No, this is not a jingoistic rant on how proud I am to have a USA! USA! USA! passport. Rather, it’s a smug reference to my personal passport — which is approaching phonebook proportions.
Until recently, my passport was a standard pre-9-11 issue US passport. I traveled extensively with that document, and during its ten years of validity, I lived in Japan for more than six years and in the UAE for more than a year. In addition to the residence visas of Japan and the UAE, my old passport has visas in it from countries including Turkey, Kazakhstan, Vietnam, Iraq, Cambodia, Saudi Arabia, and many other fun places. Also fun to see is the different “generations” of visas that appear in the page — my passport saw two “generations” of China visas and three “generations” of Japanese visas, which both changed substantially over the past ten years that my passport was in use as new document security options became available.
I first added additional pages to my passport in 2003 through a process unique to the US by which additional pages are taped into the passport. (My EU, Japanese and Saudi friends find this process to be absurd and vulnerable to fraud.) These additional pages were themselves almost full with my recent regular travels across the Middle East, and my passport was expanded again in 2010.
Today, I recieved my new passport, the “big book” version with double the number of standard pages and full of holograms and hidden electronic tags. By comparison, my old passport, with none of the 21st century security features, feels quaint. But I’m not losing that document just yet. My old passport still holds my UAE visa, and because of the costs and hassle associated with getting a new visa in the new passport, the common practice is to staple the old passport to the new one. So these two passports, as shown in the photo above, is what I’ll be carrying around until the end of 2012 (or when I depart the UAE). If you look carefully, you can see both those inserts in the old passport, the front cover of which is stapled to the back cover of my new passport.