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Canadian Man Uses iPad as Passport to Get Through U.S. Customs

Canadian Man Uses iPad as Passport to Get Through U.S. Customs

In a somewhat surprising turn of events, Canadian iPhone photographer and videographer Martin Reisch was able to use a scan of his passport displayed on his iPad to pass through the border from Canada to the U.S.

Reisch realized that he had forgotten his passport when he was around 30 minutes from the border – too late to turn back. Thinking quickly, Reisch pulled out his iPad, which had a stored image of the passport, and showed it to the customs agent, who allowed him to pass through the border.

From the Winnipeg Free Press:

“He kind of gave me a stare, like neither impressed nor amused,” he said of their exchange last Friday in southern Quebec.

The agent took the iPad and the driver’s licence into the border office for about five minutes before coming back outside to give Reisch the green light. The officer also wished him happy holidays.

It’s relatively unusual to be able to pass through the Canadian border without proper paperwork, especially in recent years, although in some cases where the individual has a clean and verifiable record (and experienced veteran Customs agents), small exceptions are occasionally made. The official policy makes no mention of scans and photocopies as acceptable documentation

U.S. Customs and Border Protection says it will accept documentation such as a passport, an enhanced driver’s licence or a Nexus pass from Canadian citizens entering at land crossings. The list doesn’t mention facsimiles, like scans and photocopies.

The rules were bent in this case, but it raises an interesting question – why, in this modern age, do we not have a proper system for digital documentation? Driver’s licenses, birth certificates, and passports could all be easily and securely digitized.

Come on – it’s 2012! Why are we still living in the past?

  1. Etcetera says:

    Perhaps it was the drivers licence that got him through.

  2. JG says:

    US Customs is now saying he had his birth certificate with him as well.  So the combo of DL and birth certificate is what actually got him through.

  3. Enrique says:

    Lucky he didn’t have an android tablet; “Sir, this looks like a fake iPad”

  4. Dinidh OBrien says:

    We probably aren’t implementing this technology because it would take me about 30 minutes in Photoshop to create a believable I.D….creating a “real” fake passport that would pass customs might not even be possible with easily accessed equipment. 

    1. They could easily incorporate security features to make that difficult, like encrypted data embedded within images. There are ways.

      1. Dinidh OBrien says:

        Sure, much like they upgraded passports in recent years to be “swipeable” (not a word I know!). That said, digital manipulation of systems is infinitely easier than getting one’s hands on a printer capable of recreating passable identification documents.

        I’m not saying it won’t happen, nor that your point isn’t valid, but for the reasons above I think it would take a huge international effort to secure and streamline such systems!

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