Why the Irregular Signature On My Passport Keeps Coming Back to Haunt Me

If you compare the signatures on all my U.S. identification documents and credit cards, no two are exactly alike, and one in particular looks very different from all the rest. That’s the one on my passport. It has a few swirls in it that aren’t present in any of my other signatures.

I don’t really know why I deviated from normal signature on that particular day back in 2011. Perhaps I was trying to make my customary collection of illegible swirls more closely resemble the actual letters in my name. In any case, it looks quite different from how I normally sign my name.

The irregular signature in my passport was never an issue until I moved to Mexico in 2015. That’s when my passport transitioned from being merely a travel document to my primary source of identification.

It became the document that I used to obtain all of my Mexican forms of identification (e.g. resident card, drivers license), open a bank account, purchase property, and change the utilities into my name.

The problem was that in Mexico, a great deal of importance is placed on signatures. As a result, the signature on important documents must match the signature from the identification exactly. Almost as though it had been traced or it will be rejected. Just being close is not good enough.

As an added security precaution, a copy of the identification used is included with the signed document.

So, the irregular signature in my passport effectively became my official signature in Mexico. It now appears on every piece of Mexican identification that I have and on every important document that I have signed in the last three and a half years.

It took quite a bit of practice to learn a whole new signature after all these years.

If At First You Don’t Succeed

You’re probably wondering what happens if you sign something important and it doesn’t match the signature on your identification exactly. Well, it depends on the type of document that you’re signing, but in most cases, you’ll be required to keep trying until you get it right.

Here’s an example from real life:

Last year, I stopped by my bank to make some changes to my account. The account manager verified my identity with my passport and then asked me to sign a form verifying the requested changes.

After I signed it, she looked at the paper, scowled, and immediately fed it into the shredder. I heard the printer sound behind her and she placed another one in front of me. “The signature doesn’t match,” she said. “Sign it again.”

My second attempt also failed to live up to her high standards and she shredded that one too. As she placed another copy of the document in front of me, she said, “Please concentrate.”

I was starting to feel some test anxiety at that point.

My eyes darted back and forth from my passport to the paper as I attempted to duplicate every loop and swirl exactly. When I thought I had it perfect, I slid it back across the desk. This time the sound of the shredder and printer overlapped.

She accepted my fifth attempt, but I honestly don’t think that one was better than the previous four. I think I just wore her down.

Let’s Wrap This Up

When I renew my passport in 2021, I know that I’ll have to sign it the same way I did last time. If I don’t, it will no longer match all of the other signatures that I have on my Mexican documents and identifications.

I guess I’m stuck with this signature for as long as I live in Mexico. Which is probably going to be forever because I love it here.

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About the Author

Qroo Paul
Paul Kurtzweil (Q-Roo Paul) was a deputy sheriff in Florida for 25 years before retiring at the rank of lieutenant in 2015. He and his wife moved to Mexico looking to maximize their retirement income. They later started a blog called Two Expats Mexico (qroo.us) to share their experiences, as well as information about the logistical and legal aspects of retiring south of the border.

23 Comments on "Why the Irregular Signature On My Passport Keeps Coming Back to Haunt Me"

  1. Ha I noticed this also, went to Xcaret and they practically had a whole team doing forensics on our signatures.

  2. Haha. I can totally relate to this! In my case I wanted to close my bank account and open one at a different bank. Should be no problem, right? No, it was a very frustrating experience. When I opened my account originally, I used my official govt issued temporary resident card. The problem now is I have a permanent resident card, and of course the signatures are slightly different. According to the higher ups, the only way I can close my account is to present my 10 year old temporary resident card which no longer exists — they refuse to accept my permanent resident card. Result is I can’t close my account so it remains open with a tiny balance forever.

  3. My husband is finding this out. For some unknown reason he did the same thing you did, so I’m entertained every time we have to sign something.

  4. Oh how true, yesterday went to the bank, made a deposit then a withdrawal. I always go to the same cashier (not that makes a difference in Mexico) but I ended up signing the withdrawal receipt three times before I was close enough to my on file signature and even then she turned the computer monitor so I could do better in matching my signature that is on my profile in their system. I renew my passport later this year and I will use the same squiggles that I do when signing all other documents.

  5. Oh my! My poor husband with some palsy got rejected 7 times. We did get his resident card!!!!!

    • Congrats on getting the resident card. That signature issue will be especially problematic for him in the future due to his condition.

  6. Don Letendre | February 2, 2019 at 12:30 pm |

    Exactly the same thing happened to me. I look at the signature on my passport and think i didn’t sign that. Now it is four or five tries until it is close enough that they grudgingly accept it.

  7. OMG. I had the same problem in Ecuador when I tried to open a bank account. My issue was that I have a broad sweeping signature and when I signed my Cedula (Residence card) I was given a very narrow space. At the bank I must have tried 200 times to get them to match without success. I finally called the bank manager over and asked if they wanted my business or not. With that being said, we opened the account with my wife’s signature. What a PIA, but lesson learned.

  8. Lewis Williams | February 2, 2019 at 1:49 pm |

    Must be the same in all Latin America. Had the same issue in Honduras when working there. Often I would have signed documents/checks taken to the bank, and I would end up having to go up there myself because the signature didn’t EXACTLY match the digital one on file. My signature is never exactly the same!
    Enjoy your blog always!

  9. Excellent post! We got our first taste of this signing our purchase contract a few weeks ago. Good to know we’ll have to keep this up for the forseeable future.

  10. Love the signature story, and have the same problem, love it

  11. Happened to us too! Purchasing a condo over long distance. The lawyers rejected our signatures. Had to print and sign everything again.

  12. Adrian Smith | February 2, 2019 at 9:22 pm |

    I have lived in Mexico 4 years & bought land here 11 years ago. I have a car, Mexican bank account, resident visa, Seguro Popular, tarjeta INAPAM. I have never had anyone look at my passport signature. Not that I don’t believe this happened to the author, but just saying.

    • You have been quite fortunate. If you read through the other comments on the post, you’ll see that this sort of thing happens to other people too. 🙂

  13. and sign within the “box’/tiny space provided. Don’t go over the line or nope do over!

  14. Ethel Merts aka Fran Clark | February 3, 2019 at 8:49 am |

    That was interesting and made me get my passport out to check my signature. I still sign my name the same way I was taught in Catholic school (after much practice) so I guess it won’t be an issue until I get really ‘old’ and arthritis makes it difficult to hold a pen correctly. Your information made me wonder why the USA doesn’t check signatures closely especially during elections! 🙂

  15. Interesting…I am glad you wrote about this. I want to check my passport now. I better memorize that signature before we move. Thank you, Katie for mentioning to sign “within” the box. I’m thinking that will be a problem for my husband as his signature is a scrawl (no identifiable letters, but he is very consistent with his scrawl). Just another new Mexican adventure to look forward to.

  16. Christine Fennell | February 4, 2019 at 4:54 pm |

    That explains when we were trying to pay for our daughters wedding in Sayulita. I kept getting these emails back “You want to kill our bank’s team :/, again was decline the letter, because the signature is different in the letter and ID, If is easy for you we can do it by wire transfer, sorry for bother you  :” A direct copy and paste. LOL

  17. Rema Strauss | February 8, 2019 at 2:56 am |

    I have to say that your story made me giggle! “concentrate”

  18. same thing in Panama…Make sure you sign your passport how you normally do or else it is a major headache in Latin America. I have not had this issue in Mexico though…

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