Why passport stamps will soon be a relic of the past
- March 18, 2023
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With the advent of facial biometric recognition and digital passport control, high-tech methods of border control are accelerating the way we enter and exit countries around the world. But as immigration lines shrink, another aspect of the process is also beginning to disappear: passport stamps.
Once the international standard for crossing borders, the analogous process whereby immigration officers flick through each traveler’s passport book to hand-stamp official ink entries – while for many international passengers an exciting step in the process is to document their trips – no doubt time consuming and not the most reliable method of border clearance.
“Stamps are often not the best solution,” says Sally French, travel expert at NerdWallet. “If they’re poorly printed, they can be difficult to access later. They are often placed randomly in passport books, making them difficult to find – and they can also be easily counterfeited.”
As the US has moved toward simplified digital processes with electronic I-94 immigration documentation and faster global immigration procedures, one of the most significant changes is coming across the Atlantic later this year.
The European Union is preparing to launch its Entry/Exit System (EES) in November, which will automate the border crossing process and eliminate passport stamping altogether. For those who require a visa to enter the country, facial recognition will be used as their fingerprints have already been taken during the visa application process, and for those who do not require a visa they will need to log in using four fingerprints and one face recognition.
The system applies to those who are not citizens of an EU country traveling for stays of up to 90 days within a 180-day period and is used in 29 countries including Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Croatia, Czech Republic , Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Italy, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, and Switzerland.
Inside Europe’s Sandra Weinacht, who was touring the continent this week, said some airports already have electronic stampless systems in place, with an immigration officer at Germany’s Nuremberg airport telling her it has been in place “for months”. But when she arrived at Italy’s Pisa airport, she met American travelers who had arrived via London’s Heathrow (the UK will not be part of the new program) and proudly showed them their stamps in their passports, noting that they were among their “most.” “ belonged to valuable souvenirs.”
That sentiment applies to traveler Lee Abbamonte, who has visited every country in the world and holds the equivalent of more than 25 passports, with five old passports stuffed with extra pages five to six times each. His most popular stamps include the most remote, such as those of the South Pole Station, Pitcairn Islands, Tokelau, Ogasawara, Ascension, and the St. Helena Islands, as well as those more difficult to obtain at the time of his visit, such as Iran, Angola, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, Yemen, Syria and Cuba.
“Passport stamps were the only souvenir I usually had from my travels, which took me to all countries,” says Abbamonte. “I loved them and even showed the immigration officer where to stamp to avoid stamping on top of each other or taking up unnecessary space so I can get more stamps in my passport.”