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I am a US citizen living in Europe with a valid long stay visa in an EU country. My US passport was marked suspended in the US Health and Human Services database for non-payment of support, but my passport (the physical document) says it is valid for another ten years.

My question is:

If I fly from Spain or France to Thailand, would I be allowed to enter Thailand as a tourist, for a short stay? I assume I need to carry with me a purchased return flight ticket. Would Thai officials in Thailand check the validity of my passport in the US Health and Human Services database? Or, would they instead check either their own database or only the physical passport document for validity?

A second part to that question, if the answer is they would not allow me in:

What would they likely do with me? If I have a return ticket with me, paid for, to France or Spain, wouldn't they bundle me back on that flight? Or would they instead detain me and put me on a flight to the USA (presumably at their expense)?

An even broader, more helpful, and potentially harder question to answer is:

Which countries would allow me to land and enter, and would consider my passport valid because they don't check its validity in the US Health and Human Services database or similar databases?

Thanks!

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    It's likely you won't even get on the plane; the airline will see that the passport is revoked and deny boarding (and possibly call the police). – Michael Hampton Dec 14 '15 at 20:17
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    @MichaelHampton Would the airline have any grounds to call the local police though? This doesn't exactly sound like an extraditable offense. – CMaster Dec 14 '15 at 23:29
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    @MichaelHampton: Many airlines do not check passports against any database. For example, two of the passengers on MH370 were traveling with stolen passports (which had already been stolen for quite some time). – user102008 Dec 15 '15 at 1:28
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    Note that Stack Exchange has a policy of not answering questions about illegal activity, nor giving advice on how to get away with violating the law; this question is skating pretty close to it. And I'd suggest removing your second paragraph ("...don't bother answering...") as it seems likely to give offense. – Nate Eldredge Dec 15 '15 at 3:12
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    Most countries do not reveal what information their Immigration and Customs officers have access to, as that would make things easier for people trying to hide from the system. But if your passport was discovered as being flagged, then the consequence would be determined by that country's agreements with the USA. So really the question has no simple answer. FWIW: Thailand has been cracking down of people who are hiding in the kingdom from legal issues back home, though I am not sure if child support is amongst those issues. – user13044 Dec 15 '15 at 6:26
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There are really two parts to this:

  1. Is your passport still valid? - It has not expired, but it has been suspended. This suspension is requested from the HHS to the US State Department. A suspended passport is no longer a valid travel document.

  2. Does it say why its suspended? - No real way to know this. Definitely the airlines don't know this. If your passport is ever scanned (electronically) then it will be flagged. The check is not done against the HHS database, it is done against the issuing agency - which is the State Department.

Now, on to your specific questions:

  1. Anytime your passport is digitally scanned - it is subject to being flagged.

  2. The jurisdiction where its flagged cannot arrest you for child support issues; unless there has been an international arrest warrant issued for you. They can only detain you because you are inadmissible; as you documents are not valid. Your identity will be recorded, you would most likely be fingerprinted and may face further sanction for that country.

  3. Will you be sent back to France? No. You would then be repatriated to the US, since there is no guarantee that anywhere else would accept you with invalid travel documents. As far as I am aware, the expenses are paid by the airline and not the repatriated individual.

Finally, I would use extreme caution - and would try to normalize my status rather than risk being flagged by each country because you are living there with invalid travel documents.

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    I believe most airlines include a term in their contract of carriage that they can charge you for the costs they assume as a result of having to fly you back someplace as a result of being refused entry (e.g. section 19 of United's contract of carriage. Their ability to actually collect may be limited, but they reserve the right to try. – Zach Lipton Jun 22 '16 at 23:57
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    What's the source on passports being checked against a database? There were 3 people flying on stolen European passports on MH370, for example. – JonathanReez Jun 23 '16 at 6:38
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    "A suspended passport is no longer a valid travel document": After a few minutes of searching, I found nothing to support this statement. It appears that people in this position will be unable to get passport applications processed, but there's nothing indicating that their travel would be restricted if they hold an unexpired passport. – phoog Jun 23 '16 at 14:58
  • @phoog: As far as I can tell, the US Secretary of State is prohibited from issuing a passport to someone in arrears on child support, and may choose to "revoke or restrict" that person's passport. See 22 CFR 51.60(a)(2) and 22 CFR 51.62(a)(1). I'm not sure how often they exercise this latter option in practice, though. – Michael Seifert Sep 8 '18 at 13:02
  • @MichaelSeifert it's certainly possible that "suspending" a passport is a form of restriction under the cited regulations, but nothing there explains the effect of a suspended or restricted passport for someone traveling outside the US. The effect of revocation seems clearer, but that is not the question here. – phoog Sep 8 '18 at 17:37
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+50

Passports are reported lost and stolen every day, so you would imagine that online passport validity verification is performed as a matter of course. According to this article from 2014, this may not in fact be happening:

The international police organisation, Interpol, says its stolen and lost travel documents database is used on a routine basis by only a few countries, including America and the United Kingdom.

The database, which was introduced in 2001 following the September 11 terrorist attacks, contains the details of 40 million lost or stolen passports.

If this is still the case, it sounds like there is a good probability that online verification still isn't happening and that your suspended passport will not be flagged.

Since the airline may bear the cost of returning you to your departure airport if entry is denied, I would expect that if you check in at the airport, your passport is scanned and you are allowed to board, that it is very likely that the particular database storing your suspension is not being accessed. In that case, I would suspect that the same would be the case in your destination country.

Logically, it makes sense for this check only to be performed when attempting to exit or enter the US. If you are denied boarding on a flight heading for the US, then it is less likely that you will end up returning to the US and paying your outstanding dues.

Ultimately, I don't think anyone will be able to give you a definitive answer to your questions, other than educated guesses. Please report back!

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    Note that the 'stolen documents' database may or may not contain the 'late on child support' database entries. – JonathanReez Jun 23 '16 at 14:36
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    @JonathanReez I did consider that. My thoughts were that if they don't even look up the stolen document database, what chances are they'll look up the late child support database? – Berwyn Jun 23 '16 at 14:38
  • There probably isn't a 'late child support' database, there is a 'suspended passports' database. – DJClayworth Jun 23 '16 at 15:02
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    @DJClayworth Ok. But my point was that online verification seems not to be happening full stop – Berwyn Jun 23 '16 at 15:04
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    A requirement that countries check passports against the Interpol database became a requirement for participation in the US visa waiver program in 2015 so I suspect those countries may do it. I know not whether "lost and stolen" includes "revoked", though. – Dennis Jun 23 '16 at 15:07

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