What Is a Type-P Passport?

By Amy Curtis

Learn more about this type of passport

What Is a Type-P Passport?

The different types of passports are diplomatic passports, official and temporary passports, but what about a passport labeled “type P”? Does having a “P” on your passport mean you are restricted in your travel?

Type P passport

In fact, “P” just stands for “passport.” A traveler might be issued a regular passport or some other type, but you’ll see the P on all of them in two places. In fact, even the president of the United States has a P in these two places on his passport.

At the top of the page along with your photo, right under the heading that reads “United States of America,” you’ll see “Type” and under that, “P.” That doesn’t indicate a specific type of passport; it simply indicates the type of document. It’s document type “P,” or in other words, a passport.

The second place the P can be found is at the bottom of the same page. It’s under the photo on the left-hand side of the passport. Here, it’s followed by a string of letters and numbers, some with meanings that are obvious and some that may seem confusing.

Other codes and their meanings

Close examination of a passport reveals many different words, images, numbers and letters, because part of the document is read visually, and part is machine-read. The visual part is the top part of the page, and the machine-read part is the part at the bottom, beginning with the P. Next to the P is the code USA, which of course indicates that the document in question was issued by the government of the United States.

After USA comes the bearer’s name, and under that is a string of numbers. The numbers begin simply enough, with the passport number. Then you’ll see an extra digit, followed by USA again, then the bearer’s date of birth and another spare digit, then the gender, followed by the expiration date. After that you see a 10-digit code, and after that, another six-digit code.

Types of passports and travel documents – considerations

Most people have a regular passport, which is just a passport issued to a U.S. national. An official or employee of the United States government who needs to travel abroad for official purposes will receive an official passport, as will that person’s spouse and family members. A diplomatic passport is issued to a foreign service officer or someone with comparable diplomatic status. This might be a diplomat’s spouse or family member, or it might be an authorized government contractor. A passport card is like a regular passport, except it’s only valid for travel between the U.S., Mexico, Canada, the Caribbean and Bermuda.

A person can be issued a limited validity passport, but the limitation does not equate to travel restrictions; it just refers to the length of time for which the passport is issued. This limitation is placed on people undergoing a name or gender change or who are waiting for the replacement of a naturalization certificate. A limited validity passport also can be issued in an emergency situation, such as when someone loses a passport while traveling abroad. The only difference between a limited validity passport and a regular passport is that the former has an expiration date that’s for less than the usual validity period.

No matter what type of passport is issued, the way to tell them apart is much simpler than looking inside for a mysterious code. The answer is in their outward appearance. Regular passports have blue covers, while diplomatic covers are black and official brown. Passport cards are even easier to spot, because they’re exactly what they sound like – cards that resemble a driver’s license more than a passport.