Passports were earlier used as travel documents, to establish the holder’s country. With time, a passport has also increasingly become a proof of identity and address.
However, passports have an expiry date, and upon renewal, a new passport is issued with a new passport number. This is extremely inconvenient, as one now needs to remember the new passport number while filling travel documents (every time one enters and exits a country) and sometimes at other places in a foreign country. Additional mess can be created if the passport renewal date and travel dates are close to each other, or there are valid visas on the old passport (to which passport number is the visa attached? :=( ).
My driving license number remains the same, even when it is renewed. So does my PAN number with the Income Tax Department. My Aadhar number will not change when I apply for a renewal (due to change of address or replacement of my mugshot). So, why can’t my passport number remain the same over my lifetime, as long as I continue to hold the passport of the same country?
Before one starts attributing the situation to the state of the Indian bureaucracy, this is true of the US, the UK, Australia, and most other countries.
Traditionally, blank passports were pre-printed with the numbers in a high-security press, and the passport holder’s details were filled later. So, when a new passport was issued, it got a new number. The passport number was the number assigned to a document, not an identity number.
However, with the technology available today, there is no need carry on these (ineffective) traditions.
There are some concerns expressed about lost and stolen passports being replaced with the same passport number. These can easily be handled with some kind of suffixes, or maybe assignment of a new passport number for such exceptions.
So, which major country will be the first to start using the passport number as an unchangeable identity number?
If anyone knows of any valid reasons why the passport numbers keep changing, please use the comment feature below. Also, please do share details of any country that does not change the passport numbers with each renewal.