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My girlfriend and I are planning to travel to the US this summer to visit her family that lives there. We are both Norwegian citizens, but she was a refugee from an African country, and when she recently renewed her passport, we noticed that the place of birth in the passport does not lie in the country of birth in the passport (but next to the border in a neighboring country). This was something that was not present in her previous passport.

Is this something that can cause problems for us when entering the US?

  • Won't this invalidate the passport by default? – Mast Mar 9 '17 at 12:17
  • Was she born IN that city, or outside it on her country's border? Also, was the city in her country when she was born and has since changed? I know the borders tend to change in war torn countries all the time. – corsiKa Mar 9 '17 at 17:37
  • Does the passport actually have a "country of birth" field? Mine (UK) doesn't, and the "place of birth" field on mine doesn't specify a country, just the name of the town. Or is the problem that the "place of birth" field says the equivalent of "Olso, Sweden", when of course no such place exists nor did at the time of her birth? – Steve Jessop Mar 9 '17 at 18:43
  • @corsiKa As far as I know, she was born in the city in "country A", while her parents came from "country B". The place of birth is stated as "City, Country B", however (even though this is not the country the city is in). Her previous passport had "City, Country A" as the place of birth, however. – Frxstrem Mar 9 '17 at 19:30
  • @SteveJessop The field is "place of birth" and the problem is the latter, equivalent to "Oslo, Sweden" (although the city in question lies right next to the border). – Frxstrem Mar 9 '17 at 19:32
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If noticed, then yes, this could potentially trigger some extra questioning. However, assuming both countries have good relations with the US (read: are not Sudan or Somalia), it's unlikely they would be denied entry over it. And realistically, given the knowledge of geography evinced by the average US immigration officer, I would be pretty surprised if they picked up on (say) "Brazzaville/Dem Rep Congo" or "Kinshasa/Rep Congo" as being wrong.

All that said, assuming this is a clerical error by the Norwegian passport authorities, I would advise her to get a replacement passport ASAP. This will ensure there are no issues, and they will do this free of charge if it's their mistake.

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    And realistically, given the knowledge of geography evinced by the average US immigration officer (...) Do they automatically use computers to check this stuff or only "on demand" checks if they have any other reason to look closely into it? – xDaizu Mar 9 '17 at 8:42
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    @xDaizu The "place of birth" passport field is free text, I'm not sure how you'd automate any checks on it or what purpose that would serve. After all, why would anybody -- even if they had nefarious intentions -- intentionally pick a nonexistent place instead of an actual city? – jpatokal Mar 9 '17 at 9:31
  • A friend's birth city's country has changed twice, and nobody ever asked about that. They look at the passport country = citizenship, nothing else. – Aganju Mar 9 '17 at 12:18
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    @Aganju, I wouldn't say they never look at the birth country. A CBP officer noticed my wife's place of birth and slipped into a bit of dialect when talking to her; he was from the same country. – Dennis Mar 9 '17 at 17:08
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    @Mehrdad: I don't share this view, but prevailing political opinion in many countries seems to be that a former refugee with a back story that doesn't check out... well... best throw them in jail for a few days and see if we can't get to the real truth. This is not a good year to have errors on your passport whether it's forged or real. – Steve Jessop Mar 9 '17 at 20:04
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There may be perfectly legitimate reasons for such discrepancies. For example a city could belong to country A when a person was born, but later change to country B because of border adjustment or because country A was reformed/renamed/ceased to exist. So the fact that the place of birth in the passport does not lie in the country of birth in the passport is not a problem in itself.

What would be a problem is when the the place of birth or the country of birth is wrong. In this case, your friend should replace her passport and check the information in the passport carefully every time she gets a replacement. Using a passport which is known to contain incorrect data amounts to identity fraud, and stating that your friend didn't bother to check her passport when she received it would constitute a very poor defense.

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    Perfect answer. The cause of the discrepancy plays a major role here. – Mast Mar 9 '17 at 12:18
  • As far as I can tell, there has been no border adjustments etc. near the city in question, so I think the second paragraph is most relevant. – Frxstrem Mar 9 '17 at 19:35
  • It is often no biggie. Many people have such passports, and if it is a secure passport the printed details need to match the data. In fact it is more of a problem when the name of the city/country has since changed or there are politically sensitive issues involved. It is generally a spelling issue., as in Soochow/Suzhou or Calcutta/Kolkata. Macedonia had long been problematic, as has what was once Yugoslavia. Of course you may be caught out if your age does not match this history. – mckenzm Mar 9 '17 at 21:24

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