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What is Passport Fraud?

Jessica Ellis
Updated May 16, 2024
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Passport fraud is a crime that involves falsifying a passport or using fake information to receive a passport. This crime is often used to permit illegal entry into a country, and it is also associated with international crimes like drug trafficking and terrorism. Many regions have extremely stiff penalties for anyone convicted of falsifying a passport, including long terms of imprisonment and deportation.

There are many different reasons a person might commit passport fraud. Some use passports to enter a country illegally in order to work or take up residence. People on the run from law officials may use fake passports to avoid detection while traveling. Fake or illegally obtained passports are also used by people trying to get into a country for the purpose of perpetrating crime, such as terrorist acts or drug smuggling.

This type of fraud can be committed in a variety of different ways. A person may steal or buy a legal passport and then alter the photograph, identification information, and expiration date to suit their purposes. Some fraud involves the creation of completely counterfeit passports, though these may be easier to catch as they will usually not bear the watermarks or security details built into the official version. Sometimes, a person will receive a legal passport by submitting falsified documentation in the application process, such as a doctored birth certificate or false countersignatures from identity witnesses.

The penalties for passport fraud differ from region to region, but most are extremely severe. In the United States, the crime is a federal felony and may result in a minimum prison sentence of ten years. Sentences go up significantly for repeat offenders or those who used the passport to perpetrate crime. In Australia, penalties include ten years in jail and a fine of up to $110,000 Australian Dollars. In 2010, the head of Interpol cited this crime as one of the largest security threats facing the European Union, renewing debate throughout Europe over stricter penalties and stronger security measures against fraud.

Though a fraud charge is usually leveled against a person using a fraudulent passport, anyone involved in the process of manufacturing or obtaining fake passports may be liable for criminal repercussions. People who create doctored passports, sell stolen or expired passports, or assist illegal aliens in obtaining fake passports and visas may also be charged wither perpetrating fraud. Since passport fraud is considered to be a major threat to national security, aiding and abetting fraudsters is usually a felony crime entailing serious penalties.

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Jessica Ellis
By Jessica Ellis , Writer
With a B.A. in theater from UCLA and a graduate degree in screenwriting from the American Film Institute, Jessica Ellis brings a unique perspective to her work as a writer for MyLawQuestions. While passionate about drama and film, Jessica enjoys learning and writing about a wide range of topics, creating content that is both informative and engaging for readers.

Discussion Comments

By anon358255 — On Dec 10, 2013

Just today, when I went for my passport renewal (at chennai passport kendre) I got a shock of my life that the pic in the documents related to my passport is fake; it was someone else's.

Officials showed me and asked whose pic is this, and I was seeing that pic for the first time, that was, of course, not me. They said because it is not you so your present passport is invalid and cannot issue another. They put my case on hold. Now they are finding out what and where it went wrong, because the passport in my hand has my pic and in their documents it wasn't me. They told me that meanwhile it has been reissued, because of a lost passport.

Someone has impersonated me and is using my identity for god knows what reasons, and I have been using it for 10 years as a proof of my identity. What should be my course of action? Please tell me.

By anon310618 — On Dec 25, 2012

Do they feed you for those ten years? Might be a way to get free healthcare for somebody who is sick with cancer.

By anon300913 — On Nov 01, 2012

But the Canadian government welcomes passport fraud with open arms and also grants citizenship to fraudsters. And keeping multiple citizenship from different countries in Canada is not a crime.

By Bertie68 — On Aug 04, 2011

@PinkLady - I agree with you about the fact that countries ought to be doing a better job of looking closely at the passports as people go through the borders.

I guess I just can't see why it's so difficult to catch many cases of passport fraud. I mean, I know that passports have so many little security measures built in -- watermarks, etchings, etc -- that you would think it would be fairly easy to catch most cases.

When criminals or others who want to get into a country illegally, the border guards should take a much closer look at the passports. The passports that are made from scratch should be easy to detect because they are missing some security measures. And with the ones that are changed from stolen or purchased passports - irregularities should be detectable, if the border guards had some training.

Think of all the criminals and illegals that could be caught.

By PinkLady4 — On Aug 04, 2011

Passport fraud is a very serious crime and extreme efforts should be made to halt it. One area where it is used a lot is to enter and exit countries for illegal purposes.

A growing trend is trafficking humans for sexual and slavery purposes. These criminals have to have legitimate looking passports for themselves and the people they are transporting back and forth over borders.

How they manage to find and change passports is beyond me. Maybe closer scrutiny of passports at the borders would help detect the passports that are illegal.

Catching these criminals for passport fraud and for human trafficking would be a great accomplishment.

By starrynight — On Aug 04, 2011

@SZapper - It seems that passport fraud is a very serious crime. If you think it through for a minute though, it makes sense. I mean, I can't think of too many legal reasons a person might want a fake passport, can you?

I think it's good that the penalties are also severe for the people that make the passports. It seems like they should be punished for their part in it too, not just the person using the fraudulent passport.

By SZapper — On Aug 03, 2011

Wow! I didn't know you could get ten years in jail for passport fraud. Truthfully, I didn't even think passport fraud was that plausible. With all the security features that are built into them these days it seems like they would be very hard to replicate.

Jessica Ellis

Jessica Ellis


With a B.A. in theater from UCLA and a graduate degree in screenwriting from the American Film Institute, Jessica Ellis...
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