Buying Fake European Passports

Interesting story of a British journalist buying 20 different fake EU passports. She bought a genuine Czech passport with a fake name and her real picture, a fake Latvian passport, and a stolen Estonian passport.

Despite information on stolen passports being registered to a central Interpol database, her Estonian passport goes undetected.

Note that harder-to-forge RFID passports would only help in one instance; it's certainly not the most important problem to solve.

Also, I am somewhat suspicious of this story. I don't know about the UK laws, but in the US this would be a major crime -- and I don't think being a reporter would be an adequate defense.

Posted on December 5, 2006 at 1:38 PM

Comments

Geoff LaneDecember 5, 2006 2:08 PM

I've said it before, passports are lousy at identity confirmation for the simple reason that at the border the inspector maybe has 10 seconds/passport to make a decision to pass or hold for further detailed inspection.

I was surprised at how cheap the passports were, between $150 and $1000 each. On occasion the reporter was able to buy in bulk, five different country's passports from one dealer, each customized with her photograph.

The governments response? UK passports are more "secure". They totally missed the point that entry into the EU on a fake passport was almost trivial and then travel within the EU is almost unrestricted.

Nicholas WeaverDecember 5, 2006 2:21 PM

Probably the best thing which could be done for passport security:

WHen you pass the passport through the machine reader (the bit at the bottom), just pop up the picture recorded for that passport on a screen, from when the passport was issued.

Assuming you bothered to keep copies of the passport photos when issuing and were willing to make a big @)#($* database to store them in.

Mark J.December 5, 2006 2:55 PM

A bit OT, but when does the US start issuing RFID passports? I know Bruce has posted the approximate date at one point.

UK NativeDecember 5, 2006 3:07 PM

@Bruce

"I am suspicious of this story"

There has been an explosion in immigration from EU countries into the UK - over half a million people moved here in 2005 alone. Basically, the UK is a very attractive place to be for some people in comparison to poorer parts of the EU. The fact that there is a healthy trade in illegal/fake passports in Europe is no surprise at all.

It's all about money. There are lots of poorly paid manual jobs in the UK that virtually no native citizen will do (you'd have to be crazy to accept the worst paid jobs in the UK if you are a UK citizen). If, on the other hand, you come from a poor EU region and are not entitled to UK state benefits the money may be relatively good.
I am sure that the overwhelming majority of immigrants are just trying to better their lot in life (fake passport or not) but the implications for organised crime and terrorism are unsettling.

Considering that we are an island nation, you may be inclined to think that those repsonsible for border control are incompetent.

You may be right.

AlbatrossDecember 5, 2006 3:29 PM

We have a phenomenon like that here in America, it's called "California."

The impact on the UK was apparent to me during the 2004-2005 time period, when I actively sought to relocate to the UK or anyplace in the EU. Nobody was interested. It was put to me by more than one headhunter that between new EU open border laws and illegal immigration, the EU was quite busy enough dealing with emigrants without looking across the pond.

DschoDecember 5, 2006 3:31 PM

While it is probably a crime in the US to do this, even as a reporter, I think it is wrong. Clearly, it was done to _show_ that it can be done, not to profit from it (well, not directly).

If you prohibit reporters or researchers to find out things for the sake of truth, things that are otherwise would be criminal, you will only make sure that it is _only_ done for criminal purposes.

You will not make the times this happens any rarer.

UK NativeDecember 5, 2006 3:35 PM

Following on from last post:

Oops, I didn't really address your point about legality of fraud by a reporter.

I have a strong suspicion that the reporter could easily demonstrate that the story is relevant to the Public Interest and attempting to press charges would just draw even more attention to our weak border controls. Believe me, this story will not be any surprise to millions of UK citizens.

Joe PattersonDecember 5, 2006 3:36 PM

@mark: US RFID passports are already being issued, from my understanding. Some passport issuing authorities are issuing them, some aren't. When I went to renew (about a month ago), the agent said that all of the issuing authorities were doing the RFID passports, but when I got mine (from the New Orleans office) it wasn't the new design, and hence (probably) didn't have the RFID in it.

mozDecember 5, 2006 3:46 PM

@Bruce

There is a great tradition that UK juries will refuse to convict in cases which embarass the government. They probably wouldn't even consider trying to prosecute. Probably there was more risk in the process of buying the fake passports.

Mark J.December 5, 2006 4:09 PM

@Joe P.

Thanks, Joe. My app for renewal just went in. Looks like I need to find a good case or sleeve for it.

DV Henkel-WallaceDecember 5, 2006 4:14 PM

Geoff Lane: Sorry, but the RFID passports have nothing to do with immigration and almost everything to do with entry to the USA. What government wants to point out that their "special" relationship is special like that of cellmates in a prison?

Any residual motivation is a revamping of the passport infrastructure for ID cards.

AlasdairDecember 5, 2006 4:16 PM

I believe this was done for Panorama, which is one of the BBC's flagship current affairs/investigation programs, so I would be more likely to believe it than if it were by one of the UK tabloid papers. I entering the UK using a fake or stolen password can get you 10 years in gaol, so I can understand your scepticism, that said I cannot really see this person being prosecuted. Just too embarrassing for the government, and I cannot see a jury in the UK convicting given current feeling regarding border controls.

Clive RobinsonDecember 5, 2006 4:45 PM

The UK has been known to have bad passport issue security since the book "The Day of the Jackal" was published oh back in 1971.

The author Frederic Forsyth detailed how to get a Real UK Passport in a dead persons name. The method became known as the "Day of the Jackal technique".

It was probably the first book to show how to do "Identity theft" some 35 years ago...

Oh and Dame Stella Rimington ex head of the UK MI5 said,

"My angle on ID cards is that they may be of some use but only if they can be made unforgeable - and all our other documentation is quite easy to forge."

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk_politics/...

Apparently the new RFID passports are being issued in the same old way so if you currently have a UK "Jackal technique" you should be able to get a nice shiny new RFID one without problems...

Which should enable you to get a nice new shiny UK ID card if and when they come out...

Why should any other European Union Passport Issuing office be any better?

And what about the U.S. ? I remember that a trial in the U.S. for an under age Porn star foundered when it was revealed that the ID document the film makers relied on for her age was a genuine U.S. Passport that she had got in her own name but with incorrect birth date and other details...

Did the U.S. Government prosecute her ?

jmcDecember 5, 2006 5:06 PM

@dscho: Unacceptable.
Following this logic would mean to give carte blanche to reporters to commit crimes on the search for "truth". Where do you draw the line? The only possible answer can be where the law draws it.
Otherwise you have to prepare for journalists shooting at presidents as a "proof of concept".

best regards, jmc

RoyDecember 5, 2006 5:20 PM

Governments issuing passports need to be able to issue passports with the picture matching the holder but with the identity either fictitious or belonging to some other real person.

Does anyone think the agents flying extraordinary renditions to secret foreign prisons are travelling under their own identities?

Because the system needs to be reliably gimmicked to serve the government's needs, it can be gimmicked by anyone with the needed tools.

The point is that vulnerabilities need to be designed into the system for the government to accept it. Insecurity is a design requirement.

UK NativeDecember 5, 2006 5:48 PM

@Bruce

Here is another reference for anybody who doubts what a mess our border control is:
http://www.ukimmigration.com/news/2006_01_16/uk/...
This interesting blog topic made me think about some of the practical problems about making security decisions.
I hope you won't mind me saying that your "I am somewhat suspicious of this story" comment seems to have misread the situation. Unless you have been baiting your blog readers, you made a significant error of judgement about a security issue due to lack of local knowledge about UK immigration.
The reason I want to highlight this is not to criticise you but make us think about the real-world pitfalls that face people who must make serious security decisions.
Another infamous example of this problem was the statement by the UK ex-defence secretary John Reid who declared that UK troops deployed to Afghanistan would hopefully return without "firing a shot".
http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/politics/...
In fact Afghanistan has been the theatre for the most intense combat in our generation.
Now please step back from these local issues. Here is my point:

Even experienced security professionals can be misled by lack of local knowledge.

KeesDecember 5, 2006 6:26 PM

@ Clive Robinson "Why should any other European Union Passport Issuing office be any better?"

Maybe due to the fact that in most other EU countries the registry office records birth, passport issue and death in the same register. A "Day of the Jackal technique" doesn't work in that case. AFAIK it only works in the UK.

marekDecember 5, 2006 6:37 PM

@Clive Robinson

It is not true that a pre-existing 'day of the jackal' fraud can simply be rolled over - which is not to say that it will be impossible to do so. Enrollment for ID cards will require each individual to re-establish their identity and their entitlement - which is why the Identity and Passport Service needs a network of office around the country which aren't a feature of the current system:

"When you apply for an ID card, we will check your ‘biographical footprint’ against information held in other databases such as National Insurance or driving licence records. We will not rely entirely on written documents for this information (as they could be forged). You will be asked to visit one of our local or mobile centres in person wherever possible. This will make it harder for someone to pretend to be another person when applying for an ID card."

http://www.identitycards.gov.uk/...

marekDecember 5, 2006 6:47 PM

@ Kees

I think you will find it doesn't work in the UK either any more. So there won't be new cases - but anyone who has successfully perpetrated the fraud in the past might be hard to detect, particularly if they have established the identity more thoroughly than just having a fraudulently obtained passport. It isn't clear whether the new enrollment checks for the National Identity Register will pick up such cases.

The Financial Times asked the then chief executive of what was then known as the UK Passport Agency about this in an interview last year:

"What have you been doing on fraud prevention?

"We started about two years ago checking every application against a database of dead child identity - closing off the ‘Day of the Jackal’ loophole...We have a database of 500,000 children who died under the age of eighteen since the early 1950's.

"Every application is checked against that and we do catch a lot of people...We have found around 1000 matches against that database and there have been over 200 people arrested."

http://www.ft.com/cms/s/...

DschoDecember 5, 2006 7:50 PM

@jmc

You realize you just give the carte blanche to lawyers?

I'd rather trust journalistst than lawyers.

Davi OttenheimerDecember 5, 2006 10:12 PM

@ Clive

Here's a good example for you. A few years back Israelis were caught with fake Canadian passports while trying to illegally obtain ones from NZ:

http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/pages/ShArt.jhtml?...

"Passport official Ian Tingey telephoned the applicant's parents and asked if their son planned to travel and had applied for a passport.

Tingey discovered the applicant was a tetraplegic who lived in care, was incapable of speaking, and certainly could not travel overseas."

Now there's a control that presents a double-edged sword. What if you did not want the police to tell your family, or anyone for that matter, you were trying to get a passport? But I guess that's not the point. If the nation (or travelling group) was small enough, the passport official might personally know the applicant's parents, or be related, and provide a robust yet simple control system. Good luck trying to get a computer to replace a parent recognizing their child...

@ UK Native

"lack of local knowledge about UK immigration"

Not sure what you mean by local knowledge, but it seems to me the island has been subjected to waves of immigrants and all the related tension with "locals" since forever, or at least long before the Angles moved in and called it home in the 5th Century AD.

http://news.bbc.co.uk/hi/english/static/in_depth/...

Filias CupioDecember 5, 2006 10:32 PM

Off topic:

Click on my name for an interesting news article. There are two security related issues here: the undesirable effects of criminal reaction to security measures (victim tortured to death for her ATM PIN) and an example of how the UK ubiquitous surveillance society allows the solving of crimes.

J.December 6, 2006 3:20 AM

In the Netherlands, 2 journalists wrote an article in De Telegraaf (the Telegraph) about a leak in the AIVD (the Dutch secret service). The OM (prosecutor) asked the journalists to show their source which they denied because of an _unwritten_ rule (not law) that journalists have the right to not disclose their sources. They have been detained as intimidation tactic to show their sources, but have not showed, and have been set free. One source of this news in English describing their return in society from prison can be found here: http://www.expatica.com/actual/article.asp?...

I see a slight relation to what happened here except that in the Dutch Telegraph case the journalists did not commit a crime; they wrote about one using information from an informant who committed the crime (leaking of state secrets). From what I gathered here there is a cultural aspect in this fake passport case leading to Ms. Tulaganova not being sued.

The Dutch Telegraph case has raised various arguments one of which is to design a law which protects journalists from showing their sources in the Netherlands arguing that other EU countries have such law. Assuming the UK has such law (interesting question I do not know) such would only protect Ms. Tulaganova to show whom she bought the fake passports from though; not the crime she commited herself.

There was also news in the Netherlands that it is extremely easy to obtain a fake diploma & certificates (high school, university, etc) which could not easily be detected by job interviewers and the like. Although trained people trained would be able to detect these fake documents they're not involved in a job interview. There is no central database either, nor a standard design for diplomas (differs per school/university). Journalists shown how to obtain such in practice, a short news item showing this was raised on national television, parlement raised questions, yet no journalist has been sued (yet).

There is also a TV program where a journalist goes undercover trying to get illegal products, or showing how criminals work. For example, illegal prostitution by aliens from Eastern Europe. I watched this TV program one time where the undercover journalist tried to obtain the drug ephedra (which is illegal in the Netherlands since 2004, but not worldwide; legal in e.g. Germany) from a so-called smartshop which sells several, legal drugs. It'd be illegal for a person to obtain such drug. The journalist still frolics around freely though. There have also been news items by undercover journalists on the Nigerian 419 scams who mostly operate(d) from Amsterdam. I'd say, sometimes it is hard not committing a crime if you are a journalist. Journalists are no police (who, at least in NL, are allowed to break the law when appropriate for their functioning) either, just like an ISP or the RIAA/MPAA/BSA are not.

It'd be similar to sueing someone who shows a vulnerability in software. Quite stupid, aka "don't shoot the messenger". What matters very much is the intention, but I do not know how a court (let alone in which specific country) would take such into account. In the above cases had the journalist been cought while commiting the crime the outcome of the cases might have been very, very different (prosecution). That may be seen as the risk they take and I assume that is taken into account in the income the journalist(s) in question earn.

supersnailDecember 6, 2006 4:15 AM

Two comments on this one:

Obviously the jounalist in question had white skin. Anyone with any other colour skin has problems getting through UK immigration with completely legal documents.

Secondly the reason the UK is so attractive to illegal immigrants is that you dont need a registration id card to do anything (in Belgium you need a valid up to date id card to open a bank account or even get electricty connected!) and secondly its easy to get work because there are only slap on the wrist fines for employers of illegal immigrants.

Ian EiloartDecember 6, 2006 4:20 AM

Panorama is the UK's most prestigious political affairs programme, and has been running for as long as I can remember. There's no way the government would countenance the prosecution of this journalist, and immigration is such a hot political potato in the UK, that nobody would prosecute her without government approval.

As for the travel, once you get outside the UK and Eire, you don't need a passport to cross borders within the EU.

erasmusDecember 6, 2006 4:32 AM

1) The reporter was able to buy a stolen passport with a genuine photo that looked close enough. After all, "they all look the same, don't they?" !!!!
In the near future this passport can be used to obtain a valid UK ID card.

2) There is a sophisticated EU-database of security features to validate real or forged passports. I'll let you guess how many practioners have direct access to it at borders.

3) UK passport, registration, and ID law is a minefield for the unwary. Its implementation is so messed up that the British Home Secretary called his Department 'not fit for purpose' when he took office. A few examples:

3a) The "Day of the Jackal" passport loophole was closed when laws were passed to allow sharing of data between the UK's Passport Office & General Register Office in 2000. Official statistics say they have trapped fewer than a dozen such fraudulent attempts each year, but almost never prosecute.

This has not stopped Govt Ministers from regularly claiming that such fraud is rife; if this is from ignorance or more suspect motives I cannot say.

3b) Yet in 2002 the GRO unsuccesfully tried to pass 'Modernisation' legislation to register births & deaths by telephone!!

3c) The Passport office has no limits on its powers as they operate under 'Royal Prerogative' - this does not seem to have altered since Parliament granted them the issuance of Civil ID Cards in spite of concerns by Parliamentary oversight commitees.

3d) Anyone is entitled to buy a certified copy of any full UK Birth Certificate. The GRO sells thousands of these each week, most to family historians, though they all say, in red letters, "This is not proof of identity". Yet most places use them as ID.

3e) The UK and EU approaches to the Shengen agreement has produced more confusion; anyone remember the "Bangeman Wave" from a decade ago? You showed a passport, to prove you had one, but didn't have to stop for an inspection.
The UK has no requirement to register at an address (until ID cards come in) so the only check on population movements was fatally undermined.
Govt. can produce no sensible figures on migration, other than a 10-yearly census.

SteveDecember 6, 2006 4:50 AM

@Bruce: "I don't know about the UK laws, but in the US this would be a major crime"

Until June this year, it was not actually illegal to possess false documentation, but it was illegal to use it. In preparation for ID cards, these offences have been revised this year.

Section 25 of the Identity Cards Act 2006 introduces a criminal offence of knowingly possessing a false identity document with the intention of using it, punishable by up to 10 years imprisonment. I don't think there's anything in the Act about actual use being a greater crime, but I guess it depends what you use it for (e.g. criminal fraud might attract a longer sentence). There's a lesser offence of possession "without reasonable excuse", which doesn't require any knowledge, or intent to use, punishable by up to 2 years imprisonment. I guess this is the equivalent of "possession of stolen goods".

This section of the act was brought into effect in June 2006. It's available to read online: http://www.opsi.gov.uk/acts/acts2006/...

To me, this journalist looks guilty of the greater offence, since she used a false passport "to establish registerable facts". I think I remember hearing (from a solicitor) that the recommended sentence on a guilty plea is something like 3 years. As others have said, though, the Crown Prosecution Service might well choose not to prosecute, and even if it did, the journalist might opt for a jury trial in the hope of a not guilty verdict. The sentence would then be higher if she were found guilty, of course.

Erik NDecember 6, 2006 5:03 AM

The press often enjoys freedoms and protection beyond the ordinary citizen, although these are being deteriorated after the 9-11.

- In Sweden a hacking scandal took off during the election, one party's member hacked the network of the opposition, and information was leaked to journalists. It was AFIAK not a crime to publish the information.

- In Denmark an agent from the national intelligence leaked classified information to journalists who published it: The agent was convicted of leaking confidential information while the journalists could not be convicted for publishing it. The agent is now seeking appeal before the European court of Human Rights on the ground that the journalists were not convicted.

There are many other cases where journalists engage in crimes to enlighten the problem, and generally, if their work is of general public interest then they are not convicted of crime. The crucial part is whether the act can be considered of "general public interest".

While buying fake passports is a crime, being a journalist and doing so to shed light on the problem is likely going to hold her free of charges: This is of general public interest because it adds to the current debate about the new RFID passports, and national IDs.

SebastianDecember 6, 2006 5:15 AM

Hi Bruce,
you wrote: ". I don't know about the UK laws, but in the US this would be a major crime"

This is exactly the problem of the US. What kind of crime had she done? Testing her own security given by the government! Here in Germany some people "fight" against a law: It should be forbitten to download such tools like nmap, nessus etc., because it could be possible that you attack other computers.
In Bavaria start these days a discussion of "wargames" like Counterstrike. The government want to ban such software by threaten jail.

JamieDecember 6, 2006 5:35 AM

@Bruce
> Also, I am somewhat suspicious of this story. I don't know about the UK laws, but in the US this would be a major crime -- and I don't think being a reporter would be an adequate defense


The article does state "Entering the UK on a fake or stolen passport carries a maximum sentence of 10 years in jail". I'm certain her reportage status would not have helped her, and if she had been caught undoubtebly she would have been arrested and potentially jailed. But that's a risk she took, and the fact is she wasn't caught. The point of the story was to test the system and show the flaws. Her claim was that illegal immigrants are entering the UK with fake EU passports, and her proof was that she herself did it.

I saw her going through passport control using the illigitimate passports on the TV. Either it was real, or she'd hired a lot of actors and built a pretty good set to make the story up.

Illegal immigration into the UK is a serious problem, not only because of the terror threats it exposes. And this is a serious flaw in attempts to stop it, which predominently is currently centered around detecting people smuggling.

It's a whole lot easier to smuggle someone into the EU at a place where border checks are not so advanced and then get an EU passport which is virtually a free ride into the UK from the EU.

Owen BlackerDecember 6, 2006 6:09 AM

I'm not a lawyer, but I'm pretty well-versed in our ID cards legislation over here.

The Identity Cards Act 2006 makes it a crime to acquire or possess a false "identity document", which is defined as including passports.

The Director of Public Prosecutions, who decides these things, often decides that it would be against the public interest to prosecute journalists who do these kinds of exposés, though, so I would imagine the journalist would not be prosecuted, despite having committed a crime in this instance.


Owen Blacker (Technical Manager, NO2ID)

KeithDecember 6, 2006 6:29 AM

I saw this show. The UK authorities actually did their security reasonably well, I thought. She tried to enter the UK on a ferry from Spain with her fake Latvian passport. They stopped her and double checked the passport and asked a few easy but non-direct questions (what religion are you, how long will you stay in the UK, where's your house in Latvia) because she was coming in by an unusual route. When she came in with her stolen Estonian passport by the Eurostar train from Brussels (through the Channel Tunnel, for those not familiar), it was only glanced at because that's not an unusual route for an Estonian to take, and the passport looked genuine (even to the forger she got to check them).
The main problem was that the stolen passport (the easiest to get) wasn't being checked against the Europol/Interpol stolen passports database. I'd imagine the real reason for this was cost, rather than anything else. The time cost of swiping every passport and waiting for a response from the DB would mean hiring more passport control officers and needing more space for computers and desks, etc. They do it at Heathrow (they even swipe Irish passports, despite Irish people not needing ID to enter the UK - the only ID requirement is that of the air carrier) because the risk is that much higher, and therefore the cost can be justified.
The reporter's best bet would have been to try to enter the UK on a direct flight from the country with who's fake passport she was travelling into a smaller UK airport (there are low-cost flights from many of these to central/eastern European capitals). A real-looking Lithuanian passport on a flight arriving directly from Lithuania doesn't arouse suspicion the way any Latvian passport arriving from Spain does.

supersnailDecember 6, 2006 6:32 AM

"Illegal immigration into the UK is a serious problem, not only because of the terror threats it exposes"

...run run the sky is falling on our heads...

I would really like someone to point to a concrete example of even one terrorist being an illegal immigrant, or, for that matter any terroist being ivolved in drug smuggling or money laundering or counterfieting branded goods. The one common feature of the 9/11 or 7/7 terrorists is that they were all legally where they should have been and were up till that point law abiding citizens. The same remark could be made for the ETA in spain or the IRA cell that carried out the Guilford bombings etc.

Maybe we should make it a crime to falsely invoke terrorist threats.

Clive RobinsonDecember 6, 2006 7:55 AM

@marek

"in other databases such as National Insurance or driving licence records"

Oh please, both of those DBs are known to be so badly poluted with incorecet data duplicate records etc it is one of the reasons why illeagel imigants use them as means of ID...

The same is pretty much true for all UK Governement DB's for many reasons.

I can just see the problems with for example divorced couples where the partner has moved out has effectivly two or more addresess...

The simple fact is the problem is very very complex the solution cannot be put into place overnight and might well take 50-100years to actually get things correctly sorted out...

MathFoxDecember 6, 2006 9:46 AM

Will it be possible to get a 100% perfect ID system?
It will be very hard to ensure that every living person on the planet has one, and only one, unique ID. (We can allow some slack for babies here.) How do we get to 100% when many countries in the world don't have a reliable registration of births? (The incidence of finding unknown tribes has dropped, but one can not expect illiterate tribes to do a first-world style administration.)

I don't think we need 100% to do our business... the system, with all of its holes, has worked decently over the centuries.

Clive RobinsonDecember 6, 2006 11:59 AM

@MathFox

"the system, with all of its holes, has worked decently over the centuries"

That's because there was no political incentive to fix it.

Now however politicians can get votes just by talking up "anti-terrorist technology" which gives them atleast one incentive, then of coursr their are campaing donations either directly or indirectly to be picked up in one way or another...

So now there is plenty of incentive to fix a system that as you say for all faults does not require this level of disproportianat fixing :(

C GomezDecember 6, 2006 12:36 PM

Despite everyone who a) doesn't live in the U.S. and b) isn't familiar with U.S. law, and has already made up their minds, I doubt a journalist would be prosecuted or convicted under such a law. I don't believe a jury would convict, and I also believe appeals courts would find press freedom issues.

Case law has defined when journalistic freedom bumps into public good. For example, a journalist could not assassinate or attempt to assassinate the President just to see if it could be done. It is quite likely a jury would convict, and an appeals court would likely differentiate it from journalism intended to be protected by the First Amendment.

JDecember 6, 2006 4:09 PM

As a resident of the Blair/Brown police state in UK, I would also suggest that the government likes these stories because they then use them as more reasons for ID cards. You and I know this is wrong, but such rationality does not stop them.

AnonymousDecember 7, 2006 1:08 AM

>> Also, I am somewhat suspicious of this story. I don't know about the UK laws, but in the US this would be a major crime -- and I don't think being a reporter would be an adequate defense.

Well, I've been in the UK all my life, and I don't doubt this story in the least.

Why?December 7, 2006 2:16 AM

"Illegal immigration into the UK is a serious problem, not only because of the terror threats it exposes"

Let's see from the other side. Why not let people in more freely ?
In my case, I'm an EU national, my wife is from Eastern Europe. We live in the UK since about 10 years and got a british passport a few years ago.
Two years ago my father in law died and we thought the best would be for my mother in law to move in with us. First she got a visa for 2 years, and came over for 5 months (max time allowed in one go is 180 days), took her grand-daughter home for the school holidays for a few weeks, came back for a couple more months, took the little one with her for the summer holidays, and so on.
I got fed up that she had to leave the country every 5.5 months so we decided to apply for settlement in the UK for her. We filled in the application form, payed the £300 fees and waited for a month. After the month we went to the british embassy to receive the paperwork. I was sure that everything is OK as she is retired, lives on her own with no close relatives alive apart from us, our family income here in the UK is £80K+, so enough money to cater for an extra person, and anyway she lived with us the last two years so it's obvious that it works with us. She's even very helpful for us as she can pick up her grand-daughter from school, bring her to the piano/ballet/etc. lessons, and make sure that she is doing her homework and doesn't wait with them till 8 in the evening.
But the application got refused because.
1) she is "only" 58, too young yet.
2) she has her own 1 bedroom flat.
3) she has a very good pension of nearly £200 a month.
4) she is healthy and doesn't need any medical attention.
Also we were told that she was abusing her visitor visa and lived permanently in the uk instead of just coming to visit. Apparently she should have stayed at home for more than 6 months per year ideally in the UK only for max. 4 maybe 5 months. There is nothing we can do, she would have a chance only if she were homeless living on no more than £10 a month, in a serious health condition and even better older than 65. The only thing we can do is wait until she's 65, until then she can come over only to visit. As of helping us looking after out daughter, we can hire a childminder (of course it is illegal to leave her alone at home while we are at work).
May be I'm wrong, but I think that a 9 year old is better off with her granny than a stranger, and in 7 years time when her granny can move over she will be 16 and the last thing she will want is the granny jumping around her :-o.
So if the UK gives way only to old sick homeless people, than why do we wonder that the rest will come illegally ?
Actually I am thinking myself to buy a fake EU passport for the mother in law and have her with us this way. They cost not more than we'we thrown out for the official application fee :-o.

WhyDecember 7, 2006 2:19 AM

"Illegal immigration into the UK is a serious problem, not only because of the terror threats it exposes"

Let's see from the other side. Why not let people in more freely ?
In my case, I'm an EU national, my wife is from Eastern Europe. We live in the UK since about 10 years and got a british passport a few years ago.
Two years ago my father in law died and we thought the best would be for my mother in law to move in with us. First she got a visa for 2 years, and came over for 5 months (max time allowed in one go is 180 days), took her grand-daughter home for the school holidays for a few weeks, came back for a couple more months, took the little one with her for the summer holidays, and so on.
I got fed up that she had to leave the country every 5.5 months so we decided to apply for settlement in the UK for her. We filled in the application form, payed the £300 fees and waited for a month. After the month we went to the british embassy to receive the paperwork. I was sure that everything is OK as she is retired, lives on her own with no close relatives alive apart from us, our family income here in the UK is £80K+, so enough money to cater for an extra person, and anyway she lived with us the last two years so it's obvious that it works with us. She's even very helpful for us as she can pick up her grand-daughter from school, bring her to the piano/ballet/etc. lessons, and make sure that she is doing her homework and doesn't wait with them till 8 in the evening.
But the application got refused because.
1) she is "only" 58, too young yet.
2) she has her own 1 bedroom flat.
3) she has a very good pension of nearly £200 a month.
4) she is healthy and doesn't need any medical attention.
Also we were told that she was abusing her visitor visa and lived permanently in the uk instead of just coming to visit. Apparently she should have stayed at home for more than 6 months per year ideally in the UK only for max. 4 maybe 5 months. There is nothing we can do, she would have a chance only if she were homeless living on no more than £10 a month, in a serious health condition and even better older than 65. The only thing we can do is wait until she's 65, until then she can come over only to visit. As of helping us looking after out daughter, we can hire a childminder (of course it is illegal to leave her alone at home while we are at work).
May be I'm wrong, but I think that a 9 year old is better off with her granny than a stranger, and in 7 years time when her granny can move over she will be 16 and the last thing she will want is the granny jumping around her :-o.
So if the UK gives way only to old sick homeless people, than why do we wonder that the rest will come illegally ?
Actually I am thinking myself to buy a fake EU passport for the mother in law and have her with us this way. They cost not more than we'we thrown out for the official application fee :-o.

AnonymousDecember 7, 2006 4:36 AM

@Geoff Lane's first comment:

Between $150 and $1000? The article at the time I read it claimed 250-1500 pounds, which is more like $500 - $3000 according to current exchange rates.

marekDecember 8, 2006 11:12 AM

@Clive Robinson

Not sure what the snarky tone is for. Your original comment had a pretty strong implication that perpetrating a day of the jackal fraud was as easy now as when Forsyth wrote his book. It isn't.

Does that mean that all forms of identity fraud will be made impossible? Of course it doesn't - and nobody, including the UK government, is pretending otherwise

Of course there are problems with the integrity of existing databases, and it is undoubtedly true that that is not a problem amenable to rapid fixing. But fraud can be made harder, and it seems pretty clear that this will make it harder. Whether the security benefit is justified by the costs, and whether fraud will be sufficiently harder to make a significant difference are rather different questions.

AnonymousJanuary 18, 2007 8:45 PM

I thing Shahida is a good person,but hear brain is wosht by capitalism,
she cam from a third cantry like russia,what she have done,or try to tell is nothing new,
she forgot were she cam from,I don't thing she has the right to ask a homeoffis represent,
to answear to her kuastion,probably she cam in england with fake pasporte to,what she is
traing to do,is just simply traing to stop the freadom of pour peaple,who are traing to bay
dheir oun fredom,risking dheir life,is so simple the life is not fear at all,

koliJanuary 18, 2007 9:08 PM

I thing Shahida is a good person,but hear brain is wosht by capitalism,
she cam from a third cantry like russia,what she have done,or try to tell is nothing new,
she forgot were she cam from,I don't thing she has the right to ask a homeoffis represent,
to answear to her kuastion,probably she cam in england with fake pasporte to,what she is
traing to do,is just simply traing to stop the freadom of pour peaple,who are traing to bay
dheir oun fredom,risking dheir life,is so simple the life is not fear at all,
this is all politik,why some people don't have the chance,and some ollers have,
I thing enyone who risk his or her oun life
deservs to have the privileg being part of capitalizm if i can call like this,dipent from uhich part you viu the worlld,
the answear is os seample > Just for rekord, i'm one of dhem,I cam in london ilegali,and i know at list 50 people who cam like me,most of them are my friends, ID LIKE TO KNOW HOW MOUCH SHAHIDA WOS PAID FROM BBC,

Tor GilboJuly 26, 2007 4:11 PM

This is a very common problem is California. The problem seems to be in the discovery many years later AFTER immigrants have settled into an American way of life and have jobs and families. Detection at the border security is an absolute MUST. If not caught at the border it can make for a very difficult situation. For example: If I run a red light and no one catches me at the time: am I held liable if someone discovers my faux pas at a later time and date: the answer is NO. Ultimatley it comes down to "its only wrong if you get caught" and that means having a specific time, date and year of entry. LIKE A BIRTH CERTIFICATE; w/o this information the legal system does not have a leg to stand on. Remember the law specializes in exactednes and that especially means times and dates; because that is all they have to punish villains with after all.....

RomeoSeptember 23, 2007 5:37 PM

I have a fake passport, I have been living with it for over 3 years here in Britain. I am desperate to taste fredom and get rid of chains of dual identity, but I am too afraid to loose everything. I am honestly shamefull and remosefull in front of Britain for living illegally here. I think I am a good member of British society - I am fluent in 3 languages and had been using them for the multicultural Britain of today, having translating even for police. I never thought I will meet my Juliet, We love each other I want kids from her, but I cannot marry her. I relise that I am commiting a crime by being illegal, but I don't consider myself a person who deserve to rotten in jail, or which is even worse for me - being deported. Please advise me - what can I do? If God is listening - please help me.

WiseguyFebruary 22, 2008 9:21 AM

I would like to get in touch with Romeo that posted on September 23 would you please contact me for your story may be you can help us, We do need help.

Gateway34@gmail.comMarch 21, 2008 6:16 AM

Romeo or Wiseguy, did you have any luck, if so, please contact me!! i need some assistance. Lets talk business!

AnonymousApril 19, 2008 1:30 PM

Very soon I need a fake passport to get away from extraordinary difficult circumstances. Could I get some help or ideas where to ask after new one.

dog7June 17, 2008 2:46 PM

i'm actually on here looking for ideas...i'm writing a novel where the main character has a fake passport and so far i can't figure out a way to make this possible. how does one go about acquiring a UK passport under a fake name?

gere July 20, 2008 11:50 AM

hi there there are many people mostly asians are using such passports to get to uk and eu union its shame that some of us still using such methods to achieve their goals we eu citizesens at least have the right of freedom of moving among eu countries so far and hopefully always.

mr maciJuly 20, 2008 12:03 PM

look europe is full of emigrants now every eastern europeans mostly the polish hungarian and romanians are heading toward london and british isles its shame for eu union that there is emigration among eu states for example a romanian minimal wage is 170 pounds montly and what about uk least 1150 ponds montly a huge distinction uk its the favorite top emigrant destination all over the world its the no 1 after ireland -dublin which is a paradise for romanians and nigerians as the polish in london like the cubanese in miami and hopefully uk will lift up labour restrictions against romanians and bulgarians shame for uk policy in this matter thanks human rights activist from romania.

Tor GilboOctober 1, 2010 12:24 PM

I have done more research on this and
in conjunction with newer California laws on hate crime and sex offenders:
it doesn't seem to matter if you report back to ME as much
as Alistair who is Britsih whilst I am an American. In my previous life I was also American - so it would make sense.
However I have heard that the new VISA cards: that are more like 'our'
IDs in the US seem more legit than
paper-passbooks that act more as "souvenirs for world-weary travelers"
rather than fugitives.
Yes; the new RFID transponder books
are here from Dept. of State so watch out for the fakes from Passport Control
Center which look very similar.....
I think it beeps at about 28 Hertz or so..
so meth-head truckers could be at risk.

dineshJuly 16, 2012 6:38 AM

Could you tell me please, nearly my visa is finished and I would like to stay in uk with legally, is it possible to make EU passport and with that passport apply to NI for the work?

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