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The Power of the Passport


All it really takes is one small book that fits in the palm of your hand to send you to far-off lands, new assignments, great adventures, and fascinating cultures. This small book, the passport, wields enormous power – some passports grant you visa-free travel, others protect you from unnecessary tax, and others still link you to a greater and more unified geography and culture.  A passport can limit or free you from the direst circumstances.

Recently, though, there has been global attention on what it means to be a citizen of a certain country and loyalty therein. What would make a person want to attain or abandon their passport, their citizenship, in favor of another?

– From the U.S. perspective, the passport can be a burden to those living abroad because of taxation and complicated paperwork involved in living and working abroad, and therefore a rising number of expats forfeit their US citizenship entirely. And of course, with most every presidential race, the empty threat of leaving for Canada always finds its way into the news.

– For British Citizens, the UK’s recent EU referendum has caused a large cry-out for people seeking a more stable solution that would allow them to remain part of the EU or escape the feared shift in the cultural landscape of the country.  Large searches have been done by UK citizens to begin exploring options for emigration.

– Less in the spotlight, Chinese citizens also look to emigrate for health and education reasons, finding that if they make a certain income they can move to an area that will meet their desired needs.  At the same time, though Chinese citizens ‘shop’ for qualities of life they want, many are still fiercely loyal to their heritage and country and view the passport as a means to an end — not as an abandonment of their native China. A dated yet still relevant list of popular destinations for Chinese citizens can be found here.

Yet while a passport can be divisive, there is still the push for singularity and unity in other parts of the world. The African Union will launch a single African passport to allow safe and easier travel. One of the main drivers behind this unification is the economic benefits, not unlike those found within the European Union.  As Africa grows on the global economic scale, it may find greater strength in integration while much of the world seems to be moving towards a more defensive front – only time will tell.

What about the power of your passport? Is there a reason you would give your citizenship for another?  What do you think about the future of the passport in general?