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The Meaning Behind Passport Colors

Traveling abroad, you may have noticed that people from other countries have differently-colored passports: some green, some blue, some maroon red, or even black. What you may have not known, however, is that each of these passport colors has a meaning behind it, and each country chooses the passport color for a good reason. More on this below.

What Colors Are the Most Common?

Passport Colors a set of different passports
The 4 main colors you can see in passports are blue, maroon, green and black. And while there are no actual international regulations for passport colors, countries continuously choose one of these four colors to reflect their belonging to international associations, their culture, and heritage.
For example, the majority of countries belonging to the European Union issue maroon-colored passports to reflect their belonging to the organization. Even some countries that want to belong to the EU, like Turkey, for instance, have switched to maroon passport covers. Of course, the hue of the color can change from country to country, too, and there are some exceptions.
For example, Croatia is the odd one out in the EU, as it opted for a dark blue color because their passports have been blue since 1991 when the country declared independence from Yugoslavia. Temporary passports can have a different shade from permanent ones. In Sweden, nationals who have lost their travel document get a bright pink temporary passport, for instance, instead of the much calmer maroon-colored permanent one.
When it comes to green passports, these are most common in Islamic countries and some African countries, as the color green plays an important role in Islam, which is also why it’s often featured in the flags of these countries. Black passports are the rarest - passport covers in some African countries, such as Congo, Botswana, and Angola, as well as China come in black. New Zealanders' passports are also black, replicating the country’s national color.
Passport Colors passport on suitcase

As for blue passports, these are quite common, with 81 countries having them. These are mainly countries from the Caribbean and the Americas, such as Canada, Jamaica, and Barbados. Australia, Ukraine, Hong Kong, and India, too, issue blue passports. The United States has a blue passport as well, with the color of the travel document corresponding to the blue in the American flag, but it wasn’t always like that. In fact, before 1976, American passports were issued in various shades of red, green, and even beige at different time periods.

Related Article: The Bizarre Origins of Some Very Familiar Flags

To view all the passport colors in the world, you can visit this website: Passport Index. There, you can categorize passports by color and also search for specific countries in the search field on this website.

Why Are Most Passports Dark-Colored?

As you can probably tell, most countries feature dark colors, and there are a few reasons for that, too. On one hand, darker passports won’t look dirty with use and they look more official than bright colors. On the other hand, though, dark colors make the country’s insignia, commonly printed in silver or gold, stand out better and be more legible. In fact, China reportedly chose the black cover color solely for aesthetic purposes. 

Lastly, diplomatic travel documents often feature a different color than regular passports. Chinese diplomatic passports are red, for example, because diplomats are believed to be representatives of the communist party. Likewise, organizations like the Interpol have their own passport color - black, whereas UN passports are always blue.

Who knew passport cover colors meant so much?!

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