Crime of Using a Forged or Stolen Passport

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What Is Passport Fraud?

Every day, immigrants seek to gain entry into the United States through the use of a stolen or forged passport.  Often, the passport is not a US passport, but a passport from an EU country or another country that participates in a visa-waiver program with the US.  For instance, a forged stolen Spanish passport could be used to travel through South America, then to the United States.  EU passports are the most prized on the black market.

What are the Criminal Elements of Entering the U.S. With a Fraudulent Passport? 

The crime of seeking to enter the US with a fake, forged, or improper passport is addressed by the Immigration and Naturalization Act (INA) as a "no valid passport" charge under section 212(a)(26).  Under this section, an immigrant is denied entry when the passport does not show the person’s correct identity and nationality.

The next requirement for inadmissibility at the time of entry is fraud or misrepresentation.  For example, a visa obtained by deception or an attempted entry through fraud is equivalent to having no visa at all. The fraud has to be regarding material fact, that is, a fact that if revealed would have barred entry. If the passport was obtained through the use of false information in the application process, then the passport holder has committed fraud.

The government only has to establish that the immigrant knew that the information on the passport is false. The government does not have to prove why the immigrant used a false passport or put false information on the passport.

In one case, an immigrant presented a Lebanese passport in procuring a tourist visa.  This was a material misrepresentation since he would have been denied entry had he used his real name, and it was a “no valid passport” charge since the Lebanese passport did not show his correct nationality.

What Happens If an Immigrant Tries To Enter the U.S. With a Forged or Stolen Passport?

After detaining immigrants and performing background checks, authorities may give the immigrant the option of catching the next plane back to their country.  Immigrants may seek asylum, in which case their stories may be heard by an immigration court before deportation.  Their biographical information will be retained, and depending on the circumstances, they may be excluded from the US for a certain period of time.

What If the Passport Holder Is an American Citizen?

Using a forged or stolen passport is a crime which applies to American citizens as well as non-citizens. However, unlike non-citizens, the government can only revoke a citizen’s passport after a hearing.

Should I Contact a Lawyer About My Passport Issue?

An immigration lawyer can advise you about your rights if you are accused of passport fraud. A lawyer can also assist you in deciding whether or not to appeal and guide you through the appeals process.

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Last Modified: 02-06-2013 10:38 AM PST

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