4

And let me explain why I ask this. In the last few years I have been travelling too many times to Japan as a tourist (visa free) due to my girlfriend living there.

Although I don't exceed the unofficial limit of 180 days within a rolling year (Japanese immigration official told me about this limit), so many visits to Japan started to get suspicious and I get asked too often.

This leads me to the two following questions:

  1. When you get a new passport with a new number, how do immigration authorities track your previous trips to some particular country? Is it just about your full name? Perhaps some biometric information? Some other persistent ID? I guess it cannot be about full name, as there are many citizes with similar full names.

  2. Would a passport renewal (i.e., new blank passport) help in my case? At least immigration officials wouldn't notice all the Japan stamps I already have. Or perhaps they don't care about the stamps and they get all the data they care about from their computers?

  • 2
    Not exactly the same circumstances but probably relevant travel.stackexchange.com/questions/115505/… – Traveller Jun 7 '18 at 16:59
  • Nice, this answers my main question about persistence of records. But the two other questions are still open. Specially I would like to know how you are identified once you have a different passport number. – sapito Jun 7 '18 at 17:03
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    What are you doing in Japan that requires you to stay for 180 days? Why not receive a long term visa instead? – JonathanReez Jun 7 '18 at 17:25
  • I said above. My girlfriend lives there. Why don't I request a long term visa? So far I didn't need... And I don't intend to stay long term in Japan, travelling 2-3 times a year is enough. – sapito Jun 7 '18 at 17:38
  • Related travel.stackexchange.com/q/89995/4188 – chx Jun 8 '18 at 12:29
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When you get a new passport with a new number, how do immigration authorities track your previous trips to some particular country?

Other information in the passport, possibly including fingerprints or facial recognition. Even without those, ...

Is it just about your full name?

No. There is also the date of birth. Many countries' passports also have the place of birth, and some still have identifying characteristics such as height. Some countries include the bearer's national identification number in the passport, which would make it trivially easy to link different passports issued to the same person.

Perhaps some biometric information?

Indeed. Most passports contain biometric data in an RFID chip; even without that, a country could scan and save the passport photograph (I don't know whether any country does that, much less whether Japan does).

Some other persistent ID? I guess it cannot be about full name, as there are many citizens with similar full names.

Indeed you are right: it cannot be about full name. But passports do not contain only the full name.

Would a passport renewal (i.e., new blank passport) help in my case?

Possibly. If you try it, please come back and post an answer.

At least immigration officials wouldn't notice all the Japan stamps I already have. Or perhaps they don't care about the stamps and they get all the data they care about from their computers?

Again, if they can link the new passport to the old one, they may indeed get all the data from the computer. For all you know, they might have an agreement with your country of citizenship whereby they receive data to link passport numbers that have been issued to the same individual.

  • Thanks, I will wait for other answers, but your answer seems rather convincing. In any case, regarding new passport, note that I didn't exceed this unofficial 180 days limit yet. So even with old passport I assume I would be allowed to enter Japan. My only purpose is "less questions" from immigration staff. – sapito Jun 7 '18 at 17:15
  • @sapito "note that I didn't exceed...": that's why I suggested that you try it and come back with an answer. If you had been seeking to hide an overstay or other violation, I would have pointed out that doing so could be illegal. – phoog Jun 7 '18 at 17:20
  • right, but I mean that I cannot post an answer even if I get a new passport. Maybe next time I don't get any question due to a tired immigration official or any other reason. So I cannot assume a blank passport helps even if "it seems" to help. – sapito Jun 7 '18 at 17:23
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    @sapito Don't forget to depreciate the fee. If you have an 8 year old British passport, which lasts 10 years and costs about £100, then renewing 2 years early only really 'costs' £20. – user16259 Jun 7 '18 at 19:36
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    Japan takes fingerprints on arrival, from memory – nkjt Jun 8 '18 at 8:05
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You cannot help them being suspicious if you are in a category of traveller that looks high risk for overstay, even if you are doing everything legally.

Some factors:

  1. romantic partner in the country
  2. frequent visits
  3. long visits
  4. being close to the upper allowable limit

Basically, the less you seem like an ordinary tourist or business traveller, the more hassle you will get. Anecdotally, dressing better might change your treatment, and having paperwork on you about your finances and job/studies at home would be a good idea.

Changing your passport will do nothing. Everyone changes passports over time and a significant percentage of people change their names (at marriage or otherwise). The passport number is not the primary way of identifying an individual - they still have your name, birthdate and place, fingerprints, etc.

  • Of course I never mentioned about my girlfriend to immigration officials :) – sapito Jun 10 '18 at 19:14

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