Warning to all who enter the UK, they have changed the “landing card” forms to make them more extensive, which means that on entering the UK you now have to provide much more information such as passport number, place of passport issue, and most puzzlingly, “Port of Last Departure”. I was surprised when the landing cards were not handed out on my flight into London from Salzburg yesterday, but then was less surprised when I saw they had changed the landing cards–perhaps the plane did not have them. I was then slightly dismayed, and eventually amused as we all stood in the arrivals area discussing what on earth was meant by “Port of Last Departure”. Leave it to the Brits to ignore the rule about forms for general use being at an eighth-grade reading level. We were pretty much all Americans, and thus native speakers of the English language, and since we could not figure it out, I can only imagine how confusing this one will be to true foreigners. Even more puzzlingly, they now also ask for your flight number, which means if they really want to know where you just came from, they are being redundant. If they want to know where you will leave from when you go back to your own country, “last” for “final” instead of most “recent” well, who knows what they want. Since “port” is technically a place for receiving ships and cargo, and has been appropriated for use in the “airport” sense, I think the language choice for this one is extremely poor.
I do admit, for those who I know will start to complain about my ranting when the US entry procedure is even more onerous, that these forms now do far closer resemble the ones that are filled out even by US citizens on entry to the US, which I will be doing again in a mere twelve days (yes, I know I travel too much!) However, I still reserve the right to be annoyed at being asked the same stupid questions by immigration every time I enter the UK, since I have a visa to live and work here and yet that doesn’t seem to actually confer any sort of status difference from the throngs of tourists entering on a visa waiver. Of course, I was not asked anything on entering Austria (typically it’s fairly straightforward going into most of the EU except the UK) but on leaving they asked where I reside after seeing all the stamps in my passport.
I have three new stamps (into Austria, out of Austria and into the UK) from this trip, added into my increasingly crowded passport, and I anticipate having to sort out additional pages in the next year. With my sister moving to China and a friend spending a year in Russia, I can anticipate some interesting trips that will require visas. All of my companions on the trip to Bavaria had EU passports, which means my stamps were the envy of the group–some of them had no stamps at all since they had travelled only within Europe. I, on the other hand, have stamps from each of the ten (I think!) EU countries I’ve been to plus Singapore, dozens of entries into the UK and a few random stamps when entering the US. My sister and I are already plotting our next adventure, with the rule that we will go somewhere that neither of us has been before. This turns out to be slightly tricky, as our lists of EU countries visited are remarkably non-overlapping, but I think we have it narrowed down to a few good choices. But my next few trips are just to the US and my sixth or eighth time in Germany, so not much more interesting for a while.