Title 18, United States Code, Section 1543 makes it illegal for anyone to make, forge, counterfeit, mutilate or alter any passport with the intent that it be used. It also criminalizes anyone who uses or attempts to use any such passport.
Fraudulent passports pose a significant risk because they can be used to conceal the true identity of the user and potentially facilitate other crimes, such as international terrorism and drug trafficking. 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.
In the United States, the crime is a federal felony as well as a criminal immigration law violation, and may result in a minimum prison sentence of ten years, a $250,000 fine, or both. If the fraud involves trafficking in narcotics, the penalty increases to up to 15 years in prison. If international terrorism is involved, the penalty is up to 20 years. Additional charges will be imposed if the person is caught engaging in any of these activities.
According to the Department of State, the most typical passport fraud crimes are committed by:
- people attempting to illegally obtain U.S. citizenship or some other legal U.S. status
- people wishing to hide or change identity
- people committing other crimes, such as drug trafficking and alien smuggling.
If you have been accused of passport or any other immigration fraud, you should hire a lawyer immediately.