The possible end of passport stamps and why it might happen

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  • Published on March 17, 2023
  • Last Updated May 15, 2023
  • In Culture

Passport stamps will become useless as countries adopt high-tech border control methods like biometric facial recognition and digital passport control.

High-tech methods of border control, such as biometric facial recognition and digital passport control, are streamlining travelers’ ability to enter and leave countries. However, as the number of people waiting in line to enter the country decreases, passport stamps are becoming increasingly unnecessary.

Although many international passengers find the analog process of immigration officers hand-stamping official ink entries into their passport book a thrilling step in documenting their travels, it is undeniable that this method is time-consuming and not the most reliable way to provide border clearance.

An expert on travel for NerdWallet, Sally French, says that stamps aren’t always the best option.

“If they’re printed poorly, they can be tough to access later on. They’re often placed randomly in passport books which can make them tough to find—and they can also be easily counterfeited,” French said.

The United States has already made great strides toward digital simplification with its electronic I-94 entry records and refined Global Entry procedures; however, the most momentous change will occur on the other side of the Atlantic later this year.

The Entry/Exit System (EES), which automates border crossing and does away with passport stamping entirely, will be implemented by the European Union in November. Since their fingerprints were already taken during the visa application process, facial recognition will be used for those who need a visa to enter the country. Four fingerprints and facial recognition will be required for those who do not.

According to Condé Nast Traveler, the system will be used in 29 nations, 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. It will be applicable to non-EU nationals traveling for stays of up to 90 days within a 180-day period.

The electronic stamp-less systems are already in place at some airports, according to Sandra Weinacht of Inside Europe, who has been touring the continent this week. An immigration officer at Germany’s Nuremberg airport told her that they have been operational for “months now.” Although when she arrived at the airport in Pisa, Italy, she encountered American passengers who had flown into London Heathrow — the U.K. won’t be a participant in the new initiative — and proudly allowed her to see their passport stamps, calling them some of their “most treasured keepsakes.”

French points out that it’s often difficult to keep hold of old passports, with having to mail them to the State Department every time one needs to renew. “Many travelers report never getting their old one back,” French said, despite their assurances that they will return the passports. She also notes that within Europe’s Schengen zone — now including Croatia, which only joined this year — you only get a stamp for the first and last entry point, opposed to receiving a stamp in every country; thus, the passport is not a particularly comprehensive record.

French suggests looking into alternatives to collecting real passport stamps, such as geotagging photos, using an app to put digital pins in the countries you’ve been to, or even turning to tourist souvenir shops that sell fake passport stamps, given the increasing prevalence of digital technology in our society.

She remarked that passport stamps have a “dreamy nostalgia” and that they are a good way to remember places and material proof of your extensive travels.

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