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.