Passports are a necessity in today’s global world and so are the fees someone has to pay for a travel document. In the best case, you pay this fee only every ten years, as this is the maximum validity of a modern standard passport today. However, there are still countries issuing these booklets for only five years.

Passport fees should be somehow related to the average income of its citizens and usually passport offices charge between 2% to 4% for a passport compared to the average income. A few countries only charge 1%. But others also go up to 7% to 8%.

In Africa, there is an extreme case where the figure goes up to 40%! I’m German, and our average income is €3230. Imagine if we had to pay €1290 for a passport! But that’s the case, for example, in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) where a passport costs you the equivalent of $185 at an average income of $460. Two readers of my website even commented that a DRC passport is now at $250, which would make the Congolese passport one of the most expensive in the world.

Other rather expensive passports are those from Lebanon ($330), Australia ($205), Venezuela ($200) and Turkey ($180).

India ($23), China ($29), Hong Kong ($32) and Thailand ($33) charge citizens the lowest fees. Bulgaria has the cheapest fees within the European Union at only $22.

Passports are big business. The global e-passport market is valued at $23.93 billion by the end of 2023, growing at a compound annual growth rate of 20.14% during 2019-2023.

The International Civil Aviation Organisation’s Doc 9303 also recommends a new passport design every few years to maintain document security and integrity. The International Air Transport Association (IATA) says passenger numbers will reach 4.72 billion (up 4.0% from 4.54 billion in 2019).

People need passports, but at what costs? Should a passport office make a profit, and should your embassy charge you a higher fee when you are not in your home country?

If the fees of a passport are within the earlier mentioned range of 1% to 4%, then it’s fine with me. How does a passport office justify higher costs than these? Did they negotiate just a bad purchasing contract? Governments like to brag about having the “most advanced” and “most secure” travel document every time a passport is updated (which is always good timing to increase the fees).

Several countries (Germany, for example) managed to keep the same costs for a new passport even though the newer version was significantly updated with state-of-the-art technology and security. I guess passport pricing is also a political issue.

Why countries charge significantly more for a passport at their embassies or consulates is a riddle for me. While German embassies charge up to €141 compared to €60 at home, the United States’ passports costs the same around the world as at home – $110.

Citizen services should, in my humble opinion, not make a huge profit but they should cover their costs, of course. Citizen service is a state obligation without extorting its citizens.

BVP

Some of the readers might still remember the British Visitor Passport (BVP), which was a travel document used to travel within Europe. One could get it at the post office. The fees? £6!

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