Most countries in the world still place passport stamps on arrival/departure into the country. Theoretically it is then possibly to calculate the length of a person's stay in a specific country.

Is this actually a good security feature? If not, why are passport stamps still used?

closed as off-topic by Neil Smithline, ThoriumBR, Iszi, Matthew, Steve Dodier-Lazaro Jan 27 '16 at 22:48

This question appears to be off-topic. The users who voted to close gave this specific reason:

  • "This question does not appear to be about Information security within the scope defined in the help center." – Neil Smithline, ThoriumBR, Matthew, Steve Dodier-Lazaro
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  • 4
    A more fundamental question is whether the stamp is supposed to be a security feature. – Bob Brown Jan 27 '16 at 20:19
  • This is useful for places without immediate access to LE/border control/stoplist databases. – Deer Hunter Jan 27 '16 at 20:23
  • Passport stamps are vulnerable to fraud, which has led developed countries to use computerised databases instead. The book "Shantaram" is a wonderful read; the protagonist is a passport fraudster amongst many other things! – paj28 Jan 27 '16 at 22:13

As @BobBrown said in comments, we need to ask what problem the passport stamps are supposed to be solving. Turns out it is a security problem, but not in the way you are thinking (I think). Let's say I'm a Canadian visiting the UK. In addition to providing a record for the UK gov - which surely they're also recording in a database - it acts like a receipt for me in case, at some point during my visit, I'm asked to prove that I entered the UK legally. For most airline travelers, the stamp is the only legally-binding entrance paperwork that you're given. The stamp is placed in your passport to tie the stamp to your name and for your own convenience, but I believe many countries will give you the stamp on a slip of paper if you're concerned about the privacy issue of putting it in your passport.

You might think "there should be a central database that tracks entries and exits". Problem: 1) this information is for domestic tracking only, countries will object to letting other countries see their border records, and 2) I - the Canadian citizen - am the person who needs the proof. If it's stored in a UK federal database, why should I trust that it won't be tampered with, or modified to frame me?

"Ok, ePassports now contain smart chips, your entry / exit info should be stored encrypted on the chip". Problems: 1) you - the random citizen - don't have the tech to verify that the entry info placed on your chip is accurate (whereas with a stamp you can look at it when it's handed back to you). And 2) given that every country has different policies about passport stamps (like Israel who gives a separate "Landing Slip" rather than putting it on the passport), and given how much trouble we're having getting the current specs for ePassport adopted by all countries, good luck with that.

  • 1
    Excellent point that the proof of entry/exit is a responsibility of the traveller, not the border. The stamp is for your records, not the government's. – schroeder Jan 27 '16 at 22:24

There are very few countries that use the passport stamp as a means of "security" other than tagging the user with a date of entry or exit. Japan actually does have a QR Code as part of their stamp\sticker that will give an immigration official information about the owner when scanned. But as a matter of opinion I would say no this is not a good method of security. Mainly because its not widely used and its only as secure as the agent examining the stamp other than Japan.

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