U.S. Passport Colors: What Do They Mean?

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Did you know that the cover of an American passport hasn’t always been blue?

In the past, the US Department of State issued passports of different colors. From 1926 until 1941, US citizens got red passports. After that, US passports were issued in green. In 1976, the United States passport changed to the blue covers we are familiar with today—the same shade found in the American flag. In ‘93-94, in honor of the 200th anniversary of the Consular Service of the United States (founded by Benjamin Franklin), it was possible to get a special commemorative green passport.

But even now, not all U.S. passports have the famous blue cover. If you’re curious what the U.S. passport colors are now, and what the meanings of the passport colors are, just keep reading this article and we’ll explain it to you.hat are the US passport colors now and what the passport color meaning is, just continue reading this article that will explain it to you in every little detail.

Types of U.S. passports: blue

The blue passports are also called regular passports, ordinary passports or tourist passports. They have a blue cover and are issued to most of the US citizens with the goal to travel abroad. You can get a blue US passport if you want to travel as a tourist, as a fliThe blue U.S. passport is just a regular, ordinary passport, also known as a “tourist passport.” It has a navy blue cover and it is issued to most American citizens who want to travel abroad. You get a blue U.S. passport if you want to travel for business, for employment or education, as a tourist, or as a member of an international flight crew. These “American-flag blue” passports are issued by all U.S. passport agencies.

There are also some special no-fee blue passports that are issued to employees of the American National Red Cross, to Peace Corps volunteers, and to the Department of Defense employees who will travel abroad.

United States passport cover: black

Black passports are diplomatic passports. They are issued to employees of the United States Department of State who must travel overseas to work for the interests of the Department of State. Diplomats, ambassadors and embassy staff will all have back diplomatic passports; so does the U.S. president, vice-president and the justices of the Supreme Court. These passports have a validity of only 5 years, and they cannot be used for tourism or leisure travel. This type of U.S. passports is also issued only at the Special Insurance Agency of the Washington Passport Agency.

Brown American passports

Brown (or a shade of maroon) US passports are known as “Official Passports.” These are American passports issued to officials of the US government who must travel abroad for official business: politicians, FBI agents and bureaucrats will all have brown Official passports. Also, the members of the family of such officials can get brown US passports when they are authorized by the Department of State.

The brown Official passports are also issued to active-duty members of the military (and their families) who have to travel overseas. Military passports are issued by the Special Insurance Agency of the Washington Passport Agency. American citizens can hold a blue passport and a military passport at the same time, but they use the brown Official passport for official travel and the blue tourist passport for personal and leisure travel.

To get the brown Official U.S. passport, you submit the same application form and documents as for the regular blue passport, and evidence of your official status. The official passports are no-fee passports, which means that you literally don’t have to pay a fee.

The validity of a brown Official passport is 5 years, maximum. These passports cannot be used for leisure travel, and must be returned to the government when the duty of the governmental employee ends.

Gray U.S. passport covers

If the United States passport cover is gray, this is a service passport for contractors who are traveling to support the U.S. government, but who do not qualify for a brown Official passport. These service passports can be used in cases where a regular blue passport doesn’t allow the travel. They are no-fee passports valid for up to 5 (five) years, and are issued by the Special Issuance Agency in Washington.

Green U.S. passport

The green passports issued by the U.S. Department of Citizenship and Immigration Services are not actually passports but are refugee travel documents. They look like passports, but because it’s a document for non-citizens it doesn’t indicate U.S. citizenship. The green passports (actually shading into a sort of bluish-green) are issued to refugees who are living in U.S. territory but who are unable to get a passport from their country of origin. They can use them to get travel visas, and to be readmitted back into the United States.

Passport Photo Online for all types of U.S. passport needs

No matter which one of the different types of U.S. passport you have to apply for—a blue tourist passport, a black diplomatic passport, a brown official or military passport, a gray service passport or a green refugee travel document—you will need to fill in an application and attach a suitable photograph. Passport Photo Online can help you with your photograph by providing you with an easy-to-use tool that creates professional passport photos from home.

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U.S. passport cover colors: summary

Blue—especially dark blue—is the most popular color for passport covers among the nations of the world. The United States and the United Kingdom and eighty other countries all use some shades of blue. But as you know now, there are other specialized passports with other special colors that you may someday require. Wherever you go and whatever you travel needs might be, remember that Passport Photo Online is always here to help you with your identity document photography.

U.S. passport color: FAQ

When and why do countries sometimes change their passport color?

Usually this is because of a significant change in governance, like after a civil war or revolution. Back in 1988, the UK went from blue to burgundy to match the rest of the European Union, but now that the UK has exited the European Union under Brexit, they are returning to their old color scheme of gold and navy blue passports. Norway recently switched to lovely pastel colors, just to be cool and show off. Expect to see changes for security and anti-counterfeiting purposes.

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