Earlier this morning, reports that a Canadian gentleman passed through U.S. customs using nothing but an image of his passport on his iPad 2 started circling the Internet.
“Great Scott! Nothing but an iPad!” you say. “How tremendously forward-thinking of our government officials!”
But, alas, according to U.S. customs, the story being circulated doesn’t share the whole picture of the incident. You cannot enter the U.S. using a scanned image of your passport on a mobile device.
The original article, reported by the Canadian Press, stated that the man, Martin Reisch, crossed the border from Quebec into the U.S. just north of Vermont using a scanned copy of his passport on his iPad, along with his physical driver’s license. About a half hour from the border, he realized he’d left his passport at home, but figured he’d give it a shot.
After handing the customs official his iPad, “he kind of gave me a stare, like neither impressed nor amused,” Reisch said. After taking the iPad and driver’s license into the border office for about five minutes, the official returned Reisch’s documents and wished him a happy holidays, letting him into the country.
Or so the story has been told.
A Customs and Border Patrol spokesperson told Wired.com, “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. In this case, the individual had both a driver’s license and birth certificate, which the CBP officer used to determine identity and citizenship in order to admit the traveler into the country.”
U.S. Customs and Border Patrol’s official policy says that U.S. and Canadian citizens entering the U.S. from within the Western Hemisphere must present a “valid, WHTI-compliant document” such as a passport, Trusted Traveler card, U.S. passport card, or enhanced driver’s license or I.D. card. Scanned and digital images of these documents are not accepted forms of identification.
The CBP spokesperson declined to comment on the possibility of apps or mobile devices being used to aid identification in the future.