It has just come to my attention that the US embassy in Bern, Switzerland, accepts US dollars for the payment of passport fees only if the notes were after 2006:

U.S. Embassy Bern

Payment Options:


  • Cash: U.S. Dollars ($)
  • In-person only (No Cash in the Mail)
  • U.S dollar bills issued after 2006 only

How is this not in violation of 31 USC 5103 (or is it)? The full text of the statute is

United States coins and currency (including Federal reserve notes and circulating notes of Federal reserve banks and national banks) are legal tender for all debts, public charges, taxes, and dues. Foreign gold or silver coins are not legal tender for debts.

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    This is a great question. The default answer to "legal tender" questions is to say that no debt yet exists, but legal tender also covers "public charges". Are passport fees not "public charges", "taxes", and/or "dues"? – Columbia says Reinstate Monica Nov 21 '17 at 14:23
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    Likely this is an anti-counterfeiting provision, as newer measures were implemented in 2006 issued currency. It's probably due to the fact that counterfeiting in foreign countries is easier to get away with because of a lack of familiarity and lack of jurisdiction to enforce laws against counterfeiters. U.S. Dollars are used as legal currency in a number of countries, so they do have value beyond U.S. federal jurisdictions. – hszmv Nov 21 '17 at 14:39
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    @hszmv I'm sure it's an anti-counterfeiting measure, but I don't understand how one part of the US federal government can say that all US banknotes retain their status as legal tender forever while another part refuses to accept those issued before a certain date. – phoog Nov 21 '17 at 15:44
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    It is also apparently policy in the Thai embassy. The courts have not ruled whether this policy is legal, probably because nobody has sued. – user6726 Nov 21 '17 at 17:56
  • If the embassy is unable to ascertain to their satisfaction that the proffered, pre-2007 items are indeed US currency, 31 USC 5103 does not apply... – DJohnM Nov 22 '17 at 2:39

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