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. Section 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. Section 212 limits issuance of United States passports to United States nationals only. Section 213 prescribes the method of applying for a passport; sections 213, 214a, and 215 control the fees for passports and section 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.
Section 1541 of Title 18 makes it a crime to issue or verify a passport, or other instrument in the nature of a passport, without authority to do so. For example, state and local governments may not issue documents designed to facilitate overseas travel of their residents. 17 Op.Att.Gen. 674 (1884). Similarly, forgery of a document purporting to be such a travel document issued by a state or local government would also violate section 1541. Section 1541 also makes it a crime for consular officers to verify passports for persons not owing allegiance to the United States, even if they are citizens.
Section 1542 proscribes both false statements made to obtain a passport, and use of any passport so obtained. The false statement against which this section is most commonly used is the use of a false name in obtaining a passport. United States citizens attempt to obtain passports using false names in order to conceal criminal activity. A problem of proof can arise when the passport applicant has routinely used aliases and now seeks to obtain a passport in one of those aliases. See, e.g., United States v. O'Bryant, 775 F.2d 1528 (11th Cir. 1985); United States v. Wasman, 641 F.2d 326 (5th Cir. 1981), aff'd, 464 U.S. 932 (1984); United States v. Cox, 593 F.2d 46 (6th Cir. 1979).
Browder v. United States, 312 U.S. 335 (1941), is the leading case on use of a passport, the application for which contained a false statement. Browder obtained a passport in his real name, but in the portion of the application asking when his last passport was obtained, he falsely stated, "none." This statement was false because he had previously obtained a passport in a false name. He then used the new passport to enter the United States. The Supreme Court upheld Browder's conviction under 18 U.S.C. § 1542 for innocent use of a passport secured by a false statement. See 53 A.L.R.Fed. 507.
Section 1543 proscribes the forgery, alteration, etc., of passports or the use of or furnishing to another of a forged, altered, void, etc., passport or purported passport. It applies to instruments issued or purportedly issued by foreign governments as well as by the United States. See United States v. Dangdee, 616 F.2d 1118 (9th Cir. 1980).
Section 1544 proscribes the use or attempted use of someone else's passport, or its use in violation of any applicable regulation or law. It also proscribes giving one's passport to another for the other's use.
The first paragraph of 18 U.S.C. § 1546(a) proscribes the forging, counterfeiting, altering or falsely making of certain immigration documents or their use, possession, or receipt. The second paragraph proscribes the possession, or bringing into the United States of plates or distinctive papers used for the printing of entry documents. The third paragraph makes it a crime, when applying for an entry document or admission into the United States, to personate another or appear under a false name. The fourth paragraph makes it a crime to give a false statement under oath in any document required by the immigration laws or regulations. Subsection 1546(b) makes it a felony offense to use a false identification document, or to misuse a real one, for the purpose of satisfying the employment verification provisions in 8 U.S.C. § 1324a(b).
COMMENT: Further discussion of immigration related false identification offenses may be found in the this Manual at 1910. Also, a further discussion of offenses defined in 18 U.S.C. § 1546 is set forth in Immigration Law, Chapter 7, USABook.
[cited in USAM 9-64.400]