Best immigration arrival card? Ireland; Nicaragua competes for most tedious

Immigration cards are the greeting card of a country, the first touchpoint for new arrivals. From design to material to information required they are glimpses into national character. Many are dull and bureaucratic, some stand out.

In my recent trips Nicaragua put in a strong entry for most tedious, in addition to the extensive immigration card there are separate, lengthy health and customs forms, reminiscent of China’s old triple forms. My flight from Panama City to Nicaragua was hardly long enough to complete the job.

Nicaragua immigration forms

Ireland’s disembarkation card I love. The simple, sturdy index card construction and layout is reminiscent of a simpler era, eliciting a feeling like checking into a  gracefully aged B&B where the host maintains a classic guest register. It signals the relaxing, traditional land awaiting the visitor.

Ireland Disembarkation Card

Readers, what immigration cards do you love or loathe?

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  • Scott

    I fly to Ireland 1-2 year, and I have never had to fill out a card. Is it because I fly via Amsterdam or CDG?

  • asar

    Have you ever seen US’s immigration card. 2 pathetic forms, where information needs to filled twice

  • @Scott – perhaps so, Ireland is not a formal member of the Schengen area but presumably they have an arrangement that is taking care of this. I flew in from the US which is EU first point of entry for me.

  • @asar – I absolutely agree, as a US citizen I am deeply embarrassed at how international arrivals are treated, from the terrible forms to the immigration points at major airports that are not open 24 hours, to the crumbling airports.

  • Singapore is efficient enough. It even has a nice friendly reminder near the bottom – “DEATH TO DRUG TRAFFICKERS”

  • @James M – they certainly communicate their ethos with oomph.

  • Jim

    Hong Kong is easy as well

  • Plusflyer

    The best arrival card is no arrival card. I don’t understand why in the age of machine readable (or even biometric) passports anybody has to fill anything. Or worse, keep this form until departure.

  • NB

    You are right: it is the calling card of a nation and an insight into the national character. Which is why I find the US card absolutely true to form. A nation which created, and symbolizes, the digital era requires completing bureaucratic forms, giving out information twice, which information is already encoded in machine readable passports, and which information has already, by law, been transmitted to the US at least one hour before the plane has departed. And then, all the bureaucratic questions, most of which are either silly or incomprehensible or both.

    It’s the US in a microcosm. A dynamic country with one of the world’s most intrusive and old-fashioned bureaucracies layered over the top.

  • John

    @NB, interesting that you find the US immigration questions silly or incomprehensible. I am always offended by the way I am treated upon returning home. I very rarely get asked anything when I enter a foreign country. When I come home, its 20 questions. Its as if they are incredulous that someone would want to leave the country voluntarily and hence such an activity is highly suspicious.

  • @Plusflyer – I absolutely agree, it is an anachronism, and so many countries appear to do nothing but throw them on a pile.

  • Singapore! 😀

    Hey, it’s definitely not boring…

  • Just went to Nicaragua a couple of months ago with my wife and three kids. I was flying from Miami, and no exaggeration, I spent a good chunk of that flight filling out everybody’s forms.

  • Shannon

    The best one is Finland. They don’t ask visitors to fill any arrival form. The Ireland’s looks so simple & plain. Please don’t forget your installment of Ireland. Look forward to it.

  • @Shannon – I haven’t forgotten, just while I am in China I am working full days there, and then all my regular stuff during US daytime too, still on client meetings now at midnight, I will sleep in Saturday and then get rolling again.

  • A

    US has amongst the worst – specially the new I94 card that require email address!

    Apart from this – US CBP officers love to find an empty page on your passport and stamp it – how about saving pages by sharing a few stamps on a page!

  • VM

    CANADA has a simple card as-well.

  • Muerl

    When we flew into NZ during the Ruby World Cup, they actually asked “Are you here to see the Ruby World Cup” which I thought was interesting.

  • @A – that page-wasting stamp happiness is extremely annoying, US CBP does not just find an empty page, they stamp in odd places that take up 2 or more of the quadrants. And with US passports and additional passport pages so expensive now, Global Entry has been a big help to keep my pages away from them.

  • Z

    Malaysia! You don’t need to fill out a card. Just scan your fingerprints at the counter.

  • Hi everyone. I’m researching the landing & migration cards used in various countries and compiling what I hope will be a comprehensive list. If you’d like to share any examples of cards you’ve seen, there’s a folder here where you can leave them, either with your name for a credit or with an alias if you wish:
    I really appreciate every single form I can add to my research and would be thrilled to receive any from such a travel-oriented audience. Thanks for your time!

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