File No. 138/48a

The Secretary of State to the American Diplomatic and Consular Officers



Gentlemen: In confirmation of the Department’s recent telegraphic instructions1 to diplomatic and certain consular officers concerning the preparation of applications for Departmental and emergency passports, and the issuance of the latter, the following instructions are given for your guidance. These instructions are prescribed in pursuance of the passport regulations signed by the President November 13, 1914.


Conditions precedent to the granting of a passport are, under the law and rules prescribed by authority of the law, that the citizenship of the applicant, his identity, and, as a rule, his permanent residence in the United States and definite intention to return to it, with the purpose of performing the duties of citizenship, shall satisfactorily be established. (See circular instruction of July 26, 1910, entitled “Protection of native Americans residing abroad,”2 and circular instruction of April 19, 1907, entitled “Expatriation,”3 as amended by circular instruction of May 14, 1908.4 Exceptions to the later condition may be made in some cases by special direction of the Department, particularly in cases of persons residing abroad as representatives of American trade and commerce and as missionaries of American church organizations.

The applicant should, if possible, be introduced by a reputable person known to the office which takes the application, or, if this is impossible, he should be required to identify himself by satisfactory documentary evidence. In doubtful cases references to persons in this country should be required, so that the Department may make proper inquiries concerning the applicants.

Emergency passports and consular registration certificates should not be accepted as conclusive evidence of citizenship. In this relation [Page 729] it may be observed that in some cases such documents have been issued hastily and without proper examination into the citizenship and identity of the applicants, especially during the period immediately following the outbreak of the present European war.


In taking the passport application of a person alleging native citizenship, you should require the applicant to submit a birth certificate, if possible, or letters or other documents satisfactorily establishing his citizenship. The nature of the evidence submitted to you must be stated in the passport application.


A person claiming citizenship by naturalization must be required to submit his certificate of naturalization or a certified copy of the court record thereof, or an old passport issued by the Department, and his passport application must state the name of the court in which he obtained naturalization and the date thereof. If any such person is unable to submit such documentary evidence of his naturalization, you should inform the Department of the name of the court in which he alleges that he obtained naturalization and the date thereof, so that the Department may take steps to verify his allegation.


Each applicant for a passport must submit triplicate unmounted photographs of himself on thin paper, not larger than three by three inches in size, one to be attached to each of his applications by the officer before whom they are executed, and the third to be attached to the passport and to be partly stamped with an impression of the seal of the issuing office.

An application forwarded to the Department for a regular passport must necessarily be accompanied by a loose photograph of the applicant in addition to the one attached to the application, so that the former may be attached to the passport, with an impression of the Department’s seal.


Each application must state the names of the countries which the applicant expects to visit and the object of the visit. The statement concerning the object of the applicant’s visit should be general in form, thus: “Commercial business,” “health,” “study,” “visiting relatives,” “recreation,” “settling an estate,” etc.

With reference to the statement, “commercial business,” you are instructed that no mention should be made of the exact nature of the business in which the applicant is engaged; that is, it would be improper to state the name or names of the concerns which the applicant represents or the nature of the goods which he expects to purchase or sell. (The form of the statement written upon the faces of the passports is quoted below.)

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Diplomatic and consular officers authorized to issue emergency passports should exercise the greatest caution in doing so, and should require of each applicant unquestionable evidence of his citizenship and identity. A photograph of the applicant should be attached to the passport (in the upper left-hand corner) with an impression of the seal of the issuing office, which should be so placed as partly to cover one side but not the features. The following statement should be made upon the face of the passport (in the upper right-hand corner):

The person to whom this passport is issued has declared under oath that he desires it for use in visiting the countries hereinafter named, for the following objects:

(name of country) (object of visit)
(name of country) (object of visit)
(name of country) (object of visit)

This passport is not valid for use in other countries except for necessary transit to or from the countries named.

Rubber stamps should be used in making the above form of statement.

When an American citizen, sojourning abroad and holding a passport limited for use in certain countries, finds it necessary to visit another country, not mentioned therein, he may turn in the passport which he holds at the American embassy, legation, or consulate authorized to issue emergency passports in the country where he is sojourning, and obtain an emergency passport limited for use in the particular trip which he has in view. Upon his return, he may surrender such emergency passport and recover the passport which he previously held. It is not proper for one person to hold two valid passports.

In the issuance of emergency passports under the conditions just mentioned the same rules should be observed as in the issuance of emergency passports in general.


American citizens holding valid passports issued prior to these regulations should be notified, through the press or otherwise, to present themselves to a diplomatic or consular office within two weeks, if possible, so that their passports may be amended to conform with the new passport regulations. The Department has reason to believe that there are some persons abroad holding emergency, and perhaps Departmental, passports to which they are not entitled. Therefore, when a passport is presented to you for amendment in accordance with the new regulations, you should examine the holder carefully and require him to submit the same evidence of his citizenship [Page 731] and identity which would be required of him were he making an original application for a passport. If any holder of a passport appears to be not entitled to it, you should retain the passport, investigate the case, and inform the Department fully of the pertinent facts and your conclusions.

All holders of emergency passports who expect to continue their residence abroad for a considerable period, should be notified to apply forthwith for regular Departmental passports.

W. J. Bryan
  1. Not printed.
  2. Foreign Relations, 1910, p. 1.
  3. Ibid., 1907, p. 3.
  4. Ibid., 1908, p. 2.