Watching the recent return of Scott Kelly, Mikhail Korniyenko and Sergey Volkov from the International Space Station in a Soyuz capsule got me to wondering about visas and passports.

Do the astronauts and cosmonauts need to keep their passports with them?

Do they need special visas and would they receive entry and exit stamps for arriving from space, or would they get a single entry stamp in the days before launch and a single exit on returning home after landing?

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    Baring an emergency, space craft tend to land in the same country they departed from, so passports are not an issue today. If an emergency forces them to land in another country, then most countries have procedures for dealing with such landings. If the plan is to land in another country, then likely the two governments have already worked out the "immigration" aspects.
    – user13044
    Commented Mar 3, 2016 at 9:01
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    Also previously people have gone up in the shuttle and down in the Soyuz, so it's an interesting and valid question.
    – Mark Mayo
    Commented Mar 3, 2016 at 11:30
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    @jpatokal this reminds me of the 'can I travel with gold' questions, hence a downvote
    – JonathanReez
    Commented Mar 3, 2016 at 13:42
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    @ptityeti - that would depend on that country's definition of leaving. If you flew onboard a Russian spacecraft to a space station jointly maintained by Russia, have you left Russia or simply taken a "domestic" flight? One could use Antarctica as a reference, do people from Australia flying to the Australia run research station in Antarctica require visas or exit stamps?
    – user13044
    Commented Mar 4, 2016 at 1:07
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    @boroxun The video is illuminating, but that isn't what it says. It says that the astronauts carry passports in order to enter Kazakstan when arriving from and departing to the USA, not from/to space.
    – Calchas
    Commented Nov 10, 2016 at 11:46

2 Answers 2


Astronauts don't take the passport during the space travel, but diplomats of country of origin or the space agency will carry the passport, and bring them where the passport will be needed (e.g. for emergency landing), or back to Kazakhstan for regular landing.

Landing in foreign state is not a huge issue, it is the same as an emergency landing with a plane on a third country (with ev. a detour to find ground). Just probably you are not free to move without a proper passport (and eventually visa). But also in this case, consolar service will help the astronaut, and probably they can recognise the astronaut without need much of bureaucracy.

Ok, it is a big issue for the country of the space vehicle: they should pay for any damage and rescue, but most importantly they would like to keep secret the technologies.

  • This answer would be better with citations/references. Commented Nov 11, 2016 at 13:53
  • I'll check. For now I don'g find it anymore. But I think I read it directly from NASA or ESA (on websites or youtube channels) Commented Nov 29, 2016 at 12:00

The Apollo 11 astronauts had to clear customs when they arrived back from the moon. and declare their 'cargo' of moon rock and dust samples.

According to NASA spokespeople it's genuine, but it was a bit of a joke at the time.

  • Interesting reading there. It mentions at the end of the article that "The[y] do have a government passport, but they do have to go through customs". Does this mean that given they have a government passport there will be no visa as such to worry about? How does this apply if the traveller is not state-sponsored?
    – Dezza
    Commented Mar 3, 2016 at 20:27
  • Stands to reason they would have to declare their cargo, since they landed somewhere outside the USA and brought home some souvenirs.
    – user13044
    Commented Mar 4, 2016 at 1:11
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    @Dezza - The Apollo astronauts likely had Official Passports, same as are given to State Department staff and other government employees, since in those days landing at a specific spot was not very easy. These passports are usually given visa free entry, though some countries have restrictions or additional paperwork required.
    – user13044
    Commented Mar 4, 2016 at 1:16
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    @Calchas - the article quoted mentioned that they did have passports.
    – user13044
    Commented Nov 10, 2016 at 11:38
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    @Tom It doesn't say they brought their passports into space though. From the article, "As part of their routine airline flights to other countries and back, they of course encounter airport customs. The[y] do have a government passport, but they do have to go through customs, NASA spokesperson Nicole Cloutier-Lemasters told SPACE.com." In the video that is linked in the question comments, the astronaut suggests the ground staff hold onto their passports, which makes a lot more sense.
    – Calchas
    Commented Nov 10, 2016 at 11:42

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