From Academic Kids

This article is about the international travel document. For Microsoft Corporation's "universal login" service, see Microsoft .NET Passport.
The title page of  passports bears the name European Union, then the name of the issuing country, in the languages of all EU countries. Here is a British passport.
The title page of European Union passports bears the name European Union, then the name of the issuing country, in the languages of all EU countries. Here is a British passport.
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Passport issued in Montenegro in 1887. Prior to advent of photography, passports had description of the bearer instead of his or her photograph.

A passport is a formal identity document or certification issued by a national government that identifies the holder as a national of a particular state, and requests permission, in the name of the sovereign or government of the issuing country, for the bearer to be permitted to enter and pass through other countries. Passports are connected with the right of legal protection abroad and the right to enter one's country of nationality. Passports usually contain the holder's photograph, signature, date of birth, nationality, and sometimes other means of individual identification. Many countries are in the process of developing biometric properties for their passports in order to further confirm that the person presenting the passport is the legitimate holder.

A passport is usually necessary for international travel, as it normally needs to be shown at a country's border, although there exist agreements whereby the citizens of some countries can enter some other countries with other identity documents. It may be stamped or sealed with visas issued by the host country authorizing entry.

Some governments try to control the movements of their own and other citizens by issueing so-called internal passports. For instance, in the Soviet Union, all citizens were issued propiska to control their movement around the country. This system has been partly retained in Russia.

As identifying documents, passports are frequent subjects of theft and forgery. See Sealand.



The modern concept of a multi-journey multi-destination passport issued only by the holder's country of nationality, dates only from the mid twentieth century. Before this, passports could generally be issued by any nation to any person, but for a very limited time and generally for a single journey. In this way, early passports are more similar to modern visas than to modern passports, whose primary function is to prove the identity and nationality of the holder.

The term 'passport' most probably originates not from sea ports, but from medieval documents required to pass through the gate ('porte') of city walls. In medieval Europe such documents could be issued to any traveller by local athorities and generally contained a list of towns and cities through which the holder was permitted to pass. This system continued in France, for example, until the 1860's. During this time passports were often not required for travel to sea-ports, which were considered open trading points, but were required to travel from them to inland cities. Early passports often, but not always, contained a physical description of the holder, with photographs being added only in the early decades of the 20th century.

Following the world wars, the League of Nations (International Conference on Passports, Customs Formalities and Through Tickets, 1920), and later the United Nations and the ICAO, issued standardisation guidelines on the layout and features of passports. These guidelines have largely shaped the modern passport.

In recent years there has been a movement to introduce biometric information to passports to improve identity security. It is at present questionable whether such technology is sufficiently developed and robust for this task. The US, for example, has twice delayed the introduction of this technology due to poor reliability results.

Types of passports

Diplomatic personnel are issued diplomatic passports which identify them as diplomatic representatives of their home country. Bearers of diplomatic passports are typically exempt from certain formalities (e.g., their luggage is not searched at country borders). See diplomatic immunity. Service passports are 'lighter' or 'stripped' versions of diplomatic passports, issued to, for example, embassy workers of some EU countries working in embassies situated in other EU countries.

Some countries issue official passports to some of their civil servants, for travel on official purposes. Bearers of official passports may, in certain cases, require a visa, whereas bearers of normal passports would not.

Technical characteristics

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The front cover of passports bears the full official name of the issuing country, and often its coat of arms or other complex symbol. Here, this French passport bears, in golden imprint, Union Europenne (European Union), Rpublique Franaise (French Republic) and the emblem of the Republic (fasces).

Passports have a standardized format. They begin with a cover identifying the issuing country, then have a title page also naming the country, followed by pages giving information about the bearer and the issuing authority. Then, a number of blank pages are given for foreign countries to affix visas, or stamp the passport on entrance or exit. Passports are numbered by the issuing authority.

Passports used to carry information (last name, given names, date of birth, place of birth, etc.) only in textual form. In recent years, however, passports issued by many countries have become more complex.

Machine readable passports have a standardized presentation, bearing a zone where some of the information otherwise written in textual form is written as strings of alphanumeric characters, printed in a manner suitable for optical character recognition – that is, reading by a machine. This enables border controllers and other law enforcement agents to process such passports quickly, without having to input the information manually into a computer – for instance, in order to check in a database if the passport was not stolen, if the holder of the passport is not a criminal, or to record the movement of foreigners.

Biometric passports will carry supplemental information about the bearer, in a digitized form.

Governmental restrictions

Many Muslim countries will not allow entry to people with evidence of a visit to Israel in their passport. To help foreigners circumvent these restrictions, Israel does not require visitors to have their passports stamped upon entry, making it difficult for those countries to tell if a citizen or tourist went there. Many of these nations are aware of the exit stamps placed in passports by Egypt and Jordan at their land borders with Israel and may block entry based on the presence of these stamps. For example, an individual may well find themselves blocked from entering certain countries because of the presence of an Egyptian exit stamp indicating the person left Egypt at Taba since the only possible place this person could have gone was Eilat, Israel. Some nations will void old passports and reissue new passports to their nationals based on the presence of evidence of a visit to Israel, recognising that the passport is now unable to properly perform its function.

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An excerpt from a US passport showing travel restrictions

At various times, US passports have been issued with a list of countries or regions to which the holder is forbidden to travel. These countries have previously included Albania, Cuba, China, Iran, Iraq, Korea and Vietnam. In 1957 China protested their inclusion in this list and successfully campained for its removal. Because of US treasury restrictions on US citizens who visit Cuba, that country will similarly not stamp a passport, if requested.

Because the People's Republic of China (PRC) refuses to recognize the statehood of the Republic of China (ROC) administering Taiwan, PRC authorities never stamp ROC passports but require Taiwanese to use different travel documents to enter Mainland China. The ROC once required all ROC nationals to get official approvals before going to Mainland China and would fine those going without approval. However, not stamping ROC passports by the PRC made it very difficult to know if ROC nationals have been in Mainland China without obtaining proper approvals as required. Practically only those who lost their ROC passports in Mainland China could be discovered and fined by the ROC. As of now, only specific persons, such as ROC public officials, require official approvals before going to Mainland China.

For Hong Kong, though many people hold British National (Overseas) passports, the PRC Government refuses to recognise such UK passports. PRC issues "home-visit permits" for those Hong Kong Citizens. They will be granted entry to China on production of such "home-visit permits".

However, Hong Kong people can use their BN(O) passports for Taiwan travels. It should be noted ROC stamps on British Citizen passports but not BN(O)s. BN(O)s only enjoy 14-day landing-visa entry but British Citizens enjoy a 30-day visa-free access.

In most countries, the passport is state property which may be withdrawn at any time. Depending on the country, this right of the state may be exerced arbitrarily by the executive, or may be only applied in certain circumstances following a judicial decision. For instance, typically, passports may have to be temporarily surrendered by people on bail and awaiting trial if there is a risk that they might flee prosecution.

Prominent people with left-wing views, such as Paul Robeson, were once prevented from traveling abroad by this method by the US government. However, the U.S. Supreme Court held in the 1958 case Kent v. Dulles that international travel was an inherent right which could not be denied to American citizens.

International travel without passports

In some circumstances, travel between countries may be done without showing a passport. These include:

Reciprocal agreements

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Some countries have a reciprocal agreements such that a visa is not needed under certain conditions, e.g. when the visit is for tourism and for a relatively short period.

A few countries have agreements allowing for cross-border travel without passports (but generally with identification). Examples include:

Some citizens from some Latin American countries like Brazil and Argentina, Brazil and Bolivia, Brazil and Paraguay, can travel between the two countries bearing only national IDs or passports without visa, usually for a limited period of 90 days, but allowed to work in the other country for that period. There are plans to extend these rights to all of South America under the new South American Community of Nations.

EU, EEA, and the Schengen treaty

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 passport or visa, although transitory dispositions may restrict the rights of citizens of new members to work in other countries.

Furthermore, countries that have signed and applied the Schengen treaty (a subset of the EEA) do not implement border controls between each other, unless exceptional circumstances apply. (Most of the balance of EU countries, plus Switzerland, have signed the Schengen treaty, but not applied it yet.)

As a consequence of the above, for instance, a French citizen 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, he will have to carry at least a national ID card, which will normally be checked at the border. On the other hand, if and when Switzerland applies the Schengen treaty, 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 authorization, as it is not a member of the EEA. Further, most European countries require all persons to carry an identity card or passport. So while Switzerland will not check our French traveller at the border, he may have to show his ID card at some stage within the country, although in practice this is rare. Except at the border, ID cards are not required in the UK, however, our French traveller would have to show ID to obtain a UK bank account or to work in the UK.

Refugees and stateless persons

Stateless persons (those to whom no country will grant a passport or citizenship) generally travel internationally on transit documents issued by the United Nations under the terms of the 1951 Convention relating to the Status of Refugees. These are accepted in lieu of passports by most governments. Similarly, refugees and asylum seekers often travel under non-national interim documentation, rather than the passport of the country from which they are fleeing.

The Vatican City

The Vatican City has no formal immigration controls. As the only entrance to the tiny country is overland from Italy, the de-facto immigration requirements of the Vatican City are the same as those of Italy.

Limitations on acceptance of passports

Although most countries recognise the passports of most other countries, there are a number of exceptions. Generally these exceptions are due to circumstances where one country refuses to accept the existence of another territory or government as a legitimate country.


The Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC) issues passports, but only Turkey recognises the statehood of Northern Cyprus. TRNC passports are not accepted for entry into the Republic of Cyprus. The Republic of Cyprus also refuses entry to holders of Yugoslavian passports "bearing a renewal stamp with the name 'Macedonia'" (source (


A number of Muslim countries do not accept Israeli passports, largely due to their governments' current or historical refusal to recognise Israel as a legal state. These countries are:


Many micronations, such as Sealand, issue passports and other citizenship documents. No UN member country recognises these documents as valid for transfer or entry, though many micronations continue to issue them.

Political and ideological requirements for passport holders

Some countries impose particular political and ideological requirements on passport applicants, issuing passports and exit-visas only to those who meet those requirements.

North Korea

North Korea strictly limits the granting of passports to a small trusted minority. Membership of the Korean Workers' Party is essentially a prerequisite.


Pakistan imposes a requirement on its Muslim citizens when they apply for a passport, requiring them to agree to the following:

  1. I am a Muslim and believe in the absolute and unqualified finality of the Prophethood of Hazrat Muhemmed (peace be upon him) the last of the Prophets.
  2. I do not recognize any who claims to be a prophet in any sense of the word or any description whatsoever, after Hazrat Muhemmed (peace be upon him) 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 nabi and also consider his followers whether belonging to the Lahori, Qadiani or Mirzai groups, to be non-Muslims.

With the issuance of the new biometric passport in 2005 (in which the religion column was to be deleted), the above declaration would have been made unnecessary. However, this decision was recently reversed by the Pakistan Government. Religious parties insisted the restoration of the religion column. After much debate, the column has come back. New passports will carry religion columns; passports already printed will bear a rubber stamp mark declaring a person's religion.

(source (

Countries issuing more than one type of passports

See also

Further reading

  • Lloyd, Martin (2003). The Passport: The History of Man's Most Travelled Document. Stroud, UK: Sutton Publishing. ISBN 0-7509-2964-2.

External links

de:Reisepass fr:Passeport ko:여권 nl:Paspoort ja:パスポート no:Pass zh-cn:护照 sr:Пасош sv:Pass


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