Was an iPad Scanned Passport Really Used to Cross the U.S./Canada Border?

It seems all you need is the latest technology to breeze through a security checkpoint – well, at least that is what Martin Reisch claims.

Reisch, a Montreal-based photographer, was traveling from Canada to the United States last week and didn’t realize until he was a mere 30 minutes away from the border checkpoint that he left his passport at home. According to news reports, Reisch initially stated he only had his driver’s license and an iPad scanned copy of his passport on his person. Based on those two forms of identification, Reisch claims he was granted access into the U.S.

However, Reisch’s story doesn’t seem to add up with border security regulation. So, was Reisch a victim of lazy security procedure or withholding the whole truth from news crews?

U.S. Customs and Border Protection (U.S. CBP) released a statement in response to Reisch’s digital identification claim stating, “Canadian citizens entering the United States…are required to present a valid document, which include a passport, Trusted Traveler card or enhanced driver’s license.”

Canadian and U.S. border security aren’t falling for Reisch’s iPad passport story – affirming the whole news story is false. Border protection law within both countries contradict Reisch’s claim.

According to the Canada Border Services Agency: “When entering the United States by land or water, Canadian citizens are required to present one of the following valid documents: a passport, a NEXUS card, a Free and Secure Trade (FAST) card or an enhanced driver's licence/enhanced identification card or a Secure Certificate of Indian Status (when this certificate is available and approved by the United States).”

According to the U.S. Customer and Border Protection, a division of the Department of Homeland Security, the most updated admission rules and regulations for international travelers dated Dec. 17, 2010 states Canadian citizens must present valid passport when entering or departing the U.S. by air. The admission rules also state: “A foreign national entering the U.S. is required to present a passport and valid visa issued by a U.S. Consular Official unless they are a citizen of a country eligible for the Visa Waiver Program, a lawful permanent resident of the U.S., or a citizen of Canada. (Visa Waiver Program). A foreign national traveling by air who is a citizen of a country eligible for the Visa Waiver Program must have an approved ESTA and valid passport before traveling to the U.S. (Electronic System for Travel Authorization).”

Reisch has been causing a stir within border security circles because of his iPad passport claim. In fact, U.S. CBP countered news claims, insisting that the passenger was not admitted into the U.S. with only his digital passport, stating "assertion that a traveler was admitted into the U.S. using solely a scanned image of his passport on an iPad is categorically false."

U.S. CBP added that Reisch had a driver’s license and birth certificate on his person when he crossed the border, "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 two days after news reports surfaced about Reisch’s digital passport. Scanned images are not accepted forms of identification, the CBP said.

Anyone in the security market knows digital documents can be altered more easily than physical government issued documents. And, regardless of Canadian border regulation, at least two forms of identification are required for U.S. entry.  

In an effort to promote the validity of digital identification, Reisch lost his credibility in the process by sensationalizing how he crossed the border based on an iPad scanned passport.

Posted by Christina Miralla on Jan 09, 2012

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