29

I have just renewed my British passport, and it contains a very strange sticker. I made a photo of it...

 "Please remove this label"

It says "Please remove this label". By feeling and pressing the sticker I do not detect anything underneath it. Holding to the light reveals nothing. The pages behind this page are all blank. There is no explanation in the guidance brochure they sent along with the passport (I am one of those people that reads every word of the guidance). Below the sticker there is some text, if you read paragraph 7 you learn that tampering with a British passport may be actionable as a criminal offence. Incredible to relate, this text is on the same page as the sticker they want you to remove.

Is the purpose of this sticker simply to prove I have examined the passport? Does it replace the wet signature the end user should provide? Or does it flag up if I walk near a scanner? Some kind of electronic signal? If not, what is the purpose of this sticker?

I will be renewing my American passport later this year. Will it have the same thing? Something that needs to be removed where there's no apparent underlying purpose? What are the Americans doing?

I do not know the answer and for reasons not worth exposing here I am reluctant to remove it. Yes, I know I can raise paperwork to the Passport Office for an explanation, but it takes a long time and a medium probability of having to approach the Commissioner to get it resolved. And when their answer finally arrived, there's a very good chance I wouldn't believe it anyway.

Question: what is the purpose of the "Please remove this label" sticker.

Adding...

There is an existing thread on the net and Nate Eldredge (to whom thanks) provided the link. Some ideas were floated but the thread degenerated into silly conjectures. They didn't nail it down. If it is some sort of progress indicator, why is it not on the cover?

A blog entry discovered by cicto (to whom thanks) presents a credible discussion that the sticker contains an electronic circuit. But when it gets to purpose, the article descends into speculation.

  • 1
    It's suggested here that the label contains an RFID tag. Can you tell if that is the case with yours (you may have to remove it and look on the back)? The theory is that it might be used for tracking within the passport processing center, which seems plausible (albeit boring). – Nate Eldredge Jul 25 '15 at 0:41
  • 2
    More exciting theory: it's part of this plan and marks you as someone to be killed when the New World Order takes over. </conspiracy> – Nate Eldredge Jul 25 '15 at 0:47
  • 1
    My US passport is 5 years old, so I can't tell you what the US has been doing in the last 5 years. There was no such sticker 5 years ago. I renewed my Dutch passport a few months ago, and there was also no sticker to remove. – phoog Jul 25 '15 at 2:32
  • 2
    @GayotFow There is candy hiding under it. :) – Karlson Jul 25 '15 at 2:53
  • 3
    Certain phones (with NFC capabilities) can read RFID tags via various apps. But since your passport also contains a RF chip I'm not sure if it would be able to tell. Anyway, it's almost certainly for tracking during processing and the reason it's not on the outside is simply so it doesn't rub off in the printing/binding/packing machines. I got a new passport a few months ago, delivered internationally, and there was no sticker. But, interestingly, I can clearly see and feel where it would have been. So, guessing it's removed before they FedEx'd it -- so, almost certainly internal tracking. – SpaceDog Jul 25 '15 at 4:49
22

The general consensus on the internet seems to be that the sticker is an RFID chip used by Identity and Passport Service (IPS) to track the production process of the passport from start to shipping. There are many such questions disseminated across the web (here, here and here are a few examples). Most mention stories of people traveling with and without the label on their passport and none seem to have had any problem.

We are in luck since, as a further proof, this guy peeled the sticker away to inspect it up close and confirmed that on its back lies an RFID chip:

Label front and back

Since you are effectively concerned about tampering with the passport, personally I don't think that removing a label which explicitly asks you to do so constitutes tampering. Tampering would be attempting to modify, forge, hide or remove any of the information recorded on the document.

  • I suspect that the sticker should have been removed before it was handed over by the passport service. – MastaBaba Jul 25 '15 at 13:18
  • 2
    @MastaBaba Not of it's used to track the the shipping i.e. the moment in which the document leaves the production facility. – JoErNanO Jul 25 '15 at 15:46
  • The instructions I just received are identical to those listed in another answer, and specifically mention removing it and it's tracking capabilities. I assume if a passport is returned due to a failed delivery, the passport office can know what passport is within without even opening it. – Lewis Goddard Jan 27 '16 at 20:34
  • 2
    I did some research after my new passport arrives. TAGSYS produce a similar product they dub "GemTRAK" -- tagsysrfid.com/en-EN/products/tags/gemtrak/7 -- which is based around the same chip as used in the passport stickers, an Impinj MONZA 5 -- impinj.com/products/tag-chips/monza-5 . The chip wouldn't read on my phone's NFC (whereas the passport's own RFID scans immediately), so either it's an incompatible frequency or they kill the chip prior to it being dispatched. I suspect it's likely incompatible with MIFARE/Topaz NFC standards. – Chris Woods Feb 24 '16 at 20:30
21

HMPO have now included a little note along with the passport that says "the label on the back of your passport was used during the production process and can now be removed".

Note about the passport sticker

  • 3
    The fact that the government tells you to remove the sticker (which, as we've seen, already tells you the same thing itself) is not inconsistent with the hypothesis that the sticker is a scheme used by the government to entrap people into tampering with their passports. – phoog Jan 20 '16 at 5:45
  • 6
    If they were really out to get us I don't think they need such elaborate schemes. Once you have that level of distrust all hope is lost. – djna Jul 27 '16 at 14:22
6

The level of conspiracy theories here is amazing. The sticker is not for tracking, but to prevent tracking. It is placed so that when the passport is closed, it interferes with any signal coming from the passport's own RFID tag which is now in the cover. In other words, it's a "cloaking device" to prevent interference with delivery tracking systems (which are in the envelope) and identification of the enclosed item as a passport - which is really easy to do from about five meters away using professional gear once the sticker is removed. (Professional gear available for about £40 from Maplin if you know what to buy - your phone will only work from about 3cm)

As for it being a method for "forcing" people to fall foul of tampering laws, I have a big roll of aluminium foil available for anyone who's worried about it. Of course, that foil is also useful for blocking RFID, so why not wrap your passport in it.

  • 2
    -1 There is no need to be snarky and to mock people. Surely you can express your opinion without doing so. – JoErNanO Jul 18 '16 at 9:32
  • You're amazed because the level of conspiracy theories is zero? – David Richerby Jul 25 '16 at 21:08
  • 1
    Five metres away? You don't know what you're talking about. – TonyK Jul 27 '16 at 20:32
  • This answer is wrong. There are apps that allow any NFC-capable smartphone to read the information in the passport's RFC chip. I can read that data from my passport regardless of whether the sticker is in the passport. – kYuZz Sep 13 at 12:53
2

The new passport contain an RFID chip in the back cover of the passport, I suspect the yellow sticker is actually to disable the embedded RFID chip, to stop it from being read while the passport is being delivered. The position of the yellow stick on the page before the back cover seems to correspond with the position of the RFID in the back cover.

  • 2
    Interesting. Do you have any references / personal experience to back this up? – JoErNanO Mar 9 '16 at 9:41
  • No, it's just a guess. It doesn't seem logical that the passport office would leave it in place if it wasn't required to be there once it has left the passport office. And if it's not required once it's been delivered then it seems it is required to be there during the delivery process. I wouldn't imagine the delivery company needs it for tracking, they have their own lables and barcodes on the parcel, The position of the yellow sticker in relation to the passport RFID suggests it might be working in conjunction with the RFID, that was my reasoning. – Paul Collins Mar 9 '16 at 13:07
  • Having said all that, I suppose it might be used one final time at the passport office after the passport has been packaged up, just before it is collected by the courier company. That's why it's left there, but why that specific position in the passport? – Paul Collins Mar 9 '16 at 13:12

protected by Community Jul 27 '16 at 14:55

Thank you for your interest in this question. Because it has attracted low-quality or spam answers that had to be removed, posting an answer now requires 10 reputation on this site (the association bonus does not count).

Would you like to answer one of these unanswered questions instead?

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.