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What Is Passport Control?

Lainie Petersen
Updated: May 23, 2024

Passport control, sometimes known as border control, is typically found at airports, seaports, and other places where travelers may enter or leave a country. Employees of a government's immigration department known as passport control officers review the travel documents presented by citizens, residents, and other travelers to determine whether they have the right to enter the country. In some places, border control also operates in the departure areas of airports and seaports in order to make sure that those who are leaving the country have appropriate documentation as well. This process can vary significantly by country, so it generally behooves travelers to familiarize themselves with the practices of the countries that they will be visiting.

Virtually all countries have strict regulations regarding allowing noncitizens to enter their borders. The primary way of doing this is to examine travelers' passports and entry documents. In airports or seaports, travelers will typically meet with border control agents in a designated area of the building. A common set-up is for travelers who are citizens or permanent residents of a country to be processed in a separate section of passport control than noncitizens.

When citizens of a country pass through border control, they will typically be asked to present their passports as well as any immigration documents required by the country. These documents may ask the citizen for information as to where he traveled and the purpose of his travel. Passport control agents may ask similar questions during the entry interview as well. In some countries, citizens may be able to register for special programs that allow them to pass through passport control more quickly by submitting to an advance background check and then scanning their passports through kiosks placed in the border control area.

Noncitizens will typically undergo a more rigorous passport control process. If the noncitizen needs a visa to enter the country, the border control agent will typically examine the visa and may ask to see additional documentation, such as letters from schools in support of student visas. The noncitizen may be subject to additional questioning about her reasons for visiting the country, including how long she plans to stay and whether she has made arrangements for accommodation, and may be asked for proof that she has enough money to care for herself while in the country. Border control agents may also ask to see a return ticket in order to establish that a traveler intends to return to her own country after her current travels.

WiseTour is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Lainie Petersen
By Lainie Petersen
Lainie Petersen, a talented writer, copywriter, and content creator, brings her diverse skill set to her role as an editor. With a unique educational background, she crafts engaging content and hosts podcasts and radio shows, showcasing her versatility as a media and communication professional. Her ability to understand and connect with audiences makes her a valuable asset to any media organization.
Discussion Comments
By popcorn — On Nov 21, 2011

Do I need a passport if I am traveling domestically by air in the USA or is just regular ID OK?

I haven't flown before so I am not sure of what passport rules apply and how passport control USA works with citizens. I have a few weeks before my trip so I have time to get a passport if need be, but I would prefer not to have to. I don't travel much and a passport is rather expensive, especially if you are not going to use it.

Also, if I don't have a passport is there a separate line I should be in? I want to know what to look for once I get to the airport.

By wander — On Nov 21, 2011

@lonelygod - The easiest thing to do is go to your country's consulate and fill in a passport renewal form through them. You should probably look online to see how many passport photos you'll need to bring, as well as what the current fees are.

If you really need a passport updated you can usually pay a fee for getting your passport quickly. The expediated service to get a passport can be expensive, but if you're pressed for time it is worth it. Also, you can ask your consulate what to do about any visas you may have in your passport. Sometimes you need to get them reissued.

By lonelygod — On Nov 20, 2011

Can someone tell me how to get a passport when I am abroad?

When I started traveling I didn't realize that I was going to need to renew my passport so soon, so now I am worried about getting a passport before it gets to late. I don't want to get stuck trying to get into a country with a passport too close to its expiry date.

I know that passport regulations very from country to country, but from what I can tell, most places won't let you in if you have less than 6 months remaining on your passport. This seems a bit strange to me, but nonetheless I need to get mine renewed as soon as possible.

Lainie Petersen
Lainie Petersen
Lainie Petersen, a talented writer, copywriter, and content creator, brings her diverse skill set to her role as an...
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