The Hidden Secrets Inside Your Passport

Electronic passports are constantly being updated to reflect the latest technology by including, and often embedding more sophisticated security features in their design, in order to thwart potential counterfeiters, fraudsters and impostors worldwide who are becoming more and more sophisticated when it comes to passport fraud.

Today there are quite a number of features that may be included, or excluded from the process of manufacturing a passport in many countries worldwide. After looking at the the types of threats which exist for passports, I'll take a look at range of security features used in the manufacture of today's modern passport.

What Types Security Threats Exist For Passports?

Authorities in every country are tasked with, and encouraged to use a combination of security features in order to mitigate the risk to produce counterfeit or forged passports. There are many ways in which fraudsters attempt to manipulate or create a forged passport including;

  • Tampering of the inbuilt chip.
  • Photo substitution of the passport bearer.
  • Deletion or alteration of visa entry stamps.
  • Theft of genuine passport blank booklets.
  • Counterfeiting the entire passport.
  • Removal or substitution of certain passport pages.
  • Alteration of information on the passport's data page.
  • Someone using a genuine passport who is not the official holder of the passport, however looks similar to the bearer.

Guilloche Design


A Guilloche design is a pattern of computer optimized and generated fine lines that form a unique image. This image can only be reproduced with access to the original software and parameters used to create it originally. Similar to an anti scan pattern, the Guilloche design is a security feature designed to make it impossible for forgers to copy a passport.



Special fonts and font sizes are utilized as a staple security feature of many a modern passport. These fonts can be particulaly difficult to duplicate as they can include deliberate errors. Some passport pages may also include a font that is so small it’s not even visible under a microscope. According to tech website Gizmodo, printing techniques and type are the most difficult security features to replicate.



Holographic images are a main staple utilized in passport manufacturing today, and perhaps the most recognized passport security feature, as they are visible to the naked eye. Holograms are a three-dimensional image integrated on various pages of a passport most notably, the information page.

Hologram structures are a feature according to the International Civil Aviation Organization’s Doc 9303 'Machine Readable Travel Documents,' which form part of the ICAO’s traveler identification management strategy. Structure features contain verifiable information based on their physical structure and can be read by a machine for authentication purposes. Notably, the Canadian passport features holograms of scenes from Canada’s history that are only visible under UV light.

Optically Variable Ink


Modern passports also include what is known as optically variable ink. This is ink that changes color depending on the light utilized to view it. Optically variable inks are substance features according to the ICAO’s Doc 9303 and are also machine readable. Today, passports make use of special printing techniques including custom inks, threads and papers to make them almost impossible to forge.

Chemical Sensitizers


A chemical sensitizer is a special chemical blend used in passport paper to prevent tampering. Consider then if bleach or other solvents are poured onto the passport paper in an attempt to alter them then irreversible colors will develop on the pages due to the chemical sensitizers.

Encoded Data


Electronic passports may include encoded data that are invisible to the naked eye. A passport number may be encoded and stored on special security threads within the passport which can only be decoded using the proper machine reader. Such hidden information adds an additional layer of security to the passport document.

Electronic Chip


Electronic passports or e-passports feature a chip containing the passport holder’s photo and identification data which is embedded in the last page of the passport.

Invisible Fluorescent Fibers


Invisible fluorescent fibers are a substance feature embedded into the paper used to make passports. These fibers are only visible under UV light and do not appear on photocopies.

Ultraviolet Dull Paper


Ultraviolet dull paper is a unique type of paper which does not reflect ultraviolet light, meaning that the UV ink will not appear on the paper in regular light, and can only be viewed under black light.



A watermark is a design formed in the paper using a tonal gradation, visible only when held up to the light. Passport printers may use different watermarks for the data page and the visa pages of the passport in order to hinder those attempting to replace the data page.

Sewing Technology to Bind the Passport Booklet


Passports also use a special sewing technology to bind each passport booklet together. This method is such that if someone makes an attempt to take the booklet apart, it will be obvious that tampering has taken place. Sewing threads may also be UV fluorescent as an added security measure.

Anti-Scan Pattern


An anti-scan pattern is an image made of fine lines at varying angular displacement in the background design of the passport paper. This security feature is not visible to the naked eye. When the passport is scanned or photocopied the anti scan pattern becomes visible. This helps deter those who would otherwise make an attempt to forge a passport.

Tactile Feature


Tactile security features are those that are perceptible by touch giving the document a certain feel or three dimensional texture. An example of a tactile feature is intaglio printing. Intaglio printing is the process of creating a relief print or image with a tactile feel on the paper.

Source/Credit: The Passport Index

Sandra Hawkins

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