passport and they sewed the pages in. He had it done domestically. Years ago I saw a frend's passport and they had just stapled in an accordion-folding series of passport pages- that had been done at an embassy somewhere in Africa. (I'm not sure they do that kind of thing anymore, given the current security mindset.)

I have had visa stickers pasted over existing stamps, even when plenty of blank pages remained. I'd guess that attitudes varies widely and you can't predict how punctilious the immigrations folks are going to be in a given place.

I'd be very surprised if you got any traction with gauchodaspampas' suggestion, and I'd actively discourage that- undoing the binding of your passport and re-sewing it is going to set you up for heaps of trouble when (not if, but when) US immigration sees you've "tampered" with a US passport.

Given all that, I think you may just have to make an offering to the passport gods and see what happens.
posted by ambrosia at 5:48 PM on July 17, 2008

Thanks for all the suggestions so far!

One point of clarification: I'm not worried about having enough space in my passport to get home from Mexico. Rather, I'm going to be doing a fair bit of travel in the next few months, including some countries requiring full page visas. So I definitely need additional pages-- it's just a question of how I procure them.
posted by stilly at 7:26 PM on July 17, 2008

OK, I'm a wee shamed to admit I am probably ideally qualified to answer this...but...

I'm almost certain its impossible to get them sewn-in anymore. At least not at an office in the US. I went to have pages added to mine, which I also recently had to get (thanks, multiple African nations requiring a FULL PAGE for that crazy sticker) in NYC early this year. I actually asked whether I could have them sewn in, even for an extra charge. They looked at me like I had 2 heads, so I asked whether they knew if I could get them sewn in at another location, as I was going to be out in California for some time as well before returning to Africa. Then they looked at me like I had 4 heads.

Soooo...I waited til I was in LA (which turned out to be a horrible mistake, I got to spend my whole day at the consulate or embassy or whatever it was, and then the whole evening in traffic getting out of that part of town). I asked them the same thing and they were kind enough to inform me, as if I only had one head, that they stopped sewing in a number of years back, when they moved to these new covers, which I had (data point: my passport was last renewed in 2006, so the change had to happen between late 2006 and late 1996 I guess). I asked if there was any other way to get them and they said not that they knew of, so I finally surrendered to ugly taped pages in my passport.

BUT...they actually did a pretty nice job and it doesn't really look that bad. What does look terrible is my yellow fever vaccination form which Ghana insisted on stapling into the back cover of my passport.

So, long story short, I think you'll not be able to get them sewn in, but perhaps you could peel out the taped pages with a razor blade and then sew them in yourself? Not that I actually considered that or anything...

Or perhaps there's an overseas embassy that hasn't fully updated their processes to the novel new tape technology, but I don't think you'll find that within the US anymore.

Oh, and one more thing. DO NOT let your passport fill up. ANY customs agent ANYWHERE is completely within his legal rights to DENY you entry to his country should you not have a clear, open spot that he can stamp and/or sticker your passport. In addition, many countries require more than the standard 1/4 of one page for their documentation. A few weeks before I last left NYC, I played host to a not-too-bright son-in-law of family friends who was returned on the next 17-hour return flight to NYC from Cape Town, after he had neglected to make sure he had enough room in his passport before arriving in South Africa. They didn't let him past customs, they simply marched him back to the same plane he had just gotten off. He had to buy a full new RT fare to get back to SA. Consider yourself warned.
posted by allkindsoftime at 9:22 AM on July 18, 2008

In London, they tape the pages in. I had to get more pages before moving to South Africa. Allkindsoftime is quite correct about the South Africans. But, at least they give fair warning up front! And now, having been gone 10 years, I have a nifty new passport with the embedded magic. Alas, I've done one trip with the new passport, and no one was there to look!
posted by Goofyy at 11:34 AM on July 18, 2008

My passport was issued in 2000, and in 2003 I got extra pages taped in at the Berlin embassy. Looking at my passport, it doesn't seem possible to have the extra pages sewn in. The original passport's inner pages are sewn together, and then the blue cover is glued to the first and last page. There doesn't seem to be anywhere for the new ones to be sewn to (hopefully that makes sense).

The new pages are labeled A - X, so you have 24 'stampable' pages (really 23.5 if you minus the text and stamp from the embassy on the first page). It doubles the thickness of your passport and even with taping, it so deforms the whole thing. I too am sentimental about my passport, but I am proud of the fact I've traveled so much and 'earned' them.

Sorry, but I would definitely not do as allkindsoftime suggested -- cutting them out and sewing them in yourself. Not only will you have excess tape on the back cover and the last page of the old pages, but I would not give any customs official a reason to wonder why my passport has been meddled with, and thus a reason to refuse entry to their country.

If possible, I recommend getting the extra pages at an embassy or consulate abroad. I was told that as an American citizen, I can jump to the front of the line (ahead of all the people waiting for visas or Green Cards) and so it took less than one hour to go through security, request and receive the extra pages. I wouldn't trust sending it through the mail (or a commercial service).
posted by Choppy at 5:04 PM on July 18, 2008 [1 favorite]

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