Here’s What Your Passport Colour Really Means

There’s a significant reason behind the four standard colours found on passports—but there are some unusual shades, too.

Different passport coloursPhoto: Shutterstock

Take a closer look at that small, rectangular booklet in your hand. Depending on where you’re from, its colour could tell you a lot about the country you call home. (Don’t miss learning more about the rarest passport in the world, too.)

Although there are no strict international guidelines for passport colours, the shades are by no means random. Countries typically choose colours that pay tribute to their culture, politics, or faith, Claire Burrows of De La Rue, a British passport-making company, told the Economist.

For example, Islamic countries often use green passport covers because the colour is important in their religion. Member countries of ECOWAS (the Economic Community of West African States) cover their passports with various shades of green, too. Members of the European Union, on the other hand, use burgundy-coloured passports, as do countries who would like to join the EU, such as Turkey. (Here are 10 Rude Manners That Are Actually Polite in Other Countries.)

The United States tends to march by the beat of its own drum, and its passport’s hue is no different. While the country flipped between beige, green, and a variety of reds into the latter half of the 20th century, it finally settled on blue in 1976. As for the shade? It matches the blue on the American flag, according to the Economist. Citizens of many Caribbean and South American countries, including Brazil, Argentina, and Uruguay, also carry blue passports.

And we’re not even close to finished yet! Smaller organizations have their own passport colours, as well. Interpol provides its members with black travel documents, while the UN passport’s pacific blue matches the helmets of its peacekeeping force.

But why all of the dark shades? According to Bill Waldron of Holliston, a Tennessee-based passport-printing firm, darker colours are preferred because they can hide dirt, provide a nice contrast with the crest, and appear more official. There are some exceptions, of course. If you’re a Swedish national who lost your passport, the country will send you an emergency travel document—in pink.

Plus: 13 Things You Didn’t Know About Strange International Laws

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Originally Published on Reader's Digest