A passport does not of itself entitle the passport holder to consular protection while abroad or any other privileges, in the absence of any special agreements which cover the situation. It does, however, normally entitle the passport holder to return to the country which issued the passport. Rights to consular protection arise from international agreements, and the right to return arises from the laws of the issuing country. A passport does not represent the right or the place of residence of the passport holder in the country which issued the passport.
It is considered unlikely that the term "passport" is derived from sea ports, but is considered likely to derive from a medieval document required to pass through the gate ("porte") of a city wall. 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.
Early passports included a description of the passport holder. Attachment of photographs to passports began in the early decades of the twentieth century, when photography became widespread.
In the latter part of the nineteenth century and up to World War I, passports were not required, on the whole, for international travel in Europe, and crossing a border was easy. Consequently, comparatively few people had passports. The breakdown of the European passport system of the early part of the nineteenth century was a result of rail travel. Trains, used extensively from the mid-nineteenth century onward, traveled rapidly, carried numerous passengers, and crossed many borders. Those factors made enforcement of passport laws difficult. The general reaction was abolition of passport requirements. The Ottoman Empire and the Russian Empire maintained passport requirements for international travel, in addition to an internal-passport system to control travel within it.
During World War I, European governments introduced border passport requirements for security reasons (to keep out spies) and to control emigration of citizens with useful skills, and retaining potential manpower. These controls remained in place after the war, and became standard procedure, though not without controversy. British tourists of the 1920s complained, especially about attached photographs and physical descriptions, which they considered led to a "nasty dehumanisation".
In 1920, the League of Nations held a conference on passports and through tickets. Passport guidelines resulted from the conference, which was followed up by conferences in 1926 and 1927.
The United Nations held a travel conference in 1963, but passport guidelines did not result from it. Passport standardisation came about in 1980, under the auspices of the International Civil Aviation Organization, ICAO.
The terminology related to passports has become generally standardized around the world. The typical passports include:Ordinary passport, also called tourist passport
Passports have numerical or alphanumerical designators ("serial number") assigned by the issuing authority.
The standard format includes, on a passport cover, the name of the issuing country, a national symbol, a description of the document (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.
To conform with ICAO standards, a biometric passport has an embedded radio-frequency identification (RFID) chip, 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. Governments are reluctant to acknowledge privacy concerns.
Although many countries issue biometric passports, few introduced the equipment needed to read them at ports of entry. In the absence of an international standard, it is not possible for one country to read the biometric information in passports issued by another country.
A passport contains a message from the nominal issuing officer, such as the secretary of state or the minister of external affairs. The passport message, usually near the front of a passport, requests that the bearer of the passport be allowed to pass freely, and further requests that, in the event of need, the bearer be granted assistance.
For example, the passport message in a Philippine passport states in Filipino and in English:
"Ang Pamahalaan ng Republika ng Pilipinas ay humihiling sa lahat na kinauukulan na pahintulutan ang pinagkalooban nito, isang mamamayan ng Pilipinas, na makaraan nang malaya at walang sagabal, at kung kailangan, ay pag-ukulan siya ng lahat ng tulong at proteksyon ayon sa batas."
"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."
Another example is the New Zealand passport, which states in English and in Maori:
Other examples: United Kingdom; United States.
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. Nowadays, the ICAO recommends that passports be issued in English and French, or in the national language of the issuing country and in either English or French.
Some unusual language combinations are:
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, not by the EU. The data page can be at the front or at the back of a passport, and there are small design differences to indicate which member state is the issuer. The covers of ordinary passports are burgundy-red, with "European Union" written in the national language or languages. Below that are the name of the country, a national symbol, the word or words in the national language or languages for "passport", and, at the bottom, the symbol for a biometric passport.
In Central America, the members of the CA-4 Treaty (Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, and Nicaragua) adopted a common-design passport, called the Central American passport. Although the design had been in use by Nicaragua and El Salvador since the mid-1990s, it became the norm for the CA-4 in January, 2006. The main features are the navy-blue cover with the words "América Central" and a map of Central America, and with the territory of the issuing country highlighted in gold. This substitutes one map for four national symbols. At the bottom of the cover are the name of the issuing country and the passport type. As of 2006, the Nicaraguan passport, which is the model for the passports of the three other countries, is issued in Spanish, French, and English.
The member states of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) recently began issuing passports to a common design, featuring the CARICOM symbol along with the national symbol and name of the member state, rendered in an CARICOM official language (English, French, Dutch). The member states which use the common design are Antigua and Barbuda, Dominica, Grenada, St. Kitts and Nevis, St. Lucia, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Suriname, and Trinidad and Tobago.
The member states of the Organization 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. 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 are the Spanish word for "passport" and the word "passport" in English. Venezuela left the Andean Community, so it is likely that the country will no longer issue Andean passports.
A version of Tongan citizenship is available through investment. An investor is described in a Tongan passport as a Tongan protected person. The status does not carry with it the right of abode in Tonga. Many countries accept Tongan passports which reflect actual Tongan citizenship, but do not accept Tongan passports which reflect investment citizenship.
The People's Republic of China (PRC) authorises by law its Special Administrative Regions (Hong Kong and Macau) to issue passports on their own to their respective residents under the one country, two systems arrangement. Visa policies imposed on Hong Kong and Macau residents by foreign authorities are different from those on mainland residents, even though all are considered Chinese nationals under the Nationality Law of the People's Republic of China.
The declaration was instituted by the Islamist military regime of Zia-ul-Haq. The reason for the declaration is to prevent Qadianis from going to Mecca or Medina for Hajj or Umra. In the Pakistani biometric passport, there is no box for noting the religion of the passport holder. This seemingly made the religious subscription unnecessary. However, deletion of the box was reversed by the Pakistani government, in response to the religious parties. Passports have the religion box on page 3. Passports without the religion box have a rubber-stamp declaration of the passport holder's religion. However religion is not mentioned on the Pakistani CNID (Computerised National Identity Card) Card.
Some countries allow, under specified circumstances, the holding of more than one passport by a citizen. One circumstance is a disqualifying stamp in a passport, such as a stamp which shows travel to Israel, and the citizen intends travel to a country which does not recognize Israel. Another circumstance is frequent international travel including to countries with protracted visa application process. Awaiting a visa for a particular county, a person with two passports may travel to other countries with the second passport.
In recent years concerns over international child abduction, including abduction by a parent, have led some countries to require both parents to sign a passport application. In the United States, a person aged 16 years or older can apply for a passport themselves. Applications by those aged 15 and under require the signatures of both parents or a statement, signed under penalty of perjury, as to why only one parent is physically capable of signing the application.
Consistent with the 1992 Consensus, the PRC and ROC consider both citizens in mainland China and Taiwan as own citizens, but residing in different areas of the same nation. Neither the PRC nor the ROC accepts passports issued by the other as entry documents.
Citizens in Taiwan use identity documents issued by PRC public-security authorities to enter mainland China. Citizens in mainland China entering Taiwan must also use identity documents issued by the ROC authority, and have their mainland documents surrendered. The identity documents cannot be used for international travel, and an endorsement must be obtained separately to enable travel.
The ROC used to require its citizens who intended travel to mainland China to obtain official approval for the travel, and prescribed an administrative fine of NT$20,000 to NT$100,000 for those who did not. However, the fine was often unenforceable because such travel was untraceable by examination of travel documents, except if an ROC citizen lost his ROC passport while on the mainland, and, so, had to report the loss. The official-approval requirement was abolished, except in relation to ROC officials, of whom applications are required.
Furthermore, a mere presence of a TRNC stamp in the passport upon entry to Greece is a ground for refusal of entry into Greece.
The Republic of Cyprus refuses entry to holders of Yugoslav passports which bears a renewal stamp with "Macedonia".
Hong Kong and Macau each maintains border controls at all points of entry. Even though neither travel to or from Hong Kong nor travel to or from Macau and the mainland is international travel, a China passport means nothing and a traveller is required to have a permit issued by the mainland government to enter.
The Public Security Bureau of Guangdong, the Chinese province adjacent to Hong Kong, issues a permit, dubbed the Home Return Permit, to Chinese people domiciled in Hong Kong and Macau, to allow them to enter and exit the PRC. A proposal that the Hong Kong SAR passport should supplant this permit was dismissed.
Many Chinese people who have the right of abode in Hong Kong hold British National (Overseas) passports or British Citizen passports issued under the British Nationality Selection Scheme effected by the United Kingdom in the 1990s. The PRC, for its part, considers Chinese people domiciled in Hong Kong to remain PRC citizens. The PRC does not recognise those BN(O) and BC passports, and does not recognise the attendant United Kingdom nationality of each, inasmuch as PRC law does not permit dual nationality. Chinese people domiciled in Hong Kong who hold those BN(O) and BC passports use a Home Return Permit to enter mainland China as those who do not. It is impermissible under Chinese law to renounce PRC nationality on the basis of holding a form of British nationality obtained in HK.
A Chinese person who has the right of abode in Hong Kong may not use a BN(O) passport or an HKSAR passport in its own right for entering Taiwan. They must be used in conjunction with the Entry Permit of HK and Macau Residents to the Taiwan Area issued by the ROC. In contrast, a BC passport obtained in Hong Kong by a Chinese person domiciled in Hong Kong may be used in its own right to enter Taiwan. (See Visa policy of the Republic of China)
A person with the right of abode in Hong Kong, a Hong Kong resident who holds a Document of Identity for Visa Purposes, a person who has the right to land, a person who is on unconditional stay in Hong Kong, and a non-permanent resident who has a notification label, may use his smart ID card for immigration purposes. A smart ID card may not be used by a person who is under eleven years old, other than at the Lo Wu crossing.
ROC citizens who travel to Hong Kong apply for entry permits and collect them at airline counters. Repeat travellers satisfying certain conditions may apply online.
The type of permit for travel to Hong Kong, issued to a Chinese national who is domiciled on the mainland, depends on his place of residence and the purpose of his visit.
Many Middle Eastern countries will not allow entry to people with evidence of travel to Israel, or whose passports have a used or an unused Israeli visa. Those countries are Iran, Kuwait, Lebanon, Libya, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen.
To circumvent the travel restrictions, Israel used to not require visitors to have their passports stamped with Israeli visas or with Israeli entry and exit stamps. The procedure made it impossible to tell if a traveller had entered Israel. However, since September 2006, Israeli immigration officials will rarely agree not to stamp passports.
The countries which do not allow entry to people with evidence of travel to Israel are aware of the entry and exit stamps stamped in passports by Egypt and Jordan at their respective land borders with Israel. Non-allowing countries prohibit entry based on the presence of a tell-tale Egyptian or Jordanian stamp. A traveller, for example, would be denied entry based on the presence of an Egyptian stamp, in his passport, which indicates that he crossed into or out of Egypt at Taba on the Egyptian-Israeli border.
Furthermore, according to Israeli law, Lebanon, Syria, Saudi Arabia, Iraq, and Yemen are considered "Enemy countries" and an Israeli citizen may not visit them without a special permit issued by the Israeli minister of the interior. Therefore, an Israeli who visits these countries, be it with a foreign passport or an Israeli one, may be prosecuted when coming back to Israel. This list was set in 1954.
However ironically, any South Korean who is willing to travel to the tourist area in the North has to carry his/her passport.
Spain does not accept United Kingdom passports issued in Gibraltar, on the ground that the Government of Gibraltar is not a competent authority for issuing UK passports. Consequently, some Gibraltarians were refused entry to Spain. The word "Gibraltar" now appears beneath the words "United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland" on passport covers, which is the usual format for passports of British overseas territories.
Citizens of the member countries of the European Union are also citizen of the union itself, and this is recognised on the passports. They bear both the name of the European Union and of the issuing country (in the relevant language).
Citizens of the European Economic Area (the European Union plus Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway) enjoy the freedom to travel and work in any European Union country without a visa, although transitory dispositions may restrict the rights of citizens of new member states to work in other countries. The same rights are also accorded to citizens of Switzerland, although they remain separate from the EEA.
European citizens travelling within the European Union may use standard compliant national ID cards rather than passports. Not all EU countries produced standard compliant national ID cards, and in other countries few people obtained one, which means that many persons need a passport anyway. Unlike most other EU ID-cards, the Swedish national identity card is valid only within the countries which fully implemented the Schengen Agreement, plus Switzerland.
The up to now 24 countries that have signed and applied the Schengen treaty (a subset of the EEA) do not implement passport controls between each other, unless exceptional circumstances apply. Some remaining EU countries, plus Switzerland and Liechtenstein, have signed the Schengen treaty, but are not allowed to be included yet. The main reason is that, according to EU law, the member states which joined the EU in 2004 would have to meet strict criteria with respect to their protection of EU external borders, before intra-EU border controls between the old member states and new member states would be lifted. Switzerland and Liechtenstein require some time to adapt their national airports and databases to the standards of the EU.
As a consequence of the above, a French citizen, for example, may travel to the United Kingdom, another EEA nation, and then freely work in that country. However, since the UK has not signed the Schengen treaty, the French citizen will have to carry at least a national ID card, which will be checked at the border. On the other hand, 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 authorisation, because Switzerland is not a member of the EEA. This is true notwithstanding the fact that, in most cases, authorisation to work would nevertheless have to be granted by Swiss authorities according to a specific treaty on free movement which had been concluded between the EU and Switzerland.
Some European countries require all persons to carry, or, at least possess, an ID card or a passport. So while Switzerland will not check French travelers' passports at the border, they may have to show their national ID cards within the country, such as when required by police officers to do so.
Except at the border, ID cards are not required by UK law. There is, however, a de-facto requirement to prove one's identity to conduct business. A European has to show a European national ID card to open a UK bank account or to prove eligibility to work.
Refugees and stateless persons, who do not have access to passports, may be issued a travel document by the country in which they reside. Holders of those travel documents generally require visas for international travel, and are not be entitled to consular protection. Exceptions to this include persons holding 1951 Convention Documents, who could benefit from some visa-free travel under the convention, persons who reside in the Schengen area, and persons who reside in the Nordic Passport Union area. Holders of UK passports and Irish passports do not automatically benefit from visa-free travel within the Common Travel Area.
Canada and the United States: U.S. citizens flying to Canada need passports. When traveling by land between Canada and the U.S., Canadian citizens and U.S. citizens do not need passports. A government-issued ID card (e.g. Canadian Citizenship Card) or a birth certificate is accepted by each country as proof of citizenship. As of December 21, 2007, planned passport requirements have been once again delayed. U.S. citizens arriving in Canada by land or water will not need passports until June 1, 2009.
The Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative (WHTI) implements the requirement in the Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act of 2004 (IRTPA) that, upon entry into the U.S. from a foreign country, each traveler is to present a passport, or some other document of identity and nationality.
The WHTI does not apply to direct travel between the 50 states and the District of Columbia at the one end and United States territories at the other end. The territories include American Samoa and Swains Island, Guam, the Northern Mariana Islands, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands. That travel is not foreign travel, and, so, is not subject to IRTPA. In practice, some form of identification is needed.
Each air traveler must present a passport or a passport substitute.
Each land or sea traveler who is a U.S. citizen must present a passport booklet; a passport card; a WHTI-compliant identity document; or a government-issued photo ID, such as a driver license, and proof of citizenship, such as a birth certificate.
Effective June 1, 2009, each land or sea traveler who is a U.S. citizen must present a passport booklet, a passport card, or a WHTI-compliant document.
As of April 13, 2008, types of WHTI-compliant documents are: (1) Trusted Traveler cards (NEXUS, SENTRI, FAST); state-issued enhanced driver licenses. Presently, only driver licenses issued by the State of Washington 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.
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 either that the person is deemed to have permission to remain for three months or for the period shown on his visa.
Neither the UK nor a Schengen country is allowed to stamp the passport of a person not subject to immigration control, whether a citizen of that country or a national of another EU country. Stamping is prohibited, because a passport stamp is imposition of a control that the person is not subject to. This concept is not applicable in other countries, where a stamp in a passport simply acknowledges the entry or exit of a person.
Countries have different styles of stamps for entries and exits, to make it easy to identify the movements of persons. The colour of the ink may also provide information about movements. In Hong Kong, prior to and immediately after the 1997 transfer of sovereignty, entry and exit stamps were identical at all ports of entry, but colours differed. Airport stamps used black ink, land stamps used red ink, and sea stamps used purple ink. In Macau, under Portuguese administration, the same colour of ink was used for all stamps. The stamps had slightly-different borders to indicate entry and exit by air, land, or sea. In several countries the stamps or its colour are different if the person arrived in a car in opposite to bus/boat/train/air passenger.
Some have speculated that the passport card may represent the format that future travel documents will take. Visas, including the "laser visa" issued to Mexican citizens, can be issued by computers and tracked electronically, eliminating the need for a traditional passport book with ink stamps.