Immigration Department to end visitor passport stamps

PUBLISHED : Friday, 08 February, 2013, 3:48pm
UPDATED : Friday, 08 February, 2013, 3:49pm

Visitors to Hong Kong will no longer have their passports stamped by border control officers from next month, the Immigration Department said on Friday.

Instead, they will be issued a small slip of paper explaining the conditions of their stay in the city.

The switch from a half-a-century-long tradition of stamping to a system of computer-generated slips at all border points is to improve efficiency and prevent mistakes, the department said.

The new HK$30 million system will save each visitor, on average, three seconds at the border when entering the city, Assistant Immigration Director (Information Systems) Corrado Chow said.

“Three seconds may seem very short. But considering there were 47 million visitors last year … [much] time will be saved,” he said.

The slip of computer-generated paper will carry the visitor’s name, travel document number, arrival date and the date the visitor permitted to remain until. Printed out after officers scan the passport at the border, it will be stapled to the visitor’s passport.

Even if visitors lose the slip they will still be able to leave Hong Kong when they present their travel documents, because their information has been stored in the computer.

Each slip will carry its own serial number and security features that use ultraviolet technology.

Under the current system, Immigration Director Eric Chan Kwok-ki said, officers need to stamp two to three chops on average in each visitor’s passport, creating the chance of making mistakes.

“Now our chops have come to the seventh generation,” Chan said. “They have undergone many changes and have witnessed the development of Hong Kong. These stamps will remain in our history.”

The department has yet to decide what to do with the old chops after the scheme is implemented.