Question: Does every member of the EU use identical procedures and standards for issuing passports? Or do they vary country-by-country?
There are certain minimum standards and common practices, but still each country does it slightly differently. Differences really fall into to 3 categories:
1. Rules on eligibility;
2. Paperwork requirements / proof of ID
3. Nature of issuing agency (not much difference here).
Typical example - those countries with an ID
card system will check the ID
card (or a central record of ID
cards) before issuing a passport. Countries without an ID
card system obviously don't have that extra layer, and may or may not take other measures.
IIRC, there was a big loophole in UK policy (closed recently):
You could request the birth certificate of someone born on roughly the same date as you but who died very young, before they'd had a chance to start a paper trail; the certificate wasn't updated to show that the individual had died, so you could build a new identity around it. When you apply for bank accounts / passports / other paperwork, nobody ever considers checking for a death certificate in your name too
A Friend Of A Friend (tm) claims that exploits similar to this are possible in a number of other countries. Would it be feasible in the USA?
It's a bit academic in this context, as no customs/immigration official would ever suspect a problem with paperwork obtained in this way.
Belgian passport policy is certainly not the weakest of the EU or VWP countries.
Hope that helps?