Tue. Jun 18th, 2024

The treasured passport addition that could soon be much harder to get

Tyler Mitchell By Tyler Mitchell Jun5,2024
Key Points
  • Australia is one of a number of countries that has stopped stamping passports in favour of a digital system.
  • European Union member countries will also soon phase out the issuing of stamps in passports.
  • A travel expert says physical passports could one day become obsolete.
It may just be coloured ink on paper but for many grown adults, the passport stamp, those random shapes with dates and sometimes hard-to-make-out details or symbols, can be a special reminder of an overseas trip.

But the manually applied imprint indicating entry or exit to a country could soon become a thing of the past.

Most European Union countries to stop stamping

Most European Union countries are preparing to do away with passport stamps later this year.

A hand holing a stamp about to place a stamp in a passport.

Computer systems have been keeping track of passenger movements for decades but rubber stamps had remained as a physical mark that a person had made it through immigration in a country. Source: Getty / gchutka

The move will bring the countries in line with others who have already done so in an effort to move people through airports more efficiently.

Australia, Israel and Argentina are among the nations no longer relying on the more than 150-year-old method of marking a document for immigration purposes.

It is understood other countries such as the United States and United Kingdom only stamp upon entry but not exit.

Stamps a great memento but e-gates cut queues

Australia stopped issuing passport stamps in 2012.
It issues electronic visas and electronically records passenger movements in and out of the country with details stored in digital form.
An automated self-service border control system is in place at airports that use SmartGates to confirm a person’s identity via e-passports which contain an electronic chip.
The Australian Border Force website states: “We no longer stamp Australian passports as a matter of course but should you require evidence of travel you may ask one of our officers to do so.”

James Kavanagh, Flight Centre Travel Group’s leisure CEO, said while some countries still required a physical stamp in a passport as evidence of entry or departure, a growing number of countries were offering automated border control systems.

Two Cambodian border police officers  examine passports of people leaving.

Passports can be not only a record of travel but a reminder of the memories made while travelling. Source: Getty / Jerry Redfern

“With increased security measures at airports and extra-long queues at some airports, e-gates are a welcome improvement to the traveller’s experience,” he said.

Kavanagh said it was understandable many people considered a stamp in their passport a memento of their travels and said those who wanted one when entering or exiting Australia could still often get them.

“For those who are particularly attached to the idea of their passport showcasing their globetrotting, never fear, you can still ask for a stamp in Australia and they’ll happily provide it,” he said.

The European Union’s new passport system

The Entry/Exit System (EES) is expected to be rolled out in most European Union (EU) member countries towards the end of 2024.
Twenty-five of the 29 EU member countries, plus Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland, have signed up for the EES. Cyprus and Ireland will continue to manually stamp passports.
According to the EU, the automation of border control procedures will have a number of benefits on top of making the process more efficient for travellers.

“It makes it easier to detect travellers using fake identities or passports. Finally, the EES helps to prevent, detect and investigate terrorist offences or other serious criminal offences,” the EU’s website states.

Increased digitisation of passport control

Singapore and last year went a step further, passing legislation to allow passport-free travel through Changi Airport.
The island nation’s plan to reduce wait times and congestion at what is one of the world’s busiest airports is based on u instead to identify people throughout different parts of the airport.
Kavanagh envisions more countries may follow Singapore’s lead.
“As technology evolves, we can absolutely expect the need for a physical passport to be reduced, if not removed all together,” he said.
“A faster, smoother way to travel is on the horizon as digitisation develops and paper passports and manual processing become a thing of the past.

“It won’t be long before we’re all carrying our digital passport around on our phone or device or to take it one step further, that biometrics become so sophisticated that we don’t need a passport at all.”

Biometrics are biological measurements or physical characteristics — such as facial measurements or fingerprints — that can be used to identify people.
The federal government’s Australian Community Attitudes to Privacy Survey 2023 found that while Australians do have in certain situations, two in three Australians were comfortable with the use of their biometric information to go through passport control at an airport.

Passport stamps from around the world

While many passport stamps are little more than a date within a rectangle or an oval shape and a country or airport name, some have a bit more detail.
Many of the countries that have a royal family feature crown motifs, while plenty of stamps include an outline of the mode of transport a person arrived on, via such as a train or an aeroplane.
Those who have visited the Dutch Caribbean islands might have their passport decorated with palm trees or a flamingo, those who’ve gone Mauritius could have a dodo bird on a page of their passport while passport appear to be in the shape of a jellyfish.

The Seychelles passport stamp’s rounded shape stands out from others as it is shaped like a coco de mer nut.

Despite less reliance on physical documentation when moving through immigration, strict rules around the state of passports remain.
In recent years a number of famous landmarks around the world such as Machu Picchu in Peru, and have offered to stamp passports for tourists.
Tourists at Checkpoint Charlie having their passports stamped.

Souvenir passport stamps given at places such as Checkpoint Charlie which was a crossing point from West Berlin to East Berlin during the Cold War, could prove problematic for passport holders in some countries. Source: Getty / picture alliance

Authorities in many countries, including Australia, warn against collecting such unofficial stamps.

The Australian Passport Office warns: “Even minor damage or alterations can void your passport and stop you from travelling.”

Its website states it is important that there are: “no altered or missing pages, tears or cuts, marks, stains or discolouration, souvenir stamps, written marks or lines”.

Tyler Mitchell

By Tyler Mitchell

Tyler is a renowned journalist with years of experience covering a wide range of topics including politics, entertainment, and technology. His insightful analysis and compelling storytelling have made him a trusted source for breaking news and expert commentary.

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