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One of the earliest references to passports dates back to B.C. 450. Nehemiah serving the Ancient Persian King Artaxerxes asked a document from the king in order for the “managers beyond the river” to provide him with a safe pass along the south of Palestine. The king gave a letter to Nehemiah so that he can pass safely. And today Canadian passports still bear a similar letter. As was the case with Nehemiah’s letter, that letter asks for a safe pass and protection for the passport holder. The origin of the word passport comes from French. It is the combination of the words “passe” (pass) and “Porto” (port).

These letters gained popularity during the rule of Louis XIV of France. The French king helped high-level court members travel in a safe and free manner with his personally signed “port pass” sealed letters as travels were mostly made by the sea back in those years.

Almost all European countries established the necessary systems for passport delivery during the reign of Louis XIV spanning over 70 years. This laid the foundations of today’s system, which requires to obtain visas from the countries people would like to travel to, instead of a traveling license obtained from their own territory.

The fact that railway transportation gained popularity as of the midst of the 19th Century caused a tourism boom in Europe and led to a complete milestone in passport and visa procedures. But in 1861 the French government removed the passport and visa procedures and many European countries followed this action. The start of the World War I in 1914 brought international safety worries to light and, thus, passport and visas were again put into practice as a “temporary” measure.

The British passport issued in 1860

The first passport in our country was issued in the Ottoman Empire in the 1808s during the reign of Mahmud II for overseas journeys. Until that time, the Ottoman people would ask from their destination countries to issue them passports and the Turkish ambassadors were also subject to that procedure. That procedure was humiliating for the Ottoman Empire. So Mahmud II made an arrangement and brought in three different passport procedures. He imposed a requirement in which the Ministry of Foreign Affairs would issue passports to the Ottoman subjects (Muslim people), rayahs (Christian people) and ambassadors. With this procedure, the Ottoman citizens traveling abroad started to use passports. In addition, there was an internal passport called the passage license during the Ottoman Empire. That passport had to be obtained to travel in the country and, especially, to travel to Istanbul. Local managers would issue that document. That procedure was canceled during the Second Constitutional Era.

Passports have always been improved throughout the history, turning from handwritten reference letters into booklets and from booklets into documents with microchips today. The international passport conferences held in the 20th Century (1920, 1926, and 1947) played an important role in improving passports to achieve their current modern look. The conference in 1920 decided that passports be issued as booklets and in at least two languages (one of which had to be French) and be valid for at least two years and, preferably, for five years. Today, standard passports include descriptive information such as name, surname, and date of birth. Microchips on passports allow for the information to be processed biometrically and, thus, make them read via special devices. This system made passports safer and reduced forgery to a minimum level. As of April 5, 2017, there are 96 countries which switched to the biometric passport system.

Passports that can be read by machines were developed in accordance with the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) standards. Therefore, passports became smaller, and personal details, photo and passport details were applied in a laminated way, reducing forgeries to the minimum. Personal information and passport details were repeated in passports’ special sections, which can only be read by machines. This allowed such details to be scanned and checked in security points. As of the early 1990s, the security measures applied in passports were increased and processing rules were gradually made more and more strict, and countries started to integrate some original features into their passports in order to prevent replication and forgeries. With the start of the 21st Century, a new technology was started to use in passports, making it possible to digitally print the holder’s photo in the identity page of his/her passport and to use some holographic visuals in order to apply to the passports the second copy of the holder’s photo which can only be seen under ultraviolet lights. All these measures taken by countries all around the world in an increasing level exhibit the importance of passports in terms of maintaining the security in the international circulation.

In early 2010, on the other hand, the state-of-the-art technology “new generation” passports called e-passports were put into practice, and the electronic chips uploaded on passport books helped to ensure a healthier protection against forgeries and to take international travel security to the top level. Started as a simple travel license, passports have always been improved ever since and today they became the most important identity document in international travel. 


As the chip passport system took effect in 2011, there have been some changes to the passport colors.

Maroon Passport (Regular Passport)

The citizens of the Republic of Turkey and TRNC use this type of passport as a standard if they do not have any special conditions. This passport has maroon color and is subject to standard fees. If you do not have the right to obtain a green, gray, or black passport you must apply for a maroon passport. This is a passport with the most limited circulation power among other passport types. This passport can be obtained through particularly the Ministry of Internal Affairs, and through Governorates authorized by the Ministry of Internal Affairs.


NOTE: In the past, the regular passports had ultramarine color, however, the color was changed to maroon with the switch to the biometric passport system.


Green Passport (Special Passport)


Green passports are given to public officers with staff degrees 1, 2, or 3 and to former bureaucrats. Among the public officers who have the right to obtain a green passport are also doctors and teachers working in the public sector, provided that their staff degrees are 1, 2, or 3. Such officers can keep their green passports even if they retire or resign.


NOTE: For example, if a public officer retired from 9/2 this means he/she started his/her public duty from the 9th degree and retired from the 2nd degree. Thus, that person gained the right to obtain a green passport (if no contrary situation comes into question). It is not only that person gaining the right to obtain his passport, his spouse and children also gain the right to obtain a green passport. However, children must be under 25 and must not be working/must be students to obtain this passport type.


Gray Passport (Service Passport)


People, who are not holders of a green or black passport and are sent to overseas countries for a duty by public enterprises, are given gray passports. For example, a person with a maroon passport is given a gray passport when sent to overseas countries for a duty by municipalities or special administrations.

NOTE: People given a service passport can ask the authorities to give this type of a passport to their families as well. As is the case with green passports, their children must be under 25 and must be students and must not be working in a job.


Black Passport (Diplomatic Passport)


Black passports are given to top-level public officers such as GNAT (Grand National Assembly of Turkey) members, ministers, four-star generals, governors, and metropolitan municipality mayors only during their term of office. In the past the diplomatic passports had the red color, however, the color was changed to black with the switch to the biometric passport system.


NOTE: Some family members of the black passport holders can obtain green passports as long as they are still at the office.


The countries with the world’s most powerful passports:


1. Germany (Visa-free travel to 176 countries)

2. Sweden (Visa-free travel to 175 countries)

3. Denmark, Finland, Italy, Spain, USA (Visa-free travel to 174 countries)

8. Austria, Belgium, France, Luxembourg, Holland, Norway, Singapore, UK (Visa-free travel to 173 countries)

16. Ireland, Japan, New Zealand (Visa-free travel to 172 countries)

19. Canada, Greece, Portugal, Switzerland (Visa-free travel to 171 countries)

23. Australia, South Korea (Visa-free travel to 170 countries)

25. Iceland (Visa-free travel to 169 countries)

Syrian, Pakistani, Iraqi, and Afghan citizens can have visa-free travels to only less than 30 countries with their national passports.


The Republic of Turkey passport offers visa-free travels to 102 countries.


(Source: 16.03.2017, Revealed: The world's most powerful passports for 2017, http://www.telegraph.co.uk/travel/lists/most-powerful-passports-in-the-world/ )

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