Mar 08 2024

US passports and freedom of international travel

As we mark twenty years since the creation of this website for the Identity Project, perhaps it’s time to assess the state of freedom of movement in the USA and for US citizens.

We’ve been reporting, in more detail than anyone else, on changes in policies and practices that affect our right to travel freely. But sometimes the big picture can get lost in the details. Incremental changes can be more significant, in the long term and in the aggregate, than might be apparent¬† if we focus on any single step along the way.

Travel is restricted by (1) requirements to have, carry, and show ID to cross international borders or travel by common carrier; (2) restrictions on issuance of passports, driver’s, licenses, and state IDs used or needed for travel; and (3) ID-linked blacklists and controls that allow travel only by government permission and restrict who is given permission to travel.

These mechanisms for control of movement operate differently for international travel than they do for movement within the USA.

Let’s look first at U.S. passports and international travel. (We’ll look at domestic travel within the U.S without ID, or without Federally-approved ID, in later articles.)

Can a US citizen travel internationally without a passport? Do they have a right to a passport — and if not, which US citizens can and can’t get a US passport? What is the legal basis for these restrictions, or what would be the legal basis for challenging them?

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