i sent my passport to chinese embassy to get a visa – knowing that there are only 4 clean pages left, i am trying to push for multiple entry visa.
frequent travelers may understand very well the stressful moment when you find out your passport is expiring in less than 6 months or there’re not enough pages left for visa shortly before your trip. luckily korean government allows adding new pages to the passport once – my 3.5-yo passport got one extension already so running out of pages now means a new passport. and getting a new passport means carrying two passports or going through several embassies to transfer your valid visas to a new passport, not to mention being grounded in the country you live in without being able to travel for a while.
it is natural that i get quite picky at the passport control as to which page the entry stamp should be on. i try to instruct the inspector not to use a new page but try to find a used page to fit the stamp in. but considering that in many countries the border control inspectors seem to demand the ultimate respect from travelers, it does not always work to advise them on how to do their job. considering that some countries require looking up the last entry/departure stamps from that country, it is not a trivial matter to arrange a good spot for the entry stamp.
the design of the entry stamps vary a lot: my favorite ones are from south korea and japan. obviously these two countries not only have smallest stamps of all, but also clearly differentiate the color and the shape stamps between the entry and the departure.
european union countries have very clear design based on pictograms, probably because they had to be used by many countries. a page of the tidy array of stamps like this makes me smile.
the worst design for me is UK’s simply because it is so big with the bit that does not give any useful information to the traveler: it is impossible for the inspector to fit two stamps in a row. i hope there will be an opportunity for the talented designers to work on this soon. and if you ever wondered where these stamps are used anyway: i was asked to submit photocopies of all the entry stamps to UK from my passport to apply for tax payer identification number in UK.
will international mobility increase in the future? certainly people who recently have taken advantage in using services like dopplr probably started to think about it. traveling overseas has become easier in terms of getting to know the destinations beforehand and making reservations in advance, but very little progress has been made over past decades in the area where governments are involved. of course new technologies like retina scan are employed in making the in-out procedure easier but mostly for the country’s own citizens only. visa procedures and passport controls as foreigner are still slow – or have become more difficult since 2001. the more entry stamps my passport accumulates, the longer it takes for me to go through the passport control desk as the inspector flips through pages in search for suspicious traces, the last entry stamp, or purely out of his/her curiosity amongst the randomly placed stamps from around the world. missing flight connections because of long passport control queues happened twice in airports in USA last year, a queue that most people become equal with no privilege unless you are james bond from 007 movies or a diplomat. my colleague experienced a lost/damaged/stolen passport disaster which happened right before his joining our field research in ghana – it took him a travel to finland and france to get his passport and US visa back at least.
passport becomes such an important piece of document for anyone travel internationally. but changing the interaction design around it is so deeply tied to the complex forest of politics and international governments that do not work together that it seems almost a mission impossible. what technological solutions and design thinking could support people who are global trotters, or nomads?
to lighten up my sunday mood – i dug up photos of my favorite passport graphics design from iceland. it has a bright blue cover and all pages feature different patterns each incorporating a story.