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18 USC 1542:

Whoever willfully and knowingly makes any false statement in an application for passport with intent to induce or secure the issuance of a passport under the authority of the United States, either for his own use or the use of another, contrary to the laws regulating the issuance of passports or the rules prescribed pursuant to such laws; or

Whoever willfully and knowingly uses or attempts to use, or furnishes to another for use any passport the issue of which was secured in any way by reason of any false statement—

Shall be fined under this title, imprisoned not more than 25 years (if the offense was committed to facilitate an act of international terrorism (as defined in section 2331 of this title)), 20 years (if the offense was committed to facilitate a drug trafficking crime (as defined in section 929(a) of this title)), 10 years (in the case of the first or second such offense, if the offense was not committed to facilitate such an act of international terrorism or a drug trafficking crime), or 15 years (in the case of any other offense), or both.

18 USC 1425:

(a) Whoever knowingly procures or attempts to procure, contrary to law, the naturalization of any person, or documentary or other evidence of naturalization or of citizenship; or

(b) Whoever, whether for himself or another person not entitled thereto, knowingly issues, procures or obtains or applies for or otherwise attempts to procure or obtain naturalization, or citizenship, or a declaration of intention to become a citizen, or a certificate of arrival or any certificate or evidence of nationalization or citizenship, documentary or otherwise, or duplicates or copies of any of the foregoing— Shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than 25 years (if the offense was committed to facilitate an act of international terrorism (as defined in section 2331 of this title)), 20 years (if the offense was committed to facilitate a drug trafficking crime (as defined in section 929(a) of this title)), 10 years (in the case of the first or second such offense, if the offense was not committed to facilitate such an act of international terrorism or a drug trafficking crime), or 15 years (in the case of any other offense), or both.

Neither section addresses false statements explicitly, but courts have found that 1425 has a materiality requirement, namely that immaterial false statements do not violate the statute (see US v. Alferahin).

Is it safe to say that a similar analysis would apply to section 1542? Has any court ruled explicitly on this question?

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See United States v. Hart, 291 F.3d 1084:

This appeal presents the question whether materiality is an element of the crime of making a false statement in an application for a United States passport in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1542. We have implicitly indicated that it is not, see United States v. Suarez-Rosario, 237 F.3d 1164, 1167(9th Cir. 2001), and now explicitly hold that proof of materiality is not required for this "false statement" offense.

There is, explicitly, no materiality requirement. See also US v. Ramos, 725 F.2d 1322:

Properly applied § 1001 requires proof that the false statement be of a material fact, see United States v. Baker, 626 F.2d 512, 514 (5th Cir. 1980), an element not needed for § 1542 where "any false statement" is sufficient.

See Neder v. US, 527 U.S. 1 for SCOTUS-level analysis of reading materiality requirements into statutes that don't explicitly impose them.

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  • Do you think Neder might explain the difference between the courts' approach to section 1425 and the approach to section 1542? – phoog Apr 5 at 17:28
  • Yes, in the sense that it distinguishes between materiality in connection to fraud, vs. other forms of false statements not related to fraud, made palatable by reference to legislative intent. – user6726 Apr 5 at 18:07
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Among the courts to address the question, there is general agreement that a false statement need not be material to support a conviction under 18 U.S. Code § 1542:

There may be constitutional problems with such an approach, as false statements are generally protected by the First Amendment. United States v. Alvarez, 567 U.S. 709 (2012). But I don't know of any court to have addressed this question yet.

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  • Thank you for your answer. Do you have any insight into the different conclusion courts have reached concerning the similarly worded section 1425? – phoog Apr 5 at 17:25
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    To oversimplify a bit, the courts are reading Section 1425 as part of a broader law governing naturalizations. Because Section 1451 says that the government can only strip you of your citizenship based on a materially false statement, the courts concluded the criminal offense in Section 1425 must have the same requirement. – bdb484 Apr 5 at 18:00
  • @phoog If you read the opinion in the case about 1425, they emphasize that because it's about taking away someone's citizenship the standard is higher. They compare with another case about lying to a bank where it was found that it didn't matter if the lie was material or not. – user3067860 Apr 6 at 12:15

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