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Micheala Sharp

History of Passports and Visas: No More Spontaneity

Passports allow a person to leave a country and visas allow a

person to enter another country. The documentation to travel was not
always something that travelers had to do. The emergence of
passports and visas arguably signified how countries began to
centralize in the 18th and 19th centuries. Further the more elaborate
passport system we have today can be attributed to the 20th century
whereby countries needed to survey the influx of people in and out of a
country and making sure that those people are there with good
intentions. The regulation surround passports and visas change at
varying rates and various countries. The sad thing is, in such a
globalize world socio economic status and ethnicity can effect the ease
of obtaining a visa and/or passport clearances. That being said, the
lengthy amount of planning, paperwork, and patience involved in
trying to travel to another country does provide safe guards on
traveling around the world. But these safeguards hinder the
individuals peculiar need to, sometimes, leave the world that they

know and spontaneously go to another. As the world becomes more

global and borderless the people are checked with more rigors,
therefore this is no longer to age of a back packer. No, you and I cannot
pick up our belongings and just go. The only place we would go is
probably to a consulate to go through the process of getting a visa.
Lets go back, to the time of Nehemiah, an aid to King Artaxes in
450 B.C who asked for permission to enter into Judah from Ancient
Persia. The earliest reference of a passport was then issued, a letter
requesting safe passage proceeded and remains to this day. The
various forms of passport are seen sporadically throughout the history
of man thereafter. The documents did not become that popular until
the 15th century or so (CIC 2013). The earliest version of a passport
being used less for permission and more for passage or safe conduct
is during the reign of King Henry V by the Act of Parliament in 1414.
The documents that were issued cam from the King to anyone he
wanted. But it is implied that leaders of countries have some type of
diplomatic immunity-back then there was no need to have a passport
as a monarch. And to this day many monarchs don't require a passport
(Benedicts 2006). These documents would be issued directly form the

king and would be dubbed letters of request. The surviving

mythology is that it is called a passport because most international
travel that was done had to happen via ship thus the term pass port
which is French for to pass through a port. From the late 17th century
there are surviving passports. During this time there was a shift from
documents handled directly by the King to having documents being
handled by the secretary of states office. The reason for this is that
after the reign of absolute monarchs the liberal reforms of Europe
and other states led to countries that had more institutions rather than
one handled solely by the monarch. Therefore before when a secretary
of state office was unheard of the monarch would do it, but after the
17th century when countries began to dissolve the power of the
monarch than power transferred to a different branch of state. The
interesting aspect of this is the British passports were written in French
until 1858. Although passports existed they were not required to travel
(Benedictus 2006). But as countries and their people expanded and the
industrial revolution was in full swing the rise of rail travel led to an
expansion to tourism that the world had never seen. A cheaper, faster,
and commercial mode of transportation between states-the train- led

to the near collapse of the European passport and visa system. For a
time European countries abandoned passports, probably because
tracking the massive amount of spontaneous people seemed labor
intensive and unnecessary-people just want to have a good time, right?
Maybe it was the assassination of Arch Duke Ferdinand (unlikely
because not only was it done by Serbian citizens but it also isnt the
primary cause of World War I) but the international community stepped
back after World War I and assessed the world differently than it did
before. Often post World War literature portrays the pre World War Era
as a time as gross innocence and even ignorance being blinded by
pretty ideologies. But the largest bloodiest war in human recorded
history made the international community decide to have security
between the states. It was meant as a temporary program once again.
But, the massive amount of wars, civil wars, etc. after World War I
probably made the international community slightly more xenophobic
and securitized than ever before. The philosophical sentiment of
securitization is that the world will always see the other as
something to be feared and regardless of the circumstance the other
will be blamed for issues; only when people are embraced the other

can disputed between states be eliminated. We are a long way away

from embracing the other, now we should embrace the checks and
balances of international travel and work because it will stay for
sometime-this is no longer a temporary measure but one that is

Visas on the other hand are tied to the history of passports.

There are different types of Visas. They are separated between two
groups temporary and permanent, the more permanent it is the motre
difficult it is to obtain. Documentation is nearly always required.
Additionaly, certain countries have different visas policies entirely. Fir
example a select number of countries give out journalistic visas while
others do not require it.
Works Cited
Benedictus, Leo. "A Brief History of the Passport." The Guardian. The Guardian,
2006. Web. 21 July 2015.
"History of Passports." Government of Canada, Citizenship and Immigration
Canada, Communications Branch. Web. 21 July 2015.

"Passports." Maged Aboulmagd. Web. 21 July 2015.