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Different types of passports issued in Latvia

A passport is a document, issued by a national government, which certifies, for the purpose of international travel, the identity and nationality of its holder. The elements of identity are name, date of birth, sex, and place of birth. Most often, nationality and citizenship are congruent.

A passport does not of itself entitle the passport holder entry into another country, nor to consular protection while abroad or any other privileges. It does, however, normally entitle the passport holder to return to the country that issued the passport. Rights to consular protection arise from international agreements, and the right to return arises from the laws of the issuing country. A passport does not represent the right or the place of residence of the passport holder in the country that issued the passport.


Inside of the old Polish passport - 1931

One of the earliest known reference to what served the major role of a passport is found in the Hebrew Bible. In Nehemiah 2:7-9, attributed to the time of the Persian Empire in about 450 BC, it is said that Nehemiah, an official serving King Artaxerxes I of Persia, asked leave to travel to Judea, and the king granted leave and gave him a letter "to the governors beyond the river" requesting safe passage for him as he travelled through their lands.

In the medieval Islamic Caliphate, a form of passport was used in the form of a bara'a, a receipt for taxes paid. Only citizens who paid their zakah (for Muslims) or jizya (for Dhimmis) taxes were permitted to travel to different regions of the Caliphate, thus the bara'a receipt was a "traveller's basic passport."[1]

It is considered unlikely that the term "passport" is derived from sea ports, but rather from a medieval document required to pass through the gate ("porte") of a city wall.[citation needed] In medieval Europe, such documents were issued to travellers by local authorities, and generally contained a list of towns and cities into which a document holder was permitted to pass. On the whole, documents were not required for travel to sea ports, which were considered open trading points, but documents were required to travel inland from sea ports.

King Henry V of England is credited with having invented what some consider the first true passport, notwithstanding the earlier examples cited, as a means of helping his subjects prove who they were in foreign lands.[2]

The rapid expansion of rail travel in Europe from the mid-nineteenth century led to a breakdown of the European passport system of the early part of the nineteenth century. The speed of trains, as well as the numbers of passengers that crossed many borders, made enforcement of passport laws difficult. The general reaction was the relaxation of passport requirements.[3] In the later part of the nineteenth century and up to World War I, passports were not required, on the whole, for travel within Europe, and crossing a border was straightforward. Consequently, comparatively few people had passports. The Ottoman Empire and the Russian Empire maintained passport requirements for international travel, in addition to an internal-passport system to control travel within their borders.

Early passports included a description of the passport holder. Photographs began to be attached to passports in the early decades of the twentieth century, when photography became widespread.

During World War I, European governments introduced border passport requirements for security reasons (to keep out spies) and to control the emigration of citizens with useful skills, retaining potential manpower. These controls remained in place after the war, and became standard procedure, though not without controversy. British tourists of the 1920s complained, especially about attached photographs and physical descriptions, which they considered led to a "nasty dehumanisation".[4]

In 1920, the League of Nations held a conference on passports and through tickets. Passport guidelines resulted from the conference,[5] which was followed up by conferences in 1926[6] and 1927.[citation needed]

The United Nations held a travel conference in 1963, but passport guidelines did not result from it. Passport standardisation came about in 1980, under the auspices of the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO).


Inside front cover and first page of an ordinary Azerbaijani passport

The terminology related to passports has become generally standardised around the world. The typical passports include:

Ordinary passport, also called Tourist or Regular passport
Issued to ordinary citizens.
Official passport, also called Service passport
Issued to government employees for work-related travel, and to accompanying dependents.
Diplomatic passport
Issued to diplomats and consuls for work-related travel, and to accompanying dependents. Having a diplomatic passport is not the equivalent of having diplomatic immunity. A grant of diplomatic status, a privilege of which is diplomatic immunity, has to come from the government of the country in relation to which diplomatic status is claimed. Also, having a diplomatic passport does not mean visa-free travel. A holder of a diplomatic passport usually has to obtain a diplomatic visa, even if a holder of an ordinary passport may enter a country visa-free or may obtain a visa on arrival.
In exceptional circumstances, a diplomatic passport is given to a foreign citizen with no passport of his own, such as an exiled VIP who lives, by invitation, in a foreign country.
Emergency passport, also called Temporary passport
Issued to persons whose passports were lost or stolen, and who do not have time to obtain replacement passports.
Collective passport
Issued to defined groups for travel together to particular destinations, such as a group of school children on a school trip to a specified country.
Family passport
Issued to family members—father, mother, son, daughter. There is one passport holder. The passport holder may travel alone or with one or more other family members. A family member who is not the passport holder cannot use the passport for travel unless accompanied by the passport holder.
Not a full passport, but a document which serves the function of a passport. Laissez-passer are issued by international organisations to their officers and employees for official travel.
Certificate of identity, also called Alien's passport
Not a full passport, but a document issued under certain circumstances, such as statelessness, to non-citizen residents. An example of this is the "Nansen passport".
In Latvia, an alien's passport is a passport for non-citizens - former citizens of the Soviet Union who reside in Latvia, but are not entitled to citizenship. It is used as an internal passport inside Latvia, and as a travel document outside Latvia.
Refugee travel document
Not a full passport, but a document issued to a refugee by the state in which she or he normally resides allowing him or her to travel outside that state and to return there. Refugees are unlikely to be able to obtain passports from their state of nationality (from which they have sought asylum) and therefore need travel documents so that they might engage in international travel.
Internal passport
Not a full passport, but an identity document which keeps track of migration within a country. Examples: the internal passport of Russia, or the hukou residence-registration system in mainland China, both dating back to imperial times.
Camouflage and Fantasy Passports
A Camouflage passport is a document that appears to be a regular passport but is actually in the name of a country that no longer exists, never existed, or the previous name a country that has changed its name. Companies that sell camouflage passports make the rather dubious claim that in the event of a hijacking they could be shown to terrorists to aid escape. There is no known instance of this happening. Because a camouflage passport is not issued in the name of a real country, it is not a counterfeit and is not illegal per se to have. However attempting to use it to actually enter a country would be illegal in most jurisdictions.
A fantasy passport is likewise a document not issued by a recognized government and invalid for legitimate travel. Fantasy passports are distinguished from camouflage passports in that they are issued by an actual, existent group, organization, or tribe. In some cases the goal of the fantasy passport is to make a political statement or to denote membership in the organization. In other cases they are issued more or less as a joke or for novelty souvenir purposes, such as those sold as "Conch Republic" passports.

International Civil Aviation Organization Standards

The International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) issues passport standards which are treated as recommendations to national governments.

The standard passport format includes the name of the issuing country on a passport cover, a national symbol, a description of the document (e.g., passport, official passport, diplomatic passport), and, if the passport is biometric, the biometric-passport symbol. Inside, there is a title page, also naming the country. This is followed by a data page, on which there is information about the bearer and the issuing authority, although passports of some European Union member states provide that information on the inside back cover. There are blank pages available for foreign countries to affix visas, and to stamp for entries and exit. Passports have numerical or alphanumerical designators ("serial number") assigned by the issuing authority.

Standards for machine-readable passports have also been issued by the ICAO,[7] with an area set aside where most of the information written as text is also printed in a manner suitable for optical character recognition.

To conform with ICAO standards, a biometric passport has an embedded contactless smart card, which contains data about the passport holder, a photograph in digital format, and data about the passport itself. Many countries now issue biometric passports. The objectives for the biometric passports are to speed up clearance through immigration and the prevention of identity fraud. These reasons are disputed by privacy advocates.[8][9] Governments are reluctant to acknowledge privacy concerns.

Although many countries issue biometric passports, few introduced the equipment needed to read them at ports of entry. In the absence of an international standard, it is not possible for one country to read the biometric information in passports issued by another country.

A passport contains a message, usually near the front of a passport, requesting that the bearer of the passport be allowed to pass freely, and further requests that, in the event of need, the bearer be granted assistance. The message is sometimes made in the name of the government or the head of state, notionally by the foreign minister or another representative of the government. The message may be written in more than one language, depending on the language policies of the issuing authority. For example, the English passport message in a Philippine passport is

The Government of the Republic of the Philippines requests all concerned authorities to permit the bearer, a citizen of the Philippines, to pass safely and freely and in case of need to give him/her all lawful aid and protection.

Other examples: United Kingdom;[10] United States.[11] However, such a message is not always present, for instance not in Norwegian passports[citation needed].


EU-languages pages of a French passport

An international conference on passports and through tickets, held by the League of Nations in 1920, recommended that passports be issued in French, historically the language of diplomacy, and one other language.[citation needed] Nowadays, the ICAO recommends that passports be issued in English and French, or in the national language of the issuing country and in either English or French.

Some unusual language combinations are:

  • Passports issued by member states of the European Union bear all of the official languages of the EU. These are not printed in each location, however. Two or three languages are printed at the relevant point, followed by numbers which refer to the passport pages on which translations into all the remaining languages appear (illustration—right).
  • Barbadian passports are tri-lingual: English, French and Spanish.
  • Belgium allows its citizens to choose which of its three official languages (Dutch, French, German) is to appear first.
  • The face page of the older, pre- EU- version of the Hungarian passport ("Útlevél" in Hungarian) is in Hungarian only. Inside, there is a second, Hungarian-English bilingual, page. The personal-information page offers Hungarian, English, and French explanations of the details. An additional page, which has explanations in English, French, Chinese, Russian, Spanish and Arabic, was later on also added.
  • The first page of a Libyan passport is in Arabic only. The last page (first page from western viewpoint) has an English equivalent of the information on the Arabic first page (western last page). Similar arrangements are found in passports of some other Arab countries.
  • New Zealand passports are in English and Maori.
  • Pakistani passports are in Urdu, English, Arabic and French.
  • Swiss passports are in five languages: German, French, Italian, Romansh and English.

Common designs

An Argentine passport with the name of Mercosur in the top.

The design and layout of passports of the member states of the European Union are a result of consensus and recommendation, rather than of directive.[12] Passports are issued by member states, not by the EU. The data page can be at the front or at the back of a passport, and there are small design differences to indicate which member state is the issuer. The covers of ordinary passports are burgundy-red, with "European Union" written in the national language or languages. Below that are the name of the country, a national symbol, the word or words in the national language or languages for "passport", and, at the bottom, the symbol for a biometric passport.

In Central America, the members of the CA-4 Treaty (Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, and Nicaragua) adopted a common-design passport, called the Central American passport. Although the design had been in use by Nicaragua and El Salvador since the mid-1990s, it became the norm for the CA-4 in January 2006. The main features are the navy-blue cover with the words "América Central" and a map of Central America, and with the territory of the issuing country highlighted in gold. This substitutes one map for four national symbols. At the bottom of the cover are the name of the issuing country and the passport type. As of 2006, the Nicaraguan passport, which is the model for the passports of the three other countries, is issued in Spanish, French, and English.

The member states of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) recently began issuing passports to a common design, featuring the CARICOM symbol along with the national symbol and name of the member state, rendered in an CARICOM official language (English, French, Dutch). The member states which use the common design are Antigua and Barbuda, Dominica, Grenada, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Suriname, and Trinidad and Tobago.

The member states of the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS) had originally planned for a common OECS passport by January 1, 2003, but it was delayed. Plans to introduce a CARICOM common passport would have made the OECS passport redundant, since all full members of the OECS were also full members of CARICOM. Thus, by November, 2004, the OECS governments agreed to give CARICOM a deadline of May 2005, to introduce a CARICOM passport, failure of which would have resulted in moving ahead with the introduction of the OECS Passport. The CARICOM passport was introduced in January 2005, by Suriname, so the idea of an OECS passport was abandoned. Had the OECS passport been introduced, however, it would not have been issued to economic citizens within the OECS states.

The declaration adopted in Cusco, Peru, establishing the Union of South American Nations, signalled an intention to establish a common passport design, but this appears to be a long way away. Already, some member states of regional sub-groupings such as Mercosur and the Andean Community of Nations issue passports that bear their official names and seals, along with the name of their regional grouping. Examples include Paraguay and Ecuador.

The members of the Andean Community of Nations began, in 2001, the process of adopting a common passport format. Specifications for the common passport format were outlined in an Andean Council of Foreign Ministers meeting in 2002.[13] The member states also agreed to phase in new Andean passports, bearing the official name of the regional body in Spanish (Comunidad Andina), by January, 2005. Previously-issued national passports will be valid until their expiry dates. The Andean passport is currently in use in Ecuador and Peru. Bolivia and Colombia were to start issuing Andean passports in early 2006. Andean passports are bordeaux (burgundy-red), with words in gold. Above the national seal of the issuing country is the name of the organization in Spanish, which is centred and is printed in a large font. Below the seal is the official name of the member country. At the bottom of the cover is the Spanish word "pasaporte" meaning "passport" and the English word as well. Venezuela left the Andean Community, so it is likely that the country will no longer issue Andean passports.

National status

Passports contain a statement of the nationality of the holder. A country with complex nationality laws could issue various passports which are similar in appearance but are representative of differing national statuses. Due to the British colonial history and contemporary laws, the United Kingdom has a number of classes of United Kingdom nationality, and more than one relationship of persons to the United Kingdom. The several classes and relationships cause foreign governments to subject holders of different UK passports to different entry requirements.

A version of Tongan citizenship is available through investment. An investor is described in a Tongan passport as a Tongan protected person. The status does not carry with it the right of abode in Tonga. Many countries accept Tongan passports which reflect actual Tongan citizenship, but do not accept Tongan passports which reflect investment citizenship.

The Central People's Government of the People's Republic of China (PRC) authorizes by law its Special Administrative Regions (Hong Kong and Macau) to issue passports to their permanent residents with Chinese nationality under the one country, two systems arrangement. Visa policies imposed by foreign authorities on Hong Kong and Macau permanent residents holding such passports are different from those holding ordinary passports of the People's Republic of China. It should be noted that all holders of these passports are considered Chinese citizens (i.e. possessing the same Chinese nationality status) under the Nationality Law of the People's Republic of China, and it is possible to be a permanent resident of Hong Kong or Macau without being a Chinese national.

The Iroquois League also issues Iroquois passports to its members [14] by agreement with the governments of the United States, Canada, and the United Kingdom[15]

National conditions on passport issuance

Pakistan requires a Muslim citizen who applies for a passport to subscribe to the following declaration:

  1. I am a Muslim and believe in the absolute and unqualified finality of the Prophethood of Muhammad the last of the Prophets.
  2. I do not recognize any one who claims to be a prophet in any sense of the word or any description whatsoever, after Prophet Muhammad or recognize such a claimant as a prophet or a religious reformer as Muslim.
  3. I consider Mirza Ghulam Ahmad Qadiani to be an impostor prophet and an infidel and also consider his followers whether belonging to the Lahori, Qadiani or Mirzai groups, to be non-Muslims.

The declaration was instituted by the Islamist military regime of Muhammad Zia-ul-Haq. The reason for the declaration is to prevent Qadianis from going to Mecca or Medina for Hajj or Umrah. In the Pakistani biometric passport, there is no box for noting the religion of the passport holder. This seemingly made the religious subscription unnecessary. However, deletion of the box was reversed by the Pakistani government, in response to the religious parties. Passports have the religion box on page 3. Passports without the religion box have a rubber-stamp declaration of the passport holder's religion. However religion is not mentioned on the Pakistani CNIC (Computerised National Identity Card).[16]

In Finland male citizens aged 18–30 years have to prove that they have completed, or are exempt from, the obligatory military service when applying for a passport. If they have not yet completed the service, the passport is issued only until the end of their 28th year in order to ensure that they will not flee the country and desert.[17]

Passports as government property

Most countries declare by law that passports are government property (perhaps even counterfeit ones), and may be limited or revoked at any time, usually on specified grounds. A limitation or a revocation is generally subject to judicial review.

Passports and bail

In many countries, surrender of a passport is made a condition of granting bail. While on bail a person may be barred from applying for a passport or collecting a passport already applied for.

One passport per person

Many countries issue only one passport to each national. When passport holders apply for a new passport (commonly, due to expiration of an old passport or lack of blank pages), they may be required to surrender the old passport for invalidation. In some circumstances an expired passport is not required to be surrendered or invalidated (for example, if it contains an unexpired visa).

Some countries allow, under specified circumstances, the holding of more than one passport by a citizen. One circumstance is a disqualifying stamp in a passport, such as a stamp which shows travel to Israel, and the citizen intends travel to a country which does not recognize Israel. Another circumstance is frequent international travel including to countries with protracted visa application process. Awaiting a visa for a particular country, a person with two passports may travel to other countries with the second passport. Some countries issue restricted passports valid only for travel to one or more neighbouring countries.[citation needed] A person may hold at the same time a restricted passport for frequent travels to neighbouring countries and an ordinary international passport for travels to other countries.

Family Passports

At one time it was common for a parent's passport to include the names and photos of his or her children. These "family passports" allowed children to travel together with their parents without the need to issue individual passports to each child. Family passports were not valid for children to travel by themselves or with someone other than a parent. The United States and the United Kingdom once issued family passports, but no longer do so, whereas some countries, such as France, still do. An Uruguayan passport still has two photo pages, on which there can be a listing of up to six children, each with his thumbprint and details.

In recent years concerns over international child abduction, including abduction by a parent, have led some countries to require both parents to sign a passport application. In the United States, a person aged 16 years or older can apply for a passport themselves. Applications by those aged 15 and under require the signatures of both parents or a statement, signed under penalty of perjury, as to why only one parent is physically capable of signing the application.

Limitations on passport use

Current Brazilian passport, adopted in December 2006, with its dark-blue cover
A Taiwan Compatriot Entry Permit, issued by the PRC for Taiwan residents travelling to mainland China.

Most countries accept passports of other countries as valid for international travel and valid for entry. There are exceptions, such as when a country does not recognise the passport-issuing country as a sovereign state. Likewise, the passport-issuing country may also stamp restrictions on the passports of its citizens not to go to certain countries due to poor or non-existent foreign relations, or security or health risks.


Some countries do not maintain diplomatic relations with Brazil; therefore, Diplomatic, Official and Work Passports are not accepted and visas are only granted to tourist or business visitors, under Brazilian “laissez-passer”. The countries included in this group are: Bhutan, Central African Republic and Taiwan.[18]

Mainland China and Taiwan

The People's Republic of China (PRC) and the Republic of China (ROC) do not recognise each other as sovereign states. They both claim themselves as the only legal government representing the whole China.

Consistent with the 1992 Consensus, the PRC and ROC legally consider both citizens in mainland China and Taiwan as their own citizens, but residing in different areas of the same nation. Neither the PRC nor the ROC accepts passports issued by the other as entry documents.

Citizens in Taiwan use identity documents issued by PRC public-security authorities to enter mainland China. Citizens in mainland China entering Taiwan must also use identity documents issued by the ROC authority, and have their mainland documents surrendered. The identity documents cannot be used for international travel, and an endorsement must be obtained separately to enable travel.

The ROC used to require its citizens who intended travel to mainland China to obtain official approval for the travel, and prescribed an administrative fine of NT$20,000 to NT$100,000 for those who did not. However, the fine was often unenforceable because such travel was untraceable by examination of travel documents, except if an ROC citizen lost his ROC passport while on the mainland, and, so, had to report the loss. The official-approval requirement was abolished, except in relation to ROC officials, of whom applications are required.


The Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC) issues passports, but only Turkey recognises its statehood. TRNC passports are not accepted for entry into the Republic of Cyprus via airports or sea ports, but are accepted at the designated green line crossing points. However all Turkish Cypriots are entitled by law to the issue of a Republic of Cyprus EU passport, since the opening of the borders between the two republics, Cypriot and EU citizens can travel freely to the divided sides. The United Kingdom, United States of America, Pakistan, Azerbaijan and Syria currently officially accept TRNC passports with the relevant visas. Until 2003, Turkey did not accept passports issued by the Republic of Cyprus, because the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus does not recognize the Republic of Cyprus. Presently, Turkey accepts Greek Cypriot passports, but does not stamp them. Rather, Turkish immigration officials stamp a separate visa issued by Turkey.

The data page of a Turkish passport.

The Republic of Turkey issues Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus citizens with Turkish passports upon request to ease the travel restrictions which the TRNC passport imposes. The Republic of Cyprus however does not accept Turkish (Republic of Turkey) issued passports in any circumstances.

The Republic of Cyprus refuses entry to holders of Yugoslav passports which bear a renewal stamp with "Macedonia".[19]


After the fall of the Habsburg monarchy in 1918 and the establishment of the Austrian Republic, members of the former Imperial Family were exiled and forbidden to enter Austrian territory. Nevertheless, they remained Austrian citizens entitled to bear an Austrian passport. Such passports were unique in bearing the stamp stating that "this passport is valid for all countries except for Austria". The Habsburgs' exile was eventually overturned by the European Court of Human Rights and these special type of passport along with it.

Hong Kong and Macau

Hong Kong and Macau, local entities of the People's Republic of China, are each empowered by the Central People's Government under their respective Basic Laws to issue passports. A Hong Kong Special Administrative Region passport states that the holder is a Chinese national with the right of abode in Hong Kong. Similarly, a Macao Special Administrative Region passport states that the bearer is a Chinese national with the right of abode in Macau.

Hong Kong and Macau each maintains border controls at all points of entry. Even though neither travel to or from Hong Kong nor travel to or from Macau and the mainland is international travel, a Chinese passport means nothing and a traveller is required to have a permit issued by the mainland government to enter.

The Public Security Bureau of Guangdong, the province adjacent to Hong Kong and Macau, issues a permit, dubbed the Home Return Permit, to Chinese citizens domiciled in Hong Kong and Macau, to allow them to enter and exit the mainlands. The Hong Kong Special Administrative Region passport and the Macao Special Administrative Region passport are for purposes of international travel rather than interregional travel within the PRC, a proposal that the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region passport should supplant this permit was dismissed.

Many Chinese citizens who have the right of abode in Hong Kong hold British National (Overseas) passports or British Citizen passports issued under the British Nationality Selection Scheme effected by the United Kingdom in the 1990s. The PRC, for its part, considers such Chinese citizens domiciled in Hong Kong to be solely PRC citizens. The PRC does not recognise those BN(O) passports, and does not recognise the attendant United Kingdom nationality of each, inasmuch as PRC law does not permit dual nationality. Chinese citizens domiciled in Hong Kong who hold those BN(O) and BC passports use a Home Return Permit to enter mainland China as those who do not. It is impermissible under Chinese law to renounce PRC nationality on the basis of holding a form of British nationality obtained in HK.

A Chinese citizen who has the right of abode in Hong Kong may not use a BN(O) passport or an HKSAR passport in its own right for entering Taiwan. They must be used in conjunction with the Exit & Entry Permit issued by the ROC. In contrast, a British Citizen passport obtained in Hong Kong by a Chinese citizen (or a person of Chinese descent) domiciled in Hong Kong may be used in its own right to enter Taiwan. (See Visa policy of the Republic of China)

A person with the right of abode in Hong Kong, a Hong Kong resident who holds a [Document of Identity for Visa Purposes], a person who has the right to land, a person who is on unconditional stay in Hong Kong, and a non-permanent resident who has a notification label, may use his smart ID card for immigration purposes, that is, to enter and exit Hong Kong. A smart ID card may not be used by a person who is under eleven years old, other than at the Lo Wu crossing.[20]

ROC citizens who travel to Hong Kong apply for entry permits and collect them at airline counters. Repeat travellers satisfying certain conditions may apply online up to twice a month, but it is proposed that such restrictions may be relaxed.

The type of permit for travel to Hong Kong, issued to a Chinese national who is domiciled on the mainland, depends on his place of residence and the purpose of his visit.[21]


The data page of an Israeli passport.

In Israel's first years, Israeli passports bore the stamp "not valid for Germany", as in the aftermath of the Holocaust it was considered improper for Israelis to visit Germany on any but official state business (for which the government issued special passports to "authorized personnel"). With the gradual normalization of Germany–Israel relations this limitation was removed from Israeli passports.

Legend:      Israel      Countries that reject passports from Israel      Countries that reject passports from Israel and any other passport which contain Israeli stamps or visas

Some Muslim and African countries do not permit entry to people using an Israeli passport. In addition, Iran,[22] Kuwait,[23] Lebanon,[24] Libya,[25] Saudi Arabia,[26] Sudan,[27] Syria[28] and Yemen[29] go further and do not allow entry to people with evidence of travel to Israel, or whose passports have a used or an unused Israeli visa.

To circumvent this travel restriction, Israel did not require visitors to have passports stamped with Israeli visas or with Israeli entry and exit stamps. The procedure made it impossible to tell if a traveller had entered Israel. However, since September 2006, Israeli immigration officials will rarely agree not to stamp passports.[30]

The countries which do not allow entry to people with evidence of travel to Israel are aware of the entry and exit stamps stamped in passports by Egypt and Jordan at their respective land borders with Israel. Non-allowing countries prohibit entry based on the presence of a tell-tale Egyptian or Jordanian stamp. A traveller, for example, would be denied entry based on the presence of an Egyptian stamp, in his passport, which indicates that he crossed into or out of Egypt at Taba on the Egyptian-Israeli border.

Furthermore, under Israeli law, Lebanon, Syria, Saudi Arabia, Iraq, and Yemen are classified as "enemy countries" and an Israeli citizen may not visit them without a special permit issued by the Israeli minister of the Interior. An Israeli who visits these countries, whether using an Israeli passport or not, may be prosecuted when returning to Israel. This list was set in 1954, and Egypt and Jordan were taken off the list when they signed a peace treaty with Israel.


Since 2004, the Philippine Department of Foreign Affairs deemed that bearers of its passports can't travel to Iraq due to the security threats in that country. As such, Philippine passports issued from that time are stamped "Not valid for travel to Iraq".[31]

South Korea

From South Korea's viewpoint, travel from the section of the Korean peninsula under South Korean administration directly to the section of the Korean peninsula under North Korean administration is not international travel. South Korea claims by its constitution the whole Korean peninsula as its territory. However, for security reasons, any South Korean who is willing to travel to the tourist area in the North has to carry their passport.

Spain and Gibraltar

Spain does not accept United Kingdom passports issued in Gibraltar, on the ground that the Government of Gibraltar is not a competent authority for issuing UK passports. Consequently, some Gibraltarians were refused entry to Spain. The word "Gibraltar" now appears beneath the words "United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland" on passport covers, which is the usual format for passports of British overseas territories.


Some countries decline to accept Tongan Protected Person passports, though they accept Tongan citizen passports.[32][33][34] Tongan Protected Person passports are sold by the Government of Tonga to anyone who is not a Tongan national.[35] A holder of a Tongan Protected Person passport is forbidden to enter or settle in Tonga. Generally, those holders are refugees, stateless persons, and individuals who for political reasons do not have access to any other passport-issuing authority.

United States

U.S. Department of the Treasury regulations require that persons subject to U.S. jurisdiction be licensed in order to engage in any travel-related transactions pursuant to travel to, from, and within Cuba. Transactions related to tourist travel are not licensable. This restriction includes tourist travel to Cuba from or through a third country such as Mexico or Canada.[36]

Some passports are issued for military dependents to travel to and from a foreign destination with a restriction stamp stating that the passport is only valid for official travel purposes. Further, said passports are valid only for five years from date of issue as opposed to ten years for adults.

International travel without passports

European Union

The Belgian passport is labelled in the country's three official languages

Citizens of the member countries of the European Union are also citizens of the union itself, and this is recognised on the passports. They bear both the name of the European Union and of the issuing country (in the relevant language).

Citizens of the European Economic Area (the European Union plus Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway) enjoy the freedom to travel and work in any European Union country without a visa, although transitory dispositions may restrict the rights of citizens of new member states to work in other countries. The same rights are also accorded to citizens of Switzerland, although they remain separate from the EEA.

European citizens travelling within the European Union may use standard compliant national ID cards rather than passports. Not all EU countries produce standard compliant national ID cards, and in other countries few people obtained one, which means that many persons need a passport anyway. A special exception is Sweden which requires a passport for people travelling to or from EU countries outside the Schengen area.[37].

The up-to-now 25 countries that have signed and applied the Schengen Agreement (a subset of the EEA) do not implement passport controls between each other, unless exceptional circumstances apply. Some remaining EU countries, plus Liechtenstein, have signed the Schengen Agreement, but are not allowed to be included yet. The main reason is that, according to EU law, the member states which joined the EU in 2004 would have to meet strict criteria with respect to their protection of EU external borders, before intra-EU border controls between the old member states and new member states would be lifted. The Czech Republic, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Hungary, Malta, Poland, Slovakia and Slovenia are already admitted. Switzerland and Liechtenstein require some time to adapt their national airports and databases to the standards of the EU. Switzerland joined the Schengen Area on the 12 December 2008.

As a consequence of the above, a French citizen, for example, may travel to the United Kingdom, another EEA nation, and then freely work in that country. However, since the UK has not signed the Schengen treaty, the French citizen will have to carry at least a national ID card, which will be checked at the border. On the other hand, the French citizen will be able to travel to Switzerland without being stopped at the border, but he will not be able to work freely in that country without authorisation, because Switzerland is not a member of the EEA. This is true notwithstanding the fact that, in most cases, authorisation to work would nevertheless have to be granted by Swiss authorities according to a specific treaty on free movement which had been concluded between the EU and Switzerland.

Some European countries require all persons to carry, or, at least possess, an ID card or a passport. So while Switzerland will not check French travellers' passports at the border, they may have to show their national ID cards within the country, such as when required by police officers to do so. The same is true for the Netherlands.

Except at the border, ID cards are not required by UK law. There is, however, a de-facto requirement to prove one's identity to conduct business. A European has to show a European national ID card to open a UK bank account or to prove eligibility to work.

Refugees and stateless persons, who do not have access to passports, may be issued a travel document by the country in which they reside. Holders of those travel documents generally require visas for international travel, and are not be entitled to consular protection. Exceptions to this include persons holding 1951 Convention Documents, who could benefit from some visa-free travel under the convention, persons who reside in the Schengen area, and persons who reside in the Nordic Passport Union area.


Denmark, including the Faroe Islands and Greenland, Finland, Iceland, Norway, and Sweden: The Nordic Passport Union meant that Nordic citizens needed only a valid identity card (which is often needed inside each country anyway). They joined the larger Schengen Agreement region in 1997, where a national identity card with citizenship is needed. The Nordic Passport Union is still valid for Nordic citizens.

Italian microstates

  • Italy and Vatican City: Italy does not require passports for travel to Vatican City, and Vatican City does not require passports for travel to Italy. The only way to get to Vatican City is through Italy, inasmuch as Vatican City is surrounded by Rome, so Italian immigration requirements are de facto those of Vatican City. The Vatican issues its own passports to officials of the Roman Catholic Church who reside in or near the Vatican, and who work there. Each Pope is always given Vatican Passport No. 1.[citation needed]
  • Italy and the Republic of San Marino: San Marino is a landlocked country between the Emilia-Romagna and Marche regions of Italy, and there are no border control at all between the two countries.

Australia and Papua New Guinea

The Torres Strait separating Australia and Papua.

Residents of nine coastal villages in Papua New Guinea are permitted to enter the 'Protected Zone' of the Torres Strait (part of Queensland, Australia) for traditional purposes. This exemption from passport control is part of a treaty between Australia and Papua New Guinea negotiated when PNG became independent of Australia in 1975.[38] Other traditional vessels attempting to cross into Australia or Australian waters (especially from Indonesia) are stopped by Australian Customs or the Royal Australian Navy due to fears about people and drug smuggling.

Central America and the Caribbean

  • The CA-4 countries: Citizens of Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, and Nicaragua do not require passports to travel between or among any of the four countries. A national ID card (cédula) is sufficient for entry. In addition, the CA-4 agreement implemented the Central American Single Visa (Visa Única Centroamericana).
  • CARICOM countries issue a CARICOM passport to their citizens, and as of June 2009, eligible nationals in participating countries will be permitted to use the CARICOM travel card which provides for intra-community travel without a passport.

Cooperation Council for the Arab States of the Gulf

Citizens of the Cooperation Council for the Arab States of the Gulf countries need only national ID cards (also referred to as civil ID cards) to cross the borders of council countries.

Commonwealth of Independent States

In Russia and some former Soviet Union republics, participating countries may require an internal passport, which is the equivalent of a national ID card, rather than a passport.

East African Community

Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania comprise the East African Community. Each country may issue, to an eligible citizen, an East African passport. Those passports are recognised by only the three countries, and are used for travel between or among those countries. The requirements for eligibility are less rigorous than are the requirements for national passports used for other international travel.

Economic Community of West African States

The member states of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) do not require passports for their citizens traveling within the community. National ID cards are sufficient. The member states are Benin, Burkina Faso, Cape Verde, Côte d'Ivoire, Gambia, Ghana, Guinea, Guinea Bissau, Mali, Niger, Nigeria, Senegal, Sierra Leone, and Togo.

India, Nepal and Bhutan

Passports are not needed by citizens of India and Nepal to travel within each other's country, but some identification is required for border crossing. Only Indians do not require passports for travelling in Bhutan while Bhutanese can travel with their citizenship identity cards.

South America

  • Many Central American and South American nationals can travel within their respective regional economic zones, such as Mercosur and the Andean Community of Nations, or on a bilateral basis (e.g., between Chile and Peru, between Brazil and Chile), without passports, presenting instead their national ID cards, or, for short stays, their voter-registration cards. In some cases this travel must be done overland rather than by air. There are plans to extend these rights to all of South America under a Union of South American Nations.

Syria and Lebanon

Lebanese citizens entering Syria do not require passports to enter Syria, if carrying Lebanese ID cards. Similarly, Syrian citizens do not require passports to enter Lebanon, if carrying Syrian ID cards.


Turkey does not require a passport for citizens of several European countries holding national ID cards. Citizens of Greece must have the new ID card, which has the holder's details in both the Greek and the Latin alphabets.

United Kingdom and Ireland

Citizens of the UK and Ireland do not require a passport to travel between those two countries (see Common Travel Area). Other EEA nationals must carry a national ID card or a passport. All other nationals require passports.

United States of America (Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative)

The United States Passport Card

Canada and the United States: U.S. citizens flying to Canada need passports. When traveling by land or sea between Canada and the U.S., Canadian citizens and U.S. citizens must present a passport booklet, a passport card, or a WHTI-compliant document.

The Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative (WHTI) implements the requirement in the Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act of 2004 (IRTPA) that, upon entry into the U.S. from a foreign country, each traveler is to present a passport, or some other document of identity and nationality.

The WHTI does not apply to direct travel between the 50 states and the District of Columbia at the one end and United States territories at the other end. The territories include American Samoa, Guam, the Northern Mariana Islands, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. That travel is not foreign travel, and, so, is not subject to IRTPA. In practice, some form of identification is needed.

Each air traveler must present a passport or a passport substitute.

Each land or sea traveler who is a U.S. citizen must present a passport booklet, a passport card, or a WHTI-compliant document.

As of April 13, 2008, types of WHTI-compliant documents are: (1) Trusted Traveler cards (NEXUS, SENTRI, FAST); state-issued enhanced driver's licenses. Presently, only driver licenses issued by the States of Washington and New York qualify as WHTI compliant; enhanced tribal cards; U.S. military ID cards plus military travel orders; U.S. merchant mariner ID cards, when traveling on maritime business; Native American tribal ID cards; Form I-872 American Indian card.[39][40]

Post-Yugoslav states (Western Balkans)

  • Croatia does not require passports of citizens of the member states of European Union and Bosnia and Herzegovina who have national ID cards. Bosnia and Herzegovina, Italy, Hungary, Montenegro and Slovenia do not require Croatian citizens to have a passport, only Croatian ID cards.
  • Serbia does not require passports of citizens of Bosnia and Herzegovina who have Bosnia and Herzegovina ID cards. Bosnia and Herzegovina does not require Serbian citizens to have passports, only Serbian ID cards.
  • Citizens of Serbia and citizens of Montenegro may travel between the two countries with national ID cards.
  • Montenegro does not require passports of citizens of Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia and Serbia who have national ID cards. Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia (only for Herceg Novi, Kotor and Tivat) and Serbia do not require Montenegrin citizens to have a passport, only Montenegrin ID cards.

Domestic travel that requires passports

A regular Malaysian passport.

In some countries, there are immigration checks and passport control even for travel within the country.

China, Hong Kong and Macau

China authorizes Hong Kong and Macau, both Special Administrative Regions, to have their own immigration control systems. Travelling between Mainland China, Hong Kong and Macau, however, is not considered international. Although citizens of the People's Republic of China do not use passports to travel between the three regions (other documents, such as the Home Return Permit are used instead), foreigners are required to present their passports at the immigration control points. Holders of Hong Kong or Macau permanent resident ID cards (regardless of nationality), however, may use the ID card to enter and exit the SAR that issues it without the presentation of any passport.


Under a special arrangement agreed during the formation of Malaysia, the East Malaysian states of Sabah and Sarawak can retain their respective immigration control systems. As a result, a passport is required when traveling from Peninsular Malaysia to East Malaysia, as well as the mutual travel between the two states. Previously, Malaysian citizens from Peninsular Malaysia were required to present a Malaysian passport when travelling to East Malaysia from Peninsular Malaysia, but this is no longer required for social/business visits up to 3 months as long as they do not land in a third country (e.g. Singapore or Brunei). However, West Malaysians are required to produce a Malaysian identity card or, for children below 12 years, birth certificate, fill in a special immigration form (Document In Lieu of Internal Travel Document, IMM.114)[41], and retain the form until they leave East Malaysia. One can avoid filling in the IMM.114 form by presenting a Malaysian passport or a Restricted Travel Document, and hence enjoy faster immigration clearance.


Due to the required "Shannon Stopover" in effect until 2008, early morning flights from Shannon to Dublin, Ireland were often operated as extensions of international flights from North America. Passengers travelling on such flights had to pass passport control on arrival in Dublin.


Internal passport systems exist in both Russia and in China, and have historically been issued by some other countries.

Immigration stamps in passports

Main article: Passport stamp

For immigration control, immigration officials of many countries stamp passports with entry and exit stamps. A stamp can serve different purposes. In the United Kingdom, an immigration stamp in a passport includes the formal leave to enter granted to a person subject to entry control. Otherwise, a stamp activates or acknowledges the continuing leave conferred in the passport bearer's entry clearance.

Under the Schengen system, a foreign passport is stamped with a date stamp which does not indicate any duration of stay. This stamp is taken to mean that the person is deemed to have permission to remain either for three months or for the period shown on his visa.

Neither the UK nor a Schengen country is allowed to stamp the passport of a person not subject to immigration control, whether a citizen of that country or a national of another EU country, unless requested. Stamping is prohibited, because a passport stamp is imposition of a control that the person is not subject to. This concept is not applicable in other countries, where a stamp in a passport simply acknowledges the entry or exit of a person.

Countries have different styles of stamps for entries and exits, to make it easy to identify the movements of persons. The shape of the stamp and the colour of the ink may also provide information about movements. In Hong Kong, prior to and immediately after the 1997 transfer of sovereignty, entry and exit stamps were identical at all ports of entry, but colours differed. Airport stamps used black ink, land stamps used red ink, and sea stamps used purple ink. In Macau, under Portuguese administration, the same colour of ink was used for all stamps. The stamps had slightly-different borders to indicate entry and exit by air, land, or sea. In several countries the stamps or its colour are different if the person arrived in a car in opposite to bus/boat/train/air passenger.

Immigration stamps are a useful reminder of travels. Some travellers "collect" immigration stamps in passports, and will choose to enter or exit countries via different means (for example, land, sea or air) in order to have different stamps in their passports.

Visas often take the form of a stamp, although many countries now use adhesive stickers that incorporate security features to prevent forgery.

Passport Cards

On July 14, 2008, the United States Department of State began to issue a new form of travel document called the United States passport card, a credit card sized (ISO/IEC 7810 ID-1) ID document valid for land or sea travel to Canada, Mexico, the Caribbean and Bermuda. The passport card has the same requirements and adjudication standards for issuance as a regular passport, however it costs only $20 for those who already have a passport.[1] The cost is $45 for those applying for the first time. The purpose of the passport card is to provide a secure document for those citizens who frequently cross the border and need a more convenient document to comply with the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative requirements.

Some have speculated that the passport card may represent the format that future travel documents will take. Visas, including the "laser visa" issued to Mexican citizens, can be issued by computers and tracked electronically, eliminating the need for a traditional passport book with ink stamps.


Chinese passport from the Qing Dynasty, 24th Year of the Guangxu Reign - 1898  
The United Nations Laissez-Passer is issued to officials of the United Nations  

See also


  1. ^ Frank, Daniel (1995), The Jews of Medieval Islam: Community, Society, and Identity, Brill Publishers, p. 6, ISBN 9004104046 
  2. ^ "Analysis: The first ID cards". BBC. Retrieved 2008-09-27. 
  3. ^ "History of Passports". Passport Canada. Retrieved April 18, 2008. 
  4. ^ Marrus, Michael, The Unwanted: European Refugees in the Twentieth Century. New York: Oxford University Press (1985), p. 92.
  5. ^ League of Nations 'International' or 'Standard' passport design.
  6. ^ "International Conferences - League of Nations Archives". Center for the Study of Global Change. 2002. Retrieved 2009-08-05. 
  7. ^ "Machine Readable Travel Documents (MRTD)". ICAO. Retrieved June 15, 2006. 
  8. ^ "The ID Chip You Don't Want in Your Passport". Bruce Schneier. Retrieved September 1, 2007. 
  9. ^ "Scan This Guy's E-Passport and Watch Your System Crash". Kim Zetter. Retrieved September 1, 2007. 
  10. ^ Queen and Passport -
  11. ^ See "Passport Message" in the United States passport article.
  12. ^ Resolutions of 23 June 1981, 30 June 1982, 14 July 1986 and 10 July 1995 concerning the introduction of a passport of uniform pattern, OJEC, 19 September 1981, C 241, p. 1; 16 July 1982, C 179, p. 1; 14 July 1986, C 185, p. 1; 4 August 1995, C 200, p. 1.
  13. ^ Andean Community / Decision 525: Minimum specific technical characteristics of Andean Passport.
  14. ^
  15. ^
  16. ^ "Application Form". New Passport. Retrieved June 15, 2006. 
  17. ^ "Passports for persons liable for military service". Finnish Police. 2009. Retrieved 2009-08-24. 
  18. ^ Brazil: Entry visa for foreigners
  19. ^ "Passports, Visas & Permits". Cyprus Facts. Retrieved June 15, 2006. 
  20. ^ e-Channel,, retrieved 2008-05-20 .
  21. ^ Arrangement for entry to Hong Kong from Mainland China,, retrieved 2008-05-20 .
  22. ^ Travel Advice for Iran - Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade
  23. ^ TRAVEL REPORT - Kuwait
  24. ^ Travel Advice for Lebanon - Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade and Lebanese Ministry of Tourism
  25. ^ Travel Advice for Libya - Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade
  26. ^ Michael Freund, Canada defends Saudi policy of shunning tourists who visited Israel, 7 December, 2008, Jerusalem Post
  27. ^ Travel Advice for Sudan - Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade
  28. ^ Travel Advice for Syria - Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade and Syrian Ministry of Tourism
  29. ^ Travel Advice for Yemen - Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade
  30. ^ Travel Advice for Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories, Foreign & Commonwealth Office
  31. ^ Filipino passports to be marked to prevent travel to Iraq
  32. ^ EU Regulation
  33. ^ Unacceptable travel documents
  35. ^ In the Court of the King of Tonga
  36. ^ Cuba : Country Specific Information, U.S. Department of State, November 07, 2008, .
  37. ^ Fakta om nationellt id-kort
  38. ^ "Torres Strait Treaty and You - What is free movement for traditional activities?". Australian Government = Dept. of Foreign Affairs and Trade. Retrieved 3 March 2010. 
  39. ^ Willis, Hh; Latourrette, T (Apr 2008), "Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative", Risk analysis : an official publication of the Society for Risk Analysis (Bureau of Consular Affairs, U.S. State Department) 28 (2): 325–39, doi:10.1111/j.1539-6924.2008.01022.x, ISSN 0272-4332, PMID 18419652,, retrieved 2008-05-20 .
  40. ^ For U.S. Citizens, Customs and Border Protection, U.S. Department of Homeland Security,, retrieved 2008-05-20 .
  41. ^ Document In Lieu of Internal Travel Document IMM.114, Immigration Department of Malaysia; retrieved 4 March 2009

Further reading

External links

Travel guide

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From Wikitravel

This article is a travel topic.

Typical passport displaying the issuing nation, "passport", and a symbol.
Typical passport displaying the issuing nation, "passport", and a symbol.

A passport is a government-issued identification which allows the passenger to travel freely outside his homecountry (subject to regulations of other countries) and receive assistance from officials representing the aliens' homecountry (i.e. in an embassy or consulate) in the country he intends to visit. This is a major requirement for international travel. These passports are usually complemented by visas, which are issued by the country the alien intends to visit (through an embassy or consulate in the aliens' homecountry). Neither document however guarantees entry into another country.

When purchasing tickets over-the-counter for foreign travel, a passport is usually required to be presented to the agent. Within a homecountry, a passport can also be used as identification to obtain certain services such as application for a new bank account.


The first convention on passports was when, in 1920, the League of Nations decided that all passport contain information in French, being the diplomatic language of that era. Today all passports contain information in at least English and French, as well as the official language(s) of the issuing nation (if not English or French).

The cover page includes the word "passport" and the name of the the issuing country in the native language(s) of the issuing country(and possibly a second language, such as English); some sort of national symbol; and special, universal symbol if it is biometric. Additionally, all EU member states have "European Union" (perhaps in another language) above the name of the issuing country.

The information page of the passport records basic information about the passport: its bearer's surname, given names, photo and date and place of birth, validity period, issuing authority, place of issue and passport number. Most passports also contain a request for safe passage and right to consul in event of incarceration.

In some countries, the next pages are for amendments where the bearer country's issuing may place travel restrictions, change conditions for travel abroad, or amend the period of validity. In addition, pages may be included which provide helpful legal and practical information for the bearer. For instance a US passport contains 6 pages regarding websites and contacts for various reasons (travel restrictions, treasury restrictions on imports, paying taxes while in a foreign country, registering your stay in a foreign country), common sense subjects (don't be a target, be mindful of security threats, ways to lose citizenship), and important information (loss, theft, destruction, alteration, or mutilation of the passport, what to do in a natural disaster or catastrophic event, etc).

Most of the passport pages are alloted for visas where visas coming from different embassies or consulates are pasted. Stamps from passport control officers of both the bearer's home country and countries visited revealing the history of entry and exit of those countries are also found on these pages.

Depending on the country's practice, Some passports may allow the addition for extra pages. Some countries require 2 blank pages in your passport before you enter the country. If you are running low on blank pages, contact your nearest passport office, embassy, or consulate and they should be able to add extra pages for free or a fee depending on issuing country.

Instead, some couontries may issue a new passport "cross-linked" (or even physically bound) to the old one. The old one must have a blank page for the authority to endorse a cross-link. This is useful not only when a passport is running low on blank pages, but also in cases where the visa outlasts the passport that contains it.

It can be possible for a person to hold multiple passports from a single country at the same time, although not all countries allow this and even for those countries where it is allowed, it is something of a rarity. Not everyone, including some immigration officials in more remote places, knows that it is both possible and legal to have 2 or more passports. If you are off the beaten tracks, it is advisable to only show the passports that are needed for that particular border, as multiple forms of the same ID can look suspicious. Instances where 2nd (or even 3rd) passports can be issued include:

  • If there is little or no space left for new visas, but the current passport has valid visas that are still needed. In this case, both passports would need to be valid simultaneously.
  • If you need to submit your passport to 2 or more embassies at the same time for visas.
  • Some countries, such as Libya and Iran amongst others, will not allow entry to people with evidence of travel to Israel, so a new passport will be necessary for travel to those countries in this case. See the Israel article for more information.

Kinds of passports issued

Diplomatic passport

As the name implies, this passport is typically issued to diplomats as well as high-level government officials. In some cases, bearers of these passports will have different visa requirements from regular passport bearers.

Official Passport

This type of passport is generally issued to government employees for work-related travel. These are often treated like diplomatic passports.

Regular (or tourist) passport

This is the most common type of passport issued. It must meet certain established criteria to be recognized and is allowed for general international travel.

Internal passport

In some countries (e.g. Russia) a local passport is for citizen's domestic use only; for international travel a regular (tourist) passport should be issued. An internal passport often serves to prevent the flow of persons from one region of a country to another, this is often implemented to prevent residents of a volatile region from spreading their conflict to another region.

Passport Card

Many Americans cross the Canadian border daily and new requirements require passports to travel to all nations, including Canada and Mexico. The passport card has the same status as the passport book, but in card form for the convenience of frequent border crossing and is only valid for land and sea travel between the United States and Canada, Mexico, and the Caribbean (sea travel only).

Some countries require certain security features on passports to issue on-the-spot visas (visa on arrival), biometric and machine readable passports are the most common requirements. The machine code displayed above should be on the first page of your passport.
Some countries require certain security features on passports to issue on-the-spot visas (visa on arrival), biometric and machine readable passports are the most common requirements. The machine code displayed above should be on the first page of your passport.

Over the years, the way passports are produced have changed. Passports where the frontpages are handwritten still exist although they are being phased out due to security concerns.

Increasingly in the 90s, machine-readable passports have been introduced where the personal data page is automated. That information is also encoded into 2 strips at the bottom of the page. This helps speed-up lines at most passport control stations as the officers don't need to type-in the most of the entries in their respective fields manually in the computers.

Most nations have implemented biometric passports - a passport containing an RFID chip which contains (depending on issuing country): electronic recording of passport data, a photograph, and/or fingerprints.

Where to apply

Your home country's passport issuing authority, normally under its ministry of foreign affairs (the State Department for U.S.) usually takes care of passport applications, and applicants typically go to their nearest representative or satellite office. Some countries' applications can be initiated online. If you are a resident alien of another country, you can go to your home country's embassy or consulate to apply.

What if I lose it while travelling?

Most people travelling outside of their home country have not had this problem. But a few people have had at least one nightmare about losing their passport. In this event, take a deep breath and contact your embassy ASAP to begin the replacement process. It can often take anywhere from a few days to a couple weeks to get a new passport in a foreign country, depending on your citizenship and your location.

Some countries offer "emergency passports" if you can convince them that you can't wait out the normal turnaround time. These documents usually expire within a year of issue, and often raise eyebrows and slow you down when going through immigration at airports and land borders. It takes a much shorter time, often just hours, to obtain than a full-blown replacement passport. A police report is a good idea and may even be required by your embassy, even if there was no crime involved. And don't forget to bring a couple passport photos.

Make Copies

Many travellers often carry multiple copies of their passport (and other important documents) when abroad, stashed away in separate locations; folded together in their wallet, in their luggage, or even scanned into a computer. This is especially useful when travelling in areas where risk of loss or theft is high, as it could save you from problems with local authorities, and make a passport easier to obtain, as at least some proof of your identity remains, and other critical information like the passport number. It can also be a good idea to get a copy of your entry stamp and/or visa, so you can quickly provide authorities with proof you are authorised to be in the country in question - although this is mainly an issue in countries with rampant corruption.

In some countries hotels are required to keep photocopies of your passport, if you don't want to trust hotel staff with your passport, e.g. if staff have to leave the hotel premises in order to make a copy, you will be able to provide your own - no need to be overly paranoid, but having staff run across town with a passport worth more than they make in a year, to find the only Xerox in town, might prove too tempting for some people. In any case you should never hand over your passport as a security or guarantee under any circumstances, except as required by law or as a condition of release on bail.

Other Restrictions

A passport may be treated as a privilege to citizens of the said country. This means the citizen concerned may be required to surrender it to local authorities at certain times such as when they are subject to criminal investigation. Moreover, some passports issued by some countries may expire earlier than usual, and this may indicate that the holder is nearing the required age for conscription.

In some cases, countries with poor or no diplomatic relations may bar the bearers of the other country's passport (or merely having stamps of that other country) from seeking entry. This is the case, for instance, with Israeli passport holders, and sometimes those with just an Israeli stamp, who are usually not permitted to enter most Arab/Islamic states.

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1911 encyclopedia

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Simple English

A passport is a travel document that says that the person carrying it is a citizen of the country on the passport. A passport asks that the person carrying it be allowed to enter and pass through other countries. They also allow a person to re-enter their country. Passports are given by national governments.

Passports usually have a person's picture, signature, date of birth, nationality. Many countries are now making passports with biometric properties. This helps confirm that the person carrying a passport is the real owner. These countries have passports that use biometrics: Malaysia, Australia, Greece, New Zealand, Japan, Portugal, Sweden, the United Kingdom, the United States, Germany, Ireland, Poland, Italy, Slovenia, Singapore and Thailand.

In 1920, the International Conference on Passports, Customs Formalities and Through Tickets made a law that said passports must be issued in French and at least one other language. Now, many countries issue passports in English and the language(s) of the issuing country.


  • Lloyd, Martin (2003). The Passport: The History of Man's Most Travelled Document. Stroud, UK: Sutton Publishing. ISBN 0-7509-2964-2.
  • Salter, Mark B. (2003). "Rights of Passage: The Passport in International Relations." Boulder: Lynne Rienner.
  • Torpey, John (2000). "The Invention of the Passport: Surveillance, Citizenship, and the State." Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

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