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Questions about Passport Confiscation

Passport confiscation happens for various reasons. Usually it is confiscated to verify a person’s identity, how they entered the U.S., and whether they are citizens of the country from which the passport was issued. Further investigations are made on a case by case basis. No matter what, the implications can be serious. If your passport is confiscated, it will usually require your attention and prompt action. Below are top questions answered by Experts about passport confiscation.

Will I be able to purchase a plane ticket and return to my home country if my employer confiscated my passport and alien card and reported me as a runaway?

The action taken by the employer could be illegal. You can visit your consulate, report the incident to citizen services, and request them to issue you a new or temporary passport to help you return to your home country. Without a passport you cannot get a plane ticket and fly out of the country.

I am in the U.S. illegally and the police from the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) office in Iowa confiscated my passport. How can I retrieve it?

Most police departments across the U.S. are in a mutual agreement with Immigration and Customs Enforcement. If they assist the immigration authorities in reporting people who are unlawfully in the U.S., they receive federal funds. Hence if you approach the police to retrieve your passport, they could detain you and inform the immigration authorities. Once aware, the immigration authorities would start the removal proceedings. One of your options would be to try and obtain a new passport from the consulate of your country, located in the United States.

My passport and Green Card were seized on re-entry to the U.S. because the green card was being used as a visa to enter and leave the U.S. What are my options to get the passport back and visit the U.S. again without committing any immigration-related felony?

A residency or a green card is meant to be used for residing in the U.S. It is not meant to be used as any type of visa. In this type of situation you may have the following options:
  • If you want to retain your residency: You need to stay in the U.S. for 180 days or more per year or apply for a re-entry permit which allows you to stay for up to two years and then eventually settle in the U.S. You need to appeal before an immigration judge and prove you are not abandoning your residency. In order to prove intention you need proof, such as payment of U.S. taxes, maintaining a lease or mortgage, U.S. bank accounts, available job options, various bills being paid, family in the U.S., and so on. If you fail to convince the judge then you may request for a “voluntary departure” instead of deportation.
  • If you want your passport back: You could approach the consulate of your country and apply for a new passport. The old passport would not be required.

Usually in such cases, a “notice to appear” would have been issued to the offender. If you do not go for the hearing, you may be deported which means you cannot return to the U.S. for ten years. Surrendering the Green Card does not absolve one from appearing for the hearing. The sensible option in this situation would be to appear for the hearing and file a motion requesting voluntary departure in which you can show the intent and money needed to leave. It is likely in this case the authorities would return your passport.

My sibling’s passport was confiscated at the airport as he had a previous criminal record (robbery and grand theft). Are his chances of being deported high? Is there any way to avoid deportation?

The immigration law on this is quite complicated as it takes into consideration the state and federal law and the commonality between the two. Crimes involving moral turpitude or character issue are substantial enough for deportation even if probation was granted. In this situation, the chances of deportation are potentially high. Hiring a good immigration lawyer with exposure and experience in criminal law may prove to be useful for him to avoid deportation.

Passport confiscation may be a worrying matter for most people. It can raise questions on your visa, your current status, travel plans, or even your background. Getting as much information possible at when it is confiscated may be wise to plan your next steps.
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