Used a Fake Passport to Enter U.S.: Can I Still Apply for Asylum?

Proving your true identity will be a matter of explaining your story and providing convincing evidence.


I am a citizen of Mauritania, who entered the U.S. five months ago using a Senegalese passport that's a fake--I paid someone to create it for me. The persecution I suffered happened in Mauritania, because of my race. I was not able to get a passport from my own country before I fled. Is it possible for me to prove that I am not a citizen of Senegal and that I deserve asylum from Mauritania?


Identity is the starting point for any asylum application and interview. In fact, it’s possibly the most important thing you will have to prove to an Asylum Officer or Immigration Judge.

Judges and officers understand that proving identity can be difficult for many reasons, including the fact that true refugees often flee their country without documents. If you have any documentation at all proving you are from Mauritania, submit it along with your asylum application. This might include school records, medical records, voting cards, or even a driver’s license. In combination with your truthful testimony, such evidence can overcome the presumption that you are a Senegalese citizen.

Passports create, in legal terms, a “rebuttable presumption” of citizenship. This means that entering with a Senegalese passport tells the officer or judge that you are a citizen of Senegal. It will be your job to rebut that presumption of citizenship, using documents and credible testimony (your oral account, which must be detailed, consistent, and plausible). Specifically, you will have to demonstrate your Mauritanian citizenship and detail how you obtained the fraudulent passport.

When explaining how you obtained the Senegalese passport, be as detailed as possible. Did you pay for the passport? How did you find this person and how much did the passport cost? Did you provide the pictures? Where was the transaction? Describe the process you went through in detail.

If you still have the Senegalese passport, bring it to the interview. The officer will most likely keep it. If you no longer possess the passport, explain why and how you no longer have it in your possession.

You must be able to convince the judge or officer of your identity and that you are a citizen of your country in order for the merits of your claim to be considered. Without knowing who you are, the judge or officer will not be able to determine whether you have suffered persecution or have a well-founded fear of persecution.

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