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The Fascinating Meanings Behind The World's Passport Colors

Ever wondered why the Philippine passport switched from a green color to maroon?
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Passports are a way to convey a country’s national identity. In fact, the color of a passport cover is in itself indicative of its origin country’s characteristics. And while each country is given complete freedom in choosing a passport color, the decision is heavily influenced by many factors, such as identity, national beliefs, allies, politics, religion and culture, and even the production limitations and the availability of the choice of color.

There only four major passport colors in the world: red, blue, green, and black. Each country can choose from varying hues within the said color spectrum, which results in a multitude of colors in the world passport map. Here, we delve into the story behind these color choices.

Blue Passports

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To date, there are more than 70 countries with a blue passport. Blue symbolizes the “new world” and has been the color of choice of the United States since 1976. Before then, it had several color changes, from red to green. The blue hue that is used by the States today is one that matches the blue on its flag.

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Most South American countries such as Brazil, Argentina, and Paraguay, collectively known as Mercosur, a trade union, also issue blue passports. For geographical or political reasons, countries that are part of the CARICOM or the Caribbean Community and Common Market also have blue passports. The 2016 Lebanese passport’s blue color was chosen to symbolize the Mediterranean Sea.

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Meanwhile, Britain will soon be transitioning to a post-Brexit passport beginning October of this year, and will be trading in its burgundy cover for a dominantly blue one. This move is regarded as symbolic of the United Kingdom’s reclamation of its national identity.

After the Brexit vote, the new passport design was put up for a competition. A Scottish graphic designer’s rendition of a burgundy cover transitioning to blue was decided the winner.

Red Passports

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About 68 countries have red passport covers, which is the second most common color. Burgundy is one of the most common shades of red used, with our own Philippine passport as an example. Red is also associated with a country’s historical or current communist beliefs and used in passports of people from Slovenia, China, and Russia.

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It took many years and nine members of the then-European Community to decide on the European Union passport’s similar red design, which was made official in 1981. Prior to this, a lilac cover was considered, as diplomats thought maroon was too mundane. Today, countries that are part of the European Union (Croatia is the only exception with a blue passport) and those that wish to be part of it such as Turkey, Macedonia, and Albania have switched to red passports

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The top two most powerful passports of 2019 are also part of the red passport group. Holding the top spot is Japan’s dark red citizen passport with a 10-year validity and access to 190 countries. Singapore’s passport, which shares the second spot with South Korea’s, sports an eye-catching orange-red hue. Meanwhile, Switzerland’s is in a bright red with a white cross in a minimalist cover design that mirrors its flag.

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Green

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Most Muslim countries prefer green-covered passports as green is believed to be the preferred color of the Prophet Muhammad, who wore a green cloak and turban. Green is also used to color the binding of Qurans and the domes of mosques. Because the color green is found in the middle of the color spectrum, it may also be symbolic of the Quran’s description of the Muslim community as a “midmost nation.” As such, green has also become a prominent color on the national flags of Islamic countries such as Afghanistan and Iran

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Countries that belong to the ECOWAS or the Economic Community of West African States like Burkina Faso, Nigeria, Niger, the Ivory Coast, and Senegal also have passports in different shades of green. Likewise, the passport of South Korea, which grants entry to 189 countries, is in a dark green shade. 

Back in the 1970s, our Philippine passport also used to be in a shade of green. It was sized similarly to that of the United States’, which, at that time, was green as well. To date, there are about 40 countries with passports in hues of green.

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Black

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Only 10 countries have chosen to have black passports. Black passports are said to appear more official, provide a stark contrast with the country’s gold-embossed coat of arms, and are a practical option as they hide dirt.

African countries such as Republic of the Congo, Botswana, Zambia, Angola, among others have black passports. As one of New Zealand’s national colors is black, it has chosen a black passport cover, too.

Others

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Provisional passports usually come in a different color, and there are select countries that have chosen hues beyond blue, red, green, and black. For instance, the Swedish are issued a temporary document called the emergency alien’s passport which comes with a pink cover; while Canada’s temporary passport comes with a white cover.

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Norway’s proposed new passport is one to envy. Oslo-based design studio, Neue, won the contract to design its revamped passports. The winning design features a white cover for immigrants, blue for diplomats, and bright red for citizens and will be launched in the next coming years.

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