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Nansen passports, officially stateless persons passports, were internationally recognized refugee travel documents from 1922 to 1938, first issued by the League of Nations to stateless refugees.[1] They quickly became known as "Nansen passports" for their promoter, the statesman and polar explorer Fridtjof Nansen.

Nansen passport
The front cover of a Nansen passport (green stripe)
Date first issued 1922
Issued by League of Nations
Type of document Passport
Purpose Identification
Eligibility requirements Stateless refugees
Expiration 1938



The first Nansen passports were issued following an international agreement reached at the Intergovernmental Conference on Identity Certificates for Russian Refugees, convened by Fridtjof Nansen in Geneva from July 3, 1922 to July 5, 1922[2] in his role as High Commissioner for Refugees for the League of Nations.[3] By 1942, they were honoured by governments in 52 countries. Approximately 450,000 Nansen passports were provided[4] to stateless people and refugees who needed travel documents but could not obtain one from a national authority.

The Nansen passport was originally provided to refugees from the Russian civil war. It is estimated that about 800,000 Russian refugees had become stateless when Lenin revoked citizenship for all Russian expatriates in 1921.[5]

In 1933, the arrangement was broadened to also include Armenian, Assyrian, and Turkish refugees.[6]

Following Nansen's death in 1930, the passport was handled by the Nansen International Office for Refugees within the League of Nations. At that point the passport no longer included a reference to the 1922 conference, but were issued in the name of the League. The office was closed in 1938; passports were thereafter issued by a new agency, the Office of the High Commissioner for Refugees under the Protection of the League of Nations in London.[7][8]

1927 British issued Nansen identity certificate, used for traveling to British Palestine, issued to a Russian Jewish refugee.
German NANSEN travel document 1938 used for the United Kingdom.
German NANSEN travel document 1932 (blank).

Nobel Peace PrizeEdit

The Nansen International Office for Refugees was awarded the 1938 Nobel Peace Prize for its efforts to establish the Nansen passports.[9][10]


While Nansen passports are no longer issued, existing national and supranational authorities, including the United Nations, issue travel documents for stateless people and refugees, including certificates of identity (or "alien's passports") and refugee travel documents.

Notable holdersEdit


External linksEdit