AskDefine | Define passport

Dictionary Definition



1 any authorization to pass or go somewhere; "the pass to visit had a strict time limit" [syn: pass]
2 a document issued by a country to a citizen allowing that person to travel abroad and re-enter the home country
3 any quality or characteristic that gains a person a favorable reception or acceptance or admission; "her pleasant personality is already a recommendation"; "his wealth was not a passport into the exclusive circles of society" [syn: recommendation]

User Contributed Dictionary



From French passeport, from passer ‘pass’ + port ‘port’.


  • /ˈpɑ:spɔ:t/
  • /ˈpæspɔrt/


  1. An official document which proves the identity and nationality of the person for whom it was issued.
    You will have to bring your passport to prove who you are.


See also

Extensive Definition

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:
  • Passports issued by member states of the European Union bear all of the official languages of the EU. These are not printed in each location, however. Two or three languages are printed at the relevant point, followed by numbers which refer to the passport pages on which translations into all the remaining languages appear (illustration -- right).
  • Barbadian passports are tri-lingual: English, French and Spanish.
  • Belgium allows its citizens to choose which of its three official languages (Flemish, French, German) is to appear first.
  • The face page of the older, pre- EU- version of the Hungarian passport ("Útlevél" in Hungarian, lit. "Roadletter") 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 has an English equivalent of the information on the first page. Similar arrangements are found in passports of some other Arab countries.
  • Pakistani passports are in Urdu, English, Arabic and French.
  • United States passports were once issued only in English, then were issued in English and French, and are now issued in English, French and Spanish.

Common designs

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 biomteric 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.

National status

Passports contain a statement of the nationality of the holder. A country with complex nationality laws could issue various passports which are similar in appearance but are representative of differing national statuses. Due to the British colonial heritage 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 this or that group of United Kingdom passport holders to one or another set of entry requirements.
A version of Tongan citizenship is available through investment. An investor is described in a Tongan passport as a Tongan protected person. The status does not carry with it the right of abode in Tonga. Many countries accept Tongan passports which reflect actual Tongan citizenship, but do not accept Tongan passports which reflect investment citizenship.
Passports dependent on citizenship and domicile are issued under the authority of the People's Republic of China (PRC). The one country, two systems model resulted in the PRC issuing passports, Hong Kong issuing passports, and Macau issuing passports. Foreign countries hinge visa-free travel, visa on arrival, and visas on whether a traveller bears a PRC passport, a Hong Kong passport, or a Macau passport, though, under the PRC nationality law, Chinese people who are domiciled in the PRC, Hong Kong, or Macau are all Chinese nationals.

National conditions on passport issuance


Pakistan requires a Muslim citizen who applies for a passport to subscribe to the following declaration:
  1. I am a Muslim and believe in the absolute and unqualified finality of the Prophethood of Hazrat Muhammad the last of the Prophets.
  2. I do not recognize any one who claims to be a prophet in any sense of the word or any description whatsoever, after Hazrat Muhammad or recognize such a claimant as a prophet or a religious reformer as Muslim.
  3. ''I consider Mirza Ghulam Ahmad Qadiani to be an impostor nabi and also consider his followers whether belonging to the Lahori, Qadiani or Mirzai groups, to be non-Muslims.''
The declaration was instituted by the Islamist military regime of 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. There is no mention of religion on the Pakistani national ID Card.

Passports as government property

Typical laws about passports declare 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, courts are authorised, by a law or by judicial authority, to make surrender of a passport a condition of granting bail.

One passport per person

Many countries issue only one passport to each national. When a passport is due to expire and a passport holder applies for another passport, he is required to hand over the passport in his possession for invalidation by the passport authority. Handing over and invalidating are prerequisite to issuance of another passport, unless the passport holder explains, to the satisfaction of the passport authority, why the passport presumptively in his possession cannot be handed over.
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 an Islamic country. Another circumstance is the need to travel while a visa is applied for, and it is likely that consideration of the visa application will be protracted.
Some countries permit the listing of the name of a child in the passport of either parent or in the passports of both parents. A Uruguayan passport, for example, has two photo pages, on which there can be a listing of up to six children, each with his thumbprint and details.

Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative

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 traveller 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 traveller 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.

Limitations on passport use

Most often, a country accepts the passports of other countries as valid for international travel and valid for entry. There are exceptions, such as: A country does not recognise the passport-issuing country as a sovereign state. An issued passport does not represent the right of abode of the bearer in the country which issued the passport.


Brazil does not accept passports issued by Hong Kong, Macau or the Republic of China (Taiwan). A traveler with one of these passports must apply for a Brazilian laissez-passer, which authorizes a single entry into Brazil.

Mainland China and Taiwan

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 Bahrain, Iran, Kuwait, Lebanon, Libya, Qatar, 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 traveler had been to 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.

South Korea

From the point of view of South Korea, travel from the section of the Korean peninsula under South Korean administration directly to the section of the Korean peninsula under North Korean administration is not international travel. Under the constitution of South Korea, the section of the Korean peninsula under North Korean administration is part of South Korea, but under a different administration.
However ironically, any South Korean who is willing to travel to the tourist area in the North has to carry his/her passport.

Spain and Gibraltar

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


Some countries decline to accept Tongan Protected Person passports, though they accept Tongan citizen passports. Tongan Protected Person passports are sold by the government of Tonga to anyone who is not a Tongan national. 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.

International travel without passports

  • Canada and the United States: Since September 30, 2007, American citizens flying to Canada have needed a passport. When traveling by land, Canadian and US citizens currently do not need a passport to travel between those two countries. A government issued ID (e.g. Canadian Citizenship Card or birth certificate) are currently accepted by both countries as proof of citizenship. As of Dec 21, 2007, planned passport requirements have been once again delayed meaning that US citizens arriving in Canada by land or water do not need a passport until June 1, 2009.
  • United Kingdom and Republic of Ireland: Citizens of the UK and Ireland do not require a passport to travel between those two countries. Other EEA nationals must carry a national ID card or a passport. All other nationals require passports.
  • 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).
  • Nordic countries -- Denmark, including the Faroe Islands and Greenland, Finland, Iceland, Norway, and Sweden: The Nordic Passport Union means that Nordic citizens need only any valid identity card (which is often needed inside each country anyway). They joined the larger Schengen treaty region in 1997, where a national identity card with citizenship is needed. The Nordic Passport Union is still valid for Nordic citizens.
  • Lebanon and Syria: Lebanese citizens entering Syria do not require passports to enter Syria, if carrying Lebanese ID cards. Similarly, Syrian citizens do not require passports to enter Lebanon, if carrying Syrian ID cards.
  • India, Nepal, and Bhutan: Passports are not needed by citizens of those countries to travel within any of those countries, but some identification is required for border crossing.
  • Croatia does not require passports of citizens of Bosnia and Herzegovina who have B&H ID cards. Bosnia and Herzegovina, Italy, Slovenia, and Hungary do not require Croatian citizens to have a passport, only Croatian ID cards.
  • Serbia does not require passports of citizens of Bosnia and Herzegovina who have B&H ID cards. Bosnia and Herzegovina does not require Serbian citizens to have passports, only Serbian ID cards.
  • Citizens of Serbia and citizens of Montenegro may travel between the two countries with national ID cards.
  • Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania comprise the East African Community. Each country may issue, to an eligible citizen, an East African passport. Those passports are recognised by only the three countries, and are used for travel between or among those countries. The requirements for eligibility are less rigorous than are the requirements for national passports used for other international travel.
  • The member states of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) do not require passports for their citizens traveling within the community. National ID cards are sufficient. The member states are Benin, Burkina Faso, Cape Verde, Côte d'Ivoire, Gambia, Ghana, Guinea, Guinea Bissau, Mali, Niger, Nigeria, Senegal, Sierra Leone, and Togo.
  • Russia and some former Soviet Union republics: The participating countries may require an internal passport, which is the equivalent of a national ID card, rather than a passport.
  • 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. 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.
  • Turkey does not require a passport for citizens of several European countries holding national ID cards. Citizens of Greece must have the new ID card, who have the holder's details in both the Greek and the Latin alphabets.
  • Citizens of the Gulf Cooperation Council countries need only national ID cards (also referred to as civil ID cards) to cross the borders of council countries.
  • Italy and Vatican City: Italy does not require passports for travel to Vatican City, and Vatican City does not require passports for travel to Italy. The only way to get to Vatican City is through Italy, inasmuch as Vatican City is surrounded by Rome, so Italian immigration requirements are de facto those of Vatican City. The Vatican issues its own passports to officials of the Roman Catholic Church who reside in or near the Vatican, and who work there. Each Pope is always given Vatican Passport No. 1.
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 travellers' passports at the border, they may have to show their national ID cards within the country, such as when required by police officers to do so.
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.

Domestic travel that requires passports

Under a special arrangement agreed during the formation of Federation of Malaysia, the Malaysian Borneo States Sabah and Sarawak can retain their respective immigration control systems. As a result passport is required for traveling from Peninsular Malaysia to Malaysian Borneo, as well as the mutual travel between the 2 states, including Malaysian citizens who hold Malaysian passport. However passport is not required for Sabah or Sarawak citizens to travel from Malaysian Borneo to Peninsular Malaysia.

Immigration stamps in passports

For immigration control, immigration officials of many countries stamp passports with entry stamps 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 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.

Additional images


Further reading

  • Krueger, Stephen, Krueger on United States Passport Law. Hong Kong: Crossbow Corporation (2nd ed. 1999 & supps.).
  • Lloyd, Martin, The Passport: The History of Man's Most Travelled Document. Stroud, UK: Sutton Publishing (2003) (ISBN 0-7509-2964-2).
  • Salter, Mark B., Rights of Passage: The Passport in International Relations. Boulder, Colo.: Lynne Rienner (2003).
  • Torpey, John, The Invention of the Passport: Surveillance, Citizenship, and the State. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press (2000).
passport in Arabic: جواز سفر
passport in Belarusian (Tarashkevitsa): Пашпарт
passport in Catalan: Passaport
passport in Czech: Cestovní pas
passport in Danish: Pas (legitimation)
passport in German: Reisepass
passport in Estonian: Pass
passport in Spanish: Pasaporte
passport in Esperanto: Pasporto
passport in Persian: گذرنامه
passport in French: Passeport
passport in Korean: 여권
passport in Croatian: Putovnica
passport in Indonesian: Paspor
passport in Italian: Passaporto
passport in Hebrew: דרכון
passport in Lithuanian: Pasas
passport in Malay (macrolanguage): Pasport
passport in Dutch: Paspoort
passport in Japanese: パスポート
passport in Norwegian: Pass
passport in Norwegian Nynorsk: Pass
passport in Polish: Paszport
passport in Portuguese: Passaporte
passport in Romanian: Paşaport
passport in Russian: Паспорт
passport in Simple English: Passport
passport in Slovenian: Potni list
passport in Serbian: Пасош
passport in Serbo-Croatian: Pasoš
passport in Finnish: Passi
passport in Swedish: Pass
passport in Vietnamese: Hộ chiếu
passport in Turkish: Pasaport
passport in Ukrainian: Паспорт
passport in Yiddish: פאספארט
passport in Contenese: 護照
passport in Chinese: 护照
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