If you have the status of a refugee, you will most likely be unable to use your passport to travel (or have no passport). So, when you need to travel you must be equipped with a travel document issued specifically to refugees. However, this does not mean that you can visit every country as you wish, there are only a handful of countries where you can go visa-free (or at all) with refugee travel documents.

What Is a Refugee Travel Document?

A refugee travel document is a type of document issued to individuals, who are recognized as refugees, for travel purposes. Travel documents for refugees are usually issued from the countries where refugees are seeking asylum from.

The majority of countries, 145 countries, that belong to the 1951 Convention relating to the Status of Refugees (Geneva Convention), issue a standard travel document typically in blue with two stripes at the left top corner. The document usually has “Travel Document” written in English, French, and in the language of the country from where it originates and the date of the convention.

What Does a Refugee Travel Document Look Like?

Refugee travel documents are different depending on the country issuing them. However, they must follow a certain standard and must look like this:

a sample travel document for refugees

Refugee Travel Document Visa Free Countries

Here is a list of countries you can visit visa-free provided you have a valid refugee travel document (under the 1951 Convention) and you won’t stay longer than three months:

ArmeniaIcelandPortugal
BelgiumIrelandRomania
CyprusItalySlovakia
Czech RepublicLiechtensteinSpain
DenmarkLuxembourgSweden
FinlandMaltaSwitzerland
FranceNetherlandsUnited Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland
GermanyNorway 
HungaryPoland 

This agreement came as a result of travel difficulties that refugees came across when visa agreements happened between countries, for example, the Schengen agreement, where refugees were still unable to enter these countries visa-free.

However, ultimately, every country can decide whether to accept or reject an individual in their country, this includes you even if you have a valid refugee document.

US Refugee Travel Document Visa Free Countries

With a US refugee travel document you can only visit some countries visa-free:

  • Germany
  • Netherlands
  • Belgium
  • Croatia
  • Slovenia
  • Slovakia
  • Hungary
  • Cyprus

UK Visa Free Countries for Refugees

Here is a list of countries that you can go visa-free with a UK refugee travel document:

ArmeniaKosovoPortugal
AustriaLiechtensteinRomania
CroatiaLithuaniaSan Marino
FinlandLuxembourgSlovenia
GeorgiaMaltaSouth Africa
GermanyMoldovaSouth Korea
HungaryMonacoSwitzerland
IrelandMontenegroTunisia
ItalyNetherlands (depends on your home country)Vatican City

New Zealand Refugee Travel Document Visa Free Countries

If you have a refugee travel document issued from New Zealand, you can enter visa-free these countries:

  • Germany*
  • Netherlands
  • Belgium
  • Croatia
  • Slovenia
  • Slovakia
  • Hungary
  • Cyprus

*You can enter Germany if your travel document (RTD), is endorsed and issued under the Agreement of 15 October of 1946, as per the Geneva Convention. Your travel document must also be authorized to allow you to re-enter New Zealand. 

Australian Refugee Travel Document Visa Free Countries

With an Australian refugee travel document you can enter visa-free these countries:

  • Germany
  • Slovenia
  • Hungary
  • New Zealand
  • Slovakia
  • Macau (visa on arrival)

To get an Australian CTD (Convention Travel Document), you must hold a temporary protection visa. Also, it’s important to mention that Indonesia and Taiwan do not accept visa applications with an Australian CTD, which means you cannot enter these two countries at all.

Which Countries Accept Refugee Travel Document?

If you are a refugee under the Geneva Convention, your travel document is accepted by every country that signed the agreement. However, this does not mean that you can travel visa-free to every country- you have to use your travel document to apply for a visitor visa.

Please note that not every country will accept your travel document when you apply for a visa, this is usually the case (but not always) with countries that have not signed the Geneva Convention. You should check with the office that issued your document before you travel whether you can apply for a visa or not. 

How Do I Get a Refugee Travel Document?

To get a refugee travel document, you must apply for the document. Every application process varies according to which country is issuing the travel document.

For example, if you are in Australia you have to apply for a travel document by calling the Department of Home Affairs, filling in the form, and calling the Department again to set up an appointment to submit your documents. If you are out of the country, you have to contact the nearest Australian representative office.

Refugee Travel Document Fee

Here are some of the fees for a refugee travel document:

US Refugee Travel DocumentUSD 135
UK Refugee Travel DocumentGBP 75
Australian Refugee Travel DocumentAUD 189
New Zealand Refugee Travel DocumentNZD 111

According to the Geneva Convention, the fee for a travel document should not surpass the minimum charge for a national passport. However, fees for refugee travel documents are regulated by the country that is issuing the documents, as you can see refugee travel documents fees change from country to country.

How Long Is a Refugee Travel Document Valid for?

The Geneva Convention states that travel documents for refugees should be valid anywhere between two to three years. However, not every country will issue the document with the same validation date.

For example, a refugee travel document issued by the UK may be valid up to 10 years, provided that you have indefinite leave to remain, while a travel document issued from Australia is valid for one up to two years.

Can I Travel in My Own Country With a Refugee Travel Document?

No, in most cases you are not allowed to travel back to your country of origin after you’re granted the status of a refugee. Travel permissions are regulated by the country that has accepted your request for refuge and has issued your refugee travel document.

In some cases, you may travel to your home country only if you have explicit permission and very compelling reasons such as illness or death in the family. If you go back to your country without permission, you are at risk of losing your refugee status.