From breathtaking hidden artwork to floating kangaroos and a galloping moose, the world’s most beautiful passports showcase their own unique looks. But they share two things in common: unparalleled levels of security and mobility.
Although utilitarian in purpose – a means to cross borders, move freely, and access a better quality of life – passports can double as small works of art, with an incredible amount of thought, planning and creativity folded into their pages. And it’s no coincidence that the strongest and most secure passports in the world also tend to be the best designed.
“A big advantage of investing in a passport’s design – which typically extends to security features – is that it’s accepted by more countries as a valid travel document for a visa-free agreement,” says Armand Arton, president and founder of Arton Capital. “Places like the US and Canada wouldn’t sign such an agreement with any country that couldn’t guarantee the legitimacy of its passports. So actually, passport design directly impacts passport power and mobility.”
Chances are that if we scrutinize our passports like immigration officials do, we’d find an abundance of interesting design details that are both eye-catching and functional. These five passports all showcase amazing artistry, advanced technology, and also happen to be among some of the world’s strongest passports on the Passport Index.
Norway, which ranks 5th on the Global Passport Index, launched an open competition for its passport redesign in 2016, and Oslo-based graphic design company Neue Design Studio won the coveted contract. The winning design, titled “The Norweigan Landscape”, explores the nation’s most iconic landscapes, from sweeping fjords to the nebulous Northern Lights
But what you might not realize is that the passport’s elegant design details double as security features, only visible in their entirety under UV light. The booklet’s exterior also got a makeover; the minimalist cover features a simplified crest, in three energetic, summery colors: poppy-red for citizens, turquoise for diplomats, and white for immigrants.
Currently ranked the 7th most powerful in the world, Australia’s passport is also one of the most difficult to forge. That’s because their booklet harnesses a slew of cutting-edge technology. In fact, the Australian passport was the first to use Colour Floating Image Security Laminate, a security feature from global technology and innovation company 3M that uses lasers to create images within the pages’ laminate.
As a result, the passport’s visuals appear to float around the page when held at different angles, making the document virtually impossible to fake. So which national symbol did the government decide to commemorate in this ultramodern security detail? Kangaroos, naturally. You’ll find floating blue and red kangaroos in every Australian passport.
These days, it’s become more common for passports to include UV-visible imaging – a highly effective anti-forgery technique. The Canadian passport, however, is in a league of its own when it comes to this security feature, with impossibly ornate and colorful scenes on each of its pages that come to life when placed under a black light.
This North American country, the world’s 17th strongest passport, features breathtaking scenes like fireworks displays over the House of Commons and a star-speckled sky over Niagara Falls. Not only are the pages stunning to look at, but they also contain much of the same security features as Canadian banknotes, including microprinting, holographic images and watermarks.
Although there aren’t any official rules about which colors should be used for passport covers, most countries opt for sombre shades of red, blue or green, which tend to be perceived as more stately. There are a handful of passports in the world – just seven out of 199 to be exact – which have the distinction of a rare black cover.
New Zealand, reliably ranked among the world’s top five strongest passports, is one of them. Formerly blue, the passport was redesigned in 2009 to include a raft of new design elements and security features, plus a striking new black cover (also the national color) with a silver fern down the side.
At the time, Internal Affairs Minister Rick Barker said they chose the color and design to stand out. “I’m pleased to see we have a passport that’s strikingly New Zealand, is unmistakable and if ever left in a pool of all the other passports in the world, you would pick it up instantly.”
If you’re lucky enough to hold a Finnish passport – currently ranked second on the Global Passport Index – open it up and flick through the next time you’re stuck in line at the airport. You’ll notice a small moose or swan making its way across the pages, just like a flipbook animation.
Like many well-designed passports, that visual effect also serves as a security feature. In fact, after a makeover in 2019 to mark the country’s 100th anniversary, Finland’s passports are now among some of the world’s most secure.
A few of the advanced technological innovations include UV images of snowflakes and bears; laser-engraved personal data on the page’s edges; and a negative ghost image of the user hidden in a metallic film, making any manipulation of the passport’s photograph impossible.