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For other uses, see Passport (disambiguation).

A passport is a government-issued document that certifies the identity and nationality of its holder for the purpose of international travel. The elements of identity contained in all standardized passports include information about the holder, including name, date of birth, gender and place of birth.

A passport does not necessarily grant the passport holder entry into another country, nor to consular protection while abroad or any other privileges, such as immunity from arrest or prison sentences—rights to consular protection arise from international treaties. A passport displays nationality, but not the place of residence of the passport holder, and the passport holder is normally entitled to enter (in most cases: return to) the country that issued the passport in accordance with the laws of that country.



One of the earliest known references to paperwork that served the role of a passport is found in the Hebrew Bible. In the biblical verse, Judea; the king granted leave and gave him a letter "to the governors beyond the river" requesting safe passage for him as he traveled through their lands.

In the medieval Islamic Caliphate, a form of passport was 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 "traveler's basic passport."[1]

It is considered unlikely that the term "passport" is derived from sea ports, but rather from a medieval document that was required to pass through the gate ( or "porte") of a city wall or to pass through a territory.[2][3] In medieval Europe, such documents were issued to travelers 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.[4]

The rapid expansion of rail travel and wealth in Europe from the mid-nineteenth century led to a unique dissolution of the passport system for thirty odd years before World War I. 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.[5] 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 a relatively straightforward procedure. Consequently, comparatively few people held 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. Most countries issued passports, but countries that demanded that travelers be in possession of a passport were considered backwards.

Early passports included a description of the passport holder. Photographs were then 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 controversial. British tourists of the 1920s complained, especially about attached photographs and physical descriptions, which they considered led to a "nasty dehumanization".[6]

In 1920, the League of Nations held a conference on passports and through tickets, the Paris Conference on Passports & Customs Formalities and Through Tickets.[7] Passport guidelines and a general booklet design resulted from the conference,[8] which was followed up by conferences in 1926[9] and 1927.

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

Entitlement to Passports

Traditionally, legal authority to issue passports is founded on the exercise of each nation’s executive discretion (or Crown prerogative, as it is known in constitutional monarchies) relating to foreign affairs. Certain legal tenets follow, namely: that passports are issued in the name of the state; that no person has a legal right to be issued a passport; that each nation’s government, in exercising its executive discretion, has complete, unfettered discretion to refuse to issue or to revoke a passport; and that the latter discretion is not subject to judicial review. However, legal scholars like A.J. Arkelian have argued that evolutions in both the constitutional law of democratic nations and the international law applicable to all nations now render the prevailing archaic principle that passport issuance is founded in the executive discretion of national governments both obsolete and unlawful. In nations with constitutionally entrenched bills of rights (such as the United States of America and Canada), constitutional guarantees of freedom of movement are meaningless without a citizen’s right to the requisite ancillary element (a passport) -- without which no freedom of movement between states can in fact be exercised. Guarantees of freedom of movement of persons between states are also entrenched in binding international covenants. Those covenants, which have the force of law in signatory nations, likewise necessarily subsume the right of citizens to passports, including a right not to be denied access to passports on arbitrary, capricious, discriminatory grounds. The right guaranteed in many national constitutions and in widely ratified international covenants is a right to travel, and that means the right to travel to and from somewhere else. All such destinations are immediately and effectively precluded by absence of a passport. By guaranteeing the freedom of movement, entrenched constitutional rights (in nations like Canada and the United States) and binding provisions of international law render unconstitutional the basis of existing passport law in Crown prerogative, and obsolete the notion of absolute executive discretion over passport issuance and hence the right of individuals to travel.[10][11]


A rough standardization exists in types of passports throughout the world, although passport types, number of pages and definitions can vary by country.

Full passports

  • Ordinary passport (tourist passport, regular passport, passport)
Issued to citizens and other nationals, and generally the most-issued type of passport. Sometimes it is possible to have children registered within the ordinary passport of the parent, rendering the passport functionally equal to a family passport.
  • Official passport (service passport, also special passport)
Issued to government employees for work-related travel, and to accompanying dependents.
  • Diplomatic passport
Issued to diplomats and other government officials for work-related international travel, and to accompanying dependents. Although most persons with diplomatic immunity carry diplomatic passports, 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 must obtain a non-diplomatic visa when traveling to a country where he is not currently nor is going to be accredited as a diplomat, if visas are required to nationals of his country.
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. Such is the case of King Constantine II of Greece who has traveled on diplomatic passports for Denmark (the ancestral home of his royal house) and Spain (the adopted country of his sister Queen Sofia).[12][13]
  • Emergency passport (temporary passport)
Issued to persons whose passports were lost or stolen, and who do not have time to obtain replacement passports. Sometimes laissez-passer are used for this purpose.
  • 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.

Travel documents in passport-booklet form

These are issued by national governments as emergency passports, or for travel on humanitarian grounds. Laissez-passer are also issued by international organizations (most notably, the U.N.) to their officers and employees for official travel.
A document issued under certain circumstances - such as statelessness - to non-citizen residents. An example of this is the "Nansen passport". Sometimes alien's passports are issued as internal passport to non-residents.
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.
  • U.S. Re-entry Permit
Passport-like travel document issued by the United States to U.S. permanent residents allowing them to travel outside and return to the U.S.
  • Japan Re-entry Permit
Passport-like travel document issued by Japan to residents who are stateless or unable to obtain a passport
  • Two-way permit
Passport-like travel document issued by the People's Republic of China to Chinese citizens from the Mainland in order to travel to Hong Kong or Macau only.
  • Taibaozheng (Taiwan Compatriot Entry Permit)
Passport-like travel document issued by the People's Republic of China to citizens of Taiwan who wish to travel to that country, including Hong Kong and Macau
  • Dalu Jumin Laiwang Taiwan Tongxingzheng (Permit for Mainland Residents to Travel To and From Taiwan)
Passport-like travel document issued to Chinese citizens from the Mainland in order to travel to Taiwan. Used in conjunction with an entry permit issued by the Taiwan government.
  • Chinese Travel Document
Passport-like travel document issued by the People's Republic of China to Chinese citizens in lieu of a passport. It is valid for travel to all countries.
  • Special passport
Issued to Bangladeshis that is valid for travel to India only.[14]
Issued by some countries as an identity document. An example is the internal passport of Russia or certain other post-Soviet countries dating back to imperial times. There's a widespread misconception that internal passports always exist for the purpose of controlling migration within a country.
  • 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 size of passports normally comply with ISO/IEC 7810 ID-3 standard, which specifies a size of 125 × 88 mm (4.921 × 3.465 in). This size is the B7 format.

  • Standard passport format
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.
  • Machine-readable passport standards
Standards for machine-readable passports have also been issued by the ICAO,[15] with an area set aside where most of the information written as text is also printed in a manner suitable for optical character recognition.
  • e-Passport standards
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.[16][17]

Request page

Passports often, though not always, contain a message, usually near the front, requesting that the passport's bearer be allowed to pass freely, and further requesting 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, often on behalf of the head of state. The message may be written in more than one language, depending on the language policies of the issuing authority.

For example, in a United Kingdom passport, the rubric reads:

Her Britannic Majesty's Secretary of State Requests and requires in the Name of Her Majesty all those whom it may concern to allow the bearer to pass freely without let or hindrance, and to afford the bearer such assistance and protection as may be necessary.

the message in a current N-series Australian passport (stated only in English) reads:

The Governor-General of the Commonwealth of Australia, being the representative in Australia of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth the Second, requests all those whom it may concern to allow the bearer, an Australian Citizen, to pass freely without let or hindrance and to afford him or her every assistance and protection of which he or she may stand in need.

the English message in a Canadian passport reads:

The Minister of Foreign Affairs of Canada requests, in the name of Her Majesty the Queen, all those whom it may concern to allow the bearer to pass freely without let or hindrance and to afford the bearer such assistance and protection as may be necessary.

the English message in a Philippine passport meanwhile reads:

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.

and the English message in a South Korean passport is:

The Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade of the Republic of Korea hereby requests all those whom it may concern to permit the bearer, a national of the Republic of Korea, to pass freely without delay or hindrance and, in case of need, to afford him(her) every possible assistance and protection.

the English message in an Israeli passport is:

The Minister of the interior of the State of Israel hereby requests all those whom it may concern to allow the carrier of this passport to pass freely without let or hindrance , and to afford him such assistance and protection as may be necessary.

The English message in a Dutch passport is:

In the name of His Majesty the King of the Netherlands, Prince of Orange-Nassau, etc. etc. etc. , the Minister of Foreign Affairs requests all authorities of friendly powers to allow the bearer of the present passport to pass freely without let or hindrance and to afford the bearer every assistance and protection which may be necessary.

Other passports, for example those of the United States[18] bear similar messages. However such messages are absent, for instance, in passports issued by governments of Switzerland, Finland, and Austria.


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.[19] 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. Many European countries used their national language and additionally the three most spoken languages in Europe, i.e. French, German, and English.

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. In addition to the official EU languages, British passports bear Welsh and Scots Gaelic.
  • The United States passport and the Barbadian passport are tri-lingual: English, French and Spanish. United States passports were traditionally English and French, but began being printed with a Spanish message and labels during the Clinton administration, in recognition of Puerto Rico's Spanish-speaking status. Only the message and labels are in multiple languages, the cover and instructions pages are only printed in English.
  • In Belgium, all three official languages (Dutch, French, German) appear on the cover, in addition to English on the main page. Which of the official languages appears first depends on the official residence of the holder.
  • 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.
  • Hong Kong SAR passports are in two languages: Chinese (written in traditional Chinese characters) and English
  • Indian passports are in Hindi and English.
  • Iraqi passports are in Arabic, Kurdish and English.
  • South Korean passports are in Korean and English.
  • Macau SAR passports are in three languages: Chinese, Portuguese and English.
  • Maldivian passports are in Dhivehi and English.
  • New Zealand passports are in English and Maori.
  • Norwegian passports are in the two forms of the Norwegian language, Bokmål and Nynorsk, and in English.
  • Pakistani passports are in Urdu, English, Arabic and French.
  • Swiss passports are in five languages: German, French, Italian, Romansh and English.
  • World Passports issued by the World Service Authority (WSA) are in seven languages: English, French, Spanish, Russian, Arabic, Chinese and Esperanto.

Common designs

Main articles: Andean passport, CARICOM passport, Central America-4 passport, ECOWAS passport, Passports of the European Economic Area and Passports of the European Union

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.[20] 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, Barbados, 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.[21] 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. In most countries, one class of nationality exists for all its citizens, and only one type of ordinary passport exists for them. Several types of exceptions however exist:

Multiple classes of nationality in a single country

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.

One class of nationality in multiple countries

As an alternative to having more classes of nationality within one country, a single class can also exist across more than one country. For example, only a single class of nationality is available for the three constituent countries of Kingdom of Denmark (although Faroe nationals enjoy a special status), all four constituent countries of the Kingdom of the Netherlands and all the constituent states and territories of the Realm of New Zealand.

Special nationality class through investment

In certain instances a nationality is available through investment. Some investors have been described in a Tongan passport as 'a Tongan protected person', a status which does not necessarily carry with it the right of abode in Tonga.[22] Many countries accept Tongan passports which reflect actual Tongan citizenship, but do not accept Tongan passports which reflect 'Tongan protected person' status.

Multiple types of passports, one nationality

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, and bearing the same code of issuing state: CHN) 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.

Passports without sovereign territory

Several entities without a sovereign territory issue passports as well, most notably Iroquois League,[23][24] the Aboriginal Provisional Government in Australia and the Sovereign Military Order of Malta.[25]

National conditions on passport issuance

Countries set their own conditions for the issue of passports.[26] For example, Pakistan requires applicants to be interviewed before a Pakistani passport will be granted.[27]

In countries where incoming and outgoing international travels are highly regulated (such as in North Korea), general use passports are the privilege of a very small number of people that are trusted by the government, and are not easily available to the general public under ordinary conditions.

In Finland, male citizens aged 18–30 years must prove that they have completed, or are exempt from, the obligatory military service when applying for a Finnish passport. If they have not yet completed the service, the passport is issued only until the end of their 28th year to ensure that they will not flee the country and desert.[28] Many countries with obligatory military service have similar requirements. Syria, for instance, requires male citizens aged 17–42 years to present a number of documents, among which is an approval form of the respective military service office. If they have not yet completed their service, the issued passport is valid for only two years (as opposed to six years for everyone else).[29]

Passports as government property

Most countries declare by law that passports are government property, 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.[30] 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 to 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. 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 husband's passport to include the names and photos (marks of stature and visage) of his wife and children. These "family passports" allowed the bearer's wife and children to travel together with their "head of the family" without the need to issue individual passports to everyone. Family passports were not valid for dependants to travel by themselves or with someone other than the principal bearer. Nearly every country once issued family passports, but most no longer do so.

Some countries still allow inserting names of underage children into their parents' passports instead of issuing them separate passports. For example, a Uruguayan passport still has two photo pages, on which there can be a listing of up to six children, each with their thumbprint and details. Introduction of biometric passports with chips (which can only contain biometrics of one person) has made the practice largely obsolete.

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, persons 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

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.



Main article: Bangladeshi passport

A Bangladeshi passport is valid for travel to all nations, except Israel. In the past, the passport was not valid for travel to Rhodesia, Taiwan and South Africa as well.

China and Taiwan

Main articles: People's Republic of China passport and Republic of China passport

Citizens of Taiwan (ROC) use a special travel permit issued by China's (PRC) public-security authorities to enter China. Citizens of China entering Taiwan must also use a special travel permit issued by the ROC government and have their mainland documents surrendered. The identity documents are only valid for travel between Taiwan and China, and an endorsement must be obtained separately to enable travel.

Hong Kong and Macau

Hong Kong and Macau each maintains border controls at all points of entry, including at the border with mainland China. Permanent residents of the SARs can use their identity cards to travel between the SARs.

A 'Home Return Permit' is required for Chinese citizens domiciled in Hong Kong and Macau to enter and exit mainland China. The Hong Kong Special Administrative Region passport and the Macau Special Administrative Region passport cannot be used for travel to mainland China. Also, British National (Overseas) passports cannot be used by Chinese citizens who have the right of abode in Hong Kong as the PRC considers such citizens solely PRC citizens as it does not recognize dual nationality.

Mainland China residents visiting Hong Kong or Macau are required to hold an Exit-entry Permit for Travelling to and from Hong Kong and Macau (往来港澳通行证 or 双程证) issued by mainland authorities, along with an endorsement (签注), also issued by mainland authorities, on the Exit-entry Permit which needs to be applied each time (similar to a visa) when visiting the SARs.[31]

Non-permanent residents of Macau who are not eligible for a passport may travel to Hong Kong on the Visit Permit to Hong Kong (澳門居民往來香港特別行政區旅行證). The grey-cover Visit Permit to Hong Kong is, technically speaking, a restricted passport and is valid for 7 years. It allows holders to travel only to Hong Kong Special Administrative Region on multiple occasions during its validity.


Main article: Israeli passport

In Israel's first years, Israeli passports bore the stamp "not valid for Germany" (Hebrew: לא תקף בגרמניה), 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"). Some Muslim and African countries do not permit entry to anyone using an Israeli passport. In addition, Iran,[32] Kuwait,[33] Lebanon,[34] Libya,[35] Saudi Arabia,[36] Sudan,[37] Syria[38] and Yemen[39] do not allow entry to people with evidence of travel to Israel, or whose passports have a used or an unused Israeli visa.


Initially on Pakistani passports there was a printed list of countries which could be visited. Currently the statement printed on Pakistani passports reads, "This passport is valid for all countries of the world except Israel" "یہ پاسپورٹ سواۓ اسرائل کے دنیا کے تمام ممالک کے لۓ کار آمد ہے" .


Main article: Philippine passport

Between 2004 and mid-2011, the Philippine Department of Foreign Affairs deemed that bearers of its passports could not travel to Iraq due to the security threats in that country. As such, Philippine passports issued in that time period were stamped "Not valid for travel to Iraq" in English and Arabic. Passports printed after July 1, 2011 no longer bear this stamp.[40]

South Korea

South Korea does not consider travel within the Korean peninsula (between South Korean and North Korean administrations) to be international travel, as South Korea's constitution claims the entire Korean peninsula as its territory. South Koreans traveling to the Kaesong Industrial Region in North Korea pass through the Gyeongui Highway Transit Office at Dorasan, Munsan, where they present a plastic Visit Certificate (방문증명서) card issued by the South Korean Ministry of Unification, and an immigration-stamped Passage Certificate (개성공업지구 출입증) issued by the Kaesong Industrial District Management Committee (개성공업지구 관리위원회).[41] Until 2008, South Koreans travelling to tourist areas in the North such as Mount Kumgang needed to carry a South Korean ID card for security reasons.


Armenia and Azerbaijan

Main articles: Visa policy of Azerbaijan and Visa policy of Armenia

As a result of the Nagorno-Karabakh War between Azerbaijan and Armenia, Azerbaijan refuses entry to holders of Armenian passports, as well as passport-holders of any other country if they are of Armenian descent. It also strictly refuses entry to foreigners in general whose passport shows evidence of entry into the self-proclaimed Nagorno-Karabakh Republic, immediately declaring them permanent personae non gratae.

Conversely, Armenia does allow visa-free entry for holders of Azerbaijani passports.


Main article: Austrian passport

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 types of passports along with it.


Main article: Cypriot passport

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, and since the opening of the border between the two sides, Cypriot and EU citizens can travel freely between them.

The United Kingdom, United States of America, France, Australia, Pakistan and Syria currently officially accept TRNC passports with the relevant visas.

San Marino and European Union

Passports are not needed by citizens of San Marino and Italy to travel to each other's country. EU citizens do not need a passport to enter in San Marino. However, San Marino citizens must possess a regular passport to enter EU states other than Italy.

Spain and Gibraltar

Spain does not accept United Kingdom passports issued in Gibraltar, alleging 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 the covers of British passports issued in Gibraltar.

North America

United States

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.



Main article: Tongan passport

Some countries decline to accept Tongan Protected Person passports, though they accept Tongan citizen passports.[42][43][44] Tongan Protected Person passports are sold by the Government of Tonga to anyone who is not a Tongan national.[45] 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.

South America


Main article: Brazilian passport

For countries that do not maintain diplomatic relations with Brazil, such as Kosovo and Taiwan, diplomatic, official and work passports are not accepted, and visas are only granted to tourist or business visitors, under Brazilian “laissez-passer”.[46]

International travel without passports

International travel is possible without passports in some circumstances. Nonetheless, a document stating the citizenship, such as a national identity card or an Enhanced Drivers License, is usually required.


East African Community

Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda, Rwanda and Burundi comprise the East African Community. Each country may issue, to an eligible citizen, an East African passport. East African passports are recognised by only the five 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, Liberia, Mali, Niger, Nigeria, Senegal, Sierra Leone, and Togo.


India, Nepal and Bhutan

Passports are not needed by citizens of India, Nepal, and Bhutan to travel to each other's country, but some identification is required for border crossings. Additionally, only Indians can travel in Bhutan without a passport, while Bhutanese must travel with their citizenship identity cards.

Syria and Lebanon

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

Commonwealth of Independent States

Between Russia and some former Soviet republics, rather than requiring a standard passport, participating countries may accept a national identity document (e.g. an internal passport) as well.

According to a statement made by President Putin in December 2012, Russia has plans to restrict the privilege of travel without a passport only to citizens of the member states of the Customs Union of Belarus, Kazakhstan and Russia by 2015. After that date, citizens of other CIS states will need passports (although not visas) to visit Russia.[47]

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. This also applies to anyone that has a residence permit in any of the GCC countries.

Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation

The 20 countries of the APEC issue the APEC Business Travel Card, which allows visa-free entry into all participating countries.


Ireland and the United Kingdom

Travel with minimal travel documents is possible between the United Kingdom, the Isle of Man, the Channel Islands, and the Republic of Ireland, which together form the Common Travel Area.

Travel with National Identity Cards

A citizen of one of the 28 member states of the European Union or of Liechtenstein, Andorra, Monaco, Norway, San Marino, Iceland and Switzerland may travel within these countries using a standard compliant National Identity Card rather than a passport. Not all EU/EEA member states issue standard compliant National Identity Cards, notably Denmark, Norway, Iceland, Latvia, Ireland and the United Kingdom. Sweden issues National Identity Cards, but its Passport Law does not allow a Swedish citizen to travel outside the Schengen Area without a passport, which is in violation of EU freedom of movement.[48][49]

Travel within the Schengen Area

The up-to-now 26 countries that apply the Schengen Agreement (a subset of the EEA) do not implement passport controls between each other, unless exceptional circumstances apply. It is however mandatory to carry a passport, compliant national identity card or alien's resident permit.


The Nordic Passport Union allows Nordic citizens—citizens from Denmark (including the Faroe Islands), Finland, Iceland, Norway and Sweden—to visit any of these countries without being in possession of identity documents (Greenland and Svalbard are excluded). This is an extension of the principle that Nordic citizens need no identity document in their own country. A means to prove identity when requested is recommended (e.g. using a drivers license, which does not state citizenship), even in one's own country. Joining the Schengen Area in 1997 has not changed these rules.

Post-Yugoslav states and Albania (Western Balkans)

  • Albania accepts national ID cards or passports for entry from citizens of the European Union, Iceland, Norway, Switzerland, Kosovo, Montenegro, FRY Macedonia.
  • Bosnia and Herzegovina accepts national ID cards or passports for entry from citizens of the EEA (European Union, Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway, Switzerland), Andorra, Montenegro, Monaco, San Marino, Serbia and the Vatican City.
  • The Republic of Macedonia accepts national ID cards or passports for entry from citizens of the EEA (European Union, Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway, Switzerland), Albania, Montenegro and Serbia.
  • Montenegro accepts national ID cards or passports for entry from citizens of the EEA (European Union, Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway, Switzerland), Albania, Andorra, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo, Monaco, FRY Macedonia, San Marino, Serbia and the Vatican City.
  • Serbia accepts national ID cards or passports for entry from citizens of the EEA (European Union, Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway, Switzerland), Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro, FRY Macedonia.


  • Citizens of Belgium, France, Georgia, Germany, Greece, Italy, Liechtenstein, Luxemburg, Malta, the Netherlands, the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus, Portugal, Spain and Switzerland are allowed to enter Turkey with a valid national ID card.
  • Turkish citizens are allowed to enter Georgia with a valid ID card.
  • In some cases, time constraints apply.

North America


  • 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.

Central America

Main article: Central America-4 passport
  • 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).

U.S., Canada and Mexico

There are several cards available to certain North American citizens/residents which allow passport free travel; generally only for land and sea border crossings:

  • The U.S. Passport card is an alternative to an ordinary U.S. passport booklet for land and sea travel within North America (Canada, Mexico, the Caribbean, and Bermuda). Like the passport book, the passport card is issued only to U.S. citizens and nationals.
  • The NEXUS card allows border crossing between U.S. and Canada. The air NEXUS card can also be used for air travel as the only means of identification for US and Canadian citizens/nationals.
  • The SENTRI-card allows passport free entry into the U.S. from Mexico (but not vice versa).
  • U.S. nationals may further enter the U.S. using an enhanced driver license issued by the States of Vermont, Washington, Michigan and New York (which 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.[50][51]
  • Canadian nationals may enter the U.S. via land or sea using an "Enhanced" WHTI-compliant driver's license. They are currently issued by British Columbia, Manitoba, Quebec and Ontario. If Canadians wish to enter the US via air, they must use a passport book.
  • For travel to the French islands of Saint Pierre and Miquelon directly from Canada, Canadians and foreign nationals holding Canadian identification documents are exempted from passport and visa requirements for stays of maximum duration of 3 months within a period of 6 months. Accepted documents include a driver's licence, citizenship card, permanent resident card and others. U.S. nationals traveling through Canada are not exempt and must carry a passport.

In the U.S. the acceptable passport-substituting documents are placed within the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative. Prior to the current policy travel between the United States and Canada for either citizen was proof of citizenship and photo ID such has a birth certificate and driver's license.


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 from Australia in 1975.[52] Vessels from other parts of Papua New Guinea and other countries attempting to cross into Australia or Australian waters are stopped by Australian Customs or the Royal Australian Navy.

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, and it already extends them (since 2006[53]) to every South American country except Guyana and Suriname.

Intra-sovereign territory travel that requires passports

For some countries, there are immigration checks and passport control for travel between their sovereign territories, yet some travels between such territories do not require passports.

Mainland China, Hong Kong and Macau

Hong Kong and Macau, both Chinese special administrative regions, have their own immigration control systems different from each other and mainland China. Travelling between mainland China, Hong Kong and Macau, technically, is not considered international. People of Hong Kong, Macau and mainland China do not use passports to travel between the three places, other documents, such as the Mainland Travel Permit (for the people of Hong Kong and Macau), are used instead. Foreigners are required to present their passports with applicable visas 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 SARs without the presentation of any passport.


Main article: Malaysian 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 for foreigners when travelling from Peninsular Malaysia to East Malaysia, as well as traveling between Sabah and Sarawak. 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. However, West Malaysians are required to produce a Malaysian identity card or, for children below 12 years, birth certificate, obtain a special immigration printout form (Document In Lieu of Internal Travel Document, IMM.114),[54] and keep the form until they leave East Malaysia. However, one may still present a Malaysian passport or a Restricted Travel Document and get an entry stamp on the passport to avoid the hassle of keeping an extra sheet of paper.

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 (whichever is shorter).

Member states of the European Union are not permitted to place a stamp in the passport of a person who is not subject to immigration control, such as a national of that country, a national of another EU member state or a non-EU national family member of an EU national who is seeking entry in conformity with EU Directive 2004/38/EC. 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 countries outside the EU, where a stamp in a passport may simply acknowledge the entry or exit of a person.

Countries usually have different styles of stamps for entries and exits, to make it easier to identify the movements of people. The shape of the stamp and the colour of the ink may also provide information about movements (whether departure or arrival). 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, but the stamps had slightly different borders to indicate entry/exit by air, land, or sea. In several countries the stamps or its colour are different if the person arrived in a car as opposed to bus/boat/train/aeroplane. Countries can vary the shape of their stamps to indicate the length of stay, like Singapore where a perfectly rectangular stamp indicates a 14-day stay, rounded rectangular a 30-day stay, or hexagonal a 90-day stay.

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.

Some countries, such as Liechtenstein,[55] that do not stamp passports on entry may provide a passport stamp on request for such "memory" purposes. However, such memorial stamps can preclude the passport bearer from travelling to certain countries. For example, Finland consistently rejects what they call 'falsified passports': travellers have been refused visas or entry due to memorial stamps (as well as 'proper' visas, stamps or staples applied in such way that they overlapped past EU visas or stamps) and required to renew their passports.

Visas often take the form of an inked stamp, although some countries use adhesive stickers that incorporate security features to discourage forgery.

See also

Notes and references

Further reading

  • Holder IV, Floyd William (Fall 2009).

External links

  • nline
  • Howstuffworks
  • ICAO MRTD Machine-readable travel documents
  • Passport Land - detailed images of 500 old passports
  • Dateline NBC, December 28, 2007
  • Seattle Times, November 8, 2007

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