History of the Passport and Second Citizenships

Second Citizenships are a modern concept. The modern passport has only been around for about 100 years. Second citizenships only became common in the last 50 years.

Before the First World War it was possible to travel the world without a passport. That was the normal state of affairs for most people. Early immigrants from Europe to the US didn’t need any type of government identity document to enter. They simply declared their name at the border and were waved in.

The predecessors to passports had existed much earlier. When someone had to travel through another country he would take a letter from the Monarch or Foreign Secretary requesting that he be permitted to travel through a particular country unimpeded.

This evolved into the passports that we’re all used to today.

The Lost Campaign Against Global Introduction of Passports

It’s long forgotten today,  but there was much opposition to the introduction of passports for travel. The predecessor to the United Nations, The League of Nations held a passport conference in1920. Part of the goal of that conference was to restore freedom of movement to where it was before the war. The conference recognised that mandatory passports “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 the passports we have today.

Further attempts were made to abolish passports in the 1920s.

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 the end of the 1920s most governments had concluded that it was essential to issue passports for travel. They were seen as something that could help refugees after the war to stay in the countries they had fled to.

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 concluded, 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.

As recently 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.”

Travel Without a Passport Almost Impossible

We now have a situation where a passport is essential for international travel. Travel by air without a passport is impossible. It’s now accepted as a fact of life. More and more we’re asked to prove our identity. The only way to travel internationally without a passport is to cross a border on foot or arrive by boat. Even then, challenge by border authorities is likely if you’re travelling without a passport.

A Tool of Control

Passports have become a tool used to control the population. The early objectors to passports recognised this. Today, removal of passports and thus your right to travel is used by governments to punish and force compliance with rules. The US will refuse to renew a passport if you have an outstanding tax debt of $50,000 or more. The UK restricts the use of passports by football fans who’ve misbehaved at matches. Passports are confiscated by courts in both civil and criminal cases.

After Edward Snowden leaked details of the US domestic spying programme he became the world’s most wanted man. He fled the US for Hong Kong. He then boarded a flight to Russia. He intended to make his way to Ecuador. While he was travelling the US government cancelled his passport. They hoped that by doing this he’d be denied entry to Russia and returned to the US. In the case of Snowden the US government’s plan failed and he was allowed to stay in Russia. But in many lower profile cases the government will get their man.

Second Citizenships are essential

The Paradox – For Maximum Freedom Second Citizenships are Essential

Passports are anti-freedom and a tool of control. That’s an obvious fact. The paradox is, that the more passports you have from different countries, the more freedom you have. One government can’t control your movements. If you’re passport is cancelled by one country, simply use one of your other passports to escape.

Carlos Ghosn was the high flying CEO of Nissan and Renault. In 2018?? he was arrested when he arrived in Japan. He was detained in a Japanese prison for months. After being released on bail and recognising that he could face spending the rest of his life in a Japanese prison, Ghosn plotted is escape. He hatched an elaborate plan to get out of the country. He hid in a large container used to transport musical instruments. He was put on a private jet and got out of Japan.

Ghosn was able to escape because he had more than one passport. He had second citizenships from France, Brazil and Lebanon. The Japanese would have confiscated at least one of his passports. But his Lebanese citizenship allowed him to travel there. He had no concerns about being refused entry or being sent back to Japan. Second citizenships saved him from spending the rest of his life in a Japanese prison.


For most of us, it’s difficult to see how we could end up in a situation like Ghosn. But for anyone who runs a business or has modest wealth, attacks on freedom are increasing. Government regulations increase every year for everyone. It’s not difficult to imagine inadvertently running into difficulties with tax authorities or other regulators. Having a second passport is the ultimate insurance policy. It’s impossible to predict what happens in life but it’s better to have options. Everyone who values their freedom must seek out second citizenships.