Why do passports no longer include occupation, eye colour etc?

It’s not uncommon in books and films to hear of a character being described in his or her passport as having a particular occupation, or of being 5’9" with green eyes, or whatever. Similarly, when clearing out my grandmother’s house I came across my grandfather’s old passport, which listed his occupation, hair colour, eye colour and complexion and “distinguishing marks” (none in his case, sadly).

So why are these things no longer listed (on British passports, at least - certainly since the EU-style passports were introduced in 1990 or so)? My passport merely gives my name, date and place of birth, and the fact that I am a British citizen. Not even my address. I suppose the introduction of colour photographs removes the need for hair colour to be listed, but you can’t generally identify eye colour from a passport photo. As for occupation, is it simply that people are less likely to have an “occupation for life”, or what?

Do other countries’ passports still list all this kind of information?

Eye colour can be changed with contact lenses. And in any case, it’s pretty unnecessary as an identifying feature (“yes, your honour, he looked just like the photo, but then I noticed his eyes were hazel and not brown…”)

As for occupation - can you imagine having to pay for a new passport every time you change jobs? (It certainly is true that jobs (or careers) for life are less common)

Occupation was included because fewer people travelled abroad and when they did their job used to be the main reason. So listing it gave customs an idea of what you were doing there and what you were likely to be carrying. It’s not so significant now.

The other stuff has become obsolete with improvements in photography.

Just checked my Greek passport:

  1. Surname
  2. Name
  3. Father’s Name
  4. Nationality
  5. Date of Birth
  6. Sex
  7. Height
  8. Colour of Eyes

My national ID (old style) has more info, such as Occupation, Home Address and Shape of Face. New style IDs don’t have all that info.

I see a lot of different kinds of passports in my line of work (immigration law), and there is a lot of variety in how much detail they list. Some countries list occupation, marital status, religion, oarents’ names, spouse’s name, and in one Latin American country (Colombia maybe?) the shape of your nose. (Although I have yet to see a nose that was not listed as recta, or straight.)

Then there is a whole cateogry of countries that allow young children to be listed in a parent’s passport, usually up to age 16, although there is also usually the option of getitng children their own individual passports. So the options are all over the map, as it were.

Probably a carry-over from a past time when that was used as a thinly-veiled way of extra racial group identification, and rather than get around to changing it, they just say everyone’s got the same nose…

Passports/National IDs/cédulas a.k.a. “your papers, please” used to carry a heap more detail basically (a) as a way to let the authorities know as much as possible about who you were and what you were up to w/o any need for questioning you or holding you until someone investigated and (b) because they were used as a single all-purpose ID/elegibility card for a whole variety of government benefits or services, from voting registration to health benefits to unemployment to your senior discount at the theatre. Nowadays with computer database access it’s not so necessary to havethat printed.