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Almost all passports I have seen have a place of birth field on them. For instance, on the Indian Passport,

Random Samaritan Indian Passport

and on the US Passport,

Random Samaritan US Passport

Is there a specific reason to this?

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On a side note, I don't think it's OK to post someones passport details online. –  Ayesh K Jul 2 at 9:01
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@AyeshK There were taken from Google. They are the top results if you search for German Passport or Indian Passport, although I do not disagree with you. But I'm just reusing the images. –  Aditya Somani Jul 2 at 9:07
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@AyeshK Given that Frank Moss is the Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Passport Services, it possible that he released the image voluntarily. –  jinawee Jul 2 at 9:12
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@jinawee Also, it seems like a huge coincidence that he was born on 1st January 1950, and in Washington D.C. (though there were probably about 20 people born in D.C. on that date). In any case, "EP Test Sample" makes it clear that this is not a real passport. –  David Richerby Jul 2 at 9:38
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related: travel.stackexchange.com/q/27446/46 –  Kate Gregory Jul 2 at 14:20

4 Answers 4

up vote 20 down vote accepted

An immediate reason is that some international norms recommend it but they do not mandate it (the ICAO coordinates this at an international level, see comments for more detail). EU passports must also mention it. A more general reason for ID of any kind to have a date of birth and place of birth is to be able to distinguish people with the same name (Wikipedia has more details on this).

But possibly the most important reason is that in many countries, your place of birth would also have a register that would include a note of your birth and, eventually, of your death so you can always come back to that register to verify that someone is not trying to use a made-up identity or a dead's person identity. Before computer databases, it was the main mechanism to maintain and access this information.

Incidentally, I believe the Swiss passport does not have a “place of birth” but a “place of origin” (Heimatort or Lieu d'origine), which is the place your family comes from and can be transmitted from one generation to the next even if you never lived there.

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Distinguish people with the same name...extrapolate a little? I'm not sure I fully understand how does a place of birth add to that. Also, passport number and date of birth serve the same purpose too right? Plus passports have a photo in them... –  Aditya Somani Jul 2 at 8:23
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@AdityaSomani Any bit of information adds to that. Having the same name is pretty common, having the same name and being born at the same date is rarer, having the same name, same date of birth and same place of birth must be rare still. Photo does not help at all for the paperwork, it's just used to match the person and the document. –  Relaxed Jul 2 at 8:30
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According to state.gov/documents/organization/94675.pdf "Inclusion of the place of birth entry in the passport is consistent with the 1980 report of the International Civil Aviation Organization of the United Nations, (ICAO), which recommended a standardized passport including the place of birth entry as an essential element." but this appears to refer to ICAO's Document 9303, which says place of birth is optional. –  Max Jul 2 at 11:06
    
Second paragraph is spot on. –  Szabolcs Jul 2 at 14:03
    
In addition, traditionally in the western, Christian world births and deaths were not recorded by the central government, but by the local Church/Parish. So a natural (or only) place to look for identity was to go to the actual place of birth. I think this tradition is at play too. (I imagine non-Christian cultures may have similar local record keeping traditions too). –  Ida Jul 2 at 19:34

It's not the happiest of reasons, but quite a few countries care not just what your country of citizenship is, but where you or your family is originally from. For example, India imposes additional restrictions on anybody of Pakistani origin, anybody born in the ex-USSR must prove they have renounced their citizenship if applying for a Russian visa, people born in Israel may face unwanted extra attention in much of the Middle East, a friend of mine whose birth certificate calls him "Mohammed" with place of birth "Baghdad" had significant trouble getting a US visa even though he's lived in Israel as "Herzl" since age 5 and is more Jewish than a bagel, etc etc. And the "place of birth" field in the passport makes it very easy for these countries to see where the applicant is from.

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That makes no sense. You seem to be claiming that the UK government writes my place of birth on my passport to tell other countries how they can discriminate against me. Why on earth would my country do that to me? Wouldn't they, instead, withhold that information from my passport, to prevent foreign governments discriminating against me? (Especially given Max's comment to this answer suggesting that including place of birth is not mandatory under international treaties.) –  David Richerby Jul 2 at 18:36
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Passport contents are a unified worldwide standard, not something decided solely by any single country. Enough countries have insisted that the place of birth should be included, so it's (de facto) in the standard, and that's why the UK puts it in its passports. –  jpatokal Jul 3 at 0:10
    
FWIW, some countries like Canada offer the option of a passport with a blank place of birth, but many countries will find also find this quite suspicious... –  jpatokal Jul 3 at 0:11
    
The comment I linked to says that it's a non-mandatory ICAO recommendation. In other words, countries are free to include it or not at their choice. –  David Richerby Jul 3 at 0:44
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The GAO studied the possibility of deleting birthplace from US passports in 1987; its report may be enlightening here. –  Michael Hampton Jul 3 at 20:10

I think just the fact that it's one of the few attributes of a person that is generally verifiable (through birth records), and will never change, makes it useful to include on a passport or other document of identity.

You can change your country of citizenship, your name, and even your sex, but the circumstances of your birth will never change.

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The real answer, is something that very few people know. Basically the passport is a VERY important document. Everyone knows how much of a hassle it is if you lost it. So suppose someone finds a misplaced passport. Now, how will he return it? How will he trace that person who is the poor, sad, troubled owner of the passport? Well, the fail-safe way is to start at the BEGINNING - the place where the poor soul was born many, many years ago. And from there trace his life, and his path - find the nanny who nursed him, the school mate who bullied him, the sweetheart who broke his heart and married his best friend, the professor who failed him in college, the boss who fired him at work -- work your way through his life, until you finally reach that miserable soul and hand him over his passport to put back the smile in his face.

That, my friend, is the REAL reason why the passport has a place of birth field in it...

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There is nothing accurate or correct about this answer, yet I want to +1 so bad. –  BCqrstoO Jul 3 at 7:32
    
-1 This answer is so wrong in so many places that I don't know where to start criticizing it. –  Quora Feans Jul 3 at 8:48
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@QuoraFeans you should always start at the beginning. –  user13107 Jul 3 at 10:53
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So, so awesome. But I can't vote it up, sorry –  Mark Mayo Jul 3 at 20:25

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