Everything You Need to Know About Passport Barcodes

If you’re planning on traveling internationally, you’ll need a passport. But did you know that there’s more to your passport than just a photo and some stamped pages? Passports also contain barcodes that serve an important purpose. In this article, we’ll explore everything you need to know about passport barcodes.

Key Takeaways

  • Passport barcodes are used to store important information about the passport holder, such as their name, date of birth, and country of citizenship.
  • The barcode on a passport uses a specific format called the PDF417. It’s a 2D barcode that can store a large amount of information.
  • Passport barcodes are read using a barcode scanner, which makes the process of checking passports faster and more accurate.
  • The information contained in a passport barcode is always present on the passport, but the barcode provides an easier way to access it.

How Do Passport Barcodes Work?

Passport barcodes are built using a specific format called the PDF417. This format is a 2D or two-dimensional barcode that can store a large amount of information. The PDF417 format was developed by Symbol Technologies (now owned by Motorola) back in 1991.

The barcode on your passport contains all the information that’s present on the physical pages of your passport. This information includes your name, date of birth, passport number, expiration date, and more. The barcode serves as a way to quickly and accurately access this information.

When you go through passport control at an airport, the customs officer will scan the barcode on your passport using a barcode scanner. The scanner reads the information stored in the barcode and uses it to fill in the details on the officer’s screen. This makes the process of checking passports faster and more accurate.

See also  The Ultimate Guide to Obtaining a Brazil Passport: Your Ticket to South America

What Are the Benefits of Passport Barcodes?

There are a number of benefits to using passport barcodes. Here are a few:

  • Speed: Using a barcode scanner to read passports is faster than manually typing in details from the physical passport pages.
  • Accuracy: Because barcodes are machine-readable, there’s less chance of human error.
  • Security: The barcode contains all the same information as the physical passport, so there’s no extra security risk.
  • Conformity: The PDF417 format is used on all passports worldwide, which means that customs officials know how to read the barcode regardless of where the passport was issued.

How to Read a Passport Barcode

As we’ve mentioned, customs officials use barcode scanners to read the information stored on passport barcodes. But what if you want to read the barcode yourself?

It’s not recommended that you try to read your passport barcode on your own. The barcode contains sensitive information and you could potentially damage it if you try to read it using the wrong equipment.

If you’re interested in learning more about what’s contained in your passport barcode, your best bet is to look up information from a reputable source like your passport issuer or the US State Department.


Passport barcodes are an important part of modern international travel. They make the process of checking passports faster and more accurate, while also containing all the same important information as the physical passport pages.

If you’re planning on traveling internationally, it’s important to make sure your passport barcode is in good condition. Avoid bending or scratching it, and try to keep it away from direct heat or sunlight.

See also  Navigating the Australian Immigration System: Understanding the Difference Between 189 and 190 Visas

In short, your passport barcode plays a crucial role in your travels, even if you never actually see it yourself.


Q: Can I find my passport information online using the barcode?
A: No, the information contained in your passport barcode is confidential and cannot be accessed online.

Q: What happens if my passport barcode is damaged?
A: If your passport barcode is damaged, you may experience delays or difficulties when going through customs. It’s always best to keep your passport in good condition.

Q: Can someone steal my passport information by scanning the barcode?
A: It’s extremely unlikely that someone could steal your passport information using the barcode alone. However, it’s always important to keep your passport safe and secure to avoid any potential issues.

About the Author

Clifford Thompson

Clifford is a 33-year-old Asian-American travel blogger based in Seattle, Washington. He has a degree in computer science and has traveled to over 30 countries across six continents. Clifford is experienced in navigating the visa and passport application process and shares his knowledge and insights on the blog. His articles are informative and engaging, providing readers with practical advice and recommendations for international travel.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *