It’s hard to believe, but there was a time when you didn’t have to fill out a passport application to travel internationally. In fact, passports weren’t required for international travel until the first World War, though governments had been issuing passports or “documents of safe conduct” for centuries prior.

After World War I, the League of Nations decided that passport requirements should be maintained for international travel in peacetime as well. Although today we think of passports as essential, when passport applications became a requirement, many people were not happy. Over at the Oxford University Press blog, Craig Robertson, author of The Passport in America: The History of A Document, explains:

Middle-class and the more well-to-do resisted the implementation of passport requirements creating what was labeled the “passport nuisance” in the 1920s. With little experience of the need to prove identity through documents the passport became the site where people objected to perceived affront of a government not trusting its citizens. Identity documents were for people who could not be trusted such as criminals and the insane. They were not for people who simply wanted to travel.

Other interesting facts about the history of the passport:

  • Before passports became mandatory, immigration officers decided who let into the country based on what amounts to gut instinct. Can you imagine how much trouble that must have caused for American citizens who didn’t fit the officials’ mental image of an American?
  • Early passports didn’t necessarily have photographs-instead, a written description of the bearer’s physical characteristics was usually included.
  • According to the Guardian, the Pope always carries Vatican Passport Number One.

These days, if you want to leave the US, you need to fill out a passport application. See How to Apply for a New Passport for more details. Make sure to allow sufficient time for processing-it can take 6 weeks or even longer if you apply for regular processing, and around 3 weeks if you apply for the government’s expedited processing.

If you need your passport more quickly, RushMyPassport can deliver your paperwork directly to the Department of State for processing times as low as 24 hours.

Let us help you expedite your passport application today!