Skip to main content

Primary tabs

Criminal Resource Manual

1942. 18 U.S.C. 1541 To 1546 -- Passports And Other Entry Documents

Title 18 U.S.C. §§ 1541 to 1546, provide criminal penalties for offenses related to passports, visas, and related documents. Sections 1541 to 1544 exclusively concern passports. Section 1545 deals with safe conducts as well as passports. 18 U.S.C. § 1546 deals with visas, permits, and related documents. See 3 A.L.R.Fed. 623.

A passport is defined at 8 U.S.C. § 1101(a)(30) as "any travel document issued by competent authority showing the bearer's origin, identity, and nationality, if any, which is valid for the entry of the bearer into a foreign country." The Supreme Court has stated "[a passport] is a document, which, from its nature and object, is addressed to foreign powers; purporting only to be a request, that the bearer of it may pass safely and freely; and is to be considered rather in the character of a political document, by which the bearer is recognized, in foreign countries, as an American citizen; and which, by usage and the law of nations, is received as evidence of the fact." See Haig v. Agee, 453 U.S. 280, 292 (1981). Title 8 U.S.C. § 1104 entrusts control of passport and visa matters to the Department of State, and establishes a Passport Office and a Visa Office. Title 8 U.S.C. § 1185(b) makes it unlawful for a United States citizen to attempt to depart from or enter the United States without a valid passport, except as authorized by the President.

Section 211a of Title 22 authorizes the Secretary of State to issue United States passports in foreign countries. Title 22 U.S.C. § 212 limits issuance of United States passports to United States nationals only. Section 213 prescribes the method of applying for a passport, Title 22 U.S.C. §§. 213, 214a, and 215 control the fees for passports, 22 U.S.C. § 217a limits the temporal validity of passports to no more than 10 years. State Department regulations governing passports appear at 22 C.F.R. Part 51. See 59A Am.Jur.2d "Passports" for a general discussion of the law of passports.

The statutory maximum term of imprisonment for violations of 18 U.S.C. §§ 1541 - 1546 is 10 years. However, 18 U.S.C. § 1547 provides that notwithstanding any other provision of title 18, the maximum term of imprisonment that may be imposed for passport and visa violations (except violations under 18 U.S.C. § 1545) if committed to facilitate a drug trafficking crime is 15 years; and if committed to facilitate an act of international terrorism is 20 years.

The statute of limitations for violations of 18 U.S.C. §§ 1541 to 1544 is 10 years. See 18 U.S.C. § 3291.

[cited in USAM 9-73.600]