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Belgians like to travel abroad, but you need travel documents to do that. Within Europe – with the exception of the UK – the electronic identity card is sufficient as well as in some countries such as Turkey, Egypt and Jordan.
Our FPS is responsible
Travellers wishing to go elsewhere are required to hold an international passport: the familiar burgundy booklet that you have to present at the border control when you arrive in a country. The Belgian passport is sufficient to travel without a visa in as many as 106 countries, making it one of the 'most powerful' travel documents in the world.
In other countries, you will need a visa: a sticker affixed to the passport that authorises you to stay in or travel through a country for a limited period.
Those living in Belgium are required to apply to the municipal authority for their passport. But did you know that the FPS Foreign Affairs is responsible for issuing passports? And, of course, it is also our consular services that provide passports to Belgian citizens abroad – if they are registered at a consulate.
Blake & Mortimer in action on pages 16 and 17.
© Editions Blake & Mortimer / Studio Jacobs, 2021
A new contract, a new passport
For eight years, the appearance of the Belgian passport has remained visually unchanged. It was already very difficult to imitate, and attempts at forgery have therefore remained limited. There were 66 cases in 2019, and even fewer during the pandemic years.
Still, we were not allowed to rest on our laurels, because fraudsters are also becoming more skilful. So when the contract came up for renewal in 2020, it was time to take a detailed look at the passport. Working together with anti-fraud specialists from the Federal Police, our FPS developed an extra secure passport. The consortium Zetes and Thales will produce the passports over the next seven years. They became available from 7 February 2022.
48 security features
The new passports are expertly printed in 2 layers: a visible offset next to an offset with more details that only show up under UV light. This allowed the integration of as many as 48 security features compared with 24 in the old version. These are codes or images hidden in various places such as in the photo of the holder on the data page or in the leg of Tintin's rocket at the back of the booklet. The reverse side of the data page contains a detailed data matrix – a two-dimensional bar code – with the holder's details. Only the authority can read all the details using a specific app.
Natacha at the Atomium: under UV light all the details appear.
© Zetes 2022
14 comic characters
A notable feature is the series of Belgian comic characters that appear throughout the booklet, a total of 14 different ones (see box), linked by the common theme of 'travel'. The drawings not only provide an opportunity to incorporate security features here and there, they also directly showcase our world-famous ninth art.
Our FPS was therefore pleased that several publishers, authors and rights holders were willing to donate the images free of charge, enabling a top-quality Belgian passport to be produced without excessive costs.
Which cartoon characters feature in the new passport?
The full list is: Tintin, Natacha, Marsupilami, Spike and Suzy, Billy & Buddy, Kari Lente, Blake & Mortimer, De Kiekeboes, Lucky Luke, the Smurfs, Spirou & Fantasio, Jeremy, Largo Winch and Nero. A nice balance of Dutch- and French-language charactersj!
Still 65 euros
The price will remain unchanged. An ordinary passport of 34 pages – 2 more than in the old passport – still costs 65 euros for adults and 35 euros for minors, for standard delivery within 5 working days. However, this price does not include municipal fees that each municipality is free to determine. Applicants wishing to receive the passport the very next day (urgent) or within 4.5 hours (super urgent) pay an additional fee. The passport is valid for 7 years for adults and 5 years for minors.
We would like to add that international passports are a sought-after product in Belgium. In normal years, over 600,000 passports are issued. In 2018, for example, 647,873 passports were issued. During the pandemic years – with fewer travel opportunities – far fewer passports were produced: 201,179 in 2020 and 362,173 in 2021.
To be clear, the old passport will remain valid beyond 7 February 2022 until the validity date shown on it.
You will find all the details about passport regulations on our website.
Discover the full passport