Will I have to give the Asylum Officer the fraudulent passport I used to enter the U.S.?

Asylum officers are trained to confiscate false documents.

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Question

I am from Burma (Myanmar), and entered the United States using a Burmese passport that I bought from a smuggler, who put my photo on it. I could not exit my country using my real passport, because my government would have arrested me. The smuggler told me to mail the fraudulent passport back to him. Will I be expected to submit it to the Asylum Officer? What will happen if I have already sent it back to the smuggler when I attend the interview?

Answer

Although there is no requirement that an asylum applicant have any identity documents, one of the first things the officer who reviews your application and conducts your asylum interview will probably ask you is to show your passport. This helps the officer with a basic issue in your and every case: Are you really who you say you are? If you have any other types of identity documents -- such as a union membership card or a letter to you from a political party -- you should show these to the officer.

Officers will, however, confiscate any passport that was used unlawfully, whether the passport itself was altered or whether you traveled using it in an unlawful manner.

The smuggler wants the passport returned in order to sell it to another person. This is the reason why the officer will confiscate the passport — so that it cannot be used unlawfully another time.

Entering the United States with a fraudulent passport may be a negative factor in your asylum claim, but it will not make you ineligible for asylum. Lying under oath, on the other hand, is problematic. (See Singh v Holder, No. 05-70722. (9th Cir, May 3, 2011).)

If you have the passport you used to enter the United States, you should be honest and submit it to the officer. Likewise, if you have sent the fraudulent passport back to the smuggler before your asylum interview, you should explain this to the officer as well as the reason why you listened to the smuggler. If, for example, the smuggler threatened to harm you or your family if you didn’t return the passport, consider explaining this to the officer.

by: , J.D., LL.M.

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