Is it Still Possible to Travel Without a Passport?
International travel without a passport was the normal state of affairs before the first world war. Although some form of passports had been issued for centuries, they were never mandatory for travel. Passports were documents issued by the monarch or foreign minister requesting that travellers be allowed to travel unhindered through foreign territories. This was useful in times of war.
Only during the first word war were passports for international travel made mandatory. The first countries to introduce mandatory passports for international travel were France, Italy and Germany. Travel without a passport to those countries became impossible.
There was Talk of Abolishing Passports in the 1960s
With much talk about the introduction of health passports for travel to prove vaccination status it’s long forgotten that passports for travel weren’t always mandatory. Indeed, as late as 1963 The UN Conference on International Travel and Tourism “recognised the desirability, from both an economic and social point, of progressively freer international travel”. They went on to say “it is not feasible to recommend the abolition of passports on a world-wide basis.”
Ever since mandatory passports were introduced during the first world war there were attempts to abolish them. They were widely recognised as being anti-freedom and authoritarian.
The League of Nations, the UN’s predecessor held the first Passport Conference in 1920. Part of the aim of this conference was to restore the freedom of movement that had existed before the war. The conference recognised that mandatory passports “personal relations between the peoples of various countries” and “constitute a serious obstacle to the resumption of normal intercourse and to the economic recovery of the world”.
The conference concluded that security concerns prevented them from abolishing passports immediately. They said they hoped to do it in the future. Instead, they recommended that a standard form of passport be issued for 2 years to facilitate international travel. This is what led to passports we have today.
Other Attempts to Abolish Passports were Made
Other attempts were made to abolish passports for international travel. The International Conference of Emigration and Immigration held in Rome in 1924 stated that “the necessity of obtaining passports should be abolished as soon as possible”.
In 1926, at a Geneva conference, Polish delegate Franciszek Sokal, demanded that all League of Nations members abolish the need for passports immediately. At the time passports were still seen as a serious restriction on freedom.
By then most governments had introduced a uniform passport for travel. They saw it as something that would help emigrants and their families. They regarded it as something that would help emigrants from war ravaged European countries receive the right to stay unhindered in foreign countries.
After the Second World War the United Nations returned to the issue of abolishing passports. They held a conference on Passports and Frontier Formalities in 1947. At that conference they considered “the possibility of a return to the regime which existed before 1914 involving as a general rule the abolition of any requirement that travellers should carry passports”.
The delegates decided, though, that it was not possible to return to pre-1914 conditions of travel. They thought that the world had changed too much since then.
Today More Passports Equal More Freedom
Now even most libertarians don’t believe in freedom of movement around the world. Passports for international travel are accepted by everybody. It’s all but impossible to leave or enter any country without this government issued document.
Counter intuitively the only way to gain more freedom today is to have multiple passports from different countries. If you only have a passport from one country that country can stop, you from travelling at any time for any reason. However, if you have multiple passports, you’ll face no such obstacles.
Anybody who wants to become freer must have at least one extra passport. For a full guide on how to get additional passports see The Free Passport Report. We analyse how to get passports from dozens of countries. We also look at how to travel without a passport. Travel without a passport is undoubtedly difficult but not impossible. See The Free Passport Report and discover how international fugitives cross borders.