For example, if one enters canada or the United States by land, typically no stamp is applied to one's passport. However, if one enters Canada or the United States by air, typically a stamp is applied to one's passport. Why the difference?

  • I entered the United States by air on August 23, 2021, and no stamp was applied to my passport or to my wife's. Commented Sep 18, 2021 at 20:12
  • @DavidSupportsMonica interesting, I amended the question. If "typically" isn't correct, then I'll ask how the border agent decides whether to stamp. Commented Sep 18, 2021 at 20:14
  • First you have to be before an agent...both Mary and I traveled with Global Entry, and addressed the GE kiosks for the entry decision. The closest we got to an agent was to proffer the kiosk's receipt and get waved on. If there'd been no kiosks, or they'd been inoperative, I don't know if our passports would have been stamped. Commented Sep 18, 2021 at 20:54
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    For entry by land (as apposed to air), a passport is not strictly required (enhanced driver’s licence (EDL) or enhanced identification card(EIC) can be used). So what percentage of travelers crossing daily will have a physical passport to stamp? The answer to that question should give you a hint as to the reason why passports are not typically stamped when crossing the Canadian/US border by land. Commented Sep 18, 2021 at 21:53

1 Answer 1


In many cases, land crossings see a lot of back-and-forth cross border traffic, including a lot of people working or running errands across the border and crossing the border very often (sometimes multiple times a day). Cross-border commuters, really. Known in French as “frontaliers”.

This is especially true in border regions in Europe, but I suppose that also happens a lot for US/CA and US/MX borders.

Back when I was a kid living in CH, going to school in FR, due to the weird border layout, my father could cross the border 8 times a day or more… If they stamped every time, you would need a new passport every few months to accommodate all those stamps!

In many such situations a lot of the traffic is just waved through (especially if car plates allow easy identification of local traffic), so of course they won't stamp anyone they wave through. In some places where immigration officers are not allowed to go on strike, when they want to have some leverage in negotiations, they will actually start checking every single car going through the border (known in French as "grève du zèle"). Very long queues and chaos ensues.

Most border regulations make special cases to take into account that traffic, because it just wouldn't be possible to accommodate it using the "regular" rules.

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    Yes there are college students who cross the US-Mexico border daily for school, and even some kids who make the trip. The US border does check everyone crossing, but passport stamps would be ridiculous in that situation, and many commuters use passport cards or border crossing cards, depending on their citizenship, which doesn't physically accept stamps. Commented Sep 18, 2021 at 22:57
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    @ZachLipton, US entry procedures at the land border cover that situation even for those who require a passport to cross in that, once you have an I-94, you'll be readmitted on the same I-94 until it gets close enough to expiry that it won't cover your current trip. While I suspect such passport holders might get a stamp when they get a new I-94 that will only happen every 6 months or 90 days.
    – user38879
    Commented Sep 19, 2021 at 0:09
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    @FrankDernoncourt, "Work to rule".
    – user38879
    Commented Sep 19, 2021 at 0:22
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    Just to clarify my comment, holders of a border crossing card (i.e. most Mexican nationals who commute across the border) can enter the border zone by land/sea for up to 30 days without a passport and without an I-94. They can also bring a passport too and request an I-94 in order to stay in the US longer or travel beyond the border zone. And some commuters are US citizens who live in Mexico, who can cross with US Passport cards (and of course no I-94 or stamp). Commented Sep 19, 2021 at 0:43

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