UK Parliament Discussion: Joint Passports (Wives)

UK Joint Passports WivesMrs. Joyce Butler asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will initiate new discussions in the United Nations to change the terms of the agreement which prevents wives from using joint passports when travelling alone, considering the recent trend towards greater independence of married women. UK Joint Passports Wives

Mr. Anthony Royle No, Sir. Such a passport is issued to the husband, and, although the wife’s particulars are included as a matter of convenience for family travel, she is not the joint holder. A married woman has always been able to have her own passport, to which her children under 16 can be added.

Mrs. Butler Does the Minister understand how much resentment is caused by this fuddy-duddy discrimination in these liberated days? Couldn’t he look at this matter again to see whether more equal rights can be granted to holders of joint passports? What is the position of a married woman travelling on a joint passport if her husband dies while both are abroad together? What protection does she have? UK Joint Passports Wives

Mr. Boyle I should like notice of the second part of the hon. Lady’s question. I will let her know the answer. On the first part of the question, we are tied by our international agreements on this matter. What we do is entirely in accordance with the agreement reached at the 1926 passport conference, and that agreement was reviewed at the 1963 United Nations conference and was not altered.

Dame Irene Ward All these soft-soapy answers are no good to the women of this country, who feel very strongly on the matter. If the international agreements tie us to all sorts of things that we do not want to be tied to, could we not take a different line and get them altered? UK Joint Passports Wives

Mr. Royle I always love giving my hon. Friend soft answers; I hope that I am not giving her soapy answers. My hon. Friend must realize that we are tied by international agreements. But no doubt her words will have been read, and I am grateful to her for letting her views be known to the House.

London, 1971
Love also the art of wording…

The British Passports Act of 1953 marked a significant change, granting women the ability to hold their own passports. E.g. in Switzerland, only since 1975. USA, since 1920!

Update: 5 Nov 2023

In response to this post on joint UK passports and the role of a wife traveling on her husband’s passport, here are five key points from my fellow collector and former immigration officer Andy on historical passport rules and changes:

1. Traditionally, a British passport with a wife’s details could not be used by the wife when travelling alone, and the assumption was that the “holder” would be the husband.

2. In April 1976, there was a shift towards gender-neutral language in passports, allowing the “holder” to be either the husband or the wife.

3. The complete transition to more egalitarian language occurred in March 1979, where the passport stated that it could be used by the “holder” but not the “spouse” when traveling alone.

4. Interestingly, a March 1979 passport showed the wife as the “bearer” and her husband as the accompanying “spouse,” with the wife’s picture placed above her husband’s on the photograph page.

Wife as passport holder, not husband

5. Passport stamp 1983 marked “H. only” likely refer to the “Holder only” rather than “Husband only,” indicating a change in passport usage over the years, reflecting evolving social norms and practices.


Spelling Error UK Joint Passports Wives

Furthermore, I have recently discovered a spelling mistake in some of my 1976 passports issued by the Passport Office. It appears that the word “épouse” has a double’s,’ which seems to be an error rather than a forgery. This error likely persisted for some time before being corrected. While this might make these passports valuable as collectibles, it’s doubtful that many people, besides myself, find this detail noteworthy. Surprisingly, I worked as an Immigration Officer in 1976 and never noticed this mistake until now.

UK passport spelling error epousse instead of epouse

Andy, thank you kindly for this valuable insight into UK passport history and sharing the samples from your fine collection.



incl. FREE guideline!

FAQ Passport History pasaporte passeport паспорт 护照 パスポート جواز سفر पासपोर्ट

1. What are the earliest known examples of passports, and how have they evolved?

The word "passport" came up only in the mid 15th Century. Before that, such documents were safe conducts, recommendations or protection letters. On a practical aspect, the earliest passport I have seen was from the mid 16th Century. Read more...

2. Are there any notable historical figures or personalities whose passports are highly sought after by collectors?

Every collector is doing well to define his collection focus, and yes, there are collectors looking for Celebrity passports and travel documents of historical figures like Winston Churchill, Brothers Grimm, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe. Read more...

3. How did passport designs and security features change throughout different periods in history, and what impact did these changes have on forgery prevention?

"Passports" before the 18th Century had a pure functional character. Security features were, in the best case, a watermark and a wax seal. Forgery, back then, was not an issue like it is nowadays. Only from the 1980s on, security features became a thing. A state-of-the-art passport nowadays has dozens of security features - visible and invisible. Some are known only by the security document printer itself. Read more...

4. What are some of the rarest and most valuable historical passports that have ever been sold or auctioned?

Lou Gehrig, Victor Tsoi, Marilyn Monroe, James Joyce, and Albert Einstein when it comes to the most expensive ones. Read more...

5. How do diplomatic passports differ from regular passports, and what makes them significant to collectors?

Such documents were often held by officials in high ranks, like ambassadors, consuls or special envoys. Furthermore, these travel documents are often frequently traveled. Hence, they hold a tapestry of stamps or visas. Partly from unusual places.

6. Can you provide insights into the stories behind specific historical passports that offer unique insights into past travel and migration trends?

A passport tells the story of its bearer and these stories can be everything - surprising, sad, vivid. Isabella Bird and her travels (1831-1904) or Mary Kingsley, a fearless Lady explorer.

7. What role did passports play during significant historical events, such as wartime travel restrictions or international treaties?

During war, a passport could have been a matter of life or death. Especially, when we are looking into WWII and the Holocaust. And yes, during that time, passports and similar documents were often forged to escape and save lives. Example...

8. How has the emergence of digital passports and biometric identification impacted the world of passport collecting?

Current modern passports having now often a sparkling, flashy design. This has mainly two reasons. 1. Improved security and 2. Displaying a countries' heritage, icons, and important figures or achievements. I can fully understand that those modern documents are wanted, especially by younger collectors.

9. Are there any specialized collections of passports, such as those from a specific country, era, or distinguished individuals?

Yes, the University of Western Sidney Library has e.g. a passport collection of the former prime minister Hon Edward Gough Whitlam and his wife Margaret. They are all diplomatic passports and I had the pleasure to apprise them. I hold e.g. a collection of almost all types of the German Empire passports (only 2 types are still missing). Also, my East German passport collection is quite extensive with pretty rare passport types.

10. Where can passport collectors find reliable resources and reputable sellers to expand their collection and learn more about passport history?

A good start is eBay, Delcampe, flea markets, garage or estate sales. The more significant travel documents you probably find at the classic auction houses. Sometimes I also offer documents from my archive/collection. See offers... As you are already here, you surely found a great source on the topic 😉

Other great sources are: Scottish Passports, The Nansen passport, The secret lives of diplomatic couriers

11. Is vintage passport collecting legal? What are the regulations and considerations collectors should know when acquiring historical passports?

First, it's important to stress that each country has its own laws when it comes to passports. Collecting old vintage passports for historical or educational reasons is safe and legal, or at least tolerated. More details on the legal aspects are here...

Does this article spark your curiosity about passport collecting and the history of passports? With this valuable information, you have a good basis to start your own passport collection.

Question? Contact me...

Passport collection, passport renewal, emergency passport renewal, same day passport, passport application