What Your Passport Color Really Means
Travelers don’t have a lot of say in how their passports look. It’s hard to take a flattering picture, you can’t choose which inspiration quotes frame your stamped pages, and you can’t choose the color of your passport cover.
So what can we infer about passport color? They say it’s a matter of national identity.
Passport news is typically about changing rules, records, and regulations surrounding the official document and rightfully so: the State Department urgings to renew passports sooner rather than later are important, as is Germany having the world’s most powerful passport for the third year in a row. Yet in focusing on a passport’s capabilities rather than its aesthetics, we skip over a key part of its origin story: What Your Passport Color Really Means.
Burgundy passports are used by members of the European Union, and countries interested in joining have changed their passport colors to match. The Economist called this a “branding exercise.” Think of Croatia and Turkey. The Andean Community (also known for past EU-ambitions) of Bolivia, Colombia, Ecuador, and Peru also has burgundy passports. The Swiss passport, in effortless and famously Swiss-fashion, matches their flag.
The U.S. passport today is blue, but has only been that way since 1976, when it was changed from green for the bicentennial celebration to match the shade in the American flag. Member states of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) all have blue passports — most likely due to their geographical locations in the middle of oceans and off coasts — and a sub-regional South American bloc of countries (Brazil, Argentina, Paraguay, Uruguay, and Venezuela) all have blue passports to represent their affiliation with Mercosur, a customs union.
Most Islamic states use green passports because of the importance of the colour in their religion. Variations of green are also used by members of ECOWAS — Economic Community of West African States — including Niger and Senegal. For some countries, the choice of color relates to a predominant religion. Muslim countries including Morocco, Philippines, Pakistan, and Saudi Arabia have green passports, which is connected to Islam: Green is considered to have been a favorite color of the Prophet Muhammad, who is said to have worn a green cloak and turban.
Dark colors show less dirt and tend to look more official. Examples include the Republic of Botswana, Zambia, and New Zealand—though for the latter, black is also considered one of the country’s national colors. Black passports are the rarest of the bunch. The remaining African nations typically have black passports (Chad, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Zambia, Botswana, Burundi, Gabon, Angola, Malawi), as do countries where black plays a prominent role: New Zealand’s passport is black, for example, due to the connection with black as its national color. Spot a rare, black U.S. passport?
Did you know that Norway recently unveiled its winning passport design from a nationwide competition, as an example of a country using its passports to define its distinct personality and characteristics? The colors? Vibrant and hip.
The U.S. passport is about to get a makeover: and while the design has yet to be released, we know for a fact the country has a history of changing its passport cover.
We hope this information was helpful for you to distinguish What Your Passport Color Really Means.