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Monday, April 25, 2011

State Dept. wants to make it (MUCH) harder to get a passport

From Consumer Traveler, by Edward Hasbrouck on April 22, 2011

If you don’t want it to get even harder for a U.S. citizen to get a passport — now required for travel even to Canada or Mexico — you only have until Monday to let the State Department know.

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.”

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.

It seems likely that only some, not all, applicants will be required to fill out the new questionnaire, but no criteria have been made public for determining who will be subjected to these additional new written interrogatories. So if the passport examiner wants to deny your application, all they will have to do is give you the impossible new form to complete.

It’s not clear from the supporting statement, statement of legal authorities, or regulatory assessment submitted by the State Department to the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) why declining to discuss one’s siblings or to provide the phone number of your first supervisor when you were a teenager working at McDonalds would be a legitimate basis for denial of a passport to a U.S. citizen.

There’s more information in the Federal Register notice and from the Identity Project.

You can submit comments to the State Dept. online at until midnight Eastern time on Monday, April 25, 2011. Go here, then click the “Submit a Comment” button at the upper right of the page. If that link doesn’t work for you, it’s probably a problem with the javascript used on the website. There are alternate instructions for submitting comments by email here.

(Note that the proposed form itself was not published in the Federal Register. The Identity Project was eventually provided with a copy after requesting it from the Department of State, and posted it here.)

Here’s a draft of the comments being submitted by the Consumer Travel Alliance and other consumer, privacy, and civil liberties groups and individuals, if you would like to use it for ideas for comments of your own. (It’s also available in OpenOffice format for easier editing.)

Extra points to the person who gives the best answer in the comments to the question on the proposed form, “Please describe the circumstances of your birth including the names (as well as address and phone number, if available) of persons present or in attendance at your birth.”


  1. And rightly so!! When I became a citizen on March 07, 1973 I had to do the same and present a Police Certificate from each country I had lived in with my Application. I felt no imposition to do this because it was for USC. Unlike the illegals I do not look over my shoulder scared and ready to run. We see this quite a lot in South Florida believe me. I can apply for any position advertized, get a USCG License as Master and the big one - I GET TO VOTE. Y'all should be proud to present these papers as American Citizens.

    In fairness some of the questions you may not be able to answer fully or at all. Just do the best you can and remember it will be more than Barack Hussein Obama was able to do and he became President, for four years anyway, but still he is PRESIDENT and no papers that have been seen to date, Wow!!!

    Good Watch.

  2. Good job, Hillary.

    @Captain Peter--

    I was also born in Hawaii, I also have a Certificate of Live Birth, which is what is issued in Hawaii. It was adequate for me to attend the USAF Academy, graduate and eventually fly as Captain, while holding a Top Secret clearance. If Barack Hussein Obama is ineligible to serve as POTUS, then so is every other US citizen born in Hawaii.

    Yes, in order to immigrate to this country you had to show a lot of documentation. This isn't about immigration or emigration. It's about the ability for US citizens to freely travel outside of the US. I remember the bad old days of communist Russia when its citizens were essentially under national house-arrest. This is very bad. I never imagined I would see this country do anything like this.

    @Captain Robert--

    Thank you for posting this.

  3. It could be horrible for the maritime industry. My "office" does day-trips to Canada; this could make it impossible for that to happen for most Americans, and also make it impossible for us to hire new crew members. This could effectively shut down our industry except for domestic voyages. It would also effectively cut Alaska off from the rest of the country as far as coastal maritime trade is concerned. Given that this is how Alaska gets most of her material goods, this is a real problem for them.

  4. Space Cowgirl, didn't know you answered to "Captain" as well!

  5. Way to go Captain Space Cowgirl and here now is Obama's 'Certificate of Live Birth' finally published today. All going well we shall have a third grandchild born in Honolulu later this year!!

    Good Watch.

  6. It's amazing the lengths people will go to to prove The Donald wrong, still.

    @ Peter-- congratulations! Unfortunately I'll be stuck in Alabama.

    @ Peter and Robert -- A Captain in the Air Force (or army) is only an 0-3, the same as a Lieutenant in the US Navy. What the Navy calls a Captain the Air Force calls a Colonel, an 0-6. I'm afraid both of you outrank me by quite a bit. Now I'm a GS 11. :)

  7. Ooops, I probably should have capitalized "Army". No offense meant, guys!

  8. Congratulations, Peter!

    Space Cowgirl -- Actually, no, when I was in the Navy the highest rank I attained was 1st Class Petty Officer, which is an E6, same as a Tech Sergeant in the Air Force or a Staff Sergeant in the Army. I was a Quartermaster, which in the Navy and Coast Guard is an Enlisted navigator (as opposed to a supply person in the Army and Air Force, or a skilled helmsman in the Merchant Marine).

    US Merchant Marine ranking is much, much more convoluted than in the armed forces. Rank is a
    function not only of actual rank but also of maximum vessel tonnage (and horsepower, for
    engineers) and maximum distance from shore that one can sail. So the individual in charge of an
    oceangoing supertanker and the individual in charge of a seven passenger charter boat
    operating in a protected bay are both "Masters", and both would wear four stripes on their epaulets (if they happened to wear them at all), but the supertanker driver holds a much bigger license than the sailboat driver. Incidentally, while the title "Captain" is traditionally used for either, there is actually no such thing as a "Captain" in the United States Merchant Marine. But "Master" sounds just plain weird, so nobody uses it.

    It is possible for an individual to hold one rank in one tonnage and routing category and another rank in another tonnage and routing category; it is even possible to be both an officer and a rating in different tonnage and routing categories.

    It is also possible (and common) for an officer in the USMM to sail "under rank", meaning sailing in a billet which is of a lower rank than their license allows. It is even possible to sail at different ranks for different companies, even at the same time. I currently sail as a Master for one company and as a Chief Mate (or 1st Mate or 1st Officer, depending on what flag we're flying on a given day, it's all the same thing) for another, but I have also sailed as an Able Seaman (a skilled Deck rating, similar to a Sergeant or Petty Officer) within the past few years because that's where the jobs were at the time, and would happily do so again.

    This would be like having an Air Force person work as a Colonel on Monday and as a Staff Sergeant on Tuesday and as a Major on Wednesday, then again as a Colonel on Thursday. In the context of the US military that
    would be bizarre, but in the Merchant Marine it's business as usual.

    If you're not confused by all of that, you weren't paying attention. ;)

  9. CAPTAIN SPACE COWGIRL: Enjoy the launch tomorrow I shall look northwards from my front porch and can usually see the vapor trail.
    Good lord am I then the Senior Officer? Just to add to the confusion of titles I hold a Commission as Honorary Captain of a European Jaeger Regiment as a Knight of The Sacred and Military Order of Merit. Of course this means nothing here in U.S. but in Europe it gets me an upgrade using my EU Passport. Oh yes I have one of those also as a Dual National. Have to cover all the bases!!

    Good Watch.

  10. Thanks, Peter. I was actually hoping to get to the Cape tomorrow, but duty calls elsewhere. Nearly the end of an era.

  11. Oh, and Robert, that baked my noodle crisp.

  12. Yes Peter, I think you're SOPOB (senior officer present on blog).

    I'll be on the water tomorrow so I'll miss the launch. But I was fortunate enough to be at Port Canaveral for several of the Shuttle launches. Awesome stuff.

  13. My final word if not 'Final Rule' on DS-5513. I downloaded a copy of the form to fill out just as an exercise. It is clearly laid out and in design rather like the European Union forms with tinted spaces in which to enter the data. I completed the form within the estimated 45 minutes. At my age (75) having lived outside the U.S. and become a Citizen much of the data I had to enter was many years old, still not that difficult to do. BUT, there is always a but, DS-5513 has been cleverly designed so that if you are in the country under false pretences ie. illegal immigrant - you are going to be unable to complete it or screw-up with false data and attract attention of State Dept. Agents. If you are U.S. born I do not believe you will have any problem to get a U.S. Passport on presenting your Birth Certificate (just like BHO did) and your basic information. However remember under U.S. Laws one is not ENTITLED to a U.S. Passport. By the by I hold a U.S. Passport, a U.S. Passport card and an EU Passport as a Dual National. Never had the slightest problem in getting any of the three, in fact the EU Passport was free last time because of my age. Senior Citizen status does sometimes have an advantage! Thought y'all might like to know after the discussion above.

    Good Watch.