Unofficial Pasport Stamps

Travel Forums General Talk Unofficial Pasport Stamps

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1. Posted by Psamathe (Budding Member 189 posts) 21w Star this if you like it!

Somebody elsewhere raised a comment (when Covid vaccination proof was being discussed) about avoiding any non-immigration "unofficial" stamps in your passport as they apparently invalidate your passport and it can be refused.

A Google search shows one widely reported case, one incident by airline refusing boarding for flight to Thailand (report says Thailand can be strict on refusing entry with "unofficial stamps"). Also a report supposedly of a Finish visa being refused because of such stamps.

Which prompted me to check my own and I'd never noticed them but I have two such stamps (you don't check your passport after handing it over for ID checks). Both from within Peru (Uros and Nazca). Since then I've travelled round SE Asia (incl. Thailand land border) without any official even registering them but that was mostly land borders which always seem less formal.

Given no travelling for a bit, is it worth replacing my passport just in case? It's a bit wasteful but nothing like a refused boarding or refused entry. Also, being British I prefer my red passport with "EU citizen" on the cover even if it no longer applies but given hardly anybody ever looks at the thing and it has limited lifespan anyway that is not a big deal.

Has anybody else accidentally picked up any of these stamps and is it an issue or is it just one over-zealous official which was too widely reported? Difficult to separate the strict official "it invalidates your passport" (which it almost certainly does) vs the reality that border officials want to let you in so are cooperative or (very rarely) don't want to let you in (in which case they'll find some reason to refuse entry anyway)

Thanks
Ian

2. Posted by berner256 (Moderator 1511 posts) 21w Star this if you like it!

It's not wise to have unofficial souvenir stamps in a passport.

Page 5 of my U.S. passport states, "Only authorized officials of the United States or of foreign countries may place stamps or make notations or additions to this passport."

An unofficial stamp can invalidate a passport. There are several online articles about UK citizens denied entry into countries or onto flights because of "unofficial stamps" in their passports.

In more than four decades of travel I've only had two such stamps in my passports: Eduardo Avaroa Andean Fauna National Reserve in Bolivia and Stonington Island Antarctica. Both were difficult to detect in my passports since they were among numerous official stamps (one recently expired passport has nearly 100 pages of stamps and visas. Some of the latter are still valid, such as those for China and India). I'm happy not to get any stamps since more blank pages mean I won't have to get another passport soon.

3. Posted by AndyF (Moderator 2329 posts) 21w Star this if you like it!

I've only ever had one - a stamp from Ny Alesund in the Norwegian territory of Spitzbergen, and I very much doubt a passport officer elsewhere in the world would know it wasn't a legitimate port of entry stamp.

What sort of unofficial stamps do you have? Are they silly and likely to look obviously fake?

4. Posted by DAOonVT (Full Member 1986 posts) 21w Star this if you like it!

The very first stamp in my brand new passport in 1995 was from the immigration authorities on the Welsh - English border.
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OK, I got it in a gift shop and I had endless fun in the office for years telling staff visiting from overseas that there are Welsh border posts and Welsh money....

It never caused an issue. I have a few from some internal border posts in the Gambia. They would stop you, ask for a gift, stamp the passport and then ask for money. I would just politely waive a credit card.

The only trouble I have ever been in was for a real stamp. I was seized by the Egyptian security services for having an Iranian visa. They had been some diplomatic spat the day before and they were interrogating anyone with any possible ties to Iran.

I still have my old East Germany stamps.
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The immigration guy in Spain saw them a month later and took pride in stamping over one of them to show disgust.

I have found that if an immigration/border agent wants to be hostile, they will do and look for an excuse. I have found myself spoken to like a dog and having all my bags searched - in Canada and the USA oddly. Many times. Generally I try and make them laugh (do not try this at Winnipeg Airport), The stern passport checker in Amman Jordan thought I was the funniest guy ever at 2am. This was all hand signals after he came across a few stamps that caused concern.

At the end of the day a person with a rubber stamp and a bad attitude can stop you from travelling.

If you have concerns, ask them to stamp a card rather than your passport and explain that you have few pages left - this worked for me when I had a very full passport. You may just want to check notice boards like Lonely Planet before you go to see what the local hassles are before you book a flight.

All the best,

DAO

[ Edit: Edited on 23 Jan 2021, 16:16 GMT by DAOonVT ]

5. Posted by Psamathe (Budding Member 189 posts) 21w Star this if you like it!

Quoting AndyF

....
What sort of unofficial stamps do you have? Are they silly and likely to look obviously fake?

I never noticed they'd been put in. Hand over your passport for them to check your ID, don't pay much attention as to what is going on (as you are dealing with officials (or a form) and take your passport back.
Two. The Uros Islands does not bother me too much as it's just the name of a place, close to a border anyway

9afa7710-5d98-11eb-b0f8-472dbdd42030.jpg

it's the Nazca one (they took my passport to make passenger lists, security and never noticed it being "stamped" - looks very like a tourist one (horrible)
9ace8510-5d98-11eb-a310-ffa826abf9c4.jpg

[ Edit: Edited on 23 Jan 2021, 17:34 GMT by Psamathe ]

6. Posted by AndyF (Moderator 2329 posts) 21w Star this if you like it!

Yeah that Nazca one looks very dodgy. I can see why you're concerned.

Suppose you'll have to get a proper British passport now.

7. Posted by DAOonVT (Full Member 1986 posts) 21w Star this if you like it!

In some ways though it is an amazing problem to have. I would love to see them.

8. Posted by Psamathe (Budding Member 189 posts) 21w Star this if you like it!

Quoting AndyF

...
Suppose you'll have to get a proper British passport now.

Without moving to be too political, I don't want a new British one (like my red one and all it stands for). But rather a blue one than be refused boarding or refused entry giving some official who got out of bed the wrong way an excuse (if that is a real risk).

Ian

9. Posted by leics2 (Travel Guru 2753 posts) 21w Star this if you like it!

> rather a blue one than be refused boarding or refused entry giving some official who got out of bed the wrong way an excuse (if that is a real risk).

Personally, I think it is a valid risk. Given the potential hassle (extra questioning, border delays, refusal of boarding or entry) imo, it's not a risk worth taking (even if it does mean you'll have to get a blue passport sooner than you'd like).

10. Posted by berner256 (Moderator 1511 posts) 21w Star this if you like it!

Apparently you were able to visit Vietnam without any problem (evidenced by the stamps under the one from the Uros Islands). While there certainly is risk that you might be turned away (either from a flight or going through immigration and customs) because of the souvenir stamps, the likelihood isn't overwhelmingly great, in my opinion. You need to decide how much of a chance you're willing to take.

Virtually everyone on my cruise to Antarctica got a souvenir stamp on Stonington Island. I subsequently entered the following countries with the same passport: Japan, South Korea, Russia, Turkey, Azerbaijan, Lebanon, Egypt, Tunisia, Ukraine, Belarus, China (including Tibet), Nepal, India, Thailand, Singapore, Nicaragua, Honduras, El Salvador, Guatemala, Belize and Cabo Verde. I entered Europe multiple times via the UK, France, Germany, the Netherlands, Italy, Portugal, etc.

I have two valid U.S. passports. One does not have souvenir stamps, the other (expiring in March) has the Stonington Island stamp. A passport that expired February 2019 had the Bolivian souvenir stamp. After getting that stamp in May 2012, I traveled to dozens of countries across the globe with a passport that expanded to 100 pages (doubling its size) at the U.S. consulate in Rio de Janeiro. Consular officials there did not raise an issue with the Bolivian souvenir stamp.

[ Edit: Edited on 23 Jan 2021, 19:47 GMT by berner256 ]