Now before you say, â€œHe said what?â€ let me further expand that headline to include: â€¦ 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 Sydneyâ€™s airport with my passport clearly visible along with the Express card, I was directed â€“ not by choice â€“ to use Australiaâ€™s SmartGate service. The man guarding the Express lane said to me, â€œOh, blue cardâ€¦ you can use one of the kiosks over there.â€ I probably could have just declined, but this guy was rather suggestive that I move on and use a kiosk having already stepped aside â€“ while still blocking the entry to the Express lane â€“ 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 hereâ€™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 wouldnâ€™t get an inbound passport stamp.
As expected, the kiosk was simple to use and it breezed me through to baggage claim. Hereâ€™s a brief overview:
My dissatisfaction with not getting an inbound stamp was tempered knowing that I was certain Iâ€™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 didnâ€™t hear a â€œcha-chunkâ€ during our conversation. And sure enough, there was no â€œdepartedâ€ 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 passportâ€™s pages. Itâ€™s a bit disappointing.
Eventually Iâ€™m sure stamps will all together go away, but as thatâ€™s likely a decade or more away, I want my stamps when Iâ€™m abroad, thank you, and will endeavor to avoid kiosks whenever possible.
â€“ Follow Darren Booth on Twitter, @FrequentlyFlyin, for more airline, hotel and travel industry news, reviews and opinions.