Here’s What Your Passport Color Really Means

Updated: Jan. 23, 2023

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

Take a closer look at that small, rectangular booklet in your hand. Depending on where you’re from, its color could tell you a lot about the country you call home. It can even tell you if you have one of the most powerful passports.

Although there are no strict international guidelines for passport colors, the shades are by no means random. Countries typically choose colors 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 color 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-colored passports, as do countries who would like to join the EU, such as Turkey.

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 colors, 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 colors 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.

The best TSA security agents wouldn’t tell you that!