views updated May 21 2018


A document that indicates permission granted by a sovereign to its citizen to travel to foreign countries and return and requests foreign governments to allow that citizen to pass freely and safely.

New U.S. Passport Requirements

The Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative (WHTI) was enacted by Congress as part of the Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act of 2004. Its primary purpose was to strengthen border security and yet facilitate legal entry into the United States for citizens and legitimate international visitors. WHTI directives, requiring U.S. citizens to have passports when entering the United States from Canada, Mexico, and the Caribbean by air, became effective on January 23, 2007.

Beginning in June 2007, overwhelmed with new passport demands, the U.S. Departments of State and Homeland Security reluctantly relaxed the new requirement on a 90-day temporary basis (through September 30, 2007), mostly to accommodate vacation travel for Americans. The new passport applications had overwhelmed government processors, creating up to a four-month backlog that defeated applicants' purpose for the passports in the first place.

On June 15, 2007, the U.S. House of Representatives overwhelmingly voted (379-45) to delay the new rules for 17 months. However, the Department of Homeland Security still intended to press forward with passport requirements for all land travel (vehicle, bicycle, pedestrian, etc.) at the Canadian and Mexican borders beginning in January 2008.

Importantly, the above temporary accommodations did not relax the entry requirements imposed by other hemispheric countries, e.g., Canada, Mexico, Bermuda, or Caribbean countries. Existing entry requirements for those countries remained in effect, as they were self-determined by each country. However, U.S. officials were working with governments of countries affected by WHTI to consult about the relaxed U.S. requirement.

Under the temporary relaxed requirements, U.S. citizens traveling to Canada, Mexico, Bermuda, or Caribbean countries who had applied for, but not yet received passports, could re-enter the United States by air if they presented government-issued photo identification and official proof from the Department of State that they had applied for a passport.

Children under the age of 16 who traveled with their parents or legal guardian needed proof of passport application status; while children older than 16 additionally needed official photo identification. Children traveling alone needed a copy of their birth certificate, baptismal record or a hospital record of birth in the United States, in addition to official proof that their passport application was pending.

For U.S. citizens traveling to countries not included in the WHTI whose passports were still pending as of two weeks prior to travel departure, the Department of State had special contacts to facilitate expediting the passports' release.

Also new, as of October 2006, was the implementation of e-Passports for all travel between Visa Waiver Program (VWP) countries (primarily 27 countries in Western Europe) or travel to the United States from a VWP country. E-Passports contain electronic chips holding the same information as that found on a passport's data page, including name, date of birth, and other biographic information. Uniquely, the e-Passports are equipped with biometric identifiers. The United States requires that the electronic chip contain a digital photograph of the passport-holder as well.

All e-Passports issued by VWP countries and the United States have special security features designed to prevent the unauthorized reading or "skimming" of data stored on the e-Passport chip. The inspection process upon entry into the United States is different for holders of e-Passports than previously-issued ones, and all U.S. ports of entry were to be equipped with signs and/or special personnel to direct e-Passport holders to the appropriate U.S. Customs and Border Protection booth to process through.

As of October 26, 2006, all new passports issued by VWP countries must be e-Passports. Persons issued non-e-Passports on or after October 26, 2006 must obtain a visa.

Older but still valid passports issued by VWP countries between October 26, 2005 and October 26, 2006 must include a digital photograph printed on the data page; otherwise, the traveler will be required to obtain a visa. Passports issued prior to October 26, 2005 may still be valid as well, if they contain a "machine-readable zone," two lines of text data at the bottom of the personal information page, along with the bearer's identifying photograph. Persons without one of the above-required passports could either obtain a qualifying passport or get a visa.

Government reports indicated in mid-2007 that approximately six million Americans would need formal documents to travel to the Caribbean, Canada, or Mexico by air or sea. Another 27 million Americans would need these for land crossings over the next five years. These estimates did not include regular yearly demands for passports. In 2006, the State Department processed 12.1 million passports. The number was expected to reach 18 million in 2007, based on the monthly applications received in the first few months of the year.


views updated Jun 27 2018


PASSPORTS issued to United States citizens provide proof of identity abroad and request, in the name of the secretary of state, that the holder be permitted to travel "without delay or hindrance" and, if necessary, be given "all lawful aid and protection." The earliest surviving passport issued by U.S. diplomatic officials dates to 1788. Until 1856, officials such as governors and mayors, as well as the U.S. Department of State, issued passports. After 1856, however, issuance was confined to the Department of State. Except for the Civil War period, passports were not required of foreign travelers to the United States until 1918. The requirement was made permanent in 1921. Under the Internal Security Act of 1950, passports could not be issued to members of communist organizations or to those whose activities abroad would violate the laws of the United States. The provision debarring U.S. communists from obtaining passports was revoked in 1964. Formerly, issuance was deemed to be at the absolute discretion of the Department of State, but in 1958 the Supreme Court recognized that the "right to travel" constituted a liberty of which a law-abiding citizen could not be deprived. As the twenty-first century began, plans were afoot to replace passports with a system whereby software would translate the pattern of a person's iris into a passport number.


Borchard, Edwin Montefiore. The Diplomatic Protection of Citizens Abroad. New York: Banks Law Publishing, 1928.

Freedom to Travel: Report of the Special Committee to Study Passport Procedures of the Association of the Bar of the City of New York New York: Dodd, Mead, 1958.

Stuart, Graham H. American Diplomatic and Consular Practice. 2d ed. New York: Appleton-Century-Crofts, 1952.


See alsoState, Department of .


views updated Jun 27 2018


A document that indicates permission granted by a sovereign to its citizen to travel to foreign countries and return and requests foreign governments to allow that citizen to pass freely and safely.

With respect tointernational law, a passport is a license of safe conduct, issued during a war, that authorizes an individual to leave a war-ring nation or to remove his or her effects from that nation to another country; it also authorizes a person to travel from country to country without being subject to arrest or detention because of the war.

In maritime law, a passport is a document issued to a neutral vessel by its own government during a war that is carried on the voyage as evidence of the nationality of the vessel and as protection against the vessels of the warring nations. This paper is also labeled a pass, sea-pass, sealetter, or sea-brief. It usually contains the captain's or master's name and residence; the name, property, description, tonnage, and destination of the ship; the nature and quantity of the cargo; and the government under which it sails.


views updated May 21 2018

pass·port / ˈpasˌpôrt/ • n. an official document issued by a government, certifying the holder's identity and citizenship and entitling them to travel under its protection to and from foreign countries. ∎  [in sing.] a thing that ensures admission to or the achievement of something: the sport utility vehicle seemed like a a passport to new adventures.


views updated May 29 2018

passport XV. — F. passeport, f. passer PASS2 + port PORT1.

More From