6 Things You Didn’t Know About Your American Passport

It's a small document with huge power.

We guard our passports like they are gold when we travel, and for good reason: That little blue book issued by the U.S. government is among the most powerful documents in the world. Here are six facts you might not have known about your American passport, from rules and regs, to security features, to those pretty little designs.

1.  It's no longer the most powerful passport in the world.

It used to be that the documents issued by the U.S.A. and the U.K. were tired as the most powerful passports in the world, based on how many countries passport holders can visit without a visa. But as of this year, Germany now wins as the world's most powerful passport, based on the Global Passport Index.

2.  Your passport expiration date isn't necessarily accurate.

The small print might read June 2020, but your passport's expiration date might really be December 2019 in that example. While the book doesn't technically expire until it says so, many countries will not let you enter unless you have at least six months remaining before expiry. Passports are typically valid for 10 years, so at year nine, add "renew" to your essential travel-abroad to-do list.

3.  If you have a passport, you're in the minority.

Thrillist pulled some numbers from the State Department and found out that only 38 percent of Americans actually owned passports, as of 2015.

4.  All that pretty artwork inside took six years to complete.

The New York Times breaks down all the details of the illustrations: The artwork tells the story of "sea to shining sea," with the first page opening to Chesapeake Bay and the last one depicting Honolulu, Hawaii.

5.  Counterfeiting is nearly impossible.

There are more than 30 security features on U.S. passports. Making a convincing fake is seriously unlikely.

6.  If you change your looks, you need a new book.

According to the rules in the U.S.A. passport service guide, if it doesn't look like you in the photo, you need a new passport. A little Botox is alright, say. But if you're doing the cheek fillers, lips, maybe some chin reconstruction, a nose job, and a facial tattoo — you might need to reshoot that photo.

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