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Why are Passports Stamped?

The main reason for a passport stamp is to have an easily accessible record of where a person has been.
It is easier to keep track of a visa in a passport.
US passports.
A passport.
As part of the European Union's open travel agreement, the passports of EU citizens are not stamped when traveling between member countries.
A passport photo.
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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: O. Wallace
  • Last Modified Date: 30 August 2014
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There are a number of reasons why passports are stamped. The primary reason is to create an easily-viewed record of someone's movements, without having to create a pile of paperwork that someone might be forced to lug around. Different countries have differing policies on passport stamping. In the European Union (EU), for example, the passports of EU citizens are not stamped when traveling between EU countries, as part of the EU's open travel agreement.

Many people who have traveled internationally are fond of the ritual of getting their passports stamped at the border. The stamps provide a memento of a trip that can be shown to friends upon return, and getting a stamp has an official air about it that some individuals enjoy. Many people really feel like they are traveling internationally when the customs official is stamping their passport.

Passport stamps are not provided for the enjoyment of travelers, however. They provide proof that someone has entered a country for a set period of time, with most stamps indicating the type of travel, the amount of time the person is permitted to stay, and the date of the stamp. If a foreign national is stopped by police, the information may be used to determine whether or not the traveler is legally in the country. Many countries also use exit visas to indicate that someone has departed, so that visitors cannot be accused of overstaying their entry visas.

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There are some political issues connected to passport stamping, as well. For example, some countries do not allow their citizens to travel to certain other countries. If a citizen re-enters his or her home country with a stamp from a forbidden travel destination, it can be used as a reason to initiate legal proceedings. This concern often leads travelers to try and avoid getting a stamp when they are entering illegal destinations; for example, American citizens may smuggle themselves into Cuba so that they can visit and avoid the penalties for breaking the embargo.

Many visas come in the form of passport stamps, with the issuing nation believing that it is easier to keep track of visas in passports than in separate documents. People can also get stamps to provide legal proof that they entered or exited a particular country, as might be required when a citizen is applying for a visa extension. They are a type of legal document of sorts, and defacing or attempting to remove them can render a passport invalid. For frequent travelers, insert pages for additional stamps are provided by the agencies that issue passports.

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Discuss this Article

anon934001
Post 28

@anon40392: The EU and the Schengen area are not the same. Only 22 of the 28 EU countries are currently part of the Schengen Zone, the United Kingdom and islands and Republic of Ireland form a separate common travel area (dating back to the 1920s). Further not all Schengen countries are in the EU: Norway, Iceland, Liechtenstein and Switzerland.

anon930176
Post 27

I am applying for B1 US Visa. I am a frequent traveller in US and Singapore. However, since 2010, I noticed my passport had no stamp in and out of countries I travel. Will that cause a problem when I plan to enter US this month?

anon926790
Post 26

I want to go and serve but my passport is not stamped. Will it cause me any problems?

anon305180
Post 23

I've was in Singapore a few months ago, or should I say from February until April 2012. I've stayed there for two months. I tried to go back in June 2009, and this year too, but the immigration here in the Philippines put a departure stamp in my passport then they hold me. Can you help me guys? Can I still can travel without any problem when I have that departure stamp, but don't have an arrival stamp?

anon302017
Post 22

If I fly from Athens to Amsterdam and back, will my passport be stamped? I'm from Australia.

anon284960
Post 21

I traveled to Scotland from West Africa via London and I had a six month business visa. My passport was only stamped on my entry at Heathrow Airport but was not stamped during my exit. Will that hinder my being issued a student visa to the UK? Please help me out; it's pressing.

anon276978
Post 20

Going into the US, I get my EU passport stamped. But if I leave the US for vacation nobody looks at it. So when I return to the US, they don't know how long I've been out, right?

anon256146
Post 19

Do passport numbers show any misdemeanors committed? How?

anon205206
Post 18

I entered Germany a week ago and my passport was not stamped. I am due to leave tomorrow. Will there be any problems leaving? I am flying out of the same airport I flew into.

anon130584
Post 17

I am Pakistani, I took my brother's passport only to France. Can I submit his passport in France for citizenship?

anon129493
Post 16

No one has a passport stamped if traveling within the EU as it's an an open travel agreement between the countries. This is a fact. hope this helps.

anon117959
Post 15

I am an American quite in need of assistance, if anyone could help.

I arrived in Europe and basically waited for the Bush administration to go down. I also didn't have enough money to buy a flight home. Needless to say, I've been in the EU for three years, traveling for the first three months and staying put in France afterward.

I renewed my passport through my home address in the US, no questions asked. It was then mailed to me by a friend, to France. Now, I have a new passport indicating I haven't been anywhere and never arrived in France.

Time has passed and I would like to return home for the holidays although having new obligations in Europe. I am also planning to move to Venice with my partner (French), not husband.

I am curious if I will have difficulties getting into Italy (although no problems traveling within France and to Germany via train recently) this December in addition to, after returning to the US for 2 weeks holiday, returning to France.

If anyone could offer any advice, it would be greatly appreciated. Thanks!

anon86452
Post 14

I did not receive a stamp in my passport when returning home to bermuda from school in the US. they just took my I-20. Will this be a problem when trying to travel abroad again? Will it cause me any trouble?

anon71214
Post 13

do they stamp your passport when you fly into Mumbai, India from the USA? I know someone that swears they've been to Mumbai but doesn't have a stamp in their passport. Is that possible?

anon43415
Post 12

I traveled to Vietnam twice. They never stamped my passport, have no idea why.

anon42988
Post 11

I currently live and work in Germany and have a special visa that allows me unrestricted entry and exit from the country, which essentially turns my American passport into a German one for the purpose of residing in, entry into and exit from Germany. The only time I was automatically stamped into Germany was upon my inital arrival (I had three months after that to get my residency paperwork completed - basically find a place to live and provide my address to the Germans were the last two steps). I've been stamped by other European countries when I was flying to Ireland/the UK for vacation or back to the states when making a connection in another EU country (usually Amsterdam or Paris). But when I travel by plane or other means within the Schegen zone, I am not stamped at all. And my passport is only checked at the ticket counter if I fly (or by the desk clerk at the hotel in Italy upon arrival).

anon41280
Post 10

I find that my passport is hardly stamped these days except when I went to Fiji. I have a chip in my passport so I think stamps are slowly becoming out of date.

anon41060
Post 9

I travel a lot, and note that very few of the stamps in my passport are legible. It has never been a problem, although once after a two-week stay in Greece, the border official asked, "Have you really been here for eight years?"

anon40609
Post 8

like anon40487 post. It's funny to hear people have a passport but never use it. Cool! :D

anon40478
Post 7

Well, I never traveled across the countries. it is additional information for me about stamping on passport. I hold a passport, but unfortunately it is un-stamped. Wish some stamps could appear on it. Good day!

anon40444
Post 6

While I was stationed in France, in the U.S.Army, my buddy and I rode our bicycles into Spain at one time and into Switzerland another. We had no passports and were not hassled while crossing the borders in either direction. Of course this was in 1954.

anon40392
Post 5

I am an American living in Europe and travel frequently within Europe and elsewhere. The only thing you need is the stamp showing the port of entry. You have three months to travel freely from that date onwards, so when you leave again EU/Schengen territory, you will get another stamp showing that you did not exceed the time limit.

A tip for those who perhaps need to stay a bit longer: getting a longer visa can be an incredibly bureaucratic affair. Better to fly into Switzerland and then slip over the border into France by train, usually avoiding any stamp at all. There is then no proof of the date you actually entered the EU. In the event that you are questioned upon exiting -- quite rare for US citizens -- just tell them you entered through Switzerland and didn't know otherwise. No problem really.

Flywheel1
Post 4

To anon.30437: No, there should not be a problem. Without stamps there is no time record. If they ask, just tell them where you've been, etc. Also, you have your airline receipt(s)showing where/when you arrived in Europe.

anon40380
Post 2

Another reason for stamping passports, even when not required, is to brag about where you have been and how many countries you have visited.

anon30437
Post 1

I am currently traveling throughout Europe (EU countries only) and am an American, however no country as yet to stamp my passport. I entered France and will be leaving back to the U.S. from France. Will I have difficulties proving that I have not stayed in France for the entire 4months?

Thank you for your help.

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