A passport is a document, issued by a national government, which certifies the identity and nationality of its holder for the purpose of international travel. The elements of identity contained in all standardized passports include information about the holder, including name, date of birth, gender and place of birth.
A passport does not of itself entitle the passport holder entry into another country, nor to consular protection while abroad nor any other privileges. It does, however, normally entitle the passport holder to return to the country that issued the passport. Rights to consular protection arise from international treaties, whilst the bearer's right to return to the passport's country of issue depends on the laws of the issuing country. A passport does not represent the right or the place of residence of the passport holder in the country that issued the passport.
One of the earliest known references to paperwork that served the role of a passport is found in the Hebrew Bible. In the biblical verse, Nehemiah 2:7-9, attributed to 450 BC, it is believed that Nehemiah, an official serving King Artaxerxes I of Persia, asked leave to travel to Judea; the king granted leave and gave him a letter "to the governors beyond the river" requesting safe passage for him as he travelled through their lands.
In the medieval Islamic Caliphate, a form of passport was used in the form of a bara'a, a receipt for taxes paid. Only citizens who paid their zakah (for Muslims) or jizya (for Dhimmis) taxes were permitted to travel to different regions of the Caliphate, thus the bara'a receipt was a "traveller's basic passport."
It is considered unlikely that the term "passport" is derived from sea ports, but rather from a medieval document that was required to pass through the gate ( or "porte") of a city wall or to pass through a territory. In medieval Europe, such documents were issued to travellers by local authorities, and generally contained a list of towns and cities into which a document holder was permitted to pass. On the whole, documents were not required for travel to sea ports, which were considered open trading points, but documents were required to travel inland from sea ports.
King Henry V of England is credited with having invented what some consider the first true passport, notwithstanding the earlier examples cited, as a means of helping his subjects prove who they were in foreign lands.
The rapid expansion of rail travel and wealth in Europe from the mid-nineteenth century led to a unique dissolution of the passport system for thirty odd years before WWI. The speed of trains, as well as the numbers of passengers that crossed many borders, made enforcement of passport laws difficult. The general reaction was the relaxation of passport requirements. In the later part of the nineteenth century and up to World War I, passports were not required, on the whole, for travel within Europe, and crossing a border was a relatively straightforward procedure. Consequently, comparatively few people held passports. The Ottoman Empire and the Russian Empire maintained passport requirements for international travel, in addition to an internal passport system to control travel within their borders. Most countries issued passports but countries that demanded travelers have a passport were considered backwards.][
Early passports included a description of the passport holder. Photographs began to be attached to passports in the early decades of the twentieth century, when photography became widespread.
During World War I, European governments introduced border passport requirements for security reasons (to keep out spies) and to control the emigration of citizens with useful skills, retaining potential manpower. These controls remained in place after the war, and became standard procedure, though not without controversy. British tourists of the 1920s complained, especially about attached photographs and physical descriptions, which they considered led to a "nasty dehumanisation".
In 1920, the League of Nations held a conference on passports and through tickets, the Paris Conference on Passports & Customs Formalities and Through Tickets. Passport guidelines and a general booklet design resulted from the conference, which was followed up by conferences in 1926 and 1927.][
The United Nations held a travel conference in 1963, but passport guidelines did not result from it. Passport standardisation came about in 1980, under the auspices of the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO).
A rough standardization exists in types of passports throughout the world, although passport types, number of pages and definitions can vary by country.
The International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) issues passport standards which are treated as recommendations to national governments. The size of passports normally comply with ISO/IEC 7810 ID-3 standard, which specifies a size of 125 × 88 mm (4.921 × 3.465 in). This size is the B7 format.
Passports often, though not always, contain a message, usually near the front, requesting that the passport's bearer be allowed to pass freely, and further requesting that, in the event of need, the bearer be granted assistance. The message is sometimes made in the name of the government or the head of state, notionally by the foreign minister or another representative of the government, often on behalf of the head of state. The message may be written in more than one language, depending on the language policies of the issuing authority.
For example, in a United Kingdom passport, the rubric reads:
the message in a current N-series Australian passport (stated only in English) reads:
the English message in a Canadian passport reads:
the English message in a Philippine passport meanwhile reads:
and the English message in a South Korean passport is:
the English message in an Israeli passport is:
The English message in a Dutch passport is:
Other passports, for example those of the United States bear similar messages. However such messages are absent, for instance, in passports issued by governments of Switzerland, Finland, and Austria.][
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. Many European countries used their national language and additionally the three most spoken languages in Europe, i.e. French, German, and English.
Some unusual language combinations are:
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 biometric 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, Barbados, Dominica, Grenada, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Suriname, and Trinidad and Tobago.
The member states of the Organisation 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 is the Spanish word "pasaporte" meaning "passport" and the English word as well. Venezuela left the Andean Community, so it is likely that the country will no longer issue Andean passports.
Passports contain a statement of the nationality of the holder. In most countries, one class of nationality exists for all its citizens, and only one type of ordinary passport exists for them. Several types of exceptions however exist:
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 history 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 holders of different UK passports to different entry requirements.
As an alternative to having more classes of nationality within one country, a single class can also exist across more than one country. For example, only a single class of nationality is available for the three constituent countries of Kingdom of Denmark (although Faroe nationals enjoy a special status), all four constituent countries of the Kingdom of the Netherlands and all the constituent states and territories of the Realm of New Zealand.
In certain instances a nationality is available through investment. Some investors have been described in a Tongan passport as 'a Tongan protected person', a status which does not necessarily 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 'Tongan protected person' status.][
The Central People's Government of the People's Republic of China (PRC) authorizes by law its Special Administrative Regions (Hong Kong and Macau) to issue passports to their permanent residents with Chinese nationality under the one country, two systems arrangement. Visa policies imposed by foreign authorities on Hong Kong and Macau permanent residents holding such passports are different from those holding ordinary passports of the People's Republic of China. It should be noted that all holders of these passports are considered Chinese citizens (i.e. possessing the same Chinese nationality status, and bearing the same code of issuing state: CHN) under the Nationality Law of the People's Republic of China, and it is possible to be a permanent resident of Hong Kong or Macau without being a Chinese national.
Several entities without a sovereign territory issue passports as well, most notably Iroquois League, the Aboriginal Provisional Government in Australia and the Sovereign Military Order of Malta.
Countries set their own conditions for the issue of passports. For example, Pakistan requires applicants to be interviewed before a Pakistani passport will be granted.
In countries where incoming and outgoing international travels are highly regulated (such as in North Korea), general use passports are the privilege of a very small number of people that are trusted by the government, and are not easily available to general public under ordinary conditions.
In Finland, male citizens aged 18–30 years must prove that they have completed, or are exempt from, the obligatory military service when applying for a Finnish passport. If they have not yet completed the service, the passport is issued only until the end of their 28th year to ensure that they will not flee the country and desert. Many countries with obligatory military service have similar requirements. Syria, for instance, requires male citizens aged 17–42 years to present a number of documents, among which an approval form of the respective military service office. If they have not yet completed their service, the issued passport is valid for only two years (as opposed to six years for everyone else).
Most countries declare by law 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.
In many countries, surrender of a passport is made a condition of granting bail. While on bail a person may be barred from applying for a passport or collecting a passport already applied for.][
Many countries issue only one passport to each national. When passport holders apply for a new passport (commonly, due to expiration of an old passport or lack of blank pages), they may be required to surrender the old passport for invalidation. In some circumstances an expired passport is not required to be surrendered or invalidated (for example, if it contains an unexpired visa).
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 a country which does not recognize Israel. Another circumstance is frequent international travel including to countries with protracted visa application process. Awaiting a visa for a particular country, a person with two passports may travel to other countries with the second passport. Some countries issue restricted passports valid only for travel to one or more neighbouring countries. A person may hold at the same time a restricted passport for frequent travels to neighbouring countries and an ordinary international passport for travels to other countries.][
At one time it was common for a husband's passport to include the names and photos (marks of stature and visage) of his wife and children. These "family passports" allowed the bearer's wife and children to travel together with their "head of the family" without the need to issue individual passports to everyone. Family passports were not valid for dependants to travel by themselves or with someone other than the principal bearer. Nearly every country once issued family passports, but most no longer do so.
Some countries still allow inserting names of underage children into their parents' passports instead of issuing them separate passports. For example, a Uruguayan passport still has two photo pages, on which there can be a listing of up to six children, each with their thumbprint and details. Introduction of biometric passports with chips (which can only contain biometrics of one person) has made the practice largely obsolete, therefore the move is to issuing each child its own passport.
In recent years concerns over international child abduction, including abduction by a parent, have led some countries to require both parents to sign a passport application. In the United States, a person aged 16 years or older can apply for a passport themselves. Applications by those aged 15 and under require the signatures of both parents or a statement, signed under penalty of perjury, as to why only one parent is physically capable of signing the application.
Most countries accept passports of other countries as valid for international travel and valid for entry. There are exceptions, such as when a country does not recognise the passport-issuing country as a sovereign state. Likewise, the passport-issuing country may also stamp restrictions on the passports of its citizens not to go to certain countries due to poor or non-existent foreign relations, or security or health risks.
A Bangladeshi passport is valid for travel to all nations, except Israel. In the past, the passport was not valid for travel to Rhodesia, Taiwan and South Africa as well.
Citizens of Taiwan (ROC) use a special travel permit issued by China's (PRC) public-security authorities to enter China. Citizens of China entering Taiwan must also use a special travel permit issued by the ROC government and have their mainland documents surrendered. The identity documents are only valid for travel between Taiwan and China, and an endorsement must be obtained separately to enable travel.
Hong Kong and Macau each maintains border controls at all points of entry, including at the border with mainland China. Permanent residents of the SARs can use their identity cards to travel between the SARs.
A 'Home Return Permit' is required for Chinese citizens domiciled in Hong Kong and Macau to enter and exit mainland China. The Hong Kong Special Administrative Region passport and the Macau Special Administrative Region passport can not be used for travel to mainland China. British National (Overseas) passports can also not be used by Chinese citizens who have the right of abode in Hong Kong as the PRC considers such citizens solely PRC citizens as it does not recognize dual nationality.
Mainland China residents visiting Hong Kong or Macau are required to hold an Exit-entry Permit for Travelling to and from Hong Kong and Macau (往来港澳通行证 or 双程证) issued by mainland authorities, along with an endorsement (签注), also issued by mainland authorities, on the Exit-entry Permit which needs to be applied each time (similar to a visa) when visiting the SARs.
Non-permanent residents of Macau who are not eligible for a passport may travel to Hong Kong on the Visit Permit to Hong Kong (澳門居民往來香港特別行政區旅行證). The grey-cover Visit Permit to Hong Kong is, technically speaking, a restricted passport and is valid for 7 years. It allows holders to travel only to Hong Kong Special Administrative Region on multiple occasions during its validity.
In Israel's first years, Israeli passports bore the stamp "not valid for Germany" (Hebrew: לא תקף בגרמניה), as in the aftermath of the Holocaust it was considered improper for Israelis to visit Germany on any but official state business (for which the government issued special passports to "authorized personnel"). Some Muslim and African countries do not permit entry to anyone using an Israeli passport. In addition, Iran, Kuwait, Lebanon, Libya, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen do not allow entry to people with evidence of travel to Israel, or whose passports have a used or an unused Israeli visa.
Initially on Pakistani passports there was a printed list of countries which could be visited. Currently the statement printed on Pakistani passports provides, "This passport is valid for all countries of the world except Israel" "یہ پاسپورٹ سواۓ اسرائل کے دنیا کے تمام ممالک کے لۓ کار آمد ہے" .
Between 2004 and mid-2011, the Philippine Department of Foreign Affairs deemed that bearers of its passports could not travel to Iraq due to the security threats in that country. As such, Philippine passports issued in that time period were stamped "Not valid for travel to Iraq" in English and Arabic. Passports printed after July 1, 2011 no longer bear this stamp.
South Korea does not consider travel within the Korean peninsula (between South Korean and North Korean administrations) to be international travel, as South Korea's constitution claims the entire Korean peninsula as its territory. South Koreans traveling to the Kaesong Industrial Region in North Korea pass through the Gyeongui Highway Transit Office at Dorasan, Munsan, where they present a plastic Visit Certificate (방문증명서) card issued by the South Korean Ministry of Unification, and an immigration-stamped Passage Certificate (개성공업지구 출입증) issued by the Kaesong Industrial District Management Committee (개성공업지구 관리위원회). Until 2008, South Koreans traveling to tourist areas in the North such as Mount Kumgang needed to carry a South Korean ID card for security reasons.
As a result of the Nagorno-Karabakh War between Azerbaijan and Armenia, Azerbaijan refuses entry to holders of Armenian passports, as well as passport-holders of any other country if they are of Armenian descent. It also strictly refuses entry to foreigners in general whose passport shows evidence of entry into the self-proclaimed Nagorno-Karabakh Republic, immediately declaring them permanent personae non gratae.
Conversely, Armenia does allow visa-free entry for holders of Azerbaijani passports.
After the fall of the Habsburg monarchy in 1918 and the establishment of the Austrian Republic, members of the former Imperial Family were exiled and forbidden to enter Austrian territory. Nevertheless, they remained Austrian citizens entitled to bear an Austrian passport. Such passports were unique in bearing the stamp stating that "this passport is valid for all countries except for Austria". The Habsburgs' exile was eventually overturned by the European Court of Human Rights and these special types of passports along with it.
The Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC) issues passports, but only Turkey recognises its statehood. TRNC passports are not accepted for entry into the Republic of Cyprus via airports or sea ports, but are accepted at the designated green line crossing points. However, all Turkish Cypriots are entitled by law to the issue of a Republic of Cyprus EU passport, and since the opening of the border between the two sides, Cypriot and EU citizens can travel freely between them.
The United Kingdom, United States of America, France, Australia, Pakistan and Syria currently officially accept TRNC passports with the relevant visas.
Passports are not needed by citizens of San Marino and Italy to travel to each other's country. EU citizens do not need a passport to enter in San Marino. However, San Marino citizens must possess a regular passport to enter EU states other than Italy.
Spain does not accept United Kingdom passports issued in Gibraltar, alleging 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 the covers of British passports issued in Gibraltar.
Some passports are issued for military dependents to travel to and from a foreign destination with a restriction stamp stating that the passport is only valid for official travel purposes. Further, said passports are valid only for five years from date of issue as opposed to ten years for adults.
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.
For countries that do not maintain diplomatic relations with Brazil, such as Kosovo and Taiwan, diplomatic, official and work passports are not accepted, and visas are only granted to tourist or business visitors, under Brazilian “laissez-passer”.
International travel is possible without passports in some circumstances. Nonetheless, a document stating the citizenship, such as a national identity card or an Enhanced Drivers License, is usually required.
Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda, Rwanda and Burundi comprise the East African Community. Each country may issue, to an eligible citizen, an East African passport. East African passports are recognised by only the five 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, Liberia, Mali, Niger, Nigeria, Senegal, Sierra Leone, and Togo.
Passports are not needed by citizens of India and Nepal to travel to each other's country, but some identification is required for border crossing. Only Indians do not require passports for travelling in Bhutan, while Bhutanese have to travel with their citizenship identity cards.
Lebanese citizens entering Syria do not need passports to enter Syria, if carrying Lebanese ID cards. Similarly, Syrian citizens do not need passports to enter Lebanon, if carrying Syrian ID cards.
Between Russia and some former Soviet republics, rather than requiring a standard passport, participating countries may accept a national identity document (e.g. an internal passport) as well.
According to a statement made by President Putin in December 2012, Russia has plans to restrict the privilege of travel without a passport only to citizens of the member states of the Customs Union of Belarus, Kazakhstan and Russia by 2015. After that date, citizens of other CIS states will need passports (although not visas) to visit Russia.
Citizens of the Cooperation Council for the Arab States of the Gulf countries need only national ID cards (also referred to as civil ID cards) to cross the borders of council countries. This also applies to anyone that has a residence permit in any of the GCC countries.
The 20 countries of the APEC issue the APEC Business Travel Card, which allows visa-free entry into all participating countries.
A citizen of one of the 28 member states of the European Union or of Liechtenstein, Andorra, Monaco, Norway, San Marino, Iceland and Switzerland may travel within these countries using a standard compliant National Identity Card rather than a passport. Not all EU/EEA member states issue standard compliant National Identity Cards, notably Denmark, Norway, Iceland, Latvia, Ireland and the United Kingdom. Sweden issues National Identity Cards, but its Passport Law does not allow a Swedish citizen to travel outside the Schengen Area without a passport, which is in violation of EU freedom of movement.
The up-to-now 26 countries that apply the Schengen Agreement (a subset of the EEA) do not implement passport controls between each other, unless exceptional circumstances apply. It is however mandatory to carry a passport, compliant national identity card or alien's resident permit.
The Nordic Passport Union meant that Nordic citizens (Denmark, including the Faroe Islands, Finland, Iceland, Norway and Sweden) need (on the paper) no identity document to visit these countries (not Greenland or Svalbard). This is an extension of the principle that Nordic citizens need no identity document in their own country. A means to prove their identity when requested is recommended (e.g. using a drivers license, which does not state the citizenship), also in the own country. Joining the Schengen Area in 1997 has not changed these rules.
There are several cards available to certain North American citizens/residents which allow passport free travel; generally only for land and sea border crossings:
In the U.S. the acceptable passport-substituting documents are placed within the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative.
Residents of nine coastal villages in Papua New Guinea are permitted to enter the 'Protected Zone' of the Torres Strait (part of Queensland, Australia) for traditional purposes. This exemption from passport control is part of a treaty between Australia and Papua New Guinea negotiated when PNG became independent from Australia in 1975. Vessels from other parts of Papua New Guinea and other countries attempting to cross into Australia or Australian waters are stopped by Australian Customs or the Royal Australian Navy.
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. In some cases 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, and it already extends them (since 2006) to every South American country except Guyana and Suriname.
For some countries, there are immigration checks and passport control for travel between their sovereign territories, yet some travels between such territories do not require passports.
Hong Kong and Macau, both Chinese special administrative regions, have their own immigration control systems different from each other and mainland China. Travelling between mainland China, Hong Kong and Macau, technically, is not considered international. Although people of Hong Kong, Macau and mainland China do not use passports to travel between the three places, other documents, such as the Mainland Travel Permit (for the people of Hong Kong and Macau), are used instead; foreigners are required to present their passports at the immigration control points. Holders of Hong Kong or Macau permanent resident ID cards (regardless of nationality), however, may use the ID card to enter and exit the SARs without the presentation of any passport.
Under a special arrangement agreed during the formation of Malaysia, the East Malaysian states of Sabah and Sarawak can retain their respective immigration control systems. As a result, a passport is required for foreigners when traveling from Peninsular Malaysia to East Malaysia, as well as traveling between Sabah and Sarawak. Previously, Malaysian citizens from Peninsular Malaysia were required to present a Malaysian passport when travelling to East Malaysia from Peninsular Malaysia, but this is no longer required for social/business visits up to 3 months as long as they do not land in a third country. However, West Malaysians are required to produce a Malaysian identity card or, for children below 12 years, birth certificate, obtain a special immigration printout form (Document In Lieu of Internal Travel Document, IMM.114), and keep the form until they leave East Malaysia. However, one may still present a Malaysian passport or a Restricted Travel Document and get an entry stamp on the passport to avoid the hassle of keeping an extra sheet of paper.
For immigration control, immigration officials of many countries stamp passports with entry 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 that the person is deemed to have permission to remain either for three months or for the period shown on his visa (whichever is shorter).
Member states of the European Union are not permitted to place a stamp in the passport of a person who is not subject to immigration control, such as a national of that country, a national of another EU member state or a non-EU national family member of an EU national who is seeking entry in conformity with EU Directive 2004/38/EC. 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 countries outside the EU, where a stamp in a passport may simply acknowledge the entry or exit of a person.
Countries usually have different styles of stamps for entries and exits, to make it easier to identify the movements of people. The shape of the stamp and the colour of the ink may also provide information about movements (whether departure or arrival). 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, but the stamps had slightly different borders to indicate entry/exit by air, land, or sea. In several countries the stamps or its colour are different if the person arrived in a car as opposed to bus/boat/train/aeroplane. Countries can vary the shape of their stamps to indicate the length of stay, like Singapore where a perfectly rectangular stamp indicates a 14-day stay, rounded rectangular a 30-day stay, or hexagonal a 90-day stay.
Immigration stamps are a useful reminder of travels. Some travellers "collect" immigration stamps in passports, and will choose to enter or exit countries via different means (for example, land, sea or air) in order to have different stamps in their passports.
Visas often take the form of an inked stamp, although some countries use adhesive stickers that incorporate security features to discourage forgery.
1 Non-member of European Union. 2 Open border with Schengen Area. 3 Transcontinental country. 4 Entirely in Southwest Asia but having socio-political connections with Europe. 5 Partially recognized.