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Is it a zero or an «O»? Anyone who has to write down their passport number can quickly become confused. Travelnews explains why any worries are unfounded. Picture: Fedpol

How can you distinguish between a zero and an «O» in a passport?

You might think so the zero and the letter «O» look confusingly similar, and anyone typing in their passport number should therefore be careful. In reality, the situation is clear, as Travelnews points out.

Anyone checking in online for a long-haul flight or applying for a visa will have no choice but to enter their passport number. To avoid any problems when entering the country, it is important that the document number is entered correctly.

For most numbers and letters, it is clear what they are. However, there is a risk of confusion with the zero and the letter «O». However, any worries are unfounded - at least for Swiss travellers. This is because the Federal Office of Police (Fedpol) has taken precautions in two respects.

«In the new Swiss passport and on the identity card, the zero contains a dot in the centre,» Fedpol spokeswoman Mélanie Lourenço tells Travelnews. In addition, the letter «O» is not used in the document number. According to Lourenço, this also applies to the letter «I» in order to avoid confusion with the number «1».

The zero has a dot in the centre of Swiss identity documents. Picture: Fedpol

As the travel portal «Travelbook» reports, Germany has even gone one step further. In German passports, vowels (A, E, I, O, U) are generally omitted. This is to prevent the random arrangement of letters and numbers from creating meaningful words. There are also some consonants that you will never find in a passport. These include the letters B, S, Q and D.

Apart from a few exceptions such as diplomatic passports, the passport number in the old Swiss passport, which was introduced in 2010, always began with an «X» followed by 7 digits. «That's different with the new passport», says Mélanie Lourenço. There is no longer such a fixed structure. «Rules are still followed, but they are not intended for the public», says the Fedpol spokesperson.