Difference Between Passport and Travel Document

Edited by Diffzy | Updated on: April 30, 2023


Difference Between Passport and Travel Document

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In today’s world, travel has become a necessity, and almost every person will require either a passport or some valid travel documents for a successful journey. Also, it is common knowledge that international travel has increased rapidly in the past few years.

With the onset of new technologies, the world has been converted into a Global Village. Almost every traveler owns a passport especially since it is required to travel by plane. People can move between countries and their cities easily when they possess a passport or at least some valid travel documents.

What is the need for such documents? These documents are considered proof of identity and are usually considered necessary when leaving or entering a country. Hence it is considered important to have such documents when you are traveling internationally.

Given that many people tend to use the terms passport and travel document interchangeably, this is a mistake. The terms passport and travel document are not synonymous. There is a huge difference between a passport and a travel document. Many people think that a travel document is a passport and that a passport is a travel document. Read on to find out why this is not always true.

Passport vs. Travel Document

The truth is that a passport can be considered a travel document, but not all travel documents can be considered a passport. Also, a travel document holder is not entitled to the same privileges.

When traveling abroad, it is very necessary to carry a passport. Some people consider a passport a travel document, but travel documents cannot be considered a passport. Travel documents are issued to people instead of their passports

You may not be a passport holder, even though you are a citizen of the country. Any person who owns a passport has probably landed on foreign soil and travels a lot by plane. On the other hand, a travel document simply refers to a temporary document that is issued to a person just in case their Passport has expired (or the person in question has applied for one but has yet to receive it) However, you do not have to be a citizen of the country you are visiting to own valid travel documents.

Owning a passport does not affirm the ability to travel, and neither does any document which is claimed to be a travel document. The decision to travel is taken by immigration officials when they examine your travel documents at border checks.

Difference Between Passport and Travel Document in Tabular Form

Parameter of Comparison Passport Travel Document
Meaning A Passport is a document issued by the government / statutory body of the traveler’s origin country. It indicates the traveler’s proof of citizenship. A travel document is a document issued in an emergency where a person wants to travel but doesn’t have a Passport or it is expired/lost or a new Passport is applied for but not yet received (or similar reason)
Reason for Issuance For international travel When the Passport is lost or when the Passport is requested for but not yet obtained or it has expired and a new one is not yet issued
Replaceable Yes, it is considered replaceable as a Passport is one kind of Travel Document A Travel Document is not necessarily a Passport. A Travel Document can be considered a mere identity card. However, Travel Document may be considered a Passport if it is issued as an Emergency Passport.
Proof of Citizenship? Yes, a passport is considered proof of citizenship No, it is not considered proof of citizenship
Importance A Passport is considered more important A Travel Document does not have much importance compared to a passport
Validity A Passport is said to be valid for 10-15 years. In which case, validity in the long term A Travel Document is usually valid for the short term. On rare occasions, a Travel Document is issued for long term
Mandatory or Voluntary? A Passport is usually necessary for international travel Travel Document is not mandatory for international travel
Countries/Interstate A Passport is not required for interstate or domestic travel. Also, a Passport is not always required for travel within certain group countries such as the EU group. A travel document (in this case an identity card such as PAN, or  Election card) is needed for domestic travel. Group countries may permit travel within the group based on an identity card which can be considered a Travel Document.
Identification Documents PAN, Election card, or social security card are not considered passports Identification documents such as PAN, Election Card, or social security card can be considered Travel Documents
Ability to Travel A Passport doesn't indicate any person’s ability to travel. On the other hand, a passport is more of a necessary document for travel. A travel Document indicates a person’s ability to travel.
Police Verification Issuing a Passport requires police verification Travel Documents may or may not require police verification depending on the type of document
International Treaty A Passport is not always issued by an international treaty organization Travel Documents may be issued by an international treaty organization

What is a Passport?

To explain simply a passport can be considered as a document issued by an authorized official of a country, that is essential for entry/exit into a country. A passport allows a person to travel into and out of a country according to visa requirements.

This is why a passport is often considered the most important document a person can take along with him to validate his travel into and out of foreign countries of his own will. In other words, a passport is considered an internationally recognized travel document. A passport also allows a person to get local embassy assistance when they are residing in any country.  The word passport itself comes from the French language which means ‘to pass through the port’ It gives people the right to travel to other countries and return home. It is for this reason only that passport holders are allowed to leave or re-enter any country. Also, the traveler needs to remember that the passport must remain valid for at least 3-6 months after arriving in a foreign country. Passports generally include the name and date of the owner of the passport, original birthplace, their signature, and a photo of them.

Passport is a strong evidence that you are a citizen of a particular country. Now-a-days, we have Biometric passports. Biometrics inlcude your height details, eye colour, finger prints and your scanned face. These details are then stored on an embedded chip or paper fixed onto your passport.

A standard passport contains around 52 pages. Usually, a stamp is put on a passport which not only proves the identity of the person but so that it is confirmed with the immigration officials in the country where he/she is going. People traveling between nations must carry a passport. The main purpose of a passport is not only to identify the person but also to protect him/her and give them lawful aid.

A passport can be best described as an official document that shows that one is a citizen of the country. It also contains personal information and has a photo attached. This document allows people to travel to foreign countries and prove who they are. There are different types of passports- some of them include a family passport, diplomatic passport, and official passport.

It is considered good practice to check the validity of your passport when you are about to travel. An ordinary passport normally has a validity of about 10-15 years. It will certainly result in a smooth fulfilling of plans, as opposed to problems that might occur when traveling to a country with strict incoming restrictions. It Is considered good practice to check the validity of your passport when you are about to travel.

Hence, we can see the reasons why a passport is considered an important form of identification that travelers have to carry along with them when traveling abroad.

Trivia: Did you know that in the past, there was something known as a family passport? Family passports were usually issued to just one family member. This is what was known as a collective passport. Anyone else in the family was not able to travel using this same passport.

What is a Travel Document?

Owning a travel document qualifies a person to travel. As mentioned before the absence of a valid passport owing to its expiry, or having applied for one, but not received it yet, is also a valid enough reason for a person to possess a travel document. Travel documents have been in use for many centuries. Even in the past, rulers would grant protection to people who happened to possess such letters, thus allowing them to travel through a particular route.

Examples of travel documents can include a pan card, an election card, or even a train ticket, or an airline boarding pass for that matter. Were you aware that a travel document is not considered necessary when traveling from India to Nepal? These are considered group countries. It is enough to own some valid travel documents in this case. These documents serve as proof of identification, which is often issued by a Government authority or an international treaty organization.

When you are staying in a hotel in another country, your travel documents might be requested, or even when you are seeking to change currency. Like passports, travel documents also have an expiry date, after which they are no longer considered valid. On the other hand, some countries may disallow traveling based on a travel document alone. It is also true that a travel document, may not be that advantageous to someone who plans on staying in a foreign country for a longer time.

Trivia: Did you know that travel documents are issued only to facilitate the movement of people across international boundaries while abiding by certain treaties or for other multiple purposes?

Main Differences Between Passport and Travel Documents in Points

  • While a passport is considered a proof of citizenship, on the other hand, a travel document is not considered proof of citizenship.
  • In some cases, you can forgo the use of a passport, and use a travel document instead. For example when engaging in Domestic Travel or traveling within group countries.
  • While a passport takes a significantly longer time to get issued, a travel document is issued relatively faster.
  • While a passport requires police verification, a travel document may not require it.
  • A passport is issued for the long term, on the other hand, travel documents are issued for short-term periods only,
  • While many regard a passport as a travel document, the opposite is not always true.


Hopefully, the above article has cleared some of the confusion, regarding the differences between a Passport and a Travel Document. Both Travel documents and passports are both necessary when it comes to international travel.

As mentioned above, a passport is an official document that serves as a form of identity proof of ethnicity of the person (whichever country they may be residing in) A passport also ensures protection for the traveler as well as any assistance they require from a local embassy in the country they are traveling to. On the other hand, a traveler does not necessarily have to be a citizen of a country to own valid travel documents. A travel document can include a pan card, N an election card, or even a flight ticket.

Hence one can read the above and see why these documents are very important especially when it comes to air travel. Owning such documents while traveling to a foreign country is not only considered proof of identity but also entitles the person who carries these documents to certain benefits.

Therefore it is safe to assume that owning a Passport or at least a valid travel document is considered necessary to comply with formalities regarding International travel.



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"Difference Between Passport and Travel Document." Diffzy.com, 2024. Mon. 15 Apr. 2024. <https://www.diffzy.com/article/difference-between-passport-and-travel-document-917>.

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