Control: some passport stamps can cause problems at the border

A german passport opens up many borders. Whoever owns the burgundy document, according to the british consulting firm henley& partners only need to obtain a visa for 46 countries in advance. Seven countries – including the USA, australia and canada – require an electronic entry permit (esta/eta), which should be applied for online at least 72 hours before departure. In 37 countries, a visa is only issued on arrival.

In most countries outside the schengen area, entry and exit are documented with stamps in the passport. They are popular souvenirs for many vacationers. In internet forums collectors discuss how to get hold of a collector’s item in spite of automated procedures. "Some frequent flyers have made it their goal to get a stamp from every country in the world", says sebastian schmidt, marketing manager of visumpoint. The berlin agency helps business travelers, assembly workers and tourists get the entry permits they need.

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Stamp endorsements can have advantages and disadvantages. "Particularly in african countries, which are increasingly switching to digitalized documentation, it can make sense to carry a printed copy of the confirmation of the e-visa with you and to ask for an additional stamp on entry – if this is not issued anyway", recommends the visa specialist. The online portals for e-visas often did not yet work reliably.

When entering israel, however, it is not advisable to have a stamp printed in your passport. In the event of a later visit to arab states, such as iran, lebanon or kuwait, the visas could otherwise lead to a refusal of entry, as the foreign office (AA) informs on its website.

That is why israeli border officials at ben gurion international airport and at two border crossings into egypt and jordan refrain from putting an entry stamp in the passport. As the AA confirms, entry cards are used instead, which can be removed again on leaving the country.

Experts like sebastian schmidt consider the practice of inserting cards or sheets in a one-time visit to israel to be sensible. For those who want to travel to the holy land more than once, the visa specialist advises them to apply for a second passport at the relevant passport office at home.

Those who use their second passport for israel can also avoid tighter controls by israeli security forces. If there are visas of arab states or iran in the passport, according to the AA a security questioning takes place when entering israel. Jordan and egypt are exempt from this rule. Anyone entering with a stamp or visa from malaysia, indonesia or sudan must also be prepared for an appropriate interview by security forces.

For germans who frequently spend their vacations in turkey, a second passport can sometimes also be useful. At least if you are planning to travel to china and apply for a visa for that purpose. The reason: whoever has a lot of turkish stamps in his passport must, according to schmidt’s experience, appear at the consulate general of the people’s republic of china in frankfurt and provide further information on the reasons for these trips.

The usefulness of two passports also becomes apparent when several stays abroad in visa-required countries are planned. One passport is often not enough to obtain the necessary documents, says schmidt: "people who travel a lot in russia, the usa and china often have three or four passports."

For the issuance of a second travel document, a justified interest must be proven in accordance with the passport law. This can consist in temporal overlaps in visa creation. Even the fact that the applicant is likely to be denied entry to a country because he or she has previously stayed in certain states is accepted.

Entry formalities for travel to the u.S. Have been greatly simplified with the introduction of esta forms and participation in the so-called visa waiver program. But even here, there are exceptions: those who have been in syria, sudan, libya, yemen, somalia, iraq, and iran since 2011 must appear in person at the U.S. Embassy in berlin or the U.S. Consulate in frankfurt or munich to apply for a visa, which is then sent to them by mail.

"The traveler is interviewed about the occasion of his trip and must have it confirmed that he was only there for tourist purposes", says wiebke thusek. The travel agency owner from uetze near hanover will have to deal with more entry formalities in the future than before. With the coming into force of the new package travel law on 1. July 2018, travel agencies are required by law to provide comprehensive information to package holidaymakers about visa and vaccination requirements, as well as entry regulations of the destination country, prior to the conclusion of any contract.

In order to protect herself against liability claims, the travel expert must have it confirmed in writing that she has informed her customers. If vacationers have not been informed, they can claim damages if, for example, they fail to enter a country.

Start-ups like passolution have already recognized that travel agencies will face an increased workload in the future. The young company from poland wants to save the agencies from having to make unnecessary inquiries at the AA. "Based on an extensive database, travel agencies are provided with all relevant determinations in a fully automated manner via an interface", explains managing director dennis zimon. The potential for conflict with certain stamps and visas will also be discussed.

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