An Anachronism- Getting Rid of Passports

In around the world in 80 days, Phileas Fogg of London and his French valet Jean Passepartout (his name means goes everyhwere”) circumnavigate the world in 80 days. Phileas Fogg travels by steam train and coal burning ocean ships, communicates by telegram, uses shillings and presents his passport at consular offices around the world.

I have had my current passport for almost seven years. In the time I have held it, I have flown 492 times. For the international flights and any domestic flights in the USA and UK, it will be looked at between two and five times. In the past two weeks, 33 people examined my passport in six countries. I estimate that my passport has been looked at by 1000 people in the time I have had it. It has been stamped, scanned, swiped and pawed over. It has had visa documents stapled, clipped and attached to it.

My passport is getting full and it is also getting quite damaged. An Australian immigration official told me recently to take better care of it!

I think passports need a complete re-think.  High speed trains have superseded Fogg’s steam trains, A380s are a much better substitute for coal-fired boats and we can cross the world in 80 hours.

Why are we still carrying around a physical book in the era of Kindles, Iphone wallets and Facebook? Why do I fill our multiple forms every year. Often I am filling out the same identical form week after week! I then get asked questions by immigration that everyone who has my Facebook would know the answer to. eg “Why are you here?” “What is your occupation?” and “Who are you married to?”

Could my passport be reduced to a card/phone app? If banks can do it, why not immigration departments? The card could have a chip in it, my finger-prints linked to it and my photo on it.

My passport card could be entered into a reader. I could enter a PIN, have my finger-prints read to match the prints on the passport and my photo(s) could be matched with my look. There is no reason why there should only be one photo of me on my passport. (Facebook has more photos of me added every week!).

An email could be sent to me indicating my visa status. I could carry it on my phone along with my loyalty cards!  A text and email could be sent to me reminding me that my visa would be becoming due.

A passport card can be suspended or flagged immediately. If it is lost my finger print could be used to match me.

An automatic flag could be placed that posts a message to my Facebook or Twitter or Instagram if I overstayed my visit anywhere:

“The Immigration dept requests Mr John Smith or anyone who knows of their whereabouts to contact us on 1800 123 4567 as he has overstayed his visa. Failure to contact us in 48 hours will result in deportation and/or a fine and/or banning from re entry”.

Why cannot the immigration process happen as I check in reducing two processes to one? In cases where there was concern, then I could be referred to immigration. But if a person is carrying a passport card and is in good standing then the entry an exit processes can happen automatically unless I am flagged for something. No one should be deported, they should just not be allowed on a plane.

People suggest that big brother is at large and privacy laws are at risk but I wold argue Facebook has already stripped a lot of that away.

What do you think?


  1. Interesting, great concept, especially for a frequent traveller, but for me I would be disappointed to see it change. I like to look at my stamps and remember the trips, and it sometimes helps me remember exactly when I was in different countries. And DFAT would want to ensure that they still rake in the money from passports!

  2. That is the worse idea ever! Talk about privacy, but if you are using Facebook, Twitter, Instagram etc. you probably have not idea what that means.

  3. Though fewer and fewer countries stamp passports. And you could still charge for the service maybe on a per flight basis?

  4. Peter, Not sure it is the worst idea ever! There must have been worse. What do you not like about it? And some worst ideas have become mainstream.

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