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.


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

Certain compliance formalities mandate international travel, one of which is the possession and submission of a Passport and a Travel Document. Many people sometimes use these terms interchangeably and may even think they are synonymous.

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

Key Takeaways

  1. A passport is a government-issued document that verifies a person’s identity and nationality. In contrast, a travel document is a broader term encompassing any official document used for international travel, including passports, visas, and refugee travel documents.
  2. Passports are widely recognized and required for international travel as proof of identity and citizenship. In contrast, other travel documents may have more specific purposes and be required in addition to a passport, such as visas for entry into certain countries.
  3. The primary function of a passport is to facilitate international travel by confirming the bearer’s identity and nationality to foreign authorities, while travel documents assist in various aspects of international travel and immigration processes.

Passport vs Travel Document

The difference between a Passport and a Travel Document is that Passport is an official document identifying the traveller, their nationality and the necessary authorization to travel. In contrast, a Travel Document is a temporary document issued in place of a Passport, especially when the Passport may have expired or the person has applied for one but has not yet received it. 

Passport vs Travel Document

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


Comparison Table

Parameter of ComparisonPassportTravel Document
MeaningA passport is a document issued by the government or statutory body of the traveller’s origin country indicating the traveller’s proof of citizenship.A travel Document is issued in an emergency where a person wants to travel. Still, it doesn’t have a Passport, or a Passport is expired/lost, or a new Passport is applied for 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, a Passport is a type of Travel DocumentA travel Document is not a Passport. Travel Documents can be considered mere identity cards. However, Travel Document may be viewed as a Passport if issued as an Emergency Passport.
Proof of citizenship?YesNo
ImportanceA passport holds more importanceTravel Document does not have much significance
ValidityA passport is valid for 10-15 years; hence validity can be considered a long-term one.Travel Document is only valid for short-term purposes; however, if a Travel Document is issued for the long term, which may be a rare situation, it will be good.
Mandatory or Voluntary?A passport is mandatory for international travelTravel Document is not compulsory for international travel
Countries/interstateA passport is not required for interstate or domestic travel. Also, a Passport may not be required for travel within certain group countries such as the EU group.A travel Document (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 documentsIdentification documents such as PAN, Election, and social security cards are not considered Passports.Identification documents such as PAN, Election Card, and social security card can be considered Travel Documents.
Ability to travelA passport does not indicate any person’s ability to travel. A key is more of a necessary document for travel.Travel Document indicates a person’s ability to travel.
Police verificationPassport issuance requires police verificationTravel Documents may or may not require police verification depending on the document type.
International treatyAn international treaty organization does not issue a passportAn international treaty organization may issue Travel Documents


What is Passport?

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

Simply put, the Passport allows citizens to travel in a foreign country in conformity with visa requirements.

A passport is proof ko of citizenship. That means Passport protects the citizen while they are living or studying abroad.

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

A passport is also considered an identification document to be carried by travellers when travelling abroad. A key indicates the identity and nationality of the traveller.

A passport also indicates the objective of the person’s travel.

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

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


What is Travel Document?

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

Travel Documents can also be considered identity documents 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 multiple other purposes. Travel Documents can also be given for different reasons, such as the Passport being expired, or Passport being lost, or a new Passport is not issued, and the person has an immediate need for travel.

Travel Documents may be considered sufficient, especially domestically or within group countries. For example, travelling 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 traveller, 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 travelling solely based on a Travel Document. Hence, this document may not be advantageous to someone travelling/staying abroad, especially for a more extended period.

travel document

Main Differences Between Passport and Travel Documents

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

  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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