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In 1540, granting travel documents in England became a role of the Privy Council of England, and it was around this time that the term "passport" was used.

In 1794, issuing British passports became the job of the Office of the Secretary of State.

King Henry V of England is credited with having invented what some consider the first true passport, as a means of helping his subjects prove who they were in foreign lands.

Such passports have an area where some of the information otherwise written in textual form is written as strings of alphanumeric characters, printed in a manner suitable for optical character recognition.

This enables border controllers and other law enforcement agents to process these passports more quickly, without having to input the information manually into a computer.

Nehemiah 2:7-9, dating from approximately 450 BC, states that Nehemiah, an official serving King Artaxerxes I of Persia, asked permission to travel to Judea; the king granted leave and gave him a letter "to the governors beyond the river" requesting safe passage for him as he traveled through their lands.

In the medieval Islamic Caliphate, a form of passport was the bara'a, a receipt for taxes paid.

Passport standardization came about in 1980, under the auspices of the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO).

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