Home Travel Why You Need To Get Your Passport Stamped When You Enter A Foreign Country

Why You Need To Get Your Passport Stamped When You Enter A Foreign Country

by SharonKurheg

Imagine visiting a foreign country and when you’re ready to come home, you’re refused entry onto your plane and thrown into jail because officials think you were in the country illegally. That’s exactly what happened to two Americans a while back.

22-year-old Will Lucas, a resident of Magnolia, Texas, is a do-gooder. A humanitarian. A few years ago, he and his girlfriend Sam had spent most of the summer in Asia; first in Thailand, where they volunteered at an orphanage, and then in Malaysia, where they helped build a sustainability project.

“He’s volunteered all his life,” Denise Lucas, Will’s mother, told KTRK. “He was with AmeriCorps and then Habitat for Humanity.”


As the couple was preparing to board their flight home, a Malaysian immigration agent looked at their passports and saw they did not have stamps showing they had entered the country. Convinced they had entered the country illegally, they threw the couple into jail.

From KTRK:

Denise was notified by Sam’s father that he couldn’t get the couple by phone, and airline records showed they had never boarded their flight home.

“Forty-three phone calls later, we learned they had been detained.”

She was able to speak by phone with Will briefly on Wednesday. He called conditions in the detention area “deplorable.”

“He told me that the border agent in Malaysia waved them through the line without stamping the passports,” Denise said. “He said the agent was probably waiting for money. He said, ‘Mom, I missed it.'”

With the help of some big-name Texas politicians, Will and Sam were released from custody a few days later and were scheduled to board a plane and arrive back in the U.S. earlier this week.

But all that heartache because they didn’t get their passport stamped when they entered the country.

I know that in Israel, they don’t stamp your passport – unless you ask, and even then it’s iffy – because it can cause problems if you try to enter/exit other countries in the Middle East (although I believe their border patrol will give you a stamped piece of paper, which they staple to your passport, which is almost just as good). Many Americans had been to Cuba via a non-U.S. country before the gates were partially opened in 2015, and the Cuban border patrol discreetly didn’t stamp their passports. And although I don’t remember the circumstances, there have been one or two times, YEARS ago, that my passport didn’t get stamped when I was traveling overseas and entered a foreign country. But do you know what? I will SOOO make sure I have a stamp every time from here on in. Because if you think about it, that little stamp is the only physical proof a traveler has that says it’s OK to be in that country.

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This post first appeared on Your Mileage May Vary


Dustin August 7, 2019 - 6:33 pm

Maybe I missed it but they prob went overland to Malay. And then flying out created a problem. I’ve actually had them not stamp me in Malay going in and out overland. Also some other countries I’ve noticed. Specifically the former Yugoslavia countries and Albania, masadonia. They won’t stamp with any consistentsy at any land border in these countries. If going cheaply air bnb is actually better then hotels in all towns and cities besides Belgrade I would say. But the hotels most of the time will look for the stamp. But with air bnb they won’t check any ID at all 95 percent of the time. Exiting any of these countries is no problem without the stamp.

NB August 7, 2019 - 7:01 pm

With e-gates becoming more common, it’s less and less likely you will get your passport stamped nowadays – there simply isn’t a mechanism for giving a stamp.

Boraxo August 7, 2019 - 8:00 pm

Another country I don’t need to visit. Who needs the hassle? Deplorable.

Sam DeLopez August 7, 2019 - 8:25 pm

Super messed up. It’s almost as if no one told Malaysia that any attempt to enforce its own immigration laws is racist.

Vee August 8, 2019 - 7:42 pm

Some countries WILL NOT stamp your passport even if you ask (Australia, for example.)

SharonKurheg August 8, 2019 - 7:47 pm

Yup – that’s why I mentioned Israel as an example.

re: Australia. I did 😉 Oct. 14, 2014 (I just checked).

Steve F Barnhardt September 26, 2019 - 12:45 pm

I was in Australia in Dec 2018 and no stamp

robbo September 27, 2019 - 7:03 am

Hong Kong doesn’t stamp either, and a few weeks ago I entered USA through Dallas and no stamp. I’m happy for no stamps. I travel so much I fill up the passport with stamps, the bloody EU is a pain the arse, takes up so many pages with their massive stamps. I have filled up 60 pages of a 64pp Australian passport in less than 2 years and now to get e new one will cost $350 for a 32 pager, they don’t do 64 pages anymore, which cost $525, thieving bastards at the Australian Government, what a rip-off. So I am all for no stamps, bring it on.

Dan September 25, 2021 - 7:50 pm

Without a stamp you can stay as long as you like?

Alvin September 25, 2021 - 9:07 pm

Australia neither stamps nor gives a landing slip, (starting in 2018), even if you ask.

Israel, South Korea, Hong Kong, Macau issue landing slips.

You can be exempt from a passport stamp (as an American) if using an eGate in New Zealand, Italy, Portugal, United Kingdom.

derek September 25, 2021 - 11:31 pm

The bottom line is probably to print airline ticket receipts and boarding passes. That is why paper is better. One can always take a photo of the paper boarding pass in case the boarding pass is lost several days later. If crossing a land border then keep bus or train tickets or taxi receipts. If these were available, there might not be a problem with Malaysian border control as happened in the article.

I wonder if they overstayed?

Singapore no longer stamps on exit, just entry. Someone on boardingarea.com wrote about Heathrow no longer stamping upon entry to the UK.

Rjb September 26, 2021 - 10:16 am

Not an issue in the US. Come and go as you please overland on the Southern border.


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