The State Department published a Federal Register notice on August 2 announcing new passport restrictions for U.S. persons seeking to travel to North Korea. Beginning September 1, U.S. passports will be invalid for travel to North Korea.

Persons seeking to travel to or through North Korea using a U.S. passport must first seek a special passport validation from the State Department, which can be granted at the Department’s discretion for travel for journalistic or humanitarian purposes.

The new measures are significant because moves by the U.S. government to restrict U.S. person travel as a sanctions measure have been rare in recent years. Cuba is currently the only U.S. sanctions program that includes restrictions on travel by U.S. persons to the sanctioned country. For all sanctions programs authorized under the International Emergency Economic Powers Act, such travel-related restrictions have been prohibited since 1994.

Rather than seek new legislative authority for a travel-related sanctions measure, the administration chose to impose the new restrictions on travel to North Korea via existing authority to restrict the use of U.S. passports where it determines there is imminent danger to the public health or physical safety of United States travelers.