13 November 2015

Why you should always check your Passport Control entry stamps


Passport Control: (looks at Oi Len, then my girlfriend) Ho-ri-day?
Oi Len: Yes
Passport Control: (stamps and returns Oi Len's passport and flight ticket) Welcome.
Oi Len: Thank you (walks off)

(My turn)

Passport Control: (looks at me) Ho-ri-day?

Me: Yes
Passport Control: (stamps and returns my passport and flight ticket) Welcome.
Me: Thank you (walks off)


Passport Control: Wait!  Sir?  Passport prease.
Me: Problem? (hands passport over)
Passport Control: (looks at me)... (looks at me again)... (stamps passport)... (stamps passport again)... (returns passport) No plobrem.
Me: Thank you (keeps passport and walks off)
We're finally in Japan!  Four months in the planning, and now we begin our 19-day Japanese sojourn proper.  This was my first overseas trip.  Anywhere.  Yes, I've been to Singapore before that but as any Malaysian will tell you, Singapore doesn't count.  And it was spring; the best time to visit Japan.  Good times, I told myself.


Fast forward twelve days and the weather had taken a turn for the worse.  It was snowing, and we thought it wise to stay in until the weather cleared.  With nothing better to do, I decided to just look over my passport when something within caught my eye.  I looked again.  Oh, my god!

I checked Oi Len's passport.... and went from zero to vertigo in under three seconds.  My head was spinning; I was in disbelief.  "STATUS: TEMPORARY VISITOR, DURATION: 90 DAYS", the entry stamp on Oi Len's passport read.  Her documents were in order - not so mine.  Mine read "15 DAYS".... and we weren't due to fly home until March 31st.  That's nineteen days from arrival!  I'll overstay!

Gathering myself, I took a closer look at my passport - this time noticing not one, but two entry stamps.  The first read "STATUS: ENTERTAINER - 3 MONTHS" and the second, "STATUS: TEMP.... (blurred) - 15 DAYS".  My mind went blank again.  Apparently the Passport Control guy, for whatever reason, had deemed it fit to grant me no more than 15 days' stay in Japan!

Oi Len's entry stamp (circled); valid for 90 days.

My entry stamp (circled); valid for only 15 days!

Recounting events at the airport, I can only gather that when the bloke asked for my passport the second time, he must have:-

1) annulled the first entry stamp for "Entertainers" which was valid for 3 months (see that "USED - Narita Airport" stamp on the right?), and

2)  applied a second one that was valid for 15 days only (despite having shown him my ticket which clearly indicated our departure date of March 31st).

And what's with this "Entertainer" thing anyway?  Did he at first think I was going to work at some sordid bar in Ginza entertaining and serving margaritas to lonely Japanese housewives?  I wasn't happy - not the least - but what's done is done.  There was only one thing I could do.

It cost me 5 hours of my chill time and a whopping ¥4,400 (or about US$40 back then) to have my stay extended for another 15 days (only) at the Immigration Bureau - 50km away in downtown Tokyo.  I won't even go into the difficulties I encountered whilst there - you know, language barrier and all - but suffice to say it was an onerous process involving a good deal of paperwork.  Ultimately, I wasn't even offered an explanation for the hoo-hah - something I find most displeasing.

Looking back, whether I looked like a gigolo or a stand-up comedian to the guy at Narita's Passport Control that cold spring evening I'll probably never know - but, since that incident, I've made it a habit to immediately check the entry stamps each time I enter a foreign country.  I'm thinking so should you.

Have you ever experienced similar episodes (or any other problems with Immigration) on your travels before?  If so, do share in the comments field below.  Thank you.


  1. Good tip before my trip! :D
    Thank you for sharing.


    1. My pleasure indeed. It's always a good habit to check your entry stamp before you leave the counter. Have a safe trip.