Vhahangwele Nemakonde
Digital Journalist
2 minute read
20 Jan 2016
11:49 am

What exactly is a world passport?

Vhahangwele Nemakonde

Mkuseli Apleni will today give details on matters related to the arrest of Mos Def and the world passport.

Image courtesy stockxchnge.com

Yasiin Bey, popularly known as Mos Def, was arrested last week for allegedly travelling with a fraudulent passport. The rapper however, has expressed confusion as to why he was arrested when he had a world passport in his possession.

“I’ve committed no crime/ Why’s the state wasting my time/ They must be out of their minds,” Bey raps, later adding, “This is not an expression of fear/ This is just to make things clear/ My intentions are pure in coming here.”

Bey and his family have since been given 14 days to leave the country after violating immigration laws. Regarding Yasiin Bey’s claim of the world passport’s validity, Home Affairs ministerial spokesperson Mayihlome Tshwete said: “We shouldn’t entertain the notion that SA is a banana republic, we are careful of sending the message that some people are above the laws of the country.”

Tshwete argued South Africa had “the most liberal immigration laws”, particularly for people who are seeking protection from persecution.

Mos Def’s arrest has raised questions about the world passport and what exactly it does for the person of it.

Director General in the Department of Home Affairs, Mkuseli Apleni Department will on Wednesday afternoon provide more details on matters related to the arrest of Mos Def.

What exactly is a world passport?

According to the World Service Authority (WSA), a world passport is a 30-page machine readable travel document with alphanumeric code line, its own unique number and a passport photo. The WSA, based in Washington DC, United States, issues the document in the interests of protecting “the right to leave any country, including his own, and to return to his country”.

The world passport does look a lot like a regular, national passport, except it’s printed in seven languages: English, French, Spanish, Russian, Arabic, Chinese and Esperanto. While you don’t have to renounce your national citizenship, you do have to sign a statement saying you understand the world passport’s limitations. 

Can you use a world passport for international travel?

Yes, but it depends on where you’re going. Tshwete firmly stated the world passport had no validity in South Africa. “Our law doesn’t recognise the world passport,” he said. According to the World Service Authority, more than 150 countries have accepted the document at least once. Six more countries have provided the WSA with a formal letter of recognition of the world passport, most recently Tanzania in 1995. (The others to grant it official status are Burkina Faso, Ecuador, Mauritania, Togo, and Zambia.