Size and Shape Matters


Ever wonder why every passport in the world is the same size and shape? Turns out it can all
be traced back to one fateful meeting.
After the end of the First World War, the lack of a standardized passport caused a lot of
headaches for border crossings by train. Officials often struggled with foreign languages,
inconsistent sizes of documents, and varying levels of information. So on October 21,1920 the
League of Nations convened in France to determine a standardized size and shape for
passports that has remained largely unchanged ever since.
The meeting—formally called the Paris Conference on Passports & Customs Formalities and
Through Tickets—settled on a standard size, shape, and documentation requirements for 42
nations and the passport as we know it was born.
Most standard passports are 15.5cm x 10.5cm and contain personal information on the first few
pages followed by blank pages for stamps and travel documentation. While this basic design
has remained largely unchanged, passports themselves have undergone numerous
technological advances in an effort to increase document security. Today’s passports have
watermarks, holograms, fluorescent threads, embossed letters, disappearing inks, and some
even contain biometric data.
And those who travel frequently will note that even the historic—and romantic—tradition of
collecting stamps from a variety of countries is starting to disappear. In fact, the paper passport
as a whole may even be obsolete sooner than rather than later.
Australia is testing a face-scanning system called “Seamless Traveller” that will eliminate the
need for travellers to carry paper passports at all. But until then, the passport will remain a
modern reminder of a different time.
If you’d like to add to your passport collection, contact us today for a free consultation.