The Passport Colour Palette

Sophie Watkins, June 25, 2018

Back in December 2017, the Home Office announced that the British passport will be returning to the ‘iconic’ navy blue post-Brexit. This will replace the burgundy that has been around since the 1980’s and is widely used by member countries of the EU. 

So, what other colours are available? According to the Passport Index, only 4 main colours are used for passport covers; red, blue, green and black. Subject to specific size and format requirements by the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO), the colour is left to the government of each individual country to choose. Why then, are passports only seen in these four main colours?

According to Hrant Boghossian, the Vice President of Arton Group, which runs the interactive Passport Index database, this is simply due to availability. There are only a few companies around the world that produce passports, and the cardstock “only comes in certain colour variations to meet the required standards.”

To most people the ‘four-colour passport palette’ may sound pretty limiting, but that is not to say that all passports look the same. From the bright blue of Fiji, to the navy blue of America, you can find a wide variety of shades and hues in each main colour group.

According to Boghossian, there are many possible reasons behind the selection of a particular colour. As previously mentioned, burgundy is favoured by countries within the EU, and has even been used by Turkey, a country who hope to join the EU in the future. Caricom (Caribbean Community and Common Market) states, such as Grenada, Saint Lucia and Haiti all use blue.

For other regions, religion may be a factor. Many Muslim countries, such as Morocco and Saudi Arabia have chosen green for their passport colour. Boghossian explains that this is due to the importance of the colour green in their religion. The colour black is the least frequently used colour seen on passports. New Zealand is one of the few that have chosen black, which is unsurprising considering this is one of their national colours.

It seems that some countries have a hard time sticking with a colour. Since the 1920’s, America’s passport has changed colour 3 times! Starting with red, this was changed in 1941 to green. The green cover lasted for 35 years, until the colour was changed again to blue in 1976, to coincide with the US bicentennial celebrations.

As if this wasn’t enough change, a ‘special edition’ green cover passport was issued for one year (April 1993, until March 1994) to mark the 200th anniversary of the United States Consular Service and included a special one-page tribute to Benjamin Franklin. A new generation of US passports are coming this year, but fans of the blue will be pleased to know that the colour is here to stay.

Many countries introduce new passport designs periodically to keep up with new technologies and to thwart counterfeiters. So perhaps we will be spotting some new passport colours in the airport immigration queues soon?

Written by Sophie Watkins – Consultant at Alchemy Recruitment Ltd

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