Take a closer look at that small, rectangular booklet in your hand. Depending on where you’re from, its color could tell you a lot about the country you call home.
Although there are no strict international guidelines for passport colors, the shades are by no means random. Countries typically choose colors that pay tribute to their culture, politics, or faith, Claire Burrows of De La Rue, a British passport-making company, told the Economist.
For example, Islamic countries often use green passport covers because the color is important in their religion. Member countries of ECOWAS (the Economic Community of West African States) cover their passports with various shades of green, too. Members of the European Union, on the other hand, use burgundy-colored passports, as do countries who would like to join the EU, such as Turkey.
Maroon, or deep reddish color, is the color of the passport for many countries that are members of the European Union. Switzerland is the exception to this rule. Although a member of the EU, the Swiss use a bright red passport that matches their national flag and symbolized the culture.
China issues a red diplomatic passport to the government official traveling abroad. In this case, it is believed that red represents the communist government. But, China’s public passport for the general population has a black cover.
Blue passports are also common among Caribbean countries and U.S. Territories, like Guam, Puerto Rico, American Samoa, and the U.S. Virgin Islands. Many South American countries also distribute passports with blue covers to their citizens.
The Chinese government may also want to take advantage of the artistic benefits that come with a black passport. The national insignia and official stamp of a country stand out better with passports that are in darker colors.
Some countries are beginning to add other identifying marks or sequences to their nation’s passports. This is becoming more common because of the advances in modern technology.
Finland has incorporated the sequence of a running moose into their passport. As you turn the pages quickly, you can see the animal running like in a flipbook.
Other countries have introduced intricate artwork to their passport that’s unique to the region.
As a vital form of identification, it will be interesting to see how passports will change in the coming years.
And we’re not even close to finished yet! Smaller organizations have their own passport colors, as well. Interpol provides its members with black travel documents, while the UN passport’s pacific blue matches the helmets of its peacekeeping force.
But why all of the dark shades? According to Bill Waldron of Holliston, a Tennessee-based passport-printing firm, darker colors are preferred because they can hide dirt, provide a nice contrast with the crest, and appear more official. There are some exceptions, of course. If you’re a Swedish national who lost your passport, the country will send you an emergency travel document—in pink.
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