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Background: I need a list of countries which still have valid passports attached to them for a project. I don't know, what to do about countries that no longer exist, however.

Which defunct countries' passports are still valid? That is in the hypothetical situation that a passport was issued on the day a country became defunct when will the last passport for that country become invalid?

Defunct country here means:

  • country was annexed or formed a union with another one (e.g. the German Democratic Republic joined the Federal Republic of Germany)
  • or country broke up into constituents (e.g. the Soviet Union or Czechoslovakia)
  • or a simple country name change (e.g. Zaire to Democratic Republic of the Congo or F. Y. R. of Macedonia into North Macedonia)

Situations like Yugoslavia (most other republics leaving the federation) or Ethiopia (independence of Eritrea) can likely be ignored count as there is a clear main successor state which carried/carries on the name.

Are there instances, where the passports became invalid instantly? I.e. none of the successor states accepted the old passports for any length of time as a travel document.

Otherwise, I assume that passports could just stay valid until their validity at the date of issuing expires.

Edit regarding the meaning of passport validity for this question: The passport must be usable as a travel document.

Please also disregard countries which are/were never (nearly) universally accepted (Abkhazia, South Ossetia, Transnistria, Kosovo, Western Sahara, etc.) or which have again undecided status (Taiwan/RoC). This is not about the political question of recognizing countries as independent.

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    I’m voting to close this question because it's not a question about travel – user105640 Jun 29 '20 at 19:48
  • Seems like this would be better posted on one of the sibling Stack Exchange sites, such as Law, or Politics, or History.. – Basil Bourque Jul 1 '20 at 0:56
  • Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. – Willeke Jul 1 '20 at 15:48
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    The question is also about due process. Somehow other countries have to know how these documents look like and how long a series is valid. Countries maintain documents databases. Prado is for countries of the European Union since 1999. Here an entry for a driver's licence issued by East Germany, which is still valid, but only until 2025. – Mark Johnson Jul 1 '20 at 15:52
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This scenario is definitely possible. For example, the Soviet Union broke up in 1991, but continued to issue passports until 1997, with 5-year validity extending to 2002, over 10 years later.

However, I'm not aware of any current cases where this is possible, because machine-readable passport validity is limited to ten years and (AFAIK) no country has become defunct in the last ten years. The last country to become independent was South Sudan in 2011, but Sudan did not cease to exist. There have also been some renamings like North Macedonia, with citizens using a mix of old and new passports, but the country itself is the same political entity.

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  • @phoog Feel free to suggest an edit with better wording. The point here though is that Soviet passports indistinguishable from those previously issued continued to be issued after the dissolution, and were treated as Soviet (not Russian, Uzbek, etc) passports by other countries. – lambshaanxy Jul 3 '20 at 5:32
  • Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. – Willeke Jul 3 '20 at 8:07
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In general, if a country accepts another country's passport it is implicitly acknowledging the existence of that country. This is why sometimes the use of passports is a big issue in international relations.

The poster example would be the issues between the People's Republic of China and the Republic of China (Taiwan). You may travel from one to the other, but you cannot use a passport of one to enter the other, because officially they do not recognize each other. A citizen of one of those countries will use instead a "travel permit" that works like a passport but is not called a passport so it does not imply official recognition.

So you could say that, as long a country A accepts your "defunct" country B's passports, country B is not actually defunct (at least from country A's POV).

Of course, if the desapparition of the country is recent and sudden, maybe you will have many citizens of that country that only have the "old" passport, and for a time it can be exceptionally accepted on practical grounds. And usually the new country that succeeds it will hurry up to issue its own documents (if needed, just by stamping some seals on the old passports) to make it the new situation clear.

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    In principle, the new country could declare that the old documents should be regarded as if they had been reissued. In more extreme cases, the new country might consider itself the legal successor state, and insist that the documents never stopped being valid in the first place. The extent to which other countries recognize either of those behaviors will vary, of course. – Kevin Jun 30 '20 at 3:59
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    I don't think that mere acceptance of old documents constitutes acklowledging continued existence. It could be goodwill towards the former country's citizens and their new government (which generally has quite a few things to get in order, and might simply choose to accept old passports for a while - the period of which I am interested in.). PRC vs. RoC is a touchy subject, where de facto and de jure status of these polities is not yet universally agreed upon. – Chieron Jun 30 '20 at 20:10
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Passports and ID cards of the German Democratic Republic, that were generally valid for 10 years, became invalid after the 31st of December 1995 (more than 60 months after the reunification).

DDR Reisepass, 1989-11-23

At the end of January 1995, general announcements were made making people aware of this, so that a timely exchange could be made.

Personalausweise und Reisepässe der ehemaligen DDR verlieren Ende dieses Jahres ihre Gültigkeit. Das Potsdamer Innenministerium wies am Freitag darauf hin, daß die betroffenen Bürger möglichst bald bei den Einwohnermeldeämtern neue Dokumente beantragen sollten, um mögliche lange Wartezeiten gegen Jahresende zu vermeiden. Die Gebühren für einen neuen Personalausweis betragen 10, für den Euro-Paß 30 Mark.

Identity cards and passports of the former GDR are no longer valid at the end of this year. The Potsdam Ministry of the Interior announced on Friday that the citizens concerned should apply for new documents as soon as possible from the residents' registration offices in order to avoid long waiting times towards the end of the year. The fees for a new ID card are 10 marks, for the Euro passport 30 marks.

An ID card issued in Berlin (West), which were different than those issued in West Germany, remained valid until they expired.

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  • Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. – JonathanReez Jun 30 '20 at 21:03
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    The term usually used is reunification, not reunion ;) – Polygnome Jul 1 '20 at 10:01
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The order of Malta does not control any territory any longer, (It is definitely not controlling Malta) but it still issues passport which are accepted by at least 110 countries and territorials

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sovereign_Military_Order_of_Malta_passport

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    The Order of Malta is one of the two sovereign entities recognized by the Un that do not have territory - the Holy See being the other one. Its definitely not "defunct", just an oddity of a sovereign entity that doesn't have territory. – Polygnome Jul 1 '20 at 9:59
  • @Polygnome the Holy See has just under a square kilometer of territory. In fact, the Holy See and the SMOM are even in different UN observer categories: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_Nations_General_Assembly_observers – phoog Jul 2 '20 at 22:23
  • @phoog The Vatican has territory, not the Holy See. But the Holy See governs the Vatican. Its somewhat complicated. c.f. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Holy_See#Status_in_international_law "The fact that the Holy See is a non-territorial institution is no longer regarded as a reason for denying it international personality. [...]". – Polygnome Jul 2 '20 at 22:35
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Another example: Hong Kong is no longer a British territory, but the British National (Overseas) passport is still valid despite its associated entity "British Hong Kong" being defunct.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/British_National_(Overseas)_passport

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I think it would go against the concept of a passport for it to be valid after the existence of the state itself. In its most basic sense, a passport is a request for someone to be granted passage through another state. See the Wikipedia article on passports. If the country ceases to exist, then its request for passage would as well.

For example, my Canadian passport reads:

The Minister of Foreign Affairs of Canada requests, in the name of Her Majesty the Queen, all those whom it may concern to allow the bearer to pass freely, without delay or hindrance, and to afford the bearer such assistance and protection as may be necessary.

Other countries have similar requests.

Now, could its passports still be accepted by some other countries? Perhaps. But I don't think any would be "valid".

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    Isn't "accepted" that what the questioner means? – guest Jun 29 '20 at 20:49
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    Since the introduction of the 'International' Passport in the 1920's, when a basic standard was first agreed to, the passport cover defined the purpose of the document. The statement you quoted is often found in Anglo-Saxon passports, but not in those of most other countries (at least those of continental Europe). If the new country states that they will treat the passport of the defunct country as their own until they are replaced (or a specific timeframe), then there is no practical reason (i.e. non political) for others to consider the document invalid. – Mark Johnson Jun 30 '20 at 12:01
  • Technically, passports could be counted as invalidated instantly. However, that is extremely disruptive, hence my assumption that there will generally be a grace period where old documents are still considered valid - see also the other answers. – Chieron Jun 30 '20 at 20:04
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    @Chieron And Mark Johnson presents an example above: the successor country Germany apparently recognized previously-issued passports from the defunct DDR until the end of 1995, in spite of the DDR having gone out of business in 1990. – DavidSupportsMonica Jun 30 '20 at 22:06

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