A passport is an official document that is used for travel purposes. In the majority of cases, passports are issued by governments, and serve to certify an individual’s identity and nationality. Passports are typically used for international travel, and allow customs agents to grant or deny entry to the passport holder. They provide information such as the holder’s name(s), date and place of birth, a photograph, signature, and other identifying details, such as weight, height, and eye color. Most passports include a sequence of numbers or letters which is used to quickly identify and/or communicate data about the passport holder.
Passport technology is moving towards including biometric data, with a chip embedded in the document that would make passports more difficult to replicate illegally.
Passport holders are entitled to enter the country which issued the passport. However, in a small number of cases, holders of passports to a given country may be citizens who do not have the right to residency. A passport is a document and does not necessarily indicate a strict set of rights. Some passports may indicate diplomatic or official status, entitling the individual protection from the country’s consulate or political immunity.
Passports are used in international travel to allow holders to enter different countries. In many cases, they must be accompanied by a visa, depending on the length and nature of the trip. A country that does not recognize another country or is embroiled in a political dispute with another country may choose to prohibit the use of their own passport for travel to that country, and in addition may prohibit holders of passports from that country to enter their own country.
Standard passports are not the only travel document recognized internationally. Other documents may enable the holder to travel to countries that recognize such documents. For instance, stateless individuals may not possess a passport, but they may possess a travel document indicating refugee status or a “Nansen passport,” which was once used to enable the holder to travel to countries that recognized that passport and potentially return to the country where the passport was issued. Non-nationals may also be holders of passports.
Passports are also an accepted form of proof of identity in the home country.
Types of Passports:
- Regular passport: This is the most common type of passport. It may also be referred to as a tourist passport. It is typically issued to a citizen or another national. In some cases, children are registered on their parent’s passport.
- Official passport: An official passport may be issued to members of government for official travel purposes.
- Diplomatic passport: These passports are issued to diplomats of a particular country, as well as any dependents they may have, for the purpose of international travel and/or residency. Diplomats may also be granted diplomatic immunity by their host country; however, this is not an automatic condition of holding a diplomatic passport.
- Emergency passport: An emergency passport, which may be referred to as a temporary passport or a laissez-passer passport, is used for emergency purposes, when other documents have been stolen or lost and there is no time to find a replacement.