The rarest passport in the world is the Sovereign Military Order of Malta passport: only 500 people on the planet possess it.
The Order of Malta is a religious Catholic order with an almost 1000-year history and a sovereign state with observer status at the UN. Having its constitution, currency, and citizenship, the Order of Malta, however, lacks its sovereign territory, possessing only sovereign residences in the territories of other countries, making it a truly unique state.
The Order of Malta originated as an organization – a knightly order – in Jerusalem around the year 1099. In 1530, the King of Spain gifted the Maltese archipelago to the order, effectively transforming it into a small sovereign state. However, Napoleon Bonaparte destroyed the state of the Maltese knights in 1798, and today, the Order of Malta exists de facto as an international organization with its headquarters in Rome.
Although the Sovereign Military Order of Malta has diplomatic relations with 113 countries worldwide, not all recognize it as a full-fledged state. Nevertheless, this doesn’t prevent the Order from issuing its passports recognized by those states.
Although the practice of issuing diplomatic documents to its representatives has existed in the Order since the 14th century, passports in the modern sense began to be issued by the Order of Malta only after the Second World War.
Since the Sovereign Military Order of Malta does not have its territory, it does not have its population. Instead, it has members of the Order – knights and dames. Currently, there are over 13 thousand of them. However, not all of them have passports of the Order of Malta. This document is issued only to the highest leadership and diplomatic representatives. In total, there are only about 500 diplomatic passports of the Order of Malta in circulation, making this passport the rarest in the world.
It’s worth noting that the rarest passport itself meets all modern requirements, incorporating technologies to prevent forgery and containing biometric data. These passports are printed at Österreichische Staatsdruckerei in Vienna, Austria.
The Order issues passports to members of the government for the duration of their mandate. The passports of the Grand Masters are valid for the longest period, 10 years. Other passports are valid for four years and are used only for diplomatic missions.