Difference Between Passport and Travel Document

In today’s busy and competitive world, travel has become almost a necessity of the day. The globalization of the world economy has opened new frontiers leading to a mass movement of people across countries and cities.

International travel has increased by leaps and bounds in the last few decades.

International travel is mandated by certain compliance formalities and one of them is the possession and submission of a Passport and a Travel Document. Many people sometimes use these terms interchangeably and may even think that they are synonymous.

However, there is a vast difference between a Passport and a Travel Document.

Passport vs Travel Document

The main difference between a Passport and a Travel Document is that Passport is an official document identifying the traveler, his/her nationality and necessary authorization to travel, while a Travel Document is a temporary document being issued in place of Passport especially in situations where the Passport may have been expired or the person has applied for one but not yet received. 

Passport vs Travel Document

However, the above is not the only difference. A comparison between both the terms on certain parameters can shed light on subtle aspects:


Comparison Table Between Passport and Travel Document (in Tabular Form)

Parameter of ComparisonPassportTravel Document
MeaningPassport is a document issued by the government or statutory body of the traveler’s origin country indicating the traveler’s proof of citizenship.Travel Document is a document issued in an emergency where a person wants to travel but doesn’t have a Passport or Passport is expired/lost or new Passport is applied but not yet received or for any other reason
Reason for issuanceFor international travelWhen the Passport is lost or when the Passport is being requested for but not yet obtained or Passport has expired and a new one is not yet issued
ReplaceableYes, Passport is a type of Travel DocumentTravel Document is not a Passport. Travel Document can be considered as a mere identity card. However, Travel Document may be considered as a Passport if it is issued as an Emergency Passport.
Proof of citizenship?YesNo
ImportancePassport holds more importanceTravel Document does not have much significance
ValidityPassport is valid for 10-15 years hence validity can be considered as a long-term oneTravel Document is only valid for short-term purposes, however, if a Travel Document is issued for long-term which may be a rare situation it will be valid
Mandatory or Voluntary?Passport is mandatory for international travelTravel Document is not mandatory for international travel
Countries/interstatePassport is not required for interstate or domestic travel. Also, Passport may not be required for travel within certain group countries such as the EU group.Travel Document (in this case an identity card such as PAN, Election card) is needed for domestic travel. Group countries may permit travel within the group based on an identity card which can be considered as a Travel Document.
Identification documentsIdentification documents such as PAN, Election card, social security card are not considered as PassportIdentification document such as PAN, Election Card, social security card can be considered as Travel Documents
Ability to travelPassport does not indicate any person’s ability to travel. Passport is more of a necessary document for travel.Travel Document indicates a person’s ability to travel.
Police verificationPassport issuance requires police verificationTravel Document may or may not require police verification depending on the type of document
International treatyPassport is not issued by an international treaty organizationTravel Document may be issued by an international treaty organization


What is Passport?

Passport is an official document being issued by a relevant statutory authority of a country to its citizens. The Passport is issued with the purpose that it will serve as an important document for exit from and re-entry into the country.

In simple words, the Passport allows a citizen to travel in a foreign country in conformity with visa requirements.

Passport is a proof ko of citizenship. That means Passport is a protection for the citizen while they are living or studying abroad.

Passport enables identification of the country to which the person belongs to and this may further help in obtaining any local embassy assistance in a foreign country in case of any urgent situations.

Passport is also considered as an identification document to be carried by travelers when traveling abroad. Passport indicates the identity and nationality of the traveler.

Passport also indicates the objective of the person’s travel.

Passport will commonly contain details such as the name of the holder, date of birth, address, signature, photography, and any other information depending on the type of Passport issued. Passport will have a limited validity between 10 to 15 years after which it has to be renewed.

There are different types of Passport such as official Passport, diplomatic Passport, family Passport, and others.


What is Travel Document?

Travel Document is a type of Passport. Travel Document signifies the ability of a person to travel.

Travel Document can also be considered as an identity document issued by a government authority or any international treaty organization.

Travel Documents are issued commonly to facilitate the movement of people across international boundaries to abide by certain treaties or for other multiple purposes. Travel Documents can also be issued for other reasons such as the Passport being expired or Passport is lost or a new Passport is not issued and the person has an immediate need for travel.

Travel Documents may be considered a sufficient document especially traveling domestically or traveling within group countries. For example, traveling to Nepal from India does not require a Passport, and people can travel based on valid identification documents.

Also, travel within certain EU countries may be based on appropriate identity proofs provided by the traveler in which case such identity cards serve as Travel Documents.

Travel Document does not indicate proof of citizenship. Therefore from this perspective Travel Document has fewer privileges attached to it.

Certain countries may forbid traveling solely based on a Travel Document and hence this document may not be of much advantage to someone who is traveling/staying abroad especially for a longer period.

travel document

Main Differences Between Passport and Travel Document

  1. Passport is a proof of citizenship. Travel Document is not a proof of citizenship.
  2. Passport may not be required especially in case of domestic travel or travel within certain group countries. Travel Document in the form of identity card is required in case of domestic air travel and travel within countries who are a part of a group.
  3. Passport takes some time for issuance. Travel Document may be issued immediately or sooner.
  4. Passport is issued after doing police verification. Travel Document issuance may not require police verification.
  5. Passport is issued for a long-term period. Travel Document is valid for short-term unless it is a regular identity card issued by the government of a country.
  6. Passport can be considered as a Travel Document. Not all Travel Documents can be considered as a Passport.
Difference Between Passport and Travel Document



Passport and Travel Document both have their significance when it comes to travel. It is important to understand the difference between a Passport and  Travel Document especially in the situation of international air travel.

This is so to avoid any unpleasant situation of being rejected by the immigration authorities at the airport or in the receiving country.

Traveller’s best and prudent course of option would be to check the validity of Passport, especially when traveling abroad to a country that has strict incoming restrictions. Also, for domestic travel or traveling within-group countries necessary identification such as PAN card, election card, social security cards can be kept handy for producing to relevant authorities when needed.


  1. https://heinonline.org/hol-cgi-bin/get_pdf.cgi?handle=hein.journals/mulr13&section=39
  2. https://www.yourdictionary.com/travel-document
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