The European Union itself does not issue ordinary passports, but ordinary passport booklets issued by its 27 member states share a common format. This common format features a coloured cover (for which burgundy is recommended but not compulsory: all countries except Croatia follow this recommendation) emblazoned--in the official language(s) of the issuing country (and sometimes its translation into English and French)--with the title "European Union", followed by the name(s) of the member state, the heraldic "Arms" of the State concerned, the word "PASSPORT", together with the biometric passport symbol at the bottom centre of the front cover.
Some EU member states also issue non-EU passports to certain people who have a nationality which does not render them citizens of the European Union (e.g., Danish nationals residing in the Faroe Islands).
With a valid passport, EU citizens are entitled to exercise the right of free movement (meaning they do not need a visa, a certain amount of money or a certain reason to travel freely and no residence permit for settling) in the European Economic Area (European Union, Iceland, Liechtenstein, and Norway), Switzerland and, before 31 December 2020 in the United Kingdom.
When going through border controls to enter an aforementioned country, citizens possessing valid biometric passports are sometimes able to use automated gates instead of immigration counters. For example, when entering the United Kingdom, at major airports, holders of EU biometric passports who are twelve years of age or older can use ePassport gates, whilst all other EU citizens (such as those using a national identity card or a non-biometric passport) and some non-EEA citizens must use an immigration counter. Anyone travelling with children under the age of 12 must also use an immigration counter.
As an alternative to holding a passport, EU citizens can also use a valid national identity card to exercise their right of free movement within the EEA, Switzerland and the United Kingdom (until 1st October 2021 for visitors from the EU). Strictly speaking, it is not necessary for an EU citizen to possess a valid passport or national identity card to enter the EEA or Switzerland. In theory, if an EU citizen outside of both the EEA and Switzerland can prove their nationality by any other means (e.g. by presenting an expired passport or national identity card, or a citizenship certificate), they must be permitted to enter the EEA or Switzerland. An EU citizen who is unable to demonstrate their nationality satisfactorily must nonetheless be given 'every reasonable opportunity' to obtain the necessary documents or to have them delivered within a reasonable period of time.
While considerable progress has been made in harmonising some features, the data page can be found at the front or at the back of an EU passport booklet and there are significant design differences throughout to indicate which member state is the issuer.[note 1]
Since the 1980s, European Union member states have started to harmonise aspects of the designs of their ordinary passport booklets. Most passports issued by EU member states have the common recommended layout; burgundy in colour with the words "European Union" accompanied by the name of the issuing member state printed on the cover. Non-standard types of passports, such as passport cards (Ireland is still the only EU country to issue a passport in card format), diplomatic, service, and emergency passports have not yet been harmonised.
The newest EU member state Croatia refused to fully comply with the EU common recommended layout even though the Croatian passport has been changed in design due to the recent accession into the EU. From 3 August 2015, the new Croatian passport retained its dark blue passport cover and is the odd one out among the 27 European Union member states' passports.
The common design features are a result of several non-binding resolutions:
The security characteristics in EU passports are regulated through both non-binding resolutions and binding regulations:
Only Irish passports are not obliged by EU law to contain fingerprint information in their chip. With the exception of passports issued by Denmark and Ireland, all EU citizens applying for a new ordinary passport or passport renewal by 28 August 2006 (for facial images) and 28 June 2009 (for fingerprints) should have been biometrically enrolled. This is a consequence of Regulation (EC) 2252/2004 in combination with two follow-up decisions by the European Commission.
Information on the cover, in this order, in the language(s) of the issuing state:
Information on the first page, in one or more of the languages of the European Union:
Information on the (possibly laminated) identification page, in the languages of the issuing state plus English and French, accompanied by numbers (which very between member states) that refer to an index that lists the meaning of these fields in all official EU languages:
|1. Surname||2. Forename(s)|
|3. Nationality||4. Date of birth|
|5. Personal ID number (optional)||6. Sex|
|7. Place of birth||8. Date of issue|
|9. Authority||10. Date of expiry|
|11. Signature of holder|
On the top of the identification page there is the code "P" for passport, the code (ISO 3166-1 alpha-3) for the issuing country, and the passport number. On the left side there is the main photo. On other places there might optionally be the passport holder's height and security features, including a smaller, see-through photo.
For the place of birth in an Irish passport, only the county of birth (not the town/city) is shown for people born on the island of Ireland; for Irish citizens born outside Ireland, only the three-letter international code of the country of birth is provided.
Like all biometric passports, the newer EU passports contain a Machine-readable zone, which contains the name, nationality and most other information from the identification page. It is designed in a way so that computers can fairly easily read the information, although still human readable, since it contains only letters (A-Z), digits and "<" as space character, but no bar code or similar.
Names containing non-English letters are usually spelled in the correct way in the visual (non-machine-readable) zone of the passport, but are mapped into A-Z according to the standards of the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) in the machine-readable zone.
The following mapping is specified for EU languages: å -> AA; ä/æ -> AE; ö/ø/oe -> OE, ü -> UE (German) or UXX (Spanish) and ß -> SS. Letters with accents are otherwise replaced by simple letters (ç -> C, ê -> E, etc.). For Greek and Bulgarian there are mapping tables based on transliteration into English. They use both their alphabet and the Latin alphabet in the visual zone.
For example, the German names Müller becomes MUELLER, Groß becomes GROSS, and Gößmann becomes GOESSMANN. The ICAO mapping is mostly used for computer-generated and internationally used documents such as air tickets, but sometimes (like in US visas) also simple letters are used (MULLER, GOSSMANN).
The three possible spelling variants of the same name (e.g. Müller / Mueller / Muller) in different documents sometimes lead to confusion, and the use of two different spellings within the same document (like in the passports of German-speaking countries) may give people who are unfamiliar with the foreign orthography the impression that the document is a forgery. In some countries, the original or alternative spelling of the names may be mentioned on the page facing the identification page or elsewhere in the passport.
It is recommended[by whom?] to use the spelling used in the machine-readable passport zone for visas, airline tickets, etc., and to refer to that zone if being questioned. The same thing applies if the name is too long to fit in the airline's ticket system, otherwise problems can arise. (The machine-readable has room for 39 letters for the name while the visual zone can contain as many as will fit)
Optional information on the following page:
|Member state||Passport cover||Biodata page||Cost||Validity||Issuing authority||Latest version|
||Municipal registration offices
If abroad, Austrian embassies and consulates
|5 September 2014|
||1 May 2014|
Ministry of Interior Affairs
|29 March 2010|
||3 August 2015|
||13 December 2010|
||1 September 2006|
||1 January 2012|
||1 January 2021|
||1 January 2017|
|Finland, Åland Islands||
||1 January 2017|
||12 April 2006|
||Municipal registration offices
If abroad, German embassies and consulates, including some honorary consulates
|1 March 2017|
||National Passport Centre (" / ?")||28 August 2006|
Registration Office (Nyilvántartó Hivatal)
|1 March 2012|
||Consular and Passport Division of the Department of Foreign Affairs||3 October 2013|
||Minister of Foreign Affairs through||20 May 2010|
||29 January 2015|
||27 January 2011|
||Bureau des passeports||16 February 2015|
||Passport & Civil Registration Directorate||29 September 2008|
||23 December 2017|
||5 November 2018|
||10 July 2017|
|Romania||Link to image||
||Ministry of Internal Affairs (General Directorate for Passports)||12 January 2019|
|Slovakia||Link to image||
||26 November 2014|
||12 December 2016|
||2 January 2015|
||2 January 2012|
Following the UK's withdrawal from the European Union in January 2020, the UK and Gibraltar ceased to issue EU passports. British passports have now returned to their previous navy blue design, which first appeared in 1921. Non EU navy blue passports were first issued in March 2020, unlike previous designs the biodata page is now made of polycarbonate.
While in the transition period, UK and Gibraltar passport were considered de facto EU passports, conferring their holders the rights of EU citizens. After the end of the transition period in 1 January 2021, all UK passports now have lost this status.
Prior to the introduction of the UK passport in March 2020, the British passports conformed to the EU standard design. Between March 2019 and March 2020, passports were issued without the 'EUROPEAN UNION' header.
Passports issued in Gibraltar are expected to change to the new UK design in the coming months.
|Former Member state or territory||Date of EU
|Passport cover||Biodata page||Validity||Issuing authority||Latest version|
|United Kingdom||31 January 2020||
Current Non-EU British passport. Issued from March 2020
||HM Passport Office||March 2020|
Previous EU passport design.
|Link to image|
|Gibraltar||Gibraltar Civil Status and Registration Office|
As of 7 April 2020, passport rankings (Germany with most in the EU, and Japan in the world with 191 destinations) by the number of countries and territories their holders could visit without a visa or by obtaining visa on arrival in April 2020 were as follows:
|Country||Number of destinations|
For comparison, those for some other countries, including EEA and former EU (UK):
|Country||Number of destinations|
Some EU countries, such as Germany, France, Ireland and Malta, allow their citizens to have several passports at once to circumvent certain travel restrictions. This can be useful if wanting to travel while a passport remains at a consulate while a visa application is processed, or wanting to apply for further visas while already in a foreign country. It can also be needed to circumvent the fact that visitors whose passports show evidence of a visit to Israel are not allowed to enter Iran, Iraq, Lebanon, Libya, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen (It is, however, possible to get the Israeli entry and exit stamp on a separate piece of paper).
Each EU member state can make its own citizenship laws, so some countries allow dual or multiple citizenship without any restrictions (e.g. France, Ireland, Italy and Sweden), some allow multiple citizenships but ignore existence of other citizenships within their borders (e.g. Poland), some regulate/restrict it (e.g. Austria, Germany, the Netherlands), and others allow it only in exceptional cases (e.g. Lithuania) or only for citizens by descent (e.g. Croatia, Estonia, Slovenia, Spain).
Decision 96/409/CSFP of the Representatives of the Governments of the Member States meeting within the Council of 25 June 1996 on the establishment of an emergency travel document decided that there would be a standard emergency travel document (ETD).
ETDs are issued to European Union citizens for a single journey back to the EU country of which they are a national, to their country of permanent residence or, in exceptional cases, to another destination (inside or outside the Union). The decision does not apply to expired national passports; it is specifically restricted to cases where valid and unexpired passports have been lost, stolen, destroyed, or are temporarily unavailable (i.e. left somewhere else by accident).
Embassies and consulates of EU countries different to the applicant may issue emergency travel documents if
As a consequence of citizenship of the European Union, when in a non-EU country, EU citizens whose country maintains no diplomatic mission there have the right to consular protection and assistance from a diplomatic mission of any other EU country present in the non-EU country.
Like passports issued by EU member states, passports of other EEA states - Iceland, Liechtenstein, and Norway - as well as of Switzerland, can also be used to exercise the right of free movement within the European Economic Area and Switzerland.
As part of the Schengen agreement, passports and travel documents issued by member states shall comply with minimum security standards, and passports must incorporate a storage medium (a chip) that contains the holder's facial image and fingerprints. This obligation does not apply to identity cards or to temporary passports and travel documents with a validity of one year or less. Iceland, Norway, Switzerland, and Liechtenstein are bound by the rules (while the United Kingdom and Ireland are not), as Regulation (EC) No 2252/2004 constitutes a development of provisions of the Schengen acquis within the meaning of the Agreement concluded by the Council of the European Union and Iceland and Norway, the agreement concluded by the European Union, the European Community and the Swiss Confederation, and the Protocol signed between the European Union, the European Community, the Swiss Confederation and the Principality of Liechtenstein on the accession of the Principality of Liechtenstein to the Agreement between the European Union, the European Community and the Swiss Confederation, concerning the association of the four States with the implementation, application and development of the Schengen acquis .