Apparently, the Venezuelan government is accepting bitcoin as payment for new passports.
In fact, a screenshot has been published on Reddit: on the page where it is possible to make the payment, on the website of Venezuela’s Servicio Administrativo de Identificación, Migración y Extranjería (SAIME), the option “pay with Bitcoin” has appeared.
SAIME is the government office that issues passports, identity cards for immigrants, and other legal documents related to nationality for Venezuelan citizens and residents.
The user who posted the screenshot explained that he took it from his brother’s computer while he was helping him complete the bitcoin payment on saime.gob.ve, since he couldn’t pay by credit card.
In fact, credit card payments are temporarily suspended due to international sanctions towards the country.
However, the head of the Sunacrip government press office, Marbellis Linares, has declared via Twitter that this would be a piece of fake news, despite another source also reporting an identical screenshot.
In particular, CriptoNoticias tried to generate a request for passport extension, again on the saime.gob.ve website, using the consular office in Buenos Aires, Argentina, and the system showed bitcoin as a payment option in exactly the same way as the Reddit user iguano80.
After selecting bitcoin as a payment method, the system showed the following message:
“Dear user, you have selected cryptocurrency payment, please note that you will only have 8 minutes to complete the transaction, so we recommend that you have your payment method ready to easily process it without any problems”.
However, CriptoNoticias also reports that a few hours later, SAIME’s website disabled the bitcoin payment option, while leaving the inactive “Pay with Bitcoin” link visible.
Instead, the system would have then displayed this other message:
“The payment platform is temporarily out of service”.
The payment gateway used was the decentralized open-source platform BTCpay Server, given that due to US sanctions, payment processors like Bitpay do not agree to operate on behalf of the Venezuelan government.
The assumption is that the credit card payment option may never be activated, so the only other alternatives would be to use cryptocurrencies.
Specifically, these are payments from abroad and therefore subject to international restrictions.
The one shown in the screenshots above might have been a test.