Why I Don’t Like Kiosk Immigration and Passport Control

Now before you say, “He said what?†let me further expand that headline to include: … outside of the United States. Global Entry here in the U.S. is praised by those who use the service as it zips you through immigration in a minute or two.

But using kiosks at border entries bypasses getting an actual stamp in your passport, something I want (a memento of sorts) every time I enter or leave a non-U.S. country.

A couple of weeks ago I arrived in Australia for something like the 15th time and as usual when flying in business or first class on United, I was provided with an Express Arrivals card that allows access to a shorter immigration line.

a close-up of a blue screen

United’s Express Arrivals card for Australia

But when I approached the entry to Express Arrivals at Sydney’s airport with my passport clearly visible along with the Express card, I was directed – not by choice – to use Australia’s SmartGate service. The man guarding the Express lane said to me, “Oh, blue card… you can use one of the kiosks over there.†I probably could have just declined, but this guy was rather suggestive that I move on and use a kiosk having already stepped aside – while still blocking the entry to the Express lane – to direct other travelers.

In actuality, eligibility for SmartGate is limited to:

  • Australian, New Zealand or UK ePassport holders aged 16 years or over; and
  • U.S. ePassport holders who are Global Entry program members aged 16 years and over (this became effective November 2012).

Now here’s the kicker. While I have a chip-enabled ePassport, I am not currently enrolled in Global Entry, nor did he ask me if I was. Not knowing that was a requirement before researching SmartGate a bit more for this post, I reluctantly headed over to a kiosk knowing I wouldn’t get an inbound passport stamp.

As expected, the kiosk was simple to use and it breezed me through to baggage claim. Here’s a brief overview:

My dissatisfaction with not getting an inbound stamp was tempered knowing that I was certain I’d at least get one leaving the country. Nope. After a brief and friendly chat with exit immigration, the agent handed me my passport back and I began walking to security, only then realizing that I didn’t hear a “cha-chunk†during our conversation. And sure enough, there was no “departed†stamp in my passport.

So, for the first time in three passports, I have absolutely no record of my arrival or departure from another country contained within my passport’s pages. It’s a bit disappointing.

Eventually I’m sure stamps will all together go away, but as that’s likely a decade or more away, I want my stamps when I’m abroad, thank you, and will endeavor to avoid kiosks whenever possible.

– Follow Darren Booth on Twitter, @FrequentlyFlyin, for more airline, hotel and travel industry news, reviews and opinions.


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  1. I’m so with you. I love passport stamps. In Montreal this summer:

    Me: Oh hey would you mind stamping my passport?
    Border Control Dude: *rolls eyes* Americans.

  2. I like the souvenir stamp as well. The other thing is that if you need to prove you were outside the USA (and that’s why you didn’t get that important letter)… it’s great to have those stamps in your passport.

  3. I more or less exclusively travel within shcengen, so that even if I have some 15-20 international legs each year, I never get any stamps in my passport…
    Although I am going to get one when I travel next week, to Morocco…

  4. I can only imagine how boring it would be to look at my deceased relatives’ passports if not for the stamps in their passports.

  5. I very much like the electronic gates – I can’t even calculate the amount they have saved me going in and out of the US or Singapore.
    You can always fall in line and get the stamp. And if you like them a lot, I’d suggest to travel to Asia (outside Singapore) – you are likely to get page-filling, very colorful visas glued into your passport (China, India, Indonesia, Vietnam, Cambodia, Myanmar,…) or at least stamps in all colors, shapes and sizes!

  6. I’m an ex-pat American living in Australia. Sadly they stopped exit stamps for all passports about a year ago. The entry stamp is still done if you see a customs agent, but no one is getting an exit stamp anymore 🙁

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