What Is an International Passport?

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  • Written By: Benjamin Arie
  • Edited By: Shereen Skola
  • Last Modified Date: 09 October 2019
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International passports are identification documents that are issued by a government or governing authority. The purpose of an international passport is to certify the identity and citizenship of an individual, and to facilitate the movement of people between different countries. Most countries require an official passport before a traveler may cross a foreign border.

In the past, a passport was simply a letter given to an important traveler. The letter usually requested foreign countries to extend protection and courtesy to the holder of the document. One of the earliest examples of an international passport is a paper issued in the year 1414 by King Henry V of England. Since that time, passports have changed from simple letters to more advanced identification documents.

Modern passports are usually in the form of a small booklet, with the name and seal of the issuing country printed on the cover. The International Civil Aviation Organization has attempted to standardize the format of world passports, and most countries around the globe use the same document design. The inside pages of an international passport typically contain a photograph of the holder, in addition to a name and birth date.


The International Civil Aviation Organization has recommended the use of radio frequency identification (RFID) since 2010. Several countries, including the United States, use this technology on newly-issued passports. A small RFID chip is embedded in the international passport booklet. Chips can be scanned at border locations, and a digital version of the holder's identification details can be accessed. This is used to help prevent passport fraud and increase the simplicity of identity verification.

Passports can also be used to display visa stamps and other details. Most passport documents contain several blank pages, which can be easily marked by foreign government officials. Visa stamps are commonly used to indicate that a traveler is authorized by the government to stay in the country for a pre-determined length of time. For frequent international travelers, additional blank visa pages can be added if a passport becomes full.

Each country has a different international passport application process. In the United States, people who wish to obtain a passport must submit evidence of American citizenship. Original birth certificates or naturalization certificates are accepted for this purpose. Government issued identification documents, such as drivers licenses or military identification, are also required. United States passports are typically valid for a period of ten years, and can renewed an unlimited number of times.


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Post 6

If you are in an urgent situation and have limited time to get a passport, there is a way to get expedited service - you can get one in just a few days if you have a birth certificate and other ID items.

You can fill out information for getting your passport online, and the application will be expedited. But it will cost you extra money - like several hundred dollars. You also will have to make a personal appearance at a post office, for instance, to prove you are who you say you are. There are times when you need a passport quick, so it is worth the high fees.

Post 5

The new practice of embedding a chip into all newly issued passports is a very good idea. I wonder why they didn't do this before. I think some countries started doing this some time ago.

This policy should cut way down on passport fraud.

I've heard it takes a long time to get a passport application approved and receive it. And you have to allow time to order a certified copy of your birth certificate. So if you are planning an international trip, apply for the needed documents early.

Post 4

@allenJo - If you’re going to be traveling overseas you should learn in advance the country’s visa requirements. Knowing the rules for passports and visas will save you a lot of potential heartache.

Sometimes visa requirements can change, so stay up to date on what the latest regulations are. I would check with both the American Embassy (if you are an American) and the embassy of the country to which you are traveling.

Of the two of course I think the latter will have the most up to date information. The last thing you want is to get to port of entry in your destination country and find out that your visa is not the right kind for what you’re trying to do.

Also make sure you don’t try to work overseas, even temporarily, on a tourist visa. That could land you in jail in a hurry.

Post 3

@nony - I’ve never had to travel overseas in my whole life. This article was very informative in showing me how to get an international passport.

I don’t think the requirements are all that stiff actually. They just want actual proof of your identity. I think the idea of using radio chips on the passport is awesome. I don’t see how criminals could fake your identity that way.

Post 2

@David09 - Let me offer a word of advice to all who would consider getting an international passport. Once you get it, don’t lose it. That would be a nightmare, and if you were stuck in some country without your passport you would really be in a bind.

I have a friend who went down to Latin America. He was actually an itinerant preacher and somehow he had lost his passport. There wasn’t an American Embassy nearby where he was and he got stopped by the police.

He tried to explain his predicament, all to no avail. So they threw him in jail! He had to stay in jail for several days until one of his contacts searched for and found his passport, and came to get him out. I shudder to think how long he would have been imprisoned otherwise.

Post 1

We all have international passports in our family. That’s because we’ve traveled and even lived overseas, in parts of Asia. I can tell you that the international passport requirements are pretty stiff.

As the article says they usually want to see a birth certificate. That was a challenge for me because I was born overseas but fortunately my parents kept a copy. If I were to lose that birth certificate, I have no idea how I would get a new one.

I spent a lot of time in Asia and by the time I finally repatriated back to the United States my passport book was nearly full of stamps, not only of the country where I lived but of other countries in transit.

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