There’s been a lot of talk about passports lately. One of my favorite episodes of I Love Lucy revolves around the gang getting their “pass-a-ports” (as Ricky Ricardo would say) to go to Europe with the band. However, it is not the Season 5, Episode 11, which is titled The Passports, rather I really enjoy the next episode, titled Staten Island Ferry, which ends in the passport office. You see, the episode originally aired on January 2, 1956, and the modern passport as we know it today only came into existence in the 1920’s.
Although the League of Nations failed as a global governing body, it did pass some lasting resolutions during its 26 years in operation. One such resolution was from the 1920, 1926, and 1927 “Paris Conference on Passports & Customs Formalities and Through Tickets,” which gave us standardized internationally recognized passports. However, it wasn’t until as recently as 1980 when the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) set guidelines for machine readable passports.
Passports have been issued as far back as recorded history. The earliest one on record dates back from approximately 450 BC, and is referenced in the Bible. Most early passports served as an ambassador to guarantee safe passage to the bearer, rather than the proof of citizenship and inoculation that they do today.
However, even passports have their limitations. Having a valid passport does not guarantee the bearer entry into the country of their choosing, sometimes not even their own. Many countries also require a VISA to enter. The standards for VISA’s are still varied from country to country. The usual guidelines are in place to make sure the visitor doesn’t become a public charge for financial, health, or other reasons; and especially that the bearer hasn’t been convicted of a crime or considered likely to commit one.