Getting your first passport can be incredibly exciting as it represents freedom and possibility. To others, they are merely a necessary evil: an expensive hassle involving paperwork and various layers of bureaucracy. Anyone who has lost one and had to apply for an emergency passport will testify to this.
However you view passports, they do have an interesting history and there are some interesting, little-known passport facts which this article will explore...
1) The first official passports were issued in England
The first ever passports were issued In the 15th-century by King Henry V. He wanted to help his subjects prove their identity when traveling abroad. In the UK, The Queen still issues passports in her name.
However, passport history goes back to the Bible, in the book of Nehemiah. Around the year 450 BC, Artaxerxes I of Persia wrote a letter requesting that rulers foreign lands beyond the grant the bearer, Nehemiah, safe passage to Judah. The message contained in this early form of travel authorization is seen in most passports today.
2) All passports come in only four colors
All national passports are red, blue, green and black, these are the four passport colors. According to passportindex.org, 78 countries have blue passports, 68 have red ones, while only 10 nation passports are black.
Loosely speaking, European passports tend to be red, whereas North and South American passports are blue. Muslim countries mainly have green passports due to the importance of the color within the religion.
3) Germans have the most powerful passport in the world
According to passportIndex.org, a German passport grants visa-free entry into 161 countries. The next most powerful passports in the world are Singapore, Denmark, Sweden, Finland, Italy, France, Spain, and South Korea, with the ability to travel to 160 countries without a visa.
The least powerful passports in the world are generally from countries who have recently experienced war, such as the Afghani passport which only entitles visa-free travel to 25 countries.
4) Some passports have hidden features
Impressively, every page of a Canadian passport contains a different image of national importance under ultraviolet light, otherwise invisible to the naked eye. The pages of a Norwegian show an image of the Northern Lights under UV light.
Finnish and Slovenian passports are also flip-books, if you flick through a Finnish passport you see a mouse running on the bottom-right corner.
5) The artwork inside US passports took six years
When electronic passports were introduced in the US in 2007, the authorities took the chance to give the passport a revamp. A committee spent nearly six years designing the new pages. The artwork includes patriotic images including the star-spangled banner, a bald eagle, and Mount Rushmore.
6) Nicaraguan passports have 89 security features
Nicaraguan passports are one of the most difficult documents to forge in the world. The numerous security features include bio-dimensional barcodes, holograms, and watermarks. The difficulty of trying to forge one undoubtedly asks as an excellent deterrent for fraudsters and crooks.
7) Turkey has the most expensive passport in the world
Turkish passports cost an astronomical US$250. In Turkey a citizen, earning minimum wage needs to work 95 hours to earn this much.
Though priced more cheaply at US$155, Mexican citizens earning minimum wage would need to work for an incredible 266 hours to earn enough to pay for a passport. At the other end of the scale, passports of Swaziland only cost US$3.
8) Spanish passports issued to senior citizens do not have an expiry date
Standard passport validity is normally somewhere between 5 and 10 years. However, if you are a senior citizen in Spain, your passport has no expiry date.
Spain has one of the highest life expectancy rates in the world so it is not so uncommon for passports to last more than 20 years!
9) More than 40 million passports have been misplaced over the last 16 years
Over 40 million passports and travel documents have been lost or stolen since 2002. An Interpol database contains information on all the missing documentaion.
Immigration officers often intercept these passports at border controls, routine checks also recover many. Passports are becoming increasingly difficult to alter or forge.
10) The Vatican City does not stamp passports
It is commonplace to receive a visitor stamp in your passport to show that you have been to a country. They come in varying designs: in Peru, the stamp shows a miniature Machu Picchu, and a trip to Chile will get you a stamp of Easter Island.
However, this is not the case in the world’s smallest country, the Vatican City, as there are is no immigration control. The entire country is situated inside Rome.
11) Only 38%of Americans have passports
Although Benjamin Franklin introduced passports in 1783, nearly two-thirds of US citizens do not possess passports and cannot go to other countries.
Many Americans love traveling and though some have not been 'abroad' technically, they may have been Hawaii Puerto Rico, Guam, American Samoa, or the US Virgin Islands without the need to use a passport.