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The Consequences of Being Caught Using a Fake Passport

Passport fraud is a serious federal crime, prosecutable by the U.S. government. The crime includes the possession, alteration, or forging of a passport or using a fake or stolen passport to pass through an airport or border crossing.

Falsifying documents is considered a white-collar crime, and attempting to enter the U.S. using a falsified or stolen document is not taken lightly.

The Diplomatic Security Service (D.S.S.) – the law enforcement arm of the U.S. Department of State – is responsible for coordinating federal and international law enforcement agencies across more than 160 countries to investigate cases of passport and visa fraud. It has the broadest reach of a U.S. federal law enforcement agency.

In this article, we will explain the significant legal consequences of being caught using a fake passport through an airport and other cases of passport fraud.

What Is Passport Fraud?

Passport fraud covers a wide range of activities, from falsifying documents to fraudulently attempting to enter a U.S. jurisdiction. Under U.S. federal law, there are four key parts to passport fraud:

  1. Forgery. The use of a forged or altered passport to enter the U.S. is covered by the Immigration and Naturalization Act as a "no valid passport" charge under section 212(a)(26). An immigrant can be denied entry if the passport does not correctly identify a person's identity or nationality.
  2. Fraud. A person would be inadmissible for entry if a visa were granted based upon a forged, fake, or stolen passport. The individual will be detained on the basis of knowingly committing fraud.
  3. Knowledge of misrepresentation. Pivotal to charging an immigrant is proving that they knew the passport was forged, fake, or stolen when providing the passport as a source of information. Such as applying for a visa or using a stolen passport to pass through the airport.
  4. Intent. Once fraud and knowledge of misrepresentation are established, the U.S. government can then infer an intent to use the fraudulent passport to enter the U.S. illegally.

Common examples of passport fraud include using a stolen or altered passport or using a fake passport during a visa application (using other false documents, like phony birth certificates, also constitutes passport fraud).

In addition, passport fraud is not solely applicable to non-US citizens. Circumventing the two-parent signature requirement for children to obtain a passport, using a stolen passport, using the identity of a deceased person when applying for a passport, and using a fake birth certificate or other fraudulent documents when applying for a passport are all examples of passport fraud applicable to US citizens.

The Consequences of Passport Fraud

Not all cases of passport fraud are equal. While, in certain circumstances, passport fraud may be the sole crime, often, the fake passport is used to commit another crime, e.g., trafficking narcotics. The sentencing for passport fraud, therefore, reflects the overall severity of the crime and the individual's intent.

Under 18 U.S.C. § 1542, a person cannot be imprisoned for more than 25 years if the offense was committed to facilitate international terrorism, 20 years for facilitating drug trafficking, and 10 years for a first or second offense.

The law covers "willfully and knowingly" making a false statement on a passport application or attempting to use or supply a fake passport to another party.

Imprisonment isn't the sole punishment for passport fraud. Whether an individual has used a fake or stolen to pass through the airport or lied on a visa application, they can be subject to the following:

  • Up to $250,000 in fines
  • Removal from the country
  • Minimum ban from entering the country for five years or more
  • A permanent record of fraud within the country.

The intent, criminal history, and consequences of the crime will be considered when determining the sentence. For U.S. citizens, the federal government can only revoke a passport following a hearing.

Hire LA County's Renowned Defense Attorney

If you've been charged with passport fraud, you need a defense attorney. Passport fraud is a serious federal crime and carries a lengthy prison sentence. Reach out to the Law Offices of William Kroger for a free consultation. Call us today at 323-655-5700.

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