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Passport vs. Visa: What's the Difference?

Edited by Janet White || By Harlon Moss || Updated on October 24, 2023
A passport is an official document proving one's identity and citizenship, while a visa is a permit to enter and stay in a specific country for a set duration.

Key Differences

A passport is an official travel document issued by a person's home country, confirming the holder's identity and nationality. Conversely, a visa is an endorsement or sticker placed in the passport, granting permission from a foreign country for the holder to enter, stay, or leave for a specific purpose.
While the primary function of a passport is to establish one's identity and citizenship, a visa indicates that the issuing country has vetted and approved the passport holder's entry for a particular reason, such as tourism, business, or study.
It's essential to understand that having a passport doesn't automatically grant someone the right to enter any country they wish. The visa, depending on the nation's requirements, acts as the permission slip, dictating terms such as the duration of stay and the purpose of the visit.
Typically, a passport has a validity of several years and can be used for multiple journeys and destinations. In contrast, a visa often has a more limited duration, with specifics on how long one can stay in the issuing country and for what purpose.
Even though the passport is a standalone document, the visa can't exist independently; it's always associated with a passport, signifying the relationship between the traveler's identity and the permissions granted by the foreign nation.

Comparison Chart


Document proving identity and nationality.
Permit to enter and stay in a specific country.

Issued By

Holder's home country.
Country the traveler wishes to enter.


Confirm identity and citizenship for international travel.
Grant permission for a specific purpose and duration.


Usually several years.
Can vary; might be limited to a few days or several years.


Can exist without a visa.
Cannot exist without being associated with a passport.

Passport and Visa Definitions


A means of achieving something.
Education can be a passport to a better future.


An official authorization appended to a passport, permitting entry into and travel within a particular country.
She applied for a visa to study in France.


An official document verifying identity and citizenship for international travel.
Every international traveler needs a valid passport.


A document or mark showing permission to do something in a foreign country.
The business visa allowed him to attend conferences.


A document or endorsement allowing the holder to pass freely.
The ambassador carried a diplomatic passport.


A conditional authorization granted by a country.
His tourist visa expires in 90 days.


A ticket to a place or situation.
His athletic skills were his passport to the university's football team.


An endorsement indicating a traveler is allowed to enter, leave, or stay in a country for a specified time.
The officer stamped her visa upon arrival.


An official government document with photo and details of the bearer.
Her passport photo looks quite different from her current appearance.


A certificate allowing the holder to transact business or live in a place.
Her work visa was extended for another two years.


An official document issued by a government identifying a citizen, certifying that citizen's nationality, and formally requesting admittance and safe passage from foreign countries.


An official authorization appended to a passport, permitting entry into and travel within a particular country or region subject to certain conditions, such as length of time and purpose of the visit.


What is a visa?

A visa is a permit or endorsement allowing a person to enter, stay in, or leave a specific country for a set duration.

What is a passport?

A passport is an official document proving one's identity and citizenship for international travel.

Can a passport be renewed?

Yes, passports can be renewed once they approach their expiration date.

How long is a typical passport valid?

Most passports are valid for 10 years for adults and 5 years for minors, but this can vary by country.

Do all countries issue visas?

Most countries have a visa system, but requirements vary, with some offering visa-on-arrival or visa-free options to certain nationalities.

Can I travel without a visa?

It depends on the country and the agreement they have with your home nation; some allow visa-free entry for short durations.

Do children need visas?

Yes, many countries require visas for children, just as they do for adults.

Do I need a new visa for every country I visit?

Typically, yes. Each country has its visa requirements and procedures.

What is a multiple-entry visa?

It's a visa that allows the holder to enter and exit the issuing country multiple times within its validity.

What is a working visa?

It's a visa that permits the holder to take employment in the issuing country.

Is a visa guarantee of entry?

No, the final decision rests with the immigration officer at the point of entry.

Is a passport valid for all countries?

While a passport proves identity and nationality, not all countries have visa-free agreements, so additional visas might be required.

What's the difference between an e-passport and a regular passport?

An e-passport contains an electronic chip storing the holder's biographical information, enhancing security.

What is a transit visa?

It's a visa that allows a traveler to pass through a country en route to another destination.

Can I travel with a nearly expired passport?

Some countries require a passport to be valid for several months beyond the planned departure date.

What's the difference between a visa and a residence permit?

A visa permits entry and a specified stay, while a residence permit allows extended or permanent residence.

What happens if my passport expires while I'm abroad?

You'll need to renew it at your home country's embassy or consulate before traveling again.

Can a visa be extended?

Some visas can be extended, but it depends on the country and visa type.

How many pages should be free in a passport for a visa?

It varies, but many countries require at least one or two blank pages.

How long does it take to get a visa?

Visa processing times vary by country and type but can range from a few days to several months.
About Author
Written by
Harlon Moss
Harlon is a seasoned quality moderator and accomplished content writer for Difference Wiki. An alumnus of the prestigious University of California, he earned his degree in Computer Science. Leveraging his academic background, Harlon brings a meticulous and informed perspective to his work, ensuring content accuracy and excellence.
Edited by
Janet White
Janet White has been an esteemed writer and blogger for Difference Wiki. Holding a Master's degree in Science and Medical Journalism from the prestigious Boston University, she has consistently demonstrated her expertise and passion for her field. When she's not immersed in her work, Janet relishes her time exercising, delving into a good book, and cherishing moments with friends and family.

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