Passport fraud

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Passport fraud is an act of intentional deception that involves forgery, alteration, or false use of a travel document, such as a passport.[1] Common reasons to perpetrate passport fraud include illegally entering a country, avoiding deportation, committing financial crimes, and smuggling.[2]

One way to commit passport fraud is through the creation of a fake passport or camouflage passport.

Misusing a passport is a crime in many jurisdictions.


The Passport Law of the People’s Republic of China, adopted in 2006, prohibits applying for a passport fraudulently. It provides that fraudulently obtained passports are null and void and that "the holder of the passport shall be fined not less than RMB 2,000 yuan but not more than 5,000 yuan".[3]

United States[edit]

Passport fraud is a federal crime.[2] Usually, this crime is committed to facilitate another crime such as, illegal immigration, contraband smuggling, economic crime, or terrorism.[2] The US department of state's law enforcement, Diplomatic Security Service, have special agents who work with law enforcement agencies in over 160 countries all over the world to investigate passport fraud. Millions of stolen passports are used by terrorists and other dangerous criminals at any given time and it is considered the single largest threat to U.S. national security.

In 1940, the State and Justice Department convicted American Community Party members Earl Browder and Welwel Warszower of "unlawful use of passports."[4]

c. 1977, the State Department discovered 900 cases of passport fraud a year.[5]

Committing the crime[edit]

Passport fraud is usually committed by:

  • Stealing the identity of a deceased person to use their passport
  • Using false documents; i.e. fake birth certificate
  • Using stolen or modified passports, such as altering the photo I.D portion of an old passport
  • Circumventing the parent signatures required for the passport of a person 16 years or younger[6]


Possible violations of the following statutes are investigated by the United States Diplomatic Security Service:

  • 18 U.S.C. 1541 Issuance Without Authority
  • 18 U.S.C. 1542 False Statement in Application and Use of Passport
  • 18 U.S.C. 1543 Forgery or False Use of Passport
  • 18 U.S.C. 1544 Misuse of Passport
  • 18 U.S.C. 1546 Fraud and Misuse of Visas, Permits, and Other Documents
  • 18 U.S.C. 371 Conspiracy to Commit Offense or to Defraud the United States
  • 18 U.S.C. 911 False Claim to Citizenship
  • 18 U.S.C. 1028 Fraud and Related Activity in Connection with Identification Documents and Information

Statutes do not specify that the passport must be a US passport.


If a person lied on a passport application form, they can be fined up to $250,000 and sentenced up to 10 years in prison. If the crime includes human trafficking, narcotics, or both, the sentencing can be raised up to 15 years in prison. If terrorism is involved, the penalty can be raised to 20 years in prison. As well as being charged with further penalties, if the person is caught engaging in any of these additional illegal activities.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "18 U.S. Code § 1543 - Forgery or false use of passport". LII / Legal Information Institute. Retrieved 2023-05-08.
  2. ^ a b c Bureau of Diplomatic Security. "Passport and Visa Fraud". U.S. Department of State.
  3. ^ "Passport Law of the People's Republic of China". Retrieved 31 July 2021.
  4. ^ Records and Briefs of the United States Supreme Court. Harvard Law School Library. 1957.
  5. ^ Investigations, United States Congress Senate Committee on Governmental Affairs Permanent Subcommittee on (1982). Federal Identification Fraud: Hearings Before the Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations of the Committee on Governmental Affairs, United States Senate, Ninety-seventh Congress, Second Session, June 15 and 16, and September 23, 1982. U.S. Government Printing Office.
  6. ^ "Passport and Visa Fraud: A Quick Course".