I came across evidence today of a country that charges its own citizens $10 to cross a land border back into its own territory. Since I have never come across this before, I was wondering whether there are any common treaties or principles of customary international law that would normally restrict this?

I was thinking along the lines of Article 13.2 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, "Everyone has the right to leave any country, including his own, and to return to his country", which presumably extends to people that don't have $10. But I realise the UD does not have much status internationally. Is there anything else?

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    Countries have to admit their citizens. They presumably also have the ability to charge their citizens for admission; their international obligation to admit the person who cannot pay will play out in the consequences for being unable to pay. For example, the person could be admitted and imprisoned, or admitted and then subjected to whatever domestic law applies to those who are unable to pay debts to the government.
    – phoog
    Mar 20, 2017 at 19:32

1 Answer 1


It is accepted that legally crossing a border requires a passport. Passports are not issued without charge. In essence this is exactly the same thing.

"Having a right" and being able to exercise that right without cost (monetary or otherwise) are two different things. Americans have a right to bear arms: this does not place an obligation on the US government to issue everyone a free gun.

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    Not the best example: yoiu do not need a passport to return to your own country. But certainly your own government has the right to levy taxes on you; whether bases on income, purchases or foreign travel is presumably a political choice. Mar 20, 2017 at 22:49
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    There are also lots of international borders where you can enter foreign countries without a passport, like in the EU and EAC (and the country in this example in fact). Foreign travel is certainly a common target for taxation, but I've only ever seen taxes levied when a person leaves rather than returns until now.
    – Dan
    Mar 21, 2017 at 17:19
  • @Dan the US does impose an immigration user fee (perhaps by a similar name) on travelers entering the US by air (and perhaps some other modes) regardless of citizenship. Dale M: indeed, the right to bear arms does not even prohibit state governments from charging licensing fees in jurisdictions where firearms licenses are required.
    – phoog
    Feb 8, 2021 at 18:20

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