What Are the Basic Passport Laws?

Jessica Ellis
Jessica Ellis

Passport laws help govern management, access, and legal use of passports. Each country may have its own set of passport laws, which are usually available on government websites. Some of the most common laws regarding passports include eligibility requirements, renewal and expiration procedures, and criminal charges for passport fraud.

Using forged passports is a criminal offense.
Using forged passports is a criminal offense.

One of the key factors in obtaining a passport is eligibility. In general, a person must be a citizen of a certain country in order to be eligible to receive a passport. This requirement may apply to both native citizens born in the country, or those granted permanent citizenship through application. People with dual citizenship may be able to obtain a passport from each country in which they are a legal citizen, but not all regions allow the issuance of dual passports.

Passport fraud is a criminal act punishable by jail time.
Passport fraud is a criminal act punishable by jail time.

Some regions have special passport laws beyond basic citizenship that govern eligibility. In Finland, for instance, applicants between the ages of 18-30 must prove that they have participated in compulsive military service, or been exempted from serving in the military. While a person can still get a passport if they have not yet completed service, it will expire when they are 28 and not be re-issued until participation or exemption is confirmed. In Pakistan, Muslim applicants must swear an oath disowning a specific sect of Islam known as Ahmadiyya.

An expired passport may be renewed through the mail.
An expired passport may be renewed through the mail.

Renewal and expiration passport laws are an important means of security control. By requiring citizens to renew passports occasionally, government agencies can reduce the length of time a passport can be used for fraudulent purposes. Additionally, requiring renewal ensures that a person who uses a passport remains eligible to do so. Each country has specific laws regarding renewal and expiration, but most require renewal every five to ten years.

Fraudulent use of passports can be used to aid in human trafficking.
Fraudulent use of passports can be used to aid in human trafficking.

Passport laws regarding the punishment of fraud are often strict and meant to deter any attempt at passport fraud. Fraudulent use of passports can be done to aid fugitive escape, allow drug or human trafficking, or even assist in terrorist acts. Lying or forging signatures on an application, illegally altering a passport, misusing a passport, and misusing a passport with the intent to commit crime or terrorist acts are all crimes punishable with heavy jail sentences and a loss of eligibility for future passports in many regions. Since sentencing for passport fraud can be very steep, it is important to read and understand all instructions regarding legal application and use of a passport. Many countries also have passport laws meant to punish the sale of illegal or expired passports, making it important to follow proper disposal instructions for old passports.

Fraudulent use of passports may be employed to assist in terrorist acts.
Fraudulent use of passports may be employed to assist in terrorist acts.
Passports are required for any planned international vacations.
Passports are required for any planned international vacations.
Jessica Ellis
Jessica Ellis

With a B.A. in theater from UCLA and a graduate degree in screenwriting from the American Film Institute, Jessica is passionate about drama and film. She has many other interests, and enjoys learning and writing about a wide range of topics in her role as a wiseGEEK writer.

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