A passport is a travel document, usually issued by a country’s government, that certifies the identity and nationality of its holder primarily for the purpose of international travel. Standard passports may contain information such as the holder’s name, place and date of birth, photograph, signature, and other identifying information. Many countries are moving towards including biometric information in a microchip embedded in the passport, making them machine-readable and difficult to counterfeit. As of 2017, there are over 120 jurisdictions issuing these e-Passports. Previously issued passports usually remain valid until each expires.
A passport holder is normally entitled to enter the country that issued the passport, though some people entitled to a passport may not be full citizens with right of abode. A passport does not of itself create any rights in the country being visited or obligate the issue country in any way, such as providing consular assistance. Some passports attest to status as a diplomat or other official, entitled to rights and privileges such as immunity from arrest or prosecution.
Many countries normally allow entry to holders of passports of other countries, sometimes requiring a visa also to be obtained, but this is not an automatic right. Many other additional conditions, such as not being likely to become a public charge for financial or other reasons, and the holder not having been convicted of a crime, may apply. Where a country does not recognise another, or is in dispute with it, it may prohibit the use of their passport for travel to that other country, or may prohibit entry to holders of that other country’s passports, and sometimes to others who have, for example, visited the other country.
Some countries and international organisations issue travel documents which are not standard passports, but enable the holder to travel internationally to countries that recognise the documents. For example, stateless persons are not normally issued a national passport, but may be able to obtain a refugee travel document or the earlier “Nansen passport” which enables them to travel to countries which recognise the document, and sometimes to return to the issuing country.
Passports are often requested in other circumstances to confirm identification such as checking in to a hotel or when changing money to a local currency.
One of the earliest known references to paperwork that served in a role similar to that of a passport is found in the Hebrew Bible. Nehemiah 2:7-9, dating from approximately 450 BC, states that Nehemiah, an official serving King Artaxerxes I of Persia, asked permission to travel to 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 the bara’a, a receipt for taxes paid. Only people 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.”
Etymological sources show that the term “passport” is from a medieval document that was required in order to pass through the gate (or “porte”) of a city wall or to pass through a territory. In medieval Europe, such documents were issued to foreign travelers by local authorities (as opposed to local citizens, as is the modern practice) and generally contained a list of towns and cities the document holder was permitted to enter or pass through. 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 passport in the modern sense, as a means of helping his subjects prove who they were in foreign lands. The earliest reference to these documents is found in a 1414 Act of Parliament. In 1540, granting travel documents in England became a role of the Privy Council of England, and it was around this time that the term “passport” was used. In 1794, issuing British passports became the job of the Office of the Secretary of State. The 1548 Imperial Diet of Augsburg required the public to hold imperial documents for travel, at the risk of permanent exile.
A rapid expansion of railway infrastructure and wealth in Europe beginning in the mid-nineteenth century led to large increases in the volume of international travel and a consequent unique dilution of the passport system for approximately thirty years prior to World War I. The speed of trains, as well as the number of passengers that crossed multiple borders, made enforcement of passport laws difficult. The general reaction was the relaxation of passport requirements. 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.
During World War I, European governments introduced border passport requirements for security reasons, and to control the emigration of people with useful skills. These controls remained in place after the war, becoming a standard, though controversial, procedure. British tourists of the 1920s complained, especially about attached photographs and physical descriptions, which they considered led to a “nasty dehumanization”.
In 1920, the League of Nations held a conference on passports, the Paris Conference on Passports & Customs Formalities and Through Tickets. Passport guidelines and a general booklet design resulted from the conference, which was followed up by conferences in 1926 and 1927.
While the United Nations held a travel conference in 1963, no passport guidelines resulted from it. Passport standardization came about in 1980, under the auspices of the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO). ICAO standards include those for machine-readable passports. Such passports have an area 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. This enables border controllers and other law enforcement agents to process these passports more quickly, without having to input the information manually into a computer. ICAO publishes Doc 9303 Machine Readable Travel Documents, the technical standard for machine-readable passports. A more recent standard is for biometric passports. These contain biometrics to authenticate the identity of travellers. The passport’s critical information is stored on a tiny RFID computer chip, much like information stored on smartcards. Like some smartcards, the passport booklet design calls for an embedded contactless chip that is able to hold digital signature data to ensure the integrity of the passport and the biometric data.
Historically, legal authority to issue passports is founded on the exercise of each country’s executive discretion (or Crown prerogative). Certain legal tenets follow, namely: first, passports are issued in the name of the state; second, no person has a legal right to be issued a passport; third, each country’s government, in exercising its executive discretion, has complete and unfettered discretion to refuse to issue or to revoke a passport; and fourth, that the latter discretion is not subject to judicial review. However, legal scholars including A.J. Arkelian have argued that evolutions in both the constitutional law of democratic countries and the international law applicable to all countries now render those historical tenets both obsolete and unlawful.
Under some circumstances some countries allow people to hold more than one passport document. This may apply, for example, to people who travel a lot on business, and may need to have, say, a passport to travel on while another is awaiting a visa for another country. The UK for example may issue a second passport if the applicant can show a need and supporting documentation, such as a letter from an employer.
Many countries issue only one passport to each national (an exception is the Family Passport, see below under “Types”). 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).
Under the law of most countries, passports are government property, and may be limited or revoked at any time, usually on specified grounds, and possibly subject to judicial review. In many countries, surrender of the passport is a condition of granting bail in lieu of imprisonment for a pending criminal trial.
Each country sets its own conditions for the issue of passports. For example, Pakistan requires applicants to be interviewed before a Pakistani passport will be granted. When applying for a passport or a national ID card, all Pakistanis are required to sign an oath declaring Mirza Ghulam Ahmad to be an impostor prophet and all Ahmadis to be non-Muslims.
Some countries limit the issuance of passports, where incoming and outgoing international travels are highly regulated, such as North Korea, where general use passports are the privilege of a very small number of people trusted by the government. Other countries put requirements on some citizens in order to be granted passports, such as Finland, where male citizens aged 18–30 years must prove that they have completed, or are exempt from, their obligatory military service to be granted an unrestricted passport; otherwise a passport is issued valid only until the end of their 28th year, to ensure that they return to carry out military service. Other countries with obligatory military service, such as Syria, have similar requirements.
Passports contain a statement of the nationality of the holder. In most countries, only one class of nationality exists, and only one type of ordinary passport is issued. However, several types of exceptions exist:
Multiple classes of nationality in a single country
The United Kingdom has a number of classes of United Kingdom nationality due to its colonial history. As a result, the UK issues various passports which are similar in appearance but representative of different nationality statuses which, in turn, has caused foreign governments to subject holders of different UK passports to different entry requirements.
Multiple types of passports, one nationality
The People’s Republic of China (PRC) authorizes its Special Administrative Regions of 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. A Hong Kong Special Administrative Region passport (HKSAR passport) permits visa-free access to many more countries than ordinary PRC passports.
The three constituent countries of the Danish Realm have a common nationality. Denmark proper is a member of the European Union, but Greenland and Faroe Islands are not. Danish citizens residing in Greenland or Faroe Islands can choose between holding a Danish EU passport and a Greenlandic or Faroese non-EU Danish passport.
Special nationality class through investment
In rare instances a nationality is available through investment. Some investors have been described in Tongan passports as ‘a Tongan protected person’, a status which does not necessarily carry with it the right of abode in Tonga.
Passports without sovereign territory
Several entities without a sovereign territory issue documents described as passports, most notably Iroquois League, the Aboriginal Provisional Government in Australia and the Sovereign Military Order of Malta. Such documents are not necessarily accepted for entry into a country.
Passports have a limited validity, usually between 5 and 10 years.
Many countries require a remaining passport validity of no less than six months on arrival, as well as having at least two to four blank pages.
One method to measure the ‘value’ of a passport is to calculate its ‘visa-free score’ (VFS), which is the number of countries that allow the holder of that passport entry for general tourism without requiring a visa. The strongest and weakest passports are as follows:
|Strongest passports||Weakest passports|
|1||163||Singapore, South Korea||88||43||Democratic Republic of the Congo|
|2||162||Germany, Japan||89||41||Palestinian Territories, South Sudan, Ethiopia, North Korea|
|3||161||Denmark, Sweden, Finland, Italy, France, Spain||90||40||Lebanon, Nepal, Iran|
|4||160||Luxembourg, Norway, Netherlands, Belgium, Austria, Portugal, United Kingdom, United States||91||39||Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Eritrea|
|5||159||Switzerland, Malaysia, Ireland, Canada||92||38||Libya, Yemen, Sudan|
|7||157||Malta, Czech Republic, Australia||94||32||Syria|
|10||154||Slovenia, Poland, Lithuania, Slovakia, Latvia||97||25||Afghanistan|
A rough standardization exists in types of passports throughout the world, although passport types, number of pages and definitions can vary by country.
Passport (also called tourist passport or regular passport) – The most common form of passport, issued to citizens and other nationals. Occasionally, children are registered within the parents’ passport, making it equivalent to a family passport.
Official passport (also called service passport) – Issued to government employees for work-related travel, and their accompanying dependants.
Diplomatic passport – Issued to diplomats of a country and their accompanying dependents for official international travel and residence. Accredited diplomats of certain grades may be granted diplomatic immunity by a host country, but this is not automatically conferred by holding a diplomatic passport. Any diplomatic privileges apply in the country to which the diplomat is accredited; elsewhere diplomatic passport holders must adhere to the same regulations and travel procedures as are required of other nationals of their country. Holding a diplomatic passport in itself does not accord any specific privileges. At some airports, there are separate passport checkpoints for diplomatic passport holders.
Emergency passport (also called temporary passport) – Issued to persons whose passports were lost or stolen, without time to obtain a replacement. Laissez-passer are also 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.
Family passport – Issued to an entire family. There is one passport holder, who may travel alone or with other family members included in the passport. A family member who is not the passport holder cannot use the passport for travel without the passport holder. Few countries now issue family passports; for example, all the EU countries and Canada require each child to have their own passport.
Latvia and Estonia
Non-citizens in Latvia and Estonia are individuals, primarily of Russian or Ukrainian ethnicity, who are not citizens of Latvia or Estonia but whose families have resided in the area since the Soviet era, and thus have the right to a non-citizen passport issued by the Latvian government as well as other specific rights. Approximately two thirds of them are ethnic Russians, followed by ethnic Belarusians, ethnic Ukrainians, ethnic Poles and ethnic Lithuanians.
Non-citizens in the two countries are issued special non-citizen passports as opposed to regular passports issued by the Estonian and Latvian authorities to citizens. This practice has been described as xenophobic.
Although all U.S. citizens are also U.S. nationals, the reverse is not true. As specified in 8 U.S.C. § 1408, a person whose only connection to the U.S. is through birth in an outlying possession (which is defined in 8 U.S.C. § 1101 as American Samoa and Swains Island, the latter of which is administered as part of American Samoa), or through descent from a person so born, acquires U.S. nationality but not U.S. citizenship. This was formerly the case in only four other current or former U.S. overseas possessions.
The U.S. passport issued to non-citizen nationals contains the endorsement code 9 which states: “The Bearer Is A United States National And Not A United States Citizen.” on the annotations page.
Non-citizen U.S. nationals may reside and work in the United States without restrictions, and may apply for citizenship under the same rules as resident aliens. Like resident aliens, they are not presently allowed by any U.S. state to vote in federal or state elections, although, as with resident aliens, there is no constitutional prohibition against their doing so.
Due to the complexity of British nationality law, the United Kingdom has six variants of British nationality. Out of these variants, however, only the status known as British citizen grants the right of abode in a particular country or territory (the United Kingdom) while others do not. Hence, the UK issues British passports to those who are British nationals but not British citizens, which include British Overseas Territories citizens, British Overseas citizens, British subjects, British Nationals (Overseas) and British Protected Persons.
Children born in Andorra to foreign residents who have not yet resided in the country for a minimum of 10 years are provided a provisional passport. Once the child reaches 18 years old he or she must confirm their nationality to the Government.
Other types of travel documents
Laissez-passer — Issued by national governments or international organizations (such as the U.N.) as emergency passports, travel on humanitarian grounds, or for official travel.
Interpol Travel Document — Issued by Interpol to police officers for official travel, allowing them to bypass certain visa restrictions in certain member states when investigating transnational crime.
Certificate of identity (also called alien’s passport, or informally, a Travel Document) — Issued under certain circumstances, such as statelessness, to non-citizen residents. An example is the “Nansen passport” (pictured). Sometimes issued as an internal passport to non-residents.
Refugee travel document — Issued to a refugee by the state in which she or he currently resides allowing them to travel outside that state and to return. Made necessary because refugees are unlikely to be able to obtain passports from their state of nationality.
Permits. Many types of travel permit exist around the world. Some, like the U.S. Re-entry Permit and Japan Re-entry Permit, allow residents of those countries who are unable to obtain a permit to travel outside the country and return. Others, like the Bangladesh Special Passport, the Two-way permit, and the Taibaozheng (Taiwan Compatriot Entry Permit), are used for travel to and from specific countries or locations, for example to travel between mainland China and Macau, or between Taiwan and China.
Chinese Travel Document — Issued by the People’s Republic of China to Chinese citizens in lieu of a passport.
Hajj passport — a special passport used only for Hajj and Umrah pilgrimage to Mecca and Medina.
Intra-sovereign territory travel that requires passports
For some countries, passports are required for some types of travel between their sovereign territories. Two examples of this are:
Hong Kong and Macau, both Chinese special administrative regions (SARs), have their own immigration control systems different from each other and mainland China. Travelling between the three is technically not international, so residents of the three locations do not use passports to travel between the three places, instead using other documents, such as the Mainland Travel Permit (for the people of Hong Kong and Macau). Foreigners are required to present their passports with applicable visas at the immigration control points.
Malaysia, where an arrangement was agreed upon during the formation of the country, the East Malaysian states of Sabah and Sarawak were allowed to retain their respective immigration control systems. Therefore, a passport is required for foreigners when travelling from Peninsular Malaysia to East Malaysia, as well as traveling between Sabah and Sarawak. For social/business visits not more than 3 months, Peninsular Malaysians are required to produce a Malaysian identity card or, for children below 12 years a birth certificate, and obtain a special immigration printout form to be kept until departure. However, one may present a Malaysian passport or a Restricted Travel Document and get an entry stamp on the travel document to avoid the hassle of keeping an extra sheet of paper. For other purposes, Peninsular Malaysians are required to have a long-term residence permit along with a passport or a Restricted Travel Document.
Norfolk Island, one of Australia’s external, self-governing territories, has its own immigration controls. Until 2018, Australian and New Zealand citizens travelling to the territory were required to carry a passport, or an Australian Document of Identity, while people of other nationalities must also have a valid Australian visa and/or Permanent Resident of Norfolk Island visa.
Internal passports are 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. Some countries use internal passports for controlling migration within a country. In some countries, the international passport or passport for travel abroad is a second passport, in addition to the internal passport, required for a citizen to travel abroad within the country of residence. Separate passports for travel abroad existed or exist in the following countries:
In the Soviet Union, there were several types of international passport: an ordinary one, a civil service passport, a diplomatic passport, and a sailor’s passport. See Passport system in the Soviet Union.
Countries of the Eastern Bloc had a system of internal/international passports similar to that of the Soviet Union.
Designs and format
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 passport booklets normally complies with the 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. Passport cards are issued to the ID-1 (credit card sized) standard.
A standard passport booklet format includes the cover, which contains the name of the issuing country, a national symbol, a description of the document (e.g., passport, diplomatic passport), and a biometric passport symbol, if applicable. Inside, there is a title page, also naming the country. A data page follows, containing information about the bearer and the issuing authority. There are blank pages for 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 have been issued by the ICAO, with an area set aside where most of the information written as text is also printed in a manner suitable for optical character recognition.
Biometric passports (or e-Passports) have an embedded contactless chip in order to conform to ICAO standards. These chips contain data about the passport bearer, a photographic portrait in digital format, and data about the passport itself. Many countries now issue biometric passports, in order to speed up clearance through immigration and the prevention of identity fraud. These reasons are disputed by privacy advocates.
Passport booklets from almost all countries around the world display the national coat of arms of the issuing country on the front cover. The United Nations keeps a record of national coats of arms.
There are several groups of countries, who through mutual agreement, have adopted common designs for the passports of their respective countries:
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. Passports are issued by member states and may consist of either the usual passport booklet or the newer passport card format. The covers of ordinary passport booklets are burgundy-red (except for Croatia which has a blue cover), with “European Union” written in the national language or languages. Below that are the name of the country, the national coat of arms, the word or words for “passport”, and, at the bottom, the symbol for a biometric passport. The data page can be at the front or at the back of a passport booklet and there are significant design differences throughout to indicate which member state is the issuer.[note 1] Member states that participate in the Schengen Agreement have agreed that their e-Passports should contain fingerprint information in the chip.
In 2006, the members of the CA-4 Treaty (Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, and Nicaragua) adopted a common-design passport, called the Central American passport, following a design already in use by Nicaragua and El Salvador since the mid-1990s. It features a 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 (in place of the individual nations’ coats of arms). At the bottom of the cover are the name of the issuing country and the passport type.
The members of the Andean Community of Nations (Bolivia, Colombia, Ecuador, and Peru) began to issue commonly designed passports in 2005. Specifications for the common passport format were outlined in an Andean Council of Foreign Ministers meeting in 2002. Previously-issued national passports will be valid until their expiry dates. Andean passports are bordeaux (burgundy-red), with words in gold. Centered above the national seal of the issuing country is the name of the regional body in Spanish (Comunidad Andina). Below the seal is the official name of the member country. At the bottom of the cover is the Spanish word “pasaporte” along with the English “passport”. Venezuela had issued Andean passports, but has subsequently left the Andean Community, so they will no longer issue Andean passports.
The Union of South American Nations signaled an intention to establish a common passport design, but it appears that implementation will take many years.
The member states of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) recently[when?] began issuing passports with a common design. It features the CARICOM symbol along with the national coat of arms and name of the member state, rendered in a CARICOM official language (English, French, Dutch). The member states which use the common design are Antigua and Barbuda, Barbados, Belize, Dominica, Grenada, Guyana, Jamaica, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Suriname, and Trinidad and Tobago. There was a movement by the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS) to issue a common designed passport, but the implementation of the CARICOM passport made that redundant, and it was abandoned.
Passports sometimes 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, and may be written in more than one language, depending on the language policies of the issuing authority.
In 1920, an international conference on passports and through tickets held by the League of Nations recommended that passports be issued in French, historically the language of diplomacy, and one other language. Currently, 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 use their national language, along with English and French.
For immigration control, officials of many countries use entry and exit stamps. Depending on the country, a stamp can serve different purposes. For example, in the United Kingdom, an immigration stamp in a passport includes the formal leave to enter granted to a person subject to entry control. In other countries, 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 means that the person is deemed to have permission to remain either for three months or for the period shown on his visa if specified otherwise.
Source from Wikipedia