What is ‘passport privilege’? Creators with complicated travel documents explain on TikTok

Content creators have taken to TikTok to discuss so-called passport privilege, and the challenges those who lack it encounter when they travel.

On June 12, Ghada (@gha.ibr), an Egyptian-Pakistani creator based in Istanbul, posted a video about a recent conversation she overheard between a Turkish citizen and an American citizen while having dinner in Budva, Montenegro.

“People with passport privilege have no idea what the rest of the world has to go through to get visas and to travel,” she begins. “The Turkish guy is complaining about how he keeps getting denied a visa to visit Europe and how difficult it is for him to travel — and without missing a beat, the American guy says, ‘Well, why don’t you just buy a beach house here in Montenegro. Maybe that will help your process.'”

Passport privilege is determined as one’s ability to travel the world freely based on the type of passport they have.

“Depending on which country you hold a passport in, your passport’s power will either be determined as strong or weak,” the Jetset Times says. “The type of passport you hold dictates your ability to travel to each individual country and sovereign nation. The power in your passport is determined, ultimately, by the number of destinations you can travel to visa-free (or by visa-on-arrival.) Without this ability you must apply for a visa in advance.”

The process of obtaining a visa can range in complexity and length of time, and consists of “applications, collecting documentations, scheduling appointments, in-person interviews at the closest embassy, various fees and even writing a ‘letter of request’ in some countries.”

On June 23, Joudi Nox (@joudinox), a Lebanon-born creator who isn’t recognized as a citizen of the country, opened up about her own challenges in obtaining a passport. Attempting to validate her citizenship has been both demoralizing and confusing for her.

Nox’s grandfather on her dad’s side is originally from Palestine but came to Lebanon when the country was being invaded. He met Nox’s grandmother at a refugee camp, and eventually, her dad was born on in Lebanon.

“And so it happens that my dad met my mom in Lebanon and my mom is full Lebanese,” she explains. “And Lebanese doesn’t have the rules that women can give nationalities to their children, so I was born and my mom cannot give me the Lebanese nationality and the government does not want me to get the nationality just by being born in there.”

Lebanon isn’t the only country that discriminates against women and leaves children stateless. “Nationality laws in 24 countries worldwide prevent women from passing their nationality to their children on an equal basis with men,” according to the Global Campaign for Equal Nationality Rights.

“The current law discriminates against women married to foreigners, their children, and spouses, by denying citizenship to the children and spouses,” says the Human Rights Watch. “The law affects almost every aspect of the children’s and spouses’ lives, including legal residency and access to work, education, social services, and health care. It leaves some children at risk of statelessness. Lebanon should end all forms of discrimination against Lebanese women, their children, and spouses in the nationality law.”

As a result, Nox has a travel document that looks like a passport but does not function as one.

“People are so confused because my document is Lebanese but it says my citizenship is Palestinian, but I’m never allowed to go to Palestine and I have no affiliation with that country because there’s no embassy to protect me or to go there,” she says. “In airports, people are so confused when they see my document and sometimes they don’t believe me.”

‘The fact that ‘stateless’ people exist is ridiculous. I’m sorry you have to go through this.’

TikTok users have taken to Nox’s comments to empathize with her struggles.

“It’s wild to me that some countries don’t let you inherit either/both your parents citizenship,” @psychlopic replied.

“This is so unnecessary what we have done with the world. We’re all citizens of the world! We should all have the right to go anywhere,” @lachuzany commented.

“The fact that ‘stateless’ people exist is ridiculous,” @ronnie.og wrote. “I’m sorry you have to go through this.”

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