Normally when you cross a border, the border guards check your passport in your view (i.e. the passport never becomes out-of-sight for the passport-holder).

But sometimes a guard comes, and takes the passport away to some other room, often with other passports collected from the group, to come back with them and give them back later. Which means that you have your passport out-of-sight for some time.

I do not like this. I vaguely remember I read somewhere about some laws which prohibit anyone to take the passport out-of-sight from the passport holder.

Do such laws exist, and in what jurisdictions, and possibly may I ask for a link to the code and/or more details about the law, which I can refer to if someone asks to take my passport out-of-sight?

2 Answers 2


Upsetting as it is, people will do this. And not just border officials. I was rushing to make a Canada-US connection, and had my passport in my hand with my boarding pass, when I came upon a TSA security point I wasn't expecting. The attendant asked for my boarding pass and when I held it towards her, grabbed everything out of my hand. Then she wouldn't give me back my passport. I stood in place and kept saying "you can have my boarding pass, but not my passport" and she kept saying "you can have it back on the other side". We were a line of 5-10 people who had a late incoming flight and were hurrying to make our connection, and she knew it. Finally she said "do you want to make a point, or do you want to catch your flight?" and furious, I went through, whereupon she gave it all back to me. I have no idea what the heck it was about, but I do know that if my passport had disappeared into her pocket while I walked through the metal detector, a thousand supervisors would have all said "oh no ma'am, our screeners never take passports, only boarding passes." Even knowing that, I gave up arguing because (a) I felt the chances were slim the screener was actually trying to steal my passport and more likely that English was her second language and she was misunderstanding my demand for the PASSport as the boarding PASS, or she was embarrassed to have made a mistake and was digging her heels in to cover the error and (b) I hoped my fellow passengers had all witnessed the incident and would help me get my passport back or whatever might need to happen if she had kept it. Similarly I think in most of the cases where people take your passport away, they will bring it back. Most.

Whenever I have needed a visa-at-the-border or anything more complex than lining up at a counter and being stamped on the spot, the passport has sometimes gone out of the room. I have always got it back. If there are laws, I don't see how they could be binding. That is, if one particular country passes as law that says "our passports can't be out of sight of their owners", how will they ensure that other countries follow that law?

I really hate leaving my passport with hotels etc (and don't understand what the purpose of the practice is) and have had reasonable success just saying "no thankyou" as though they were just offering to keep it safe, or "thankyou, but I need to bring it with me to my meeting in the morning". Not 100% success, but enough that it's my usual behaviour to keep it rather than leave it.


No, officials are allowed to do so. They sometimes need to take your passport to check for false passports.

In case of a law suit against you, they are even allowed to confiscate your passport for a longer period. It is a mechanism to keep you in the country. The recent example of this practice was with Dominique Strauss-Kahn in the USA.

Having said that, in the case of my passport, it is written that I am only allowed to hand my passports over to officials. So giving my passports to hotel receptionists for example is clearly forbidden. Maybe you were thinking of these laws?

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    So what can be done to force them to check the passport in my view, and not disappear with it? When the officials disappear with it, they can try to extort a bribe by holding the passport ransom, or just say "We don't have your passport and now what you'll do?"
    – user829
    Nov 1, 2011 at 10:07
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    You can merely say - where my passport goes, I go too. Or offer a photocopy of it - a common practice among backpackers in Central Asia where corrupt officials sometimes want a bribe to give the passport back...
    – Mark Mayo
    Nov 1, 2011 at 11:06
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    @Mark. " where my passport goes, I go too". You can say that, but making it happen is another thing altogether.
    – gef05
    Nov 1, 2011 at 12:01
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    Yeah I meant to add 'sometimes that works'. It worked for me in Kyrgyzstan, but not in Jordan, for example.
    – Mark Mayo
    Nov 1, 2011 at 12:11
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    @miernik The thing is you can also be detained, interrogated without anyone explaining precisely why, be sent back to your country, etc. Generally speaking, you don't enjoy much legal protection when crossing borders and things much worse than losing sight of your passport for a few seconds can happen. Your main option is not trying to cross a border.
    – Relaxed
    Sep 12, 2013 at 13:49

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