SHOCKING: US Immigration Doesn’t Check the Validity of Foreign E-Passports

Senators Ron Wyden and Claire McCaskill sent a letter (.pdf) to the acting commission of US Customers and Border Protection today asking that the US government actually start using the “anti-tamper and anti-forgery features in e-Passports, which have gone unused by CBP since their implementation in 2007.”

e-Passports contain chips which store traveler information and have a security feature to verify the validity of the document. The U.S. has required countries in our visa waiver program to issue these machine-readable e-passports. And travelers from these countries have only permitted entry to travelers from these countries with an e-Passport since 2015.


Copyright: andreyuu / 123RF Stock Photo

Yet we’re not actually authenticating the passports. We’ve bullied the rest of the world to adopt this standard and we’re not even checking the information we’ve required. From the letter:

This is Alice in Wonderland-style insanity. While the government invests in biometric checkpoints for US citizens departing the country they’re not actually validating the authenticity of credentials supplied by people coming in.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community InsideFlyer.com, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. How can this be surprising? We have millions of illegal immigrants in the USA who don’t even have passports, we don’t know who they are and don’t seem to care. And yet, people demand more government…..

  2. @gary. We don’t discriminate on how they came here illegally. The point is that Sen. McCaskill and Widen don’t care about illegals so why the hullabaloo about a fake passport or two. If they really gave a rats tail, there are much bigger fish to fry.

  3. @Rjb – the common understanding of “illegal immigrants” aren’t the ones who would be faking passports and entering the country, those people are the actual security risks. We’re engaged in so much security theater while ignoring an actually-identified vulnerability that would allow malicious actors to easily enter. Shouldn’t we be more concerned with rogue actors entering than whomever might try to climb over a wall?

  4. You know what’s worse than more government? Less. It’s easy to make fun of government until you have to come up with your own solution. That’s why Trump and Republicans are so bad at actually legislating and making the government work, and it’s why they hate effective dealmakers like Nancy Pelosi. Breaking the government doesn’t fix the government, yet it’s the only solution that conservatives and libertarians really offer.

  5. @Ray

    I think you meant senile/clueless/corrupt hack. Weird that autocorrect made it “effective dealmaker”.

  6. Reminds of the time a few years ago right after Christmas when the US demanded that all incoming people could have no carry on luggage of any kind (it was either the shoe bomb time or the underwear bomb time). We were returning from Canada after visiting family. We had to put everything into checked luggage with the exception of our laptops (but no laptop bag). We also all had to be patted down by the RCMP before we could go into preclearance. Of course, that was the time that we missed our connection in Houston and had to stay overnight. So overnight in houston with my 4 children without so much as a toothbrush. The following morning, we go through security at IAH and they ask me why I have a laptop and no bag. When I told them the security requirements that were imposed by the US government in Canada, they were, to say the least, surprised because they had no enhanced security at all.
    This is just the latest in a long line of idiotic things that the US government demands of other countries that they neither actually need nor actually use.

  7. @Conor I meant what I said, you might be describing yourself there? Nancy Pelosi is truly one of the greatest and smartest speakers of the house of all time and is an incredible example to look up to. Why do you think Republicans were unable to repeal Obamacare and had to pass a tax law through partisan, closed-door hearings while Pelosi did everything she could to make the process fair, transparent, and open? Pelosi is a downright hero.

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