How to make a passport!
The concept of being under one ruler’s protection, while in the lands of another, has probably existed since rulers and lands were first invented. The earliest mention of an object we might recognize as a passport appears in the Bible, in the often overlooked book of Nehemiah.
It was in the early 20th century that passports, as we know them today, began to be used. The first modern British passport was the product of the British Nationality and Status Aliens Act 1914. It consisted of a single page, folded into eight and was held together with a cardboard cover. It was valid for two years. And it featured a personal description, including details such as “shape of face”, “complexion” and “features”, as well as a photograph and signature.
Passports special features
Passport printing is a high stakes job and only the most secure companies and facilities are up to the task. Many security features go into a passport. These are special holograms, fibers, tamper-proof materials, and electronic information. Those make it next to impossible to forge or counterfeit. The International Civil Aviation Organization sets out Passport specifications, but each country can choose which security features to include in its passport.
A host of proven high-security printing techniques are available. These will help to deter even the most determined and resourceful criminals when designing a passport in 2019.
In addition to intaglio printing, endpaper print design can employ a number of additional anti-copy elements. These include offset printing in four colors and UV 365 in two colors, as well as IR reactive inks. Complex design patterns will pose further challenges for fraudsters.
Because the volume of adhesive needed to bond the cover, combined with the calendaring effect of Intaglio print, means that counterfeiting attempts will be prone to glue seepage and staining.
Commonly used in banks and stamps, the watermark is probably the most widely recognized secure printing feature of them all. And it remains a key element of robust passport design.
Just like those used in banknotes, these are embedded directly into the paper during manufacturing. They can be made from either plastic or metal, with customer-specific designs, and covered by the paper or ‘windowed’ (i.e. visible on the surface of the window at regular intervals).
A windowed thread can be seen below under UV and normal light, in the Swedish passport. This plastic security thread inserted in the paper features a visual effect whereby images of airplanes are seen to be moving in the opposite direction when the thread is tilted.
Over recent years, attention has inevitably focused on breakthrough technologies such as ICAO compliant embedded software and protection mechanisms (EAC, SAC).
But it is equally important that secure software, and new materials such as polycarbonate data pages, are not regarded as some form of ‘magic bullet’.
Truly secure passport design is very much the sum of its parts, and that still includes a significant paper element. Above all else, what we have aimed to emphasize in this article is that features such as an end and visa pages are still high on the hit list for counterfeiters.
“The forensic features of the book are keeping a step ahead of people who would want to compromise the integrity of our document,” says Brenda Sprague, deputy assistant secretary for passport services at the Bureau of Consular Affairs. To help you stay attuned to shifts underway, U.S. News spoke with industry experts to get the lowdown on design developments you can expect in the future.
There’s a High-Tech Embedded Chip
While passports contain chips since 2005, the new machine-readable chip is protected by a polycarbonate coating to prevent your personal data from getting into the wrong hands, Sprague says. “As time has passed, chips have become more sophisticated,” she says. The new data page will be covered in the polycarbonate material and is configured in a way where only other countries with the same technology will be able to read and verify the authenticity of the chip, she explains. As an added bonus, the coating will also protect the book from damage, tearing and identity theft, should you lose your passport and a skilled thief attempt to obtain or alter the chip.
The Ink and Artwork Is Getting More Innovative
After working closely with the U.S. Bureau of Engraving and Printing and the Department of Homeland Security, the new design in the works will feature a higher “level of intricacy,” Sprague says. Elaborate components, such as a watermark, tactile accents (think raised design elements) and color-shifting inks, which showcase varying hues according to your perspective, are increasingly more difficult to counterfeit, Sprague says. The new document will also contain micro-printing and graphics that are tiny, yet clearly delineated with appropriate black light or magnification, along with biometric features and visual recognition that’s “going to add a level of protection to identify an imposter,” Sprague says.
There Are Fewer Pages
If you love filling up your passport pages with stamps, you may not be pleased with the 28-page restriction, rather than the original 52 pages. “Now when you fill your passport, you’ll need to get a new one,” says Christine Sarkis, senior editor at travel site SmarterTravel. And with passport pages becoming coveted real estate, “it’s natural to wonder if there’s a way to get passport control officers to consolidate stamps more efficiently to save pages,” she says.
Your Picture Is Going to Be Clearer
As part of passport awareness month, the U.S. State Department has championed an initiative to help travelers take picture-perfect passport photos. A staggering 250,000 applications are rejected or placed into an exception category because the picture is not up to standards, Sprague says. Sample photograph slip-ups include low-quality resolution, incorrect sizing, blurriness, grainy or poorly lit images and glare. In fact, photos with eyeglasses will be prohibited in the future.
Aside from a major passport redesign that will change the forensic quality of the book, you’ll likely benefit from a speedy screening process, too. “The readable chip and all of the technological advances will help expedite the process coming back through customs,” Spagnola says.
We hope that you now know how to make a passport.