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Since 1916, the Diplomatic Security Service (DSS) and its predecessor agencies have investigated passport and visa crime. The dedicated cadre of special agents, analysts, and support staff coordinate with other federal and international law enforcement agencies to help protect the integrity of the U.S. passport and visa.

The U.S. passport is considered to be the most valuable identity document in the world. It can be used to provide proof of U.S. citizenship and allows its bearer access to virtually every country in the world. People who attempt to obtain a U.S. passport illegally, or use stolen and altered passports, often seek to change their identities and conceal their illegal activities and movements.

The U.S. visa is an equally valuable document. With the U.S. visa, foreign citizens may apply for entry to the United States for a specific purpose, such as work or tourism. Thousands of people, however, illegally attempt to obtain U.S. visas each year to smuggle aliens into the United States, flee from prosecution, traffic drugs, conduct terrorist operations, and commit other crimes.

What is a U.S. passport?

A U.S. passport is a legal form of identity issued by the U.S. government.  It provides proof of a person’s U.S. citizenship allows U.S. citizens for travel to and from the United States.

What is a U.S. passport card?

In addition to a regular passport, U.S. citizens can also obtain a wallet-size passport card, also considered a travel document.  Unlike a regular passport, a passport card can only be used to re-enter the United States at land border-crossings and sea ports-of-entry from Canada, Mexico, the Caribbean, and Bermuda.

The card provides a less expensive, smaller, and convenient alternative to the regular passport  for those who travel frequently to these destinations by land or by sea.

The Department of State began issuing the passport card in July 2008.

Common types of passport fraud:

  • Using the identity of a deceased person to apply for a passport;
  • Using phony support documents, such as fake birth certificates, when applying for a passport or visa;
  • Using a stolen or altered passports; and
  • Circumventing the two-parent signature requirement for children to obtain a passport.

Common reasons criminals commit passport fraud:

  • Concealing identity
  • Illegally entering the United States or avoiding deportation from the United States;
  • Committing financial crimes; and
  • Facilitating other criminal activity such as drug trafficking or alien smuggling.

What is a U.S. visa?

A citizen of a foreign country who seeks to enter the United States generally must first obtain a U.S. visa, which is placed in the traveler’s passport. Certain international travelers may be eligible to travel to the United States without a visa if they meet the requirements for visa-free travel.

There are two types of visas:

Immigrant visa: For people who intend to live permanently in the United States, as provided by the Immigration and Nationality Act.

Nonimmigrant visa: For people who wish to visit the United States temporarily — for tourism, medical treatment, business, temporary work, or study.

Common types of visa fraud:

  • Presenting false documents to apply for a visa;
  • Concealing facts that would disqualify one from getting a visa,such as the applicant’s criminal history;
  • Selling, trafficking, or transferring of otherwise authentic visas;
  • Misrepresenting the reasons for seeking a visa; and
  • Counterfeiting, creating forgery, or altering of a visa.

Common reasons criminals commit visa fraud:

  • Smuggling undocumented immigrants into the United States;
  • Fleeing from prosecution in another country;
  • Drug trafficking and terrorist operations; and
  • Assisting with other crimes.
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Report passport or visa fraud to Diplomatic Security via e-mail at: or contact your nearest DSS field office.

U.S. Department of State

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