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Why are Passports Stamped?

Mary McMahon
Updated May 23, 2024
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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.

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.

WiseTour is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Mary McMahon
By Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a WiseTour researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

Discussion Comments
By anon934001 — On Feb 18, 2014

@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.

By anon930176 — On Feb 04, 2014

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?

By anon926790 — On Jan 21, 2014

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

By anon305180 — On Nov 25, 2012

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?

By anon302017 — On Nov 07, 2012

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

By anon284960 — On Aug 13, 2012

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.

By anon276978 — On Jun 27, 2012

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?

By anon256146 — On Mar 20, 2012

Do passport numbers show any misdemeanors committed? How?

By anon205206 — On Aug 11, 2011

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.

By anon130584 — On Nov 29, 2010

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

By anon129493 — On Nov 23, 2010

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.

By anon117959 — On Oct 12, 2010

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!

By anon86452 — On May 25, 2010

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?

By anon71214 — On Mar 17, 2010

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?

By anon43415 — On Aug 28, 2009

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

By anon42988 — On Aug 25, 2009

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 initial 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).

By anon41280 — On Aug 13, 2009

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.

By anon41060 — On Aug 12, 2009

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?"

By anon40609 — On Aug 09, 2009

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

By anon40478 — On Aug 08, 2009

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!

By anon40444 — On Aug 08, 2009

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.

By anon40392 — On Aug 08, 2009

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.

By Flywheel1 — On Aug 08, 2009

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.

By anon40380 — On Aug 08, 2009

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

By anon30437 — On Apr 19, 2009

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.

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a...

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