What is the purpose of the sticker in a British passport?

As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases.

Happy Wayfarer is reader-supported. When you buy through links on our site, we may earn an affiliate commission.

Did you just receive an unexpected sticker pasted on your passport, and you are not sure what it is? Were you flagged? Did you get a complimentary pass? Are you getting free food on the flight? What exactly does that ‘cryptic’ sticker mean?

Let’s look at some of the stickers that can be stuck to your British (or any other) passport and what they are and represent.

The Yellow Sticker

If you find a yellow label-like sticker on your British passport (or any other passport, for that fact), it is most likely a preventive measure to avoid tracking of the RFID chip placed inside your passport. We will discuss the RFID chips embedded in your British or even a US passport later, but for now, let’s focus on the yellow sticker.

So, if you browse online, you will find a number of conspiracy theories about how these stickers are placed on your passport for tracking your RFID chip. On the very contrary, the yellow sticker is used as a ‘cloaking’ device to prevent the scanning and tracking of your British passport before it is delivered to you. 

If your RFID chip inside your passport is scanned by an unauthorized party (anyone working outside the airport security), it can give away a lot of your sensitive data, which can be harmful to you. So, the yellow sticker is used to prevent this unauthorized tracking and any sort of interference with delivery tracking systems that are in the envelope, as well as identification of the enclosed item as a passport. 

If your RFID chip is uncovered, it can easily be scanned and tracked from about five meters away, given that the party is using professional gear. This is why the yellow stickers are placed right on top of the placement of RFID chips so as to prevent tracking and to block the RFID by preventing any signals from coming out of it and therefore interfering with the signals outside.

If you closely inspect the placement of these yellow labels or stickers on the placement of the British passports (or any other passport with an RFID chip), you will understand that these stickers are placed right on top of the RFID chips on the back of the passport. This translates to cloaking and blockage of signals from the RFID chip, and thus, in conclusion, the prevention of scanning and tracking of the chip before the delivery of the passport.

What is an RFID Chip?

A lot of people must have scratched their heads, wondering what exactly an RFID chip is, and if it gives away important data about the passenger, why is it placed on the passport anyway? Let’s touch base and start by explaining to you what an RFID chip really is.

An RFID chip is another term used to define an RFID tag. An RFID chip is a tag, label, or card that can be used to exchange data with a reader that uses Radio Frequency or, simply, RF signals. It usually has a built-in antenna and an Integrated Chip or IC. The IC takes care of demodulating the radio signals, as well as the processing and storing the data, while the antenna is responsible for sending and receiving radio waves.

Similar to barcode labels, the RFID chips are usually used with a corresponding reader or scanner. There are significant advantages to the use of radio frequency identification chips or RFID chips. The chip doesn’t need to be positioned in front of the reader because they communicate through radio waves. It is not necessary to have line-of-sight (the advantage).

If they are a few meters apart, some RFID reader/chip pairs can work even if they are not close. While a barcode is only read by a single reader at a time, an RFID chip in a bar code can transmit data to multiple readers at the same time.

There are different types of Radio Frequency Identification (Radio Frequency Identification) devices. Some require active chips or batteries, while others don’t. They are either designed to be used indoors or built for outdoor applications. Object tracking and identification are the most common applications. 

Different types of chips can be used to operate radio frequencies. Ultra-High Frequency, High Frequency, and Low Frequency are some of the methods that these chips communicate via.

RFID chips can be attached to a lot of surfaces, and that passport you are holding is one of them.

What Exactly is the RFID Chip in passports used For?

Every passport issued since 2007 has a chip, the RFID chip, embedded in the cover that gives you a copy of your contact information on the photo page. This way, no one will ever be able to get sensitive information from your FBI file or tax return by simply looking at your passport. If your passport is stolen and someone tries to change your picture on it, then a customs agent can still check the information on the passport to see if it matches the information on your identity card.

Is the Microchip Found in My Passport Secure?

Some people are worried that criminals may be able to steal their contact information from their passports, thanks to the chip in them. This is not likely to happen. Your passport cover has to be wide open in order to be scanned by someone, according to the Bureau of Consular Affairs. Your passport should not be accessible to anyone as long as you have it in your bag, pocket, or secured area. The security of your information and its prevention from fraud are improved by the placement of Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) chips, not the other way around. If someone tried to take your passport and change the information on it, an immigration official would look for the chip in it and take them into custody.

If you want to be safe from someone gaining access to your passport information, you should buy an electronic passport cover, which will keep the information on your passport from being accessed by anyone. 

Now, that bright yellow sticker on your passport must make a lot of sense to you!

The Yellow and White Sticker

A wide number of countries do not require a visa in advance, or even on arrival, for US, UK, European, Australian, and New Zealand passport holders. When you’re traveling within North America or Europe, an airline will simply check you in, where these visa laws are simply defined and well known. 

So, where does the yellow and white sticker come into the scenario? These yellow and white stickers are security clearance stickers that are indicative of the fact that the airline has a liability to carry you back to your origin country (or the country you flew from) just in case the destination country does not allow entry into its premises. 

These yellow and white stickers are also known as ICTS stickers that are issued by a third-party security company, namely ICTS that works closely with the airlines. The stickers are not only indicative of the fact that the airline has a liability to carry you back to your origin in case you are denied entry. They are also indicative of the fact that you have already passed an extra layer of security screening and are safe to board the flight. 

If you were ever given an ICTS sticker before, you have probably answered absurd questions like “did you or someone else pack your bag?” or “have you left your bag unattended?” When you give satisfactory answers to such questions asked by the security officials, you are given the ICTS sticker on your passport that states that you do not require a visa to travel to the destination; In case of denied entry, the airline will take responsibility for flying you back to where you originally flew from.

For example, if you hold an Indian passport, you will need a visa for most places you will be flying to. However, if you ever end up in a tight situation where you are denied entry, the airline has an obligation to carry out, i.e., fly you back. This is why a number of airline companies do their own visa checks for people who they know require a visa, and once they are validated, they use these yellow and white stickers to indicate that the person is eligible to fly. 

It is advisable to not take off the sticker while traveling and until you reach your destination since security personnel at the receiving end might want to have a look at the sticker, which shall ensure that you were ‘securely screened.’ 

The Vignette Sticker

A visa vignette sticker is a sticker that is placed on your travel document or passport permitting you to travel to and enter the United Kingdom within a stated period of 30 days, given that you are traveling to the UK on a visa for a stay of time-frame longer than six months.

When your application for entry clearance is approved, you are given to add the visa vignette sticker to your passport.

It shows you the type of visa you have been granted, as well as the visa validity issue date and end date, and it includes an image of your photographic identification.

Special arrangements may be made for certain visa routes, but the start date will usually be the date you provided on your visa application. 

For example, Skilled workers and Tier 5 temporary visa vignette stickers generally have a start date of 14 days before sponsored employment is due to commence, as stated on the Certificate of Sponsorship. A Tier 5 or Skilled worker visa vignette sticker usually has a start date of 14 days before the due commencement of sponsored employment. 

Student visa vignette stickers usually begin one month or seven days before the start of the course or the intended travel date.

Types of UK visa vignette

There are six types of UK visa vignette stickers. Below we have enlisted and explained them in brief:

Uniform Format Visa

EU Member States use the Uniform Format Visa to issue visas for visa nationals coming to the UK as visitors or in transit under Category A, B, or C.

CAT C vignette

Most visa categories were stopped using the CAT C vignette in June of 2019. For visa nationals with permission to enter the UK, it is only used when they are allowed to stay for less than 90 days. For example:

  • For Chinese citizens, the approved destination status agreement visas are valid for 30 days.
  • Visitors in transit can stay for up to 48 hours.
  • Direct airside transit visas are available.
  • Depending on the specific circumstances of the application, and visit visa that restricts the validity of the visa to 3 months or less will be revoked.

CAT D vignettes

Since June of this year, the “CAT D” vignette has been used for entry clearances for

long-stay categories with leave to remain of six months or more. The visa holder is allowed to travel to the UK and collect their BRP once in the country if they have CAT D vignettes valid for 30 days. 

The Biometric Residence Permit

The visa vignettes are intended to allow the traveler to travel to and enter the UK.

Once in the UK, you will need documentary evidence of your leave to remain in the form of a Biometric Residence Permit (BRP).

The BRP is a physical card that is larger than the UK driving license and can be used to confirm your identity and immigration status. You need to show documentary evidence of your leave in order to get a Biometric Residence Permit in the UK. When you confirm your identification with your employer or landlord, you may be asked to present your BRP.

When you travel in and out of the UK, you will need your BRP along with your passport.

You may have rights to public services or entitlements according to the BRP.

Exempt vignette

If you’re not subject to UK immigration control and don’t need a visa, you may be able to apply for an exemption from the border. An exempt visa is quicker than a mandatory one.

Following are the conditions to apply for an exempt vignette (which shall earn you the exempt vignette sticker). You must be:

  • You can be a diplomat or work for a diplomatic mission in the UK if you are outside of the UK.
  • An overseas government minister, or traveling with them as part of your job.
  • A member of the armed forces in the Commonwealth or overseas Territories in the UK.
  • A head of state, or working for a head of state (e.g., on a state visit)
  • Not included in immigration control for any other reason.

The Baggage Sticker

You probably already know what a baggage sticker looks like; those tags with a scannable code are usually passed on your boarding pass. These stickers contain data such as a serial number, a ticket number, the destination airport of the passenger, the date of flight, the airport where you checked in, the name of the traveler, and so on.

Sometimes, instead of being pasted on your boarding pass, these tags or baggage stickers may be pasted on your passport, be it British or of another origin. Why? Because a number of people simply discard or forget about the boarding pass as soon as they disembark the plane. This way, the baggage sticker containing important information is lost too. 

Thus, the airline staff sometimes paste these stickers on the passport since the passport is way more crucial to a traveler than a boarding pass, and this way, the baggage sticker is retained with the passenger.

Read More

  1. What Should You Do if Your Passport Wasn’t Stamped on Arrival in the US?
  2. Can You Leave the U.S. Without a Passport?
  3. What to Put Under Occupation for a Passport?
  4. What is an Issuing Country or Passport Issuing Country?
  5. Does your passport number change when you renew it?
  6. DS 160 – Have you traveled to any countries/regions within the last five years?
  7. Can a U.S. citizen fly to Mexico without a passport?
  8. A 52-page United States passport vs. a Regular passport?
  9. Can you use your passport as an ID?
  10. What Can Someone Do With A Scanned Copy of your Passport?
  11. What Is a Passport Bio Data Page
  12. How to check if passport chip works? Does it matter?
  13. What does the Passport application locator number mean?
Author - Willa Carson
Happywayfarer author Willa Carson
Hi, I'm Willa Carson, a passionate traveler who has been exploring the world for 7 years. Whether it's trekking through the Himalayas, exploring ancient ruins in South America, or simply savoring a cup of coffee at a local cafe, I believe that travel has the power to enrich our lives in countless ways. So join me on my journey and let's discover the world together!
Read more about me here.


Leave a Comment