William K. Wolfrum's picture

    Want a U.S. Passport? Not so fast, tell us about your Mom and work history

    In the United States of America - where only 75 people have ever traveled abroad (note: possibly not a factual statement) - the State Department has decided to pepper new passport applicants with questions that are both increasingly private in nature and, well, just plain annoying.

    From Consumer Traveler:

    The U.S. Department of State is proposing a new Biographical Questionnaire for some passport applicants: The proposed new  Form DS-5513 asks for all addresses since birth; lifetime employment history including employers’ and supervisors names, addresses, and telephone numbers; personal details of all siblings; mother’s address one year prior to your birth; any “religious ceremony” around the time of birth; and a variety of other information.  According to the proposed form, “failure to provide the information requested may result in … the denial of your U.S. passport application.”

    Here's the punchline:

    The State Department estimated that the average respondent would be able to compile all this information in just 45 minutes, which is obviously absurd given the amount of research that is likely to be required to even attempt to complete the form.

    The comment period for the proposed new rule ended Monday. You can see the proposed questionnairre here. Interestingly enough, the new plan doesn't appear to ask the question the entire rule seems to infer: "Why do you want to leave the glorious United States of America, Comrade?"


    Crossposted at William K. Wolfrum Chronicles


    Apparently people at the State Department have small families and don't move much. Glad mine is good for another 5 years (I'm being cynical and expecting they'll make the renewal process a hassle too, but maybe they won't).

    If it weren't Obama's State Department, I would've assumed this was a ploy to appeal to the birthers.

    Oh, you never know. It's not like the department's staff gets replaced every new administration. It could very well be a Birther who came up with this.

    Wow. That is just... criminally insane.

    As are the comments from the RW nutjobs on that Consumer Traveler site. Egads. Maybe the forms are for them?

    This is not a standard Passport Application form; this is additional information that could be required from some applicants, almost certainly those failing to submit a copy of their birth certificate, naturalization papers, or other proof of U.S. citizenship.

    If you're trying to get a passport without supporting documents, yeah, they're going to make you jump through hoops. Listing every employer you've ever worked for does seem excessive, but as they say in the fine print answering is voluntary. Sure, there's risk of abuse -- but nothing like the sheer idiocy of booting someone off a plane because their name resembles someone else's on an arbitrary no-fly list.

    There are no standards concerning when this form will be required, so it could be invoked for any reason or no reason.

    As it's highly unlikely that most applicants would have this sort of information on hand, or have the time and resources to obtain it (if it's even possible given that people with the information might be deceased or estranged or whatever), invoking would amount to a defacto denial of a passport.

    It's not that there are no standards; the standards are simply not spelled out in the HuffPost article. But it's pretty clear that if you have a birth certificate showing you were born in the U.S., you'll never be asked to fill out this form. I imagine it's always been the case that applicants without documentation go through a longer, more complicated process. I'm as open to conspiracy theories as anyone, but they aren't always the explanation.

    Wolfie, This is snark, right?

    You're kidding, I hope.

    I applied for my passport 2 weeks ago.

    I actually got to send a fax to the State Department in response to this.  My message:  "You  people are insane if you adopt these regulations.  I have no idea what my various addresses were from the time I went to college to now, 40 years later.  Will the last sane person to leave the US, please turn out the lights.  Sincerely, Miguelitoh2o,  US passport holder"


    The time will come when travel restrictions will be commonplace, and policy will be implemented, (see current topic), to discourage Americans from leaving the US/spending abroad.  God forbid we should adopt policy that would discourage corporations from same.

    Is it ok to refer to this thread the next time I see one of those sermons about how wunnerful all of our Federal government employees and all of our Federal government regulations are?

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