Difference Between Passport and Visa

difference between passport and visa

This is, without any doubt, one of the questions that those wishing to leave their country most ask. Which is the difference between visa and passport? Are they the same? When do I need each of them?

In this article you will learn the main difference between both, and when will one be more useful than the other. If you are going to travel abroad (for whatever the reason) knowing what you will find out in this article is essential!

So let’s get started.

Here’s the root of the problem.

Both passport and visa share the same purpose, and that is what generates the vast majority of doubts.

They are required for travelling abroad. Without them, it would not be possible.

Moreover, both serve to identify the individual: they are identity documents.

The difference lies in 1. who is in charge of issuing each document and who requires it, and 2. their specific purpose.

In the following sections, we are going to explain these two differences and other relevant information you should really know.

Do you have any doubts? Get in touch with our immigration lawyers and receive personalized legal advice and all your doubts solved:


A passport is an identity card issued by the country of origin or that country of which we are nationals.

Its purpose is very simple: as it is an individual document, it identifies the citizen when he or she travels abroad, and even works the same way within the national territory.

In other words, it is a document that has international validity and that is necessary to leave the country to travel anywhere in the world.

One of the main differences with a visa is its format. It is a small booklet, usually colored dark red or dark blue.

In Spain, it is issued by the “Jefaturas Superiores y Comisarías de Policía”.

It is valid for 5 years until the age of 30, and then it is extended to 10 years. Once this period has expired, it can be easily renewed by paying a fee.

Why do you need it?

As we have mentioned, a passport allows you to travel to any other country in the world.

In that sense, it is important to know that the Spanish passport (and according to Passportindex) is one of the most powerful in the world since it allows you to enter 166 states without the need to apply for a visa.

Among these countries there you can destinations such as Mexico, Japan, Argentina, or Thailand.

You can find the complete list here.

How to get your passport

The first requirement to obtain a Spanish passport is getting nationality or directly being a national of the country (as then it is your right to be given one).

That is to say, because you have been in Spain for a few years with your residence permit, you cannot yet apply for a passport: you must apply for citizenship first.

Once you have it, getting a passport is a simple process.

The first thing you have to do is to get an appointment with any police office nearby.

You can get an appointment online here.

You will need to bring your valid ID or NIE, a recent ID photo, and pay the corresponding fee. You will be given your document right there!

In the case of a passport, this fee is 30 euros, which you must pay in cash.


On the other hand, we find the visa.

A visa is a document that allows you to enter a country other than your own.

That is, after you apply to the country you want to travel to, they will approve it and accept your request (while you are still in your home country). This will allow the border authorities to verify that you can enter.

In short, it is the equivalent of a permit authorizing you to reside for a certain period of time in a foreign country; allowing entry, stay, or temporary residence.

Therefore, and unlike a passport, a visa is necessary for the country of destination to identify you. It will be the decision of the destination territory to grant it or not, since they are the ones who regulate the entry of foreigners.

Its duration ranges from 3 months to 1 year, depending on the visa type.

For example, a tourist visa has a maximum duration of 90 days, while a residence visa can reach up to 365.

Another important difference is its format. In this case, the visa is usually a stamp that is placed inside the passport.

However, we also find cases where it consists of a card with a photograph and a visa number.

How it works with third countries

Visas work through agreements with third countries on a reciprocal basis.

That is, each country has bilateral agreements with other countries to avoid both populations requiring visas to move between their borders.

As you know, getting this document is a bit of a tedious task. So it is a great advantage to be able to save time by not requiring this procedure.

Let’s see this with an example so that this reciprocity concept is properly understood.

Let’s take the relationship between Spain and Japan. In this case, Spanish citizens do not need a visa to enter Japan. And since it is a reciprocal relationship, Japanese citizens will not need a visa to enter Spain either.

It’s as simple as that!

And this works in the same way with any other country with which nations have an analog relationship.

Would you like to know if your country requires a visa to enter Spain? Here you will find a complete list with all the nationalities that don’t need one to enter.

How to get your visa

In order to get your visa in Spain, you will have to go through the application process while still in your home country.

This process will vary according to the type of visa you want, being more or less easy accordingly.

For example, getting a tourist visa is something you can do in one morning; while a temporary residence visa is much more complex.

In this article you can find the different visas and how to get each one of them, in which you will find detailed information.

But if you still have doubts, our team of immigration lawyers is at your complete disposal.

Get in touch with our lawyers and let us guide you step by step:

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difference between passport and visa

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