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I'm running low on blank passport pages which are sometimes needed for full page visas such as those issued by Armenia, India, and Vietnam.

When I crossed the border into Turkey the other day I got my visa-on-arrival and stamp, but instead of putting it on a partly used page, which I have many, the guy at customs and immigration put them on a previously blank page. Now I have one fewer!

What can I do to prevent or at least reduce the chances of this happening?

It's worth remembering that there's likely to be a language barrier and it's always best to be ultra-nice to these border officials.

Has anybody heard of any trick such as sticking bit of paper in your passport, either blank, or looking a bit like visas? I have noticed that nobody ever stamps a page that has a remnant of something once stapled in there in Japan. There is a kind of stub that had its major part torn off along a perforation. Might I be able to emulate this somehow or would that even be worse making the blank pages invalid for full page visas due to having holes from staples? I know some things can get very picky when it comes to customs and immigration.

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NEVER intentionally damage or modify your passport - it's an offence in most countries. –  Mark Mayo Oct 23 '11 at 3:33
I hate those staples and arriving card (don't remember the name though) in Japan. And most visas I've ever seen are full page, including Japanese visa. –  Lưu Vĩnh Phúc May 19 '14 at 12:45
@LưuVĩnhPhúc: Yes it depends what you think of as being the actual "visa". It turns out that many people count the post-stamp-sized stickers, or even the ink stamps as visas. And perhaps they are even technically correct. But for what it seems at least you and I intuitively think of as "visas" then perhaps you are right (-: –  hippietrail May 21 '14 at 14:05

9 Answers 9

up vote 34 down vote accepted

If you have a brand new passport, then keep all the pages together with an elastic band, and only release new pages when the old ones are full. This has kept things nice and orderly for me so far - the only place anyone took off the band was Taiwan where they at least stamped only the next page and not some random mid-passport place.

If your passport is already in use, then a full page post-it note works fine and leaves no residue - write on it "Reserved for Visa" if you think that will help. Make sure the sticky part of the post-it is towards the outside of the page so it's not so simple to just stamp underneath it.

OA (@hippietrail) kindly found an example in the wild that had anecdotal success in Russian/English speaking regions:

Post-it Note Example

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I will definitely try this! –  hippietrail Feb 7 '12 at 10:24
Edited to remove someone's comment that was made as an edit. Posting here for completeness: --- Here's this method seen in action by a Polish traveller who stayed at my hostel in Tbilisi, Georiga. He assures me it always works for him. Maybe it helps that he's been in countries where Russian and English are understood on his current trip? ![Here only visas please][1] [1]: i.stack.imgur.com/YpUBI.jpg –  ikuragames Nov 9 '14 at 3:14
I don't know why you would remove that. It wasn't a comment but an illustration of the technique and it was added by myself, the OP. Perhaps you're not aware that Stack Exchange is designed to be edited and improved by everybody: Editing is essential: new badges and review enhancements –  hippietrail Nov 9 '14 at 4:31
Rewriting questions to make them easier to find is perfectly valid. Adding detail to someone else's answer should be done as a comment and not as an edit. Otherwise you're putting words in my mouth. Please refrain from doing this. Your words and image are still visible in the comment I posted. –  ikuragames Nov 9 '14 at 4:38
Can you provide a citation from a blog post or meta question to back up this opinion of yours? Otherwise I'll have to submit a new answer saying the same thing just to avoid your assumption that editing posts is "putting words into people's mouths" and not "making the internet better" as the SE staff say. –  hippietrail Nov 9 '14 at 5:18

I'm tempted to write a book on non-verbal communication where you can't speak the language. :)

Two things you could do:

  1. Hand signals. Turn to the page, point with your index finger, and indicate a stamping motion. They're passport officials, apart from taking money in some countries, they'll recognise their most readily identified action ;) (I'm slightly jaded) For extra certainly, point to a different page, and indicate with a shake of your head to NOT stamp - this will at least imply you're trying to convey something more than 'please stamp my passport'.

  2. Drawing. Hand them a piece of paper with a drawing of a passport (two pages) and a arrow pointing to where you want the stamp. Again, it only needs to be simple, a picture says a thousand words - in almost any language ;)

(I used to use the second technique to convey that I wanted a top bunk on the trains. They thought my 'artwork' was hilarious, but certainly understood what I wanted.)

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Write a note in English (on a paper and put it in the passport) or ask in English. It is pretty rare to find an immigration officer who does not speak at least some English.

Make sure you are really polite and friendly, some immigration officers are pretty quick to take offense and you don't want that.

Make sure that the space you suggest is sufficient. Some countries have several stamps, so asking the immigration officer to stamp a page already full may be trouble.

Renew your passport asap. The passport is one of the cheapest travel expenses, but a problem with your passport could ruin everything, so get a new one if you are likely to run out or come close to run out.

Depending on your country of origin, you can get an "emergency passport" at the consulate. Those are delivered on short notice, so it can be a solution if you end up missing pages while in the course of your travels.

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and try to get a special passport for frequent business travelers. Many countries on request (and for a fee of course) will issue passports with more pages for stamps/visa. –  jwenting Feb 7 '12 at 12:05

Go to a translation site such as Google Translate and print out a message in the language from the country you want to visit stating that you wish to have your passport stamped only next to existing stamps.

Of course, you can't put something like "please do not stamp on any blank pages", as the words for 'stamp', 'blank', and 'page' are likely to get lost in translation. I would recommend printing out "Please place ink next to many ink". If they look at you like you're crazy, open the passport to the page you'd like them to stamp, and then hand it to them. Smile. Be relaxed. If you're still not getting the message across, pantomime a stamping action where you want them to stamp, and always smile.

Good luck!

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Page would be fine, especially in Latin countries it's often easy to tell - 'pagina' in Spanish, for example. But I could see how mis-translating 'stamp' would be amusing ;) –  Mark Mayo Oct 23 '11 at 3:29
Sometimes the passport window is at an awkward height or is tiny or you are battling through an unorganized crowd. Sometimes one person ferries the passport off somewhere else and brings it back. Usually the official will leaf through every page, put the passport in some kind of scanner, etc and will no longer know which page you pointed out. –  hippietrail Oct 23 '11 at 10:54
I would not recommend putting anything in your passport, this is official document and it might look like you are hiding something. –  Toni Frankola Oct 23 '11 at 11:37
The best way I have found to translate nouns with many subtle variations into other languages? Wikipedia. Find the right page in English then go down the list of languages on the left. That's how I know that "stamp" (in this sense) is "leimasin" in Finnish but a postage stamp is "postimerkki" (well, you could have guessed that one). It's Штамп and Почтовая марка ("stamp" and "postovae marka") in Russian. There are even picture to make sure you've got the exact word you want. –  Malvolio Nov 4 '11 at 3:43

I carry my International Certificate of Vaccination or Prophylaxis with my passport (as is its proper place), which also means I have a handy bright-yellow paper flag somewhere in the middle of my passport. Generally speaking, I've found that its a fairly effective means of keeping stamps on the half of my passport before the certificate, and no customs official has ever said a word about it.

All it took is needing to get a yellow fever vaccine :)

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I just received this advice from a "professional" New Zealand traveller in my hostel in Tbilisi, Georgia:

Wrap a piece of paper around the blank pages and write on it, "please do not put stamps on the blank pages as I am an overland traveller and need these pages for visas."

I don't know if he's actually tried it though...

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I don't have blank pages consolidated in consecutive sheets on my passport. Not sure whether 'hiding' anything in your passport can cause even more trouble in a country where you don't speak the language! If you cannot verbally communicate you don't want stamps on blank pages, how does a written / printed message on paper help? –  Ankur Banerjee Oct 31 '11 at 16:50
Good point about them not being together - mine too. They will invariably have to remove it to check every page anyway. But I can see the benefit of a written note that one person can show around to others who might be able to read it, which is much more difficult with a spoken message. –  hippietrail Oct 31 '11 at 17:00
What's a professional traveler? –  RoflcoptrException Oct 31 '11 at 18:48
Either Someone who has left their job to travel, or who is paid to travel, I guess - eg travel writer, or nomad ;) –  Mark Mayo Nov 3 '11 at 20:08
my dad was CEO for international relations before he retired. That's as professional as you get I guess as a traveler. Spent more time on aircraft than do most pilots and flight attendants, more time in hotels and airport lounges than he did at home or in his office. –  jwenting Feb 7 '12 at 12:07

Before you travel go onto Google translate and translate this into the language of the country to which you are travelling and hand it to the man who is about to mess up your passport:

"Dear handsome and Kind Sir, please could you stamp only on a page where there is already at least one stamp because I need to reserve the empty pages for full page visas which are required in some othe nations which are utterly inferior to your own magnificent land."

Of course I am just aving fun with the text but my serious answer is to just get a transaltion kindly asking them what you want and explaining why you want it.

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I managed to preserve two facing pages of my passport for about 6 months by stapling them together. Most immigration agents didn't even notice there was more than one page there, and thus utilised every last bit of remaining available space on the other pages.

It was only when I went to Japan, with pretty much every other page jam-packed, that they applied sufficient attention to detail to find it, carefully remove the staple with a staple-remover, and stick their sticker and stamps all over it.

I just had to apply for a new passport today because there is no room left for visas in my current :(

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All these suggestions are nice an all, but really - the answer to your question "What can I do to prevent passport stamps being put on blank pages?" is - Not a damn thing.

Take the perspective of some border official that has to flip through a sea of stamps in your passport, flipping left and right to find out where the exit stamp, entry stamp, or visa stamp was found; just because you don't want to "waste" a page.

I have tried almost all these tricks - they only half work because:

  1. Tampering with your passport, by attaching bits and bobs is frowned upon by most broder control/immigration officials.

  2. At one border check, I was asked to remove the rubber band before the officer would even look at the passport, so there went that trick out the window.

  3. The "please don't put stamps here" only half works. I have had limited success. The reason being at some border controls, the visa and the stamp have to go on the same page (you can't stamp the exit on top of the visa, it invalidates it).

In the end, what I decided works all the time is to get a passport with extra pages. I am not sure if this is available from your country, but mine offers this. So I have no issues with stamps now.

Except the other day when I went to get my Schengen - the new thick passport had trouble fitting in the MRD scanner.

It is also worth mentioning that in some countries, an expired passport is not "cancelled" if it has a valid visa on it - you are issued a new passport, and the old one is stamped that it is not cancelled "due to bearing valid visa". You have to make sure you carry both with you though. So even if you run out of pages, you can always get a new passport issued and carry both of them with you.

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Well "not a damn thing" is a theory but I actually tried ikuragames's suggestion two or three times on my last trip and it worked perfectly. –  hippietrail Nov 9 '14 at 4:36
Another thing is that in some countries, such as mine, a new passport is exhorbitantly expensive whereas trying a trick, while not 100% guaranteed, costs nothing. So if you're flexible such tricks may still be valuable, and indeed worked in my case at the Thai-Lao border, the China consulate in Vientiane, and the Mongolia consulate in China. –  hippietrail Nov 9 '14 at 7:56
wow! that is ridiculous pricing! –  Burhan Khalid Nov 9 '14 at 9:49

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