Will U.S. Customs Really Accept A Passport Picture on an iPad?

Canadian Martin Reisch has an interesting story to tell about his latest encounter with U.S. Customs. On a trip to Vermont the holiday season Reisch discovered that he’d forgotten his passport. Since he was so close to the border he decided to take a chance crossing over with just a picture of his passport, which he’d stored on his iPad.

Amazingly, the border officer let him through.

The Winnipeg Free Press, which reported this story, tried to get an official statement on iPads as passports from the Customs department, but didn’t hear back. Canadian officials were pretty much all: Wait, really? when told about it.

iPads as passports

Image Credit: Winnipeg Free Press

Despite the cute and quirky nature of the story, I doubt that you’ll see a flood of other iPad as passport success stories. To begin with, Reisch was crossing over from Canada, and that border hasn’t required passports until recently. You used to be able to cross with just a valid driver’s license or state/federal ID, which Reisch did have. There are probably many people who forget each week and are let through on just that ID alone. It probably depends on the mood of the officer or the day.

I wouldn’t count on getting in this way if you fly in to the U.S.

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Still, I find this a little surprising given the behavior of border officials in the past. A picture of your passport on an iPad isn’t much better than a paper copy and even more prone to have been altered for malicious reasons. I guess the threat level was down that day. Or perhaps Reisch doesn’t look like a troublemaker.

When we digitize IDs and passports and such I’ll be glad, because that’s one less thing you’ll have to remember when packing for a trip.

  

Comments

  1. John says

    Before anybody thinks that he was admitted solely on the strength of a passport scan, bear in mind a couple of things.  1) He had the proper driver’s license, meaning that he had good government issued ID aside from his passport. 2) Canadian passport information is shared with the US border authorities, so the border guard would have been able to simply confirm it with their own records. 3) The fact that he even has a passport shows he’s a traveler, so has probably entered the US before, all of which would have been showing on the border guard’s screen by the time he opened his window. Actually, the point of entry scans the bar code on the passport themselves, so it’s just a question of confirming their prior information about him.

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