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.
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.