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Every Passport Has A Story

Despite this huge unfairness, because nobody chooses a particular passport at birth, some people have to go through it.

Story by Fortunat Miarintsoa Andrianimanana
Madagascar, Eastern Africa
Published on April 11, 2020

Reading time: 4 minutes

This story is also available in de es tr



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Your passport says a lot about you. Much more than your name(s) or your birthday. The three things the immigration officer will not fail to scrutinize are the visa(s) stuck on the pages, the expiration date of it and most importantly, the country that issued your passport. This simple information can make your life quite difficult and handicap your childhood dream of "free movement" around the world. But also the reverse. It just depends on which country has issued your passport. The truth is that if you are not yet raged about the passport you have; it is because you were born in the "right" country.

I remember the piles of documents I had to provide to the Spanish Embassy to come to Spain for my studies or the stressful interviews I had to pass to attend a conference in the UK or to visit the USA. Don't forget, the country that issued your passport determines the number of countries you are allowed to enter without a visa stamped in advance or on arrival. The more countries you can enter without a visa, the more “powerful” your passport is. Passports are annually ranked, which in 2020 highlights the passports of Japan, Singapore, South Korea, Germany, Italy, to only name a few, as the most “powerful passports” and the ones from Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Pakistan, Somalia, etc. as the weakest[1]. My Malagasy passport, for example, allows me to enter 55 countries without a visa. There is very little information on the reasons for the unequal value of passports. It is certainly the result of diplomatic and trade treaties between countries.

Obviously, the more powerful your passport is, the higher are your chances to circulating freely in the world, and hence, in my case, you will have to make a memorable bureaucratic journey to be able to get out of your homeland with your “weak” passport in the pocket. Despite this huge unfairness, because nobody chooses a particular passport at birth, some people have to go through it.

The higher the number of visa(s) stuck in a “weak passport”, the greater the chance the passport holder may have his visa granted as the embassy or consulate staff is aware that this person is less “eligible” for gone-for-ever travel. This is the strength of the number of visas stuck on your passport. Personally, I am allowed to enter some countries without a visa if I have a residence in European countries or the USA.

The “weak passport” holder will certainly be required to demonstrate the reason for his travels, his economic subsistence and his intention to return to the country of origin before leaving. In other words, the wealthier you are, the easier it is for you to be welcomed in another country. The passport is, therefore, the first filter of migration which favors “powerful passport” holders.

What your passport doesn’t tell about you, is your story. Or more precisely why you are showing your passport and asking for a visa. And unfortunately, this is the least of the concerns of the agents holding and handling your passport. Visiting a family member, who is dying in another country? Looking for shelter to escape endless wars in your own country? Or simply to gather with your lover? There are thousands of reasons that force us to leave our country for a while or forever.

With a little luck, you will be able to have the visa printed on your passport. But you’ll notice, the story of your passport depends on the country that issued it.


Footnotes

[1] Henley Passport Index 2020 (https://www.henleypassportindex.com/passport); Business Insider (https://www.businessinsider.com/best-passports-most-countries-no-visa-henley-index-2020-1);
Forbes: (https://www.forbes.com/sites/duncanmadden/2020/01/10/the-most-powerful-passports-in-the-world-in-2020/);
CNN (https://edition.cnn.com/travel/article/henley-index-world-best-passport-2020/index.html)


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Fortunat Miarintsoa Andrianimanana

Fortunat Miarintsoa Andrianimanana

I am a 27 years young Malagasy (no, there are no penguins in Madagascar). I am a convinced life enthusiast willing to always adjust the sails, enjoying at the moment the Barcelonean way of life.  When I am not investigating on internationally displaced people’s welfare or learning marketing strategy, you’ll find me listening to piano concertos or giving a (passionate) hug to someone somewhere.

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