Passports of the European Union
The European Union itself does not issue ordinary passports, but ordinary passport booklets issued by its 28 member states share a common format. This common format features a coloured cover (for which burgundy is recommended but not compulsory: all countries except Croatia follow this recommendation) emblazoned—in the official language(s) of the issuing country (and sometimes its translation into English and French)—with the title "European Union", followed by the name(s) of the member state, its coat of arms, the word "PASSPORT", together with the biometric passport symbol at the bottom centre of the front cover.
Some EU member states also issue non-EU passports to certain people who have a nationality which does not render them citizens of the European Union (e.g., British Overseas Territories Citizens except those with a connection to Gibraltar, British Protected Persons and British Subjects).
With a valid passport, EU citizens are entitled to exercise the right of free movement (meaning they do not need a visa and don't need a residence permit for settling) in the European Economic Area (European Union, Iceland, Liechtenstein, and Norway) and Switzerland.
When going through border controls to enter an EEA country, EU citizens possessing valid biometric passports are sometimes able to use automated gates instead of immigration counters. For example, when entering the United Kingdom, at major airports, holders of EU biometric passports that are twelve years of age or older can use ePassport gates, whilst all other EU citizens (such as those using a national identity card or a non-biometric passport) and non-EEA citizens must use an immigration counter. Anyone travelling with children must also use an immigration counter.
As an alternative to holding a passport, EU citizens can also use a valid national identity card to exercise their right of free movement within the EEA and Switzerland. Strictly speaking, it is not necessary for an EU citizen to possess a valid passport or national identity card to enter the EEA or Switzerland. In theory, if an EU citizen outside of both the EEA and Switzerland can prove their nationality by any other means (e.g. by presenting an expired passport or national identity card, or a citizenship certificate), they must be permitted to enter the EEA or Switzerland. An EU citizen who is unable to demonstrate their nationality satisfactorily must nonetheless be given 'every reasonable opportunity' to obtain the necessary documents or to have them delivered within a reasonable period of time.
Common design features
While considerable progress has been made in harmonising some features, the data page can be at the front or at the back of an EU passport booklet and there are significant design differences throughout to indicate which member state is the issuer.
Since the 1980s, European Union member states have started to harmonise aspects of the designs of their ordinary passport booklets. Most passports issued by EU member states have the common recommended layout; burgundy in colour with the words "European Union" accompanied by the name of the issuing member state printed on the cover. Non-standard types of passports, such as passport cards (Ireland is still the only EU country to issue a passport in card format), diplomatic, service, and emergency passports have not yet been harmonised.
The newest EU member state Croatia refused to fully comply with the EU common recommended layout even though the Croatian passport has been changed in design due to the recent accession into the EU. From 3 August 2015, the new Croatian passport retained its dark blue passport cover and is the odd one out among the 28 European Union member states' passports. On the other hand, the UK Government announced plans in December 2017 to return to the dark blue cover passport after Brexit, which in 1988 the UK Government voluntarily changed the colour of the passport to burgundy red, in line with all EU passports.
The common design features are a result of several non-binding resolutions:
- Resolution of the Representatives of the Governments of the Member States of the European Communities, meeting within the Council of 23 June 1981
- Supplementary Resolution to the Resolution adopted on 23 June 1981 concerning the adoption of a passport of uniform pattern, of the Representatives of the Governments of the Member States of the European Communities, meeting within the Council on 30 June 1982
- Resolution of the Representatives of the Governments of the Member States, meeting within the Council, of 14 July 1986 supplementary to the resolutions of 23 June 1981 and 30 June 1982 concerning the introduction of a passport of uniform pattern
- Resolution of the representatives of the Governments of the Member States, meeting within the Council of 10 July 1995 supplementary to the resolutions of 23 June 1981, 30 June 1982 and 14 July 1986 concerning the introduction of a passport of uniform pattern
- Resolution of the representatives of the Governments of the Member States, meeting within the Council of 8 June 2004 supplementary to the resolutions of 23 June 1981, 30 June 1982, 14 July 1986 and 10 July 1995 concerning the introduction of a passport of uniform pattern
The security characteristics in EU passports are regulated through both non-binding resolutions and binding regulations:
- Resolution of the representatives of the governments of the Member States, meeting within the Council of 17 October 2000 supplementing the resolutions of 23 June 1981, 30 June 1982, 14 July 1986 and 10 July 1995 as regards the security characteristics of passports and other travel documents
- Council Regulation (EC) No 2252/2004 of 13 December 2004 on standards for security features and biometrics in passports and travel documents issued by Member States
- Regulation (EC) No 444/2009 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 28 May 2009 amending Council Regulation (EC) No 2252/2004 on standards for security features and biometrics in passports and travel documents issued by Member States
Only British and Irish passports are not obliged by EU law to contain fingerprint information in their chip. With the exception of passports issued by Denmark, Ireland, and the United Kingdom, all EU citizens applying for a new ordinary passport or passport renewal by 28 August 2006 (for facial images) and 28 June 2009 (for fingerprints) should have been biometrically enrolled. This is a consequence of Regulation (EC) 2252/2004 in combination with two follow-up decisions by the European Commission.
- Paper size B7 (ISO/IEC 7810 ID-3, 88 mm × 125 mm)
- 32 pages, except Finland with 42 pages and Italy with 48 pages (passports with more pages can be issued to frequent travellers)
- Colour of cover: burgundy red (with the exception of Croatia)
Information on the cover, in this order, in the language(s) of the issuing state:
- The words "EUROPEAN UNION" (before 1997: "EUROPEAN COMMUNITY")
- Name of the issuing state (similar typeface as "EUROPEAN UNION")
- Emblem of the state
- The word "PASSPORT"
- The Biometric Passport symbol
Information on the first page, in one or more of the languages of the European Union:
- The words "EUROPEAN UNION"
- Name of the issuing state (similar typeface to that of "European Union")
- The word "PASSPORT"
- Serial number (may also be repeated on the other pages)
Information on the (possibly laminated) identification page, in the languages of the issuing state plus English and French, accompanied by numbers that refer to an index that lists the meaning of these fields in all official EU languages:
1. Surname 2. Forename(s) 3. Nationality 4. Date of birth 5. Sex 6. Place of birth 7. Date of issue 8. Date of expiry 9. Authority 10. Signature of holder
On the top of the identification page there is the code "P" for passport, the code (ISO 3166-1 alpha-3) for the issuing country, and the passport number. On the left side there is the photo. On other places there might optionally be a national identification number, the height and security features.
For the place of birth in an Irish passport, only the county of birth (not the town/city) is shown for people born on the island of Ireland; for Irish citizens born outside Ireland, only the three-letter international code of the country of birth is provided.
Like all biometric passports, the newer EU passports contain a Machine-readable zone, which contains the name, nationality and most other information from the identification page. It is designed in a way so that computers can fairly easily read the information, although still human readable, since it contains only letters (A–Z), digits and "<" as space character, but no bar graph or similar.
- Personal name spelling differences
Names containing non-English letters are usually spelled in the correct way in the visual (non-machine-readable) zone of the passport, but are mapped into A-Z according to the standards of the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) in the machine-readable zone.
The following mapping is specified for EU languages: å → AA; ä/æ → AE; ö/ø/œ → OE, ü → UE (German) or UXX (Spanish) and ß → SS. Letters with accents are otherwise replaced by simple letters (ç → C, ê → E, etc.). For Greek and Bulgarian there are mapping tables based on translitteration into English. They use both their and Latin alphabet in the visual zone.
For example, the German names Müller becomes MUELLER, Groß becomes GROSS, and Gößmann becomes GOESSMANN. The ICAO mapping is mostly used for computer-generated and internationally used documents such as air tickets, but sometimes (like in US visas) also simple letters are used (MULLER, GOSSMANN).
The three possible spelling variants of the same name (e.g. Müller / Mueller / Muller) in different documents sometimes lead to confusion, and the use of two different spellings within the same document (like in the passports of German-speaking countries) may give people who are unfamiliar with the foreign orthography the impression that the document is a forgery.
It is recommended to use the spelling used in the machine-readable passport zone for visas, airline tickets, etc., and to refer to that zone if being questioned. The same thing applies if the name is too long to fit in the airline's ticket system, otherwise problems can arise. (The machine-readable has room for 39 letters for the name while the visual zone can contain as many as will fit)
Optional information on the following page:
11. Residence 12. Height 13. Colour of eyes 14. Extension of the passport 15. Name at birth (if now using married name or have legally changed names)
- The following page is reserved for:
- Details concerning the spouse of the holder of the passport (where a family passport is issued)
- Details concerning children accompanying the holder (name, first name, date of birth, sex)
- Photographs of the faces of spouse and children
- The following page is reserved for use by the issuing authorities
- The following page carries the index that translates the field numbers into the official languages of the EU
- The remaining pages are reserved for visas and entry and exit stamps
- The inside back cover is reserved for additional information or recommendations by the issuing state in its own official language(s)
Overview of passports issued by 28 Member States
|Member state||Passport cover||Biodata page||Cost||Validity||Issuing authority||Latest version|
||5 September 2014|
||1 May 2014|
Ministry of Interior Affairs
|29 March 2010|
||3 August 2015|
||13 December 2010|
||1 September 2006|
||1 January 2012|
||1 June 2014|
||21 August 2012|
||21 August 2012|
||12 April 2006|
||Municipal registration offices
If abroad, German embassies and consulates, including some honorary consulates
|1 March 2017|
||National Passport Centre ("Διεύθυνση Διαβατηρίων/Αρχηγείο Ελληνικής Αστυνομίας")||28 August 2006|
Registration Office (Nyilvántartó Hivatal)
|1 March 2012|
||Consular and Passport Division of the Department of Foreign Affairs||3 October 2013|
||Minister of Foreign Affairs through
||20 May 2010|
||29 January 2015|
||27 January 2011|
||Bureau des passeports||16 February 2015|
||Passport & Civil Registration Directorate||29 September 2008|
||23 December 2017|
||5 November 2018|
||10 July 2017|
||Ministry of Internal Affairs (General Directorate for Passports)||12 January 2019|
||15 January 2008|
||28 August 2006|
||2 January 2015|
||2 January 2012|
|Adult passports (16 and over)
Child passports (under 16)
(In March 2019 the words "European Union" were removed for new passports)
|Country||Number of destinations|
|United Kingdom (British Citizen Passport)||185|
Multiple simultaneous passports
Some EU countries, such as Germany, Ireland, Malta and the UK, allow their citizens to have several passports at once to circumvent certain travel restrictions. This can be useful if wanting to travel while a passport remains at a consulate while a visa application is processed, or wanting to apply for further visas while already in a foreign country. It can also be needed to circumvent the fact that visitors whose passports show evidence of a visit to Israel are not allowed to enter Iran, Iraq, Lebanon, Libya, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen (It is, however, possible to get the Israeli entry and exit stamp on a separate piece of paper).
Each EU member state can make its own citizenship laws, so some countries allow dual or multiple citizenship without any restrictions (e.g. France, Ireland, Italy, Sweden, the United Kingdom), some regulate/restrict it (e.g. Austria, Germany, the Netherlands, Spain), and others allow it only in exceptional cases (e.g. Lithuania) or only for citizens by descent (e.g. Croatia, Estonia, Slovenia).
A citizen of an EU member state can live and work in all other EU and EFTA countries (but not necessarily vote or work in sensitive fields, such as government, police, military where citizenship is often required). Non-citizens may not have the same rights to welfare and unemployment benefits like citizens.
Decision 96/409/CSFP of the Representatives of the Governments of the Member States meeting within the Council of 25 June 1996 on the establishment of an emergency travel document decided that there would be a standard emergency travel document (ETD).
ETDs are issued to European Union citizens for a single journey back to the EU country of which they are a national, to their country of permanent residence or, in exceptional cases, to another destination (inside or outside the Union). The decision does not apply to expired national passports; it is specifically restricted to cases where valid and unexpired passports have been lost, stolen, destroyed, or are temporarily unavailable (i.e. left somewhere else by accident).
Embassies and consulates of EU countries different to the applicant may issue emergency travel documents if
- the applicant is an EU national whose passport or travel document has been lost, stolen, destroyed, or is temporarily unavailable;
- the applicant is in a country in which the EU country of which s/he is a national has no accessible diplomatic or consular representation able to issue a travel document or in which the EU country in question is not otherwise represented;
- clearance from the authorities of the applicant's country of origin has been obtained.
Right to consular protection in non-EU countries
As a consequence of citizenship of the European Union, when in a non-EU country, EU citizens whose country maintains no diplomatic mission there have the right to consular protection and assistance from a diplomatic mission of any other EU country present in the non-EU country.
Other EEA passports and Swiss passports
Like passports issued by EU member states, passports of other EEA states – Iceland, Liechtenstein, and Norway – as well as of Switzerland, can also be used to exercise the right of free movement within the European Economic Area and Switzerland.
As part of the Schengen agreement, passports and travel documents issued by member states shall comply with minimum security standards, and passports must incorporate a storage medium (a chip) that contains the holder's facial image and fingerprints. This obligation does not apply to identity cards or to temporary passports and travel documents with a validity of one year or less. Iceland, Norway, Switzerland, and Lichtenstein are bound by the rules (while the United Kingdom and Ireland are not), as Regulation (EC) No 2252/2004 constitutes a development of provisions of the Schengen acquis within the meaning of the Agreement concluded by the Council of the European Union and Iceland and Norway, the agreement concluded by the European Union, the European Community and the Swiss Confederation, and the Protocol signed between the European Union, the European Community, the Swiss Confederation and the Principality of Liechtenstein on the accession of the Principality of Liechtenstein to the Agreement between the European Union, the European Community and the Swiss Confederation, concerning the association of the four States with the implementation, application and development of the Schengen acquis .
- Visa requirements for European Union citizens
- Citizenship of the European Union
- National identity cards in the European Economic Area
- Passports issued by the European Union candidate states
- Visa policy in the European Union
- Schengen Area
- European Union laissez-passer
- Public Register of Travel and Identity Documents Online
- False and Authentic Documents Online (FADO)
- Estonian alien's passport
- Non-citizens (Latvia)
- All EU issuing nations make a concerted effort to ensure that their passports feature nationally distinctive designs. Finnish passports make a flip-book of a moose walking. The new UK passport launched on 3 November 2015 features on pages 26-27, Shakespeare's Globe Theatre with architectural plans as well as performers on stage. Each UK passport page is completely different from all the other pages and from all the other pages of other EU passports.
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- Airline 'ban' on long name (The Sun 22 Sep 2008)
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- "Il Rilascio". Poliziadistato.it. Retrieved 29 August 2014.
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- "Ministero degli Affari Esteri - Documenti di Viaggio - Passaporto". Esteri.it. Retrieved 10 March 2014.
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- Tarieven reisdocumenten 2018
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- "The Henley Passport Index" (PDF). Henley & Partners Holdings Ltd. 8 January 2019. Retrieved 8 January 2019.
This graph shows the full Global Ranking of the 2019 Henley Passport Index. As the index uses dense ranking, in certain cases, a rank is shared by multiple countries because these countries all have the same level of visa-free or visa-on-arrival access.
- "Emergency travel document (ETD)". EUR-Lex. European Union. Retrieved 30 November 2015.
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