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In the later part of the nineteenth century and up to World War I, passports were not required, on the whole, for travel within Europe, and crossing a border was a relatively straightforward procedure.Consequently, comparatively few people held passports. During World War I, European governments introduced border passport requirements for security reasons, and to control the emigration of people with useful skills.For example, stateless persons are not normally issued a national passport, but may be able to obtain a refugee travel document or the earlier "Nansen passport" which enables them to travel to countries which recognise the document, and sometimes to return to the issuing country.Passports are often requested in other circumstances to confirm identification such as checking in to a hotel or when changing money to a local currency.One of the earliest known references to paperwork that served in a role similar to that of a passport is found in the Hebrew Bible.Nehemiah 2:7-9, dating from approximately 450 BC, states that Nehemiah, an official serving King Artaxerxes I of Persia, asked permission to travel to Judea; the king granted leave and gave him a letter "to the governors beyond the river" requesting safe passage for him as he traveled through their lands.The passport's critical information is stored on a tiny RFID computer chip, much like information stored on smartcards.
A passport holder is normally entitled to enter the country that issued the passport, though some people entitled to a passport may not be full citizens with right of abode.
Many countries normally allow entry to holders of passports of other countries, sometimes requiring a visa also to be obtained, but this is not an automatic right.
Many other additional conditions, such as not being likely to become a public charge for financial or other reasons, and the holder not having been convicted of a crime, may apply.
These controls remained in place after the war, becoming a standard, though controversial, procedure.
British tourists of the 1920s complained, especially about attached photographs and physical descriptions, which they considered led to a "nasty dehumanization".
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Historically, legal authority to issue passports is founded on the exercise of each country's executive discretion (or Crown prerogative). Arkelian have argued that evolutions in both the constitutional law of democratic countries and the international law applicable to all countries now render those historical tenets both obsolete and unlawful.