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Passports and Visas

The U. S. Department of State issues nearly seven million passports to U. S. citizens every year. For most people, obtaining a passport is a fairly routine experience. In fact, a passport is more than just a personal identification document. A passport is actually a guarantee to the bearer that he or she can travel freely and securely through other countries.

Not all countries are willing or able to grant unimpeded travel and protection to others. Countries that are at war with each other or whose diplomatic ties are strained or broken will likely not permit their citizens to travel to territory designated as dangerous or unfriendly. Visas, or endorsements, indicate that a government has examined the traveler’s passport and that the traveler can continue on. Some countries do not require a formal visa process; others insist that visitors obtain visas, sometimes well in advance of their trips.

Because a passport is an important identification document, applicants must prove that they are who they are, and they also must prove citizenship. Proof can be established through birth or baptismal certificates or other documents; sometimes affidavit from people who know the applicant are necessary. Passports are the property of the governments that issue them and must be returned on demand.

Inside Passports and Visas