Passport Security Discussion

Slightly OT, but does anybody know how passports actually work? What I mean is, how do countries co-ordinate the issue of a valid passport in country A for person N with recognition of that passport at border control in country B? Are there international standards for the digital data on the passport, or some sort of central database somewhere that validates whether the passport is valid? Is recognition of passports entirely divorced from recognition of the issuing authority?

Passports are very decentralised. There is no central database and it is up to border enforcement to determine if the passport is real.

There are very few standards to a passport.

That’s what I guessed. I’m surprised it even works at all.

One of the few standards is that the new RFID chips are readable by the PC. But they don’t store info and the border guards don’t know where you’ve been if you don’t have the stamps.

So, purely hypothetically then, if you were travelling on a forged passport there is really no way for border control to know that the passport is forged? All that supposedly “robust security” is a complete mirage?

Well… No. There are anti forgery features in a passport, like money.

UV fibres.
The ROM chip.


OK, but … assuming a good forgery (a lot of fakes, apparently, come out of official passport offices are are provided by bent officials). There aren’t any direct links between countries that enable country B to interrogate country A for the instantaneous status of a passport and the person using it? It seems to me that if no such thing exists, terrorist networks could operate with complete impunity as long as they have a plant in somebody’s passport office.

EDIT: thanks for the video, I’ll have a look!

Usually something like that would come out of countries with less-than-stellar records.

They already need a visa. Visa-free travel comes from countries that have provable safety and honesty records.

Following the disappearance of MH370 back in 2014 it was later found that two of the passengers had checked in using passports that had been reported stolen in Thailand. Apparently this was not discovered as Malaysian (or KL Airport) were not accessing a Database that listed stolen passports.

That was quickly rectified - no doubt after other countries told Malaysia to get their house in order.

As far as I know when countries get visa free travel to other countries passport security is one factor they look into. So I think this is how south africa lost visa free with the uk because they had poor passport security. So I think if your country has visa wavier or visa on arrival to most western countries they may have passport security standards and perhaps database access. But individual countries decide what kind of passport security to implement.

Besides that, there are probably not much more to it.

The basic code design is international though. It reads your passport as they swipe it in the reader.

All this is old School though. In the future, as vaccine passports are showing, passports visas etc will all disappear in physical form. All info will be stored in electronic central databases accessible by all legitimate government agencies across the world.

Imagine the process of applying for a visa or permit in the future - no need to send physical passport in order to get a physical visa stamp or permit. The embassy will just mark you as accepted for a time frame in the database.

I have also wondered if you hold a second passport, would they know?

And as last resort they just contact the embassy or equal in case of doubt.

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Wait, wait, wait … There is money in my passport?!?

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Similar to money

There are also ids and codes that allows, at least some, countries to see if there are warnings. Hypothetically interpol, Un etc can all flag passports. That wont stop fake ones, but a name/id that is flagged is certainly flagged internationally. The lucky so far not.all coutries get along and as uch victims of persecution still have means of escaping. That will be over soon.

They don’t know unless you inform them.



They can however pick up people with the same name and birth date and birth place who switch passport if they’ve already flagged you in the system.

I know this because it happened to me. For about five minutes I tried to brazen it out by claiming it was just a coincidence. Didn’t wash…