Passports have been used in one form or another for almost 3000 years, allowing people from different regions to travel and trade with one another. The modern passport dates from the time of Henry V of England, taking on a new role as a document that certifies the identity and nationality of the holder for the purpose of international travel.
In recent years, many countries have started issuing microchipped passports containing biometric data, making counterfeiting much harder and allowing passport to be machine read at points of immigration. In fact, the world of passports always seems to be full of news – with new passport exit check introduced in the UK, as well as other rules and regulations to stay on top of, travellers benefit from being in the know.
Most passports follow a common standard in design and content, but as we shall see, even in the modern world there are still examples that fly in the face of convention.
Since the 1980’s the self-declared Aboriginal Provisional Government of Australia has been issuing passports. In doing so they site the United Nations ruling that indigenous people have a right to be self-determining and thus reject Australian citizenship. Callum Clayton-Dixon made international headlines in April 2015 when he successfully returned home to Australia with such a passport.
As the world smallest recognised independent state Vatican City can issue its own passports, though there are no passport controls for visitors from surrounding Italian territory. In fact unlike for other states citizenship is granted on the grounds of appointment to work within the Holy See. This is one of the rarest passports in the world with less than 1000 usually in circulation.
This tiny island country in Micronesia in the Central Pacific is chiefly renowned for circumspect passport activity. In the 1990’s Nauru became a tax haven and offered passports to foreign nationals for a fee, marking it as a centre for money laundering and illicit financial dealings.
Norway is famous for an understated but refined approach to design is this evident in the latest iteration of their national passport. At a cursory glance fits the mould of most modern passports but if it’s held under ultraviolet light then its secret is laid bare; a reproduction of the famous Northern Lights.
Canadian passport offices have also decided to have a bit of fun with their latest designs. Their new passports react to UV light, exploding with fireworks when exposed.
For sheer good looks and beautiful design the travel documents issued by the island of Barbados are hard to beat. The sumptuous blue booklet is embossed in gold and takes top prize for sheer good looks.
Though most passports follow the traditional colours of burgundy and green it is possible to get one that is a little more fun. Just lose your passport in Sweden or the Netherlands – their emergency passports are pink.
In an unusual late development Turkish officials were bamboozled when a nine year old girl from the UK was recently granted entry to the country despite mistakenly handing over her toy passport. The passport, of course, identified her as a unicorn—a mistake other travellers to Turkey are sure not to make.
To be fair, Brits get to have a unicorn on their passports, too—though the plain burgundy exterior is perhaps a bit less exciting than the booklets issued by other nations! Ah, well…
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