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Dublin: 5 °C Tuesday 10 December, 2019
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Government officials intervene as Irish J1 students warned over faked passport ploy

Students under 21 are warned not to doctor their passports, after a number of Irish are caught falsifying their documents.

Former justice minister Dermot Ahern poses with a new 'e-passport'. Irish students travelling in the US have been found doctoring their passports, trying to pass themselves off as being over 21.
Former justice minister Dermot Ahern poses with a new 'e-passport'. Irish students travelling in the US have been found doctoring their passports, trying to pass themselves off as being over 21.
Image: Leon Farrell/Photocall Ireland

YOUNG IRISH PEOPLE visiting the United States have been urged not to edit or amend their passports, after a number of Irish citizens were arrested in the US after trying to travel on edited passports showing a fake date of birth.

A number of students – the majority of them visiting the US on working J1 summer visas – have been caught sticking duplicate photograph pages on top of the originals, in a bid to pass themselves off as being over the local drinking age of 21.

While the students present the original unamended versions of their passports upon arrival in the US, they then adhere the fake page to their passports for presentation in bars and nightclubs.

The amendments can be easily detected by border control officials, however – with a number of students attempting to cross the border between the US and Mexico being arrested for attempting to travel using inauthentic documentation.

The proprietors of bars in a number of cities popular with travelling Irish people have introduced zero tolerance measures, seizing the passport and bringing its holder to the attention of local law enforcement agencies.

It is known that one bar in Chicago has decided not to acknowledge Irish passports as a form of ID at all, given the number of fraudulent passports presented to its door staff.

In at least one case, TheJournal.ie has learned, officials from the Irish diplomatic corps were called upon to make representations on behalf of an Irish citizen who had been arrested after trying to use a falsified passport.

TheJournal.ie also understands that the majority of the students found using doctored passports attend colleges in Cork.

Official warning

The Department of Foreign Affairs said that Irish passports – which all times remain the property of the Minister for Foreign Affairs – were compromised even if the fake laminated sheet has been removed, because of the damage caused in placing it there in the first.

“Individuals who have attached a laminate to their passport, or have altered details on their passport in some other way, are strongly advised not to travel on the document and to have it replaced immediately,” a spokesman said.

“Specifically, we urgently advise any student or traveller who has placed a laminate on their passport to contact their nearest Irish Embassy or Consulate immediately to arrange a replacement.”

A list of Irish embassies and consulates can be found on the Department’s website.

Travel agency USIT has emailed every customer on a J1 visa to advise them against altering their passports, stressing that falsifying a passport is a criminal offence in Ireland and a federal offence in the USA.

Gary Redmond of the Union of Students in Ireland asked people with family or friends travelling in the US to pass on the warnings to them, and to encourage them to have their passports replaced “without delay”.

“Being caught with a modified passport will jeopardise your future travel plans, and may limit your future career choices,” he said.

The US Department of Homeland Security had yet to return contact at the time of publication.

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Gavan Reilly

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