How Do Passport Covers Get Their Colors?
It’s often assumed that passport covers can only be made in shades of blue, black, green, and red. And generally speaking, it’s pretty much true that countries opt for these dark, official-looking hues. But it turns out that there’s no official regulation forcing these countries to select black and primary colors. “Any color that’s in the Pantone book, we can make,” William Waldron, the vice president of security products at Holliston, LLC (which makes passports for more than 60 countries) told Travel + Leisure.
That means that if the United States wanted to print passport covers in the Pantone Color of the Year, 15-0343 (or Greenery, as it’s more commonly known), they could. According to the International Civil Aviation Organization, passports (or any machine-readable official travel document) must be made of a material that bends, rather than creases. They must be stable in temperatures between 14 and 122 degrees Fahrenheit, and should remain readable in humidity conditions between 5 and 95 percent.
There are, however, no stipulations in place that dictate how a passport looks. While the ICAO makes suggestions about the typeface, type size, and font, even the details are at the discretion of the issuing state — though they strongly suggest printing information in upper-case characters. “Nothing stipulates the cover color,” confirmed Anthony Philbin, ICAO’s chief communications officer.
So why the global predilection to navy blues, maroons, deep forest greens, and black? As we’ve discussed previously, geopolitics and religion certainly come into play when a country determines the color of their passport. Muslim countries, for example, largely prefer green passports, because the hue is so significant to the religion. And Caribbean states typically opt for blue passport covers. More practical reasons can also influence a country’s decision to opt for predictable, dark tones. Waldron says they are “generally more official looking” and “less likely to show dirt and wear.’
Red & Marroon: This is the most common color. Passports with a red cover are often chosen by countries with a historical or current communist system. Citizens of Slovenia, China, Serbia, Russia, Latvia, Romania, Poland, and Georgia have red passports. Member countries of the European Union, except Croatia, also use passports of burgundy and other shades of red. Countries interested in joining the EU, such as Turkey, Macedonia, and Albania, changed the color of their passports to red a few years ago. The Andean Community of Nations — Bolivia, Colombia, Ecuador, and Peru — also has burgundy passports.
Blue: This is the next most common color. The blue cover symbolizes the “new world”.15 Caribbean countries have blue passports. Within the block of South American countries the blue passport cover symbolizes the connection with Mercosur — a trade union. This includes Brazil, Argentina, and Paraguay. Venezuela is the exception here: it also belongs to the union, but its citizens have red passports. The passports of US citizens were changed to blue only in 1976.
Green: Most Muslim countries have green passports. Examples include Morocco, Saudi Arabia, and Pakistan. Green is considered to be the favorite color of the Prophet Muhammad, and is a symbol of nature and life. The citizens of several West African countries — for example, Burkina Faso, Nigeria, Niger, the Ivory Coast, and Senegal — also have travel documents that are various shades of green. In their case, the color indicates that they belong to ECOWAS (the Economic Community of West African States).
Black: The rarest passports are those with black covers. These can be found among the citizens of some African countries — Botswana, Zambia, Burundi, Gabon, Angola, Chad, Congo, Malawi and others. Citizens of New Zealand also have black passport covers, because black is the country’s national color.