Visa vs. Passport: Learn The Differences

The photo shows a blue US passport and a visa to enter Canada, next to the title of the post “Visa vs Passport” on a yellow background.

According to Statista, nearly 45 millions of US residents decided to travel abroad in the year prior to the pandemic, a figure that will hopefully be reached again in the coming years. 

Before traveling overseas, some of them may have appreciated clarification on whether they need a visa, a passport, or both.

Read the visa vs. passport comparison below and find 19 differences between these documents to get to know if a visa is the same as a passport, or why someone would need a visa with their passport.

Moreover, readers will learn about Passport Photo Online, a highly-acclaimed app, downloaded by more than 1 million people, to generate fully government-compliant pictures if willing to apply for a visa or passport soon.

Passport vs. visa: 19 differences

Knowing the difference between a passport and a visa might require knowledge of legal or international travel aspects.

*We refer to US passport books only. Passports issued by a different country may differ.

Difference #1: purpose

A US passport is used to travel abroad and as a means of identification, whereas a visa is a permit of entry to particular countries asking for authorization such as Brazil, China, India, or Russia.

Two charts show the main difference between a visa and a US passport.

Difference #2: appearance

A passport includes the holder’s photo, name, address, date, and place of birth, as well as blank pages for travel stamps. A visa is an endorsement placed within a passport book.

Difference #3: issuance

Passports are issued by the US Department of State, while visas are issued by the destination country’s immigration service, usually represented by a consulate or embassy. 

Difference #4: candidates

A visa is issued to US citizens wishing to visit, study, or do business in a foreign country. A US passport is issued to nationals or candidates who wish to become US citizens.

Difference #5: travel destination

US nationals may visit Canada, Mexico or many Caribbean islands without a passport if taking a closed-loop cruise, but a passport will be required to leave the US in all other circumstances. In addition, a visa may be required for travel to specific destinations that require an entry permit for US passport holders.

Difference #6: return trip

Unlike a visa, a passport is always required to return to the United States (it is requested at border controls and from airline employees).

Difference #7: travel limitations

US passport holders have the right to travel to more than 100 visa-free countries. In the case of a visa, a person can travel to the country issuing the visa exclusively.

Difference #8: number of travels

People can enjoy unlimited travels if they own a valid passport. A visa allows travelers to do a single or multiple visits (depending on the destination country).

Difference #9: expiration date

The years of validity of a US passport are 10 (ten) years for adults, 5 (five) years for people under 16 years of age. The passport holder can find the expiration date on the passport’s personal data page. The expiration of a visa depends upon the country and its type. It can be valid for 14 days, 1-6 months or even a few years. To know the expiration date of a visa, check the stamp.

Difference #10: format

The passport is a physical document (booklet or card), while the visa can be: 

  • stamped on a page of the passport before traveling;
  • electronically attached to the passport book;
  • in printed form in the case of a visa on arrival.

Difference #11: independence

US citizens can fly to many destinations with a valid passport without a visa in it. Applicants always need a passport (including blank pages) to get a visa though.

Difference #12: who may ask for it?

When traveling, officials at border control or the airline employees can ask for a passport. In the case of a visa, only immigration officials at the destination country can ask for it.

Difference #13: lack of documentation

Officials at border control can deny both entry or exit if the traveler doesn’t bring a passport. If they don’t bring a visa, it is immigration control at the destination country who can deny their entry and only in case the country requires a visa.

Difference #14: requirements

The requirements for a US passport are steady (source by the US Department of State) while each country sets its own requirements to issue a visa.

Difference #15: application process

US citizens can apply for a passport online or in person. The visa application form and process depend on the country.

Difference #16: interview

An interview is not part of the passport application process. Applicants are required to fill out the form and attach documents, such as a passport photo. To apply for a visa, an interview may be required.

Difference #17: price

The price of a visa is to be determined by the country, while the price for a passport is fixed and indicated in the next list.

Passport book for the first time (≥16 years old)US$165
Passport book for the first time (<16 years old)US$135
Passport book renewalUS$130
Passport card for childrenUS$50
Passport card for adultsUS$65

Check the following post for more details about the price of a US passport

Difference #18: where to apply for it?

Those willing to apply for a passport can do it at a passport facility, agency, or embassy near them. To be issued a visa, get in contact with the corresponding embassy, consulate, or diplomatic representatives of the given country.

Difference #19: when to apply for it?

US passport holders can apply for a renewal when the expiration date is less than 12 (twelve) months. First time passport applicants can get a passport whenever they wish, as it’s not mandatory to have one. Transit visas may be filed before or upon entering the destination, depending on the country’s requirements.


The 14 Best Places to Travel Without a Passport for US Citizens

Passport Photo Online: get a passport or visa photo in the blink of an eye

Passport Photo Online, an online photo application, is featured by National Geographic, Forbes, or Glamour among others. It’s also reviewed with 4.5 stars on TrustPilot

Download it now from the App Store or Google Play.

The app provides users with the following:

  • unlimited tries to take a photo;
  • chance to take it from any place, you only need to make sure the lighting is appropriate;
  • guarantee of validity or 200% money back guarantee. This is the perfect solution for emergency situations or while staying abroad;
  • AI system capable of detecting the most minor errors;
  • professional double check by a human;
  • easiness for babies, kids, seniors, or persons with disabilities;
  • automatic edit.
a young blonde woman takes an ID photo with Passport Photo Online. Below, instructions on how the app works.


Find common questions to extend your knowledge of the difference between a passport and a visa.

Is a passport a visa?

No, a visa and a passport are not the same things. A US passport is an international travel document and a visa is a permit to enter a specific country. Read the full text to get more information.

What is a visa for a passport?

A visa is an endorsement placed in the corresponding pages of a passport and works as an entry permit to travel to those countries that may require extra documentation besides a US passport.

What is the difference between a visa and a passport?

A visa works only as a permit of entry to foreign countries that require one. A US passport is an identification and travel document that may be used to travel to more than 100 countries.

Is a visa cheaper than a passport?

A visa is not necessarily cheaper than a passport. Prices for a visa vary depending on the country the individual is planning to travel to, the type of visa (travel visa, student visa, etc.), and even the nationality. The price for a passport is fixed though.

Do I need a visa if I have a passport?

If US citizens already have a passport, they may need to issue a visa now, depending on the country they plan to visit. Most Caribbean, Central, South American, and European countries do not require US passport holders to hold a visa, while China, Turkey, Thailand, Russia, and many others do.

Is a passport better than a visa?

Yes. A passport is required when traveling to any foreign country, a visa is not.

Does a visa count as a passport?

No. A visa is not a passport, but to be issued one, you must have a passport.

Do passports come with a visa?

No, US passports come with blank pages for visa stamps. A visa must be issued independently and by the corresponding immigration representative of the destination country.

Do all passports have a visa?

No, US travelers must apply for a visa independently.

Why would someone need a visa with their passport?

Someone may need a visa as particular countries require foreigners an authorization in order to enter their territory.

Differences between a passport and a visa: summary

Here you go, a complete list of differences between passports and visas that will help you plan your international trips.

And before you apply for any of these documents, Passport Photo Online can help you speed up the process by taking a biometric photo anytime and wherever you like.

Rate my article:

Average rating 4.8 / 5. Vote count: 22

No votes so far! Be the first to rate this post.