Wednesday,  May 22, 2019  2:18 pm

Here's why your passport glows in the dark


Here's why your passport glows in the dark
Christine Hogg

Christine Hogg is the Associate Digital Editor at PAX Global Media. Prior to joining PAX, she obtained her Honours BA in Journalism from the University of Toronto. Upon graduating, she went on to write for several travel publications while travelling the world. Her longest trip was a three-week stint in Europe, and the shortest was a 16-hour adventure in Iceland. Get in touch: christine@paxglobalmedia.com.

From the outside, a Canadian passport looks like any other— pocket-sized, and filled with 36 pages for you to collect stamps to your heart's content.

But, hidden from the naked eye is a whole other side of your passport you've probably never seen before—unless you own a black light.

According to Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada, as required by Annex 9 to the Chicago convention on International Civil Aviation, Canada regularly updates security features in new versions of its travel documents to guard against their misuse and to facilitate the detection of cases where such documents have been unlawfully altered, replicated or issued.

One of these security tactics means your passport looks really cool under a UV lamp. The photos you see in daylight are completely different than what lies underneath!

A functional purpose

As it turns out, the fluorescent photos aren't just fun to look at. Designed in 2013 for both the five-year and 10-year passport options, according to Fenelon, the funky images actually serve a real purpose at the border.

"Fluorescent security features rely on specialized inks that emit coloured light when stimulated with an ultraviolet lamp," Beatrice Fenelon, spokesperson for IRCC told PAX. "These fluorescent inks are but one among a diverse array of security features intended to render the Canadian passport more difficult to counterfeit."

Similar to what happened when Canada swapped its paper currency for plastic, rates of counterfeiting passports have decreased substantially since this feature was embedded into the Canadian passport.

No word yet on what the new passports will look like, but according to Fenelon, "the release of new passport designs must also be synchronized with our competitive procurement processes for passport materials and related equipment and services."

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