Why Passport Stamps May Be Phased Out

A passport opened to show a number of passport stamps

The rise of biometric facial recognition and digital passport control has accelerated the process of entering and leaving countries. However, as immigration lines shorten, traditional passport stamps are becoming obsolete.

Once a staple of border crossings, the manual process of officers stamping passports is time-consuming and not the most reliable method for border clearance.

However, passport stamps have drawbacks: They can be difficult to access if printed poorly, and are often placed randomly in passport books. Additionally, they are vulnerable to counterfeiting.

The United States has been shifting towards simplified digital processes such as electronic I-94 entry records and faster Global Entry processes. Across the Atlantic, the European Union is set to launch its Entry/Exit System (EES) in November.

This automated system will eliminate passport stamping altogether. For those requiring a visa, facial recognition will be used, while those without a visa will need to provide four fingerprints and undergo facial recognition.

The system will be applicable to non-E.U. citizens traveling for stays of up to 90 days within a 180-day period. It will be implemented 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
  • Switzerland

In fact, some airports already have electronic stamp-less systems. According to one immigration officer at Germany’s Nuremberg airport, it’s been in place for several months. However, upon arriving at Italy’s Pisa airport, American travelers proudly displayed their passport stamps as treasured keepsakes, noting that the U.K. (which won’t be part of the new program) had stamped their passports.

Many world travelers who have visited multiple countries cherish their passport stamps as souvenirs. A lot of people value their passport stamps as mementos from their travels and even take care to guide immigration officers on where to place the stamps to optimize space and avoid overlapping.

Even so, with the shift towards digital and virtual stamps, this entry and exit stamps may soon be a thing of the past. It’s hard to argue that digital methods offer better convenience and efficiency.

Additionally, there may be difficulty for some to keep up with old passports, particularly since the State Department often requires them to be submitted for renewal. Many travelers have reported not having their old passports returned.

Moreover, the passport stamp record is not comprehensive, notably within Europe’s Schengen zone, where stamps are only given at the first and last entry points, not for every country.

With the increasing digitalization of our world, travelers may need to adopt alternative ways to track and record their travel experiences. This can include geotagging photos, using apps to mark visited countries, or purchasing faux passport stamps from souvenir shops.

While passport stamps hold a nostalgic charm, serving as tangible reminders of global travel experiences, the times are changing. Many countries are transitioning away from the old practice, whether for political reasons or technological advances.

See Also: Biometric Passports Explained – How E-Passports Work

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