Man says passport copied on iPad gained him entry into U.S.
January 4th, 2012
04:01 PM ET

Man says passport copied on iPad gained him entry into U.S.

[Updated at 5 p.m. ET Friday] U.S. Customs and Border Protection says the "assertion that a traveler was admitted into the U.S. using solely a scanned image of his passport on an iPad is categorically false."

The Canadian man who made the claim had a driver's license and a birth certificate, "which the [U.S. border officer] used to determine identity and citizenship in order to admit the traveler into the country," CBP said in a statement released this week.

Scanned images are not accepted forms of identification, the CBP said.

[Initial post, 4:01 p.m. ET Wednesday] Forgot your passport? There’s an iPad for that.

At least in the singular case of a Montreal photographer who left home without the important document on his way to the United States. Martin Reisch said he was able to show a scanned copy of his passport to an American border guard and was given entry into the U.S., according to news reports.

To be sure, the incident was not without trepidation. "There was a slight hesitation; he didn't really seem like he was impressed," Reisch told CBC News. But the guard soon gave him back his iPad, and he was on his way to Vermont.

But isn't this a technological breakthrough? Could this be the Apple-white dawn of a new age of digital facsimile?What would Steve Jobs have thought?

“He’d probably say: ‘Here’s something to work on for the future.’ Maybe have some kind of digital certification or encryption to let people travel like this,” Reisch told The Montreal Gazette.

The only problem? A scanned or photocopied passport is not usually accepted.

According to the Canadian Border Services Agency, Canadian citizens entering the U.S. are required to present either a passport; a valid photo ID;  NEXUS or FAST cards, which are frequent traveler programs between the two countries; or a certificate verifying a person's Indian status.

Brian Masse, a member of the Canadian Parliament, told the Gazette that a scanned copy "is not a secure document. That could be altered, and could also lead to some precedents that would jeopardize (border) security."

Reisch told the paper, “I hope the biggest thing to come out of this is that it becomes a catalyst to change the rules.”

What do you think? Is it time for a digital ID?

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Filed under: Canada • U.S. • World
soundoff (202 Responses)
  1. John

    ok, how do you "stamp" an iPad passport? When entering/exiting a lot of countries, they stamp when you got into that country on the paper passports.

    January 5, 2012 at 12:13 pm | Report abuse |
    • dabble53

      You would "stamp" an electronic passport with an electronic (and encrypted) "stamp" that would then become part of the digital record. Of course, even the US doesn't always stamp a passport. I've entered the US many time as a Global Entry participant, and your passport is not stamped in those cases. In fact, no person sees your passport. It's scanned by a machine. Not knowing the details, I wonder if a "scanned" version of your passport would be sufficient for the kiosk?
      The biggest problem with digital versions of passports is making sure they cannot be altered, or at least if altered, it is ALWAYS detectable. I don't think computer security is that good yet.

      January 5, 2012 at 12:44 pm | Report abuse |
    • ala-kat

      According to my passport I'm still in Mexico.

      January 5, 2012 at 1:21 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Mitt 2012

    Mitt Romney will be a great president in 2013... God bless America.

    January 5, 2012 at 12:32 pm | Report abuse |
    • Scott

      No he won't

      January 5, 2012 at 1:00 pm | Report abuse |
    • patsuit

      In YOUR humble opinion maybe.....

      January 5, 2012 at 1:04 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Mike

    Scary situation ... I hope the border guard changes their policy immediately. It's a TON easier to create a false digital copy of a passport compared to a real one.

    January 5, 2012 at 12:32 pm | Report abuse |
  4. SherwoodOR

    In emergencies, officials have long accepted photocopies of passports. Travel pros have long urged travelers to make a photocopy of their passport and keep it with them separate from their passport in case of loss of the passport. In emergencies, people have even been allowed to pass borders with nothing more than a scrap of paper with their passport number scribbled on it. When I recently got my new US passport, it came with a paper card with my name and passport number printed on it. The instructions suggested that, when traveling, I carry that card with me separately from my passport in case my passport is lost. These cases draw extra scrutiny, but they certainly can pass. The border officials can look up the data on their computer; what they really need is the name and passport number. So, this is really no different than any of that.

    January 5, 2012 at 12:37 pm | Report abuse |
    • Steve B

      they should accept a copy for reentry after detention and proof citizenship.

      January 5, 2012 at 12:42 pm | Report abuse |
  5. BlueDestiny

    Easily done, person presents ID, virtual or otherwise, authority pulls up verification from offical database, and verifies that the info and photo match, and the man is on his way instantly. Isn't that what our Highway Patrol does today with drivers licenses when they go back to their vehicle? Piece of cake.

    January 5, 2012 at 12:55 pm | Report abuse |
    • Matt

      The difference here is that the man was a Canadian citizen allowed entry into the United States.

      January 5, 2012 at 2:24 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Will

    Something tells me that agent is going to get written up.

    January 5, 2012 at 12:55 pm | Report abuse |
  7. fittycent

    Why not? I can get my Starbucks with my cell phone.... entering the country is that easy too....nice

    January 5, 2012 at 1:02 pm | Report abuse |
  8. James

    Like its THAT hard to cross the border from Canada?? I do it weekly!

    January 5, 2012 at 1:09 pm | Report abuse |
  9. fittycent

    Oooh oooh I know- problem solved-Implant a micro chip in every newborn then ...just a wave of a magic wand .... and you can be VERIFIED from cradle to grave.

    January 5, 2012 at 1:12 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Really?

    Are you kidding me? Only in America...

    January 5, 2012 at 1:19 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Jessica

    My family lives in the US near the Canadian border. Whenever I've visted and we've traveled to Canada for apple picking (it's only a few miles away to the orchard), as an American citizen, I've had to show a passport to get back in – traveling to/from Canada is the only reason why I have a passport (and it's never been stamped at the crossing, by the way). I can't believe they'd accept a digital copy on an iPad from someone who isn't American.

    January 5, 2012 at 1:30 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Mbane18

    No big deal here. He's from Canada and so he will return there because they have a better standard of living, a better economy and free healthcare. The border guys know that he would have no reason to stay.

    January 5, 2012 at 1:48 pm | Report abuse |
    • JECD

      Exactly.

      January 5, 2012 at 2:08 pm | Report abuse |
    • Mickey

      Still laughing!!! Thanks

      January 18, 2012 at 3:55 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Dennis

    Check out the third paragraph first question.

    January 5, 2012 at 1:54 pm | Report abuse |
  14. JECD

    According to my passport, I'm still in Iceland. Actually, I wish I was...

    January 5, 2012 at 2:10 pm | Report abuse |
  15. SilentBoy741

    "Welcome to America, Mr. ... Angry Birds?"

    January 5, 2012 at 2:39 pm | Report abuse |
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