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We generally think of criminal identity theft in terms of financial gain. A thief steals your credit card and goes on a spending spree. Or a bank loan is acquired in your name and eventually defaulted on or destined to bankruptcy. But a kind of ID theft that might be considered more sinister is passport fraud.
Passports are government-issued documents that certify the identity and citizenship of the person to whom it is issued. Passports are required to be able to travel from one country into another. Passport fraud is when someone fraudulently applies for, uses, or possesses a passport of any nation. This includes using false documentation to gain a new passport, or altering an existing passport to appear as if it had been issued to the person possessing the document.
A visa is a stamp affixed in a traveler's passport by the government of a country that he or she wishes to visit. The visa serves as application to enter that country for a specific purpose. Visa fraud is when someone fraudulently obtains, uses, or manufacturers a visa.
Passport and visa fraud are federal felonies and each is subject to identity theft punishment laws that impose a sentence of up to 10 years in prison. The sentence is increased to a maximum of 15 years if the crime is related to narcotics trafficking, and escalated to 20 years if related to acts of international terrorism.
|Jennifer Mathes, Ph.D.|