State Department wants to make it harder to get a passport


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 statementstatement 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 (also available here as a PDF) 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 are the comments (PDF) 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. (They’re 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.”

[Update: More than 3000 people and several organizations submitted comments opposing the proposal in the final days before the deadline. Those comments raise further concerns: It appears from some of the comments that the State Department is already using a version of this form, without the required OMB approval.]

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  • Toby
  • Provacateur

    The people who will have to answer this questionnaire are the same people who, based on the facts of their case and in order to prove citizenship for the purposes of a passport, will need to complete a long supplementary interview and processing and submission of documents covering most of this info anyhow.

    Cases which present these kinds of problems can be even LESS efficient without the data pre-gathered in a neat format, which this form provides. Relax, people.

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  • Gil

    Chrispy – that was not a logical comment at all. Obama is far from an embarrassment to our country. On the global stage, our country finally has credibility and acknowledgment for placing an intellectual person in the White House, not some wild cowboy taking us down the rabbit hole. I love how Tea Party Radio Republicans scream socialism and fascism – take one look at the Patriot Act and there is your Orwellian nightmare of socialism & fascism come alive. Worse than any healthcare bill is the degradation of your rights. You weren’t crying when that was passed. A society that gives up its liberty for some false sense of security deserves neither.

    On the passport note, let’s all hold our collective breaths and wait to see what shakes loose from this. It sounds like jockeying for position by someone – ask for the stars, and see if you can just hit the moon.

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  • JJ Flash

    I was born in a cross-fire hurricane
    And I howled at my ma in the driving rain
    I was raised by a toothless, bearded hag
    I was schooled with a strap right across my back

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  • wataloadofcrap

    Looks like they want to keep us in the states for some reason, get ready people, sh1t’s going to hit the fan real soon and they don’t want us to get away.

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  • FloridaBorn

    I just saw this article. It was a link from a friend’s Facebook wall. I still sent a comment. The proposed form would be a lot like filling out an application for SSDI. That took me over 3 weeks to fill out on-line.

    I was born so long ago that the names of the people who were there would require a pharmacist to transcribe the handwriting. Were the attending physician alive he would be over100 years old. And my former employers? At least 2 of my former employers are dead, so their phone numbers wouldn’t do the government any good. Why isn’t the money for this preposterous form being used to keep illegals OUT instead of trying to prevent legal US residents from leaving the country?

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  • Trisha Springstead

    My Father was in the Military and I went to get this 14 different schools by the time I graduated high school. Oh I’ll get right on this detail. This is 1984 by Huxley, Oh and about the Holicaust, we’ve already been gassed her on the Gulf, its called CORE-EXIT.
    People are dying from that crap they sprayed in the water and on the people of the Gulf. Who need Gas Chambers we have the Oil Companies.

  • John N Florida

    Bizarre. Only a Bureaucrat could come up with this.

  • retired in texas

    I would like to comment to “Callofthe wild”. Fisrt of all; retired people collecting SS DO PAY TAXES on the money they recieve!!! By the way the GOVERNMENT DOES NOT contribute one penny to the fund. I have worked for 50 years of my life and should be able to enjoy what my EMPLOYER and I were taxed for this fumd. As for this passport application, the questions are invasive. By the way, my family have been on US soil since 1667 in what is still Maryland.

  • William

    This really does not surprise me. Control the food supplies, control the water supplies, and control travel, do that long enough and you control the whole country. so to be the whole world. Almost half of the water supply is polluted, I have read report that in south America you can’t even dig a well all water is owned by corporations,..Over 80% of the food supplies is corrupted by GMO’s or other chemicals that are killing us oh so slowly.. Our air we breath is well, not much to be desired. Because of the big melt down of all the ice packs and glaciers the water levels are rising and the storms are in creasing in deadliness. Ah yes another greenie spouting off his sepal.. May so, but I wonder, these are god given facts.. undisputed facts..—shrug— Oh well… see you around boys and girls.. But don’t be looking for food hand outs from me.. Or water for that mater..

  • Bob

    “America is at that awkward stage. It’s too late to work within the system, but too early to shoot the bastards.” – Claire Wolfe

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  • Jim Bee

    I was adopted
    I’m now 63 yrs old
    I dont even know my brothers or sisters.
    Im white – 6ft 2in. – 259lbs.
    I was adopted only because the farmer in Washington state
    need more slaves to work his farm.
    I was beaten regularly for not bring in enough wood for the stove or not feeding the cow’s, hog’s, chickens enough feed.
    All I want to do is drive to Alaska again before I die.

  • Mac

    This is taking things to far, it’s stupid that us Canadians need a passport to cross the border, as it makes a huge hassle, and is frustrating. On top of that they want to know everything about you and your family, and sometimes these are questions you cannot answer. Is that right? No I do not think so. It is a direct invasion of privacy, makes me wonder if they have some sort of idea that isn’t moral. Perhaps weeding out?… To gain the money they should have held onto perhaps? Whatever their reasoning I believe they are so wrong.

  • charlie

    And yet, illegal alians can VOTE! ‘doesn’t make sense.

  • David

    In order to receive my current passport I had to answer these questions. I was originally denied a passport card last year, and earlier this year they denied my passport book application unless I had completed an exhaustive questionnaire of my life history from the date of my birth.

    I was shocked and appalled that I had to provide this list considering I had been issued a passport in 1990 without any problems. I originally thought this ridiculous protocol was due to the fact my original passport had been lost and I could not return it to the State Department, I did receive my passport; however, the overall process took almost 3 months.

    It looks as that “Iron Curtain” is being lowered in the United States, make me so sad that our freedoms continue to erorde on a daily basis.

  • Beanlet

    One way that Obama could make it easy for illegal aliens to get US passports is to cause good citizens to be angry enough to cancel all verifications for a passport. Why else would they threaten us with such ridiculous measures? (For a passport you have to prove you are a citizen, but it is an invasion of privacy to have to give the government a diary of your life.)

  • Littlejoenc

    You Can Check In But You Can Never Leave

  • Baldur

    How long before that border fence is keeping American citizens *inside* the U.S.?

  • bill

    The last thing the US government wants is citizens leaving the country and discovering how the rest of the world perceives us…or how much better citizens in many other countries are treated. Keep Americans Ignorant – something both parties can vote for.

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  • damefrank

    Once upon a time….our forefathers were illegal immigrants. U.S. natural resources belong to other countries. What part of these borders are we protecting and why? If welfare is the issue, why doesn’t Obama retract Bush’s cut-back on claiming full deductions for contributions to non-profits? Non-profits provided valuable social services that did not stem from the taxpayers pocketbook and made this country more humanitarian and giving.

  • Butch Kendrick

    Your new form for obtaining a passport is way out of line. This will obviously put a burden on the honest citizens of the US and do very little to avoid providing passports to those who should be denied. You tell me what the address is of the first place you ever worked or the other personal information about your family that has no relation to your application for a passport. Your laws are out of hand and misguided to the point that they have lost all credibility. Remember what it is to be a citizen and think about how this would affect you and stop the march to total control.

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  • Peter Allen

    I agree, let’s DO IT! It would be interesting to see how Obama fills his out, especially his address at birth, and the religious question. But I’m just dreaming I guess… why would he be any more honest to a form than face-to-face to the public. Why is that you suppose? Is he embarrassed by his religion? Believes that it’s fundamentally wrong? Or is it just a matter of being “one of the guys” so as to garner more votes?


  • rosalind freed

    Americans…..your Government is building a Berlin Wall to keep you in. if you can’t get a passport, you are a prisoner.
    I’m a Brit living in Mexico, having lived 18 years in the US, I love America the Land of the Free……but it’s not anymore.
    Mexico is a wonderful place to live, 1/2 the cost of living of the US, delightful people, definitely a 1st world country and I have traveled widely and spent the last 4 years in Costa Rica which is in no way comparable to Mexico. There is no danger, no crime, just don’t do drugs and you’ll be fine. Your Government and the press are lying to you! Retirees…..refugee to Mexico while you still can!
    The US can’t afford for citizens to leave with their money and their incomes, now they’ve found a new way to close the borders, with paperwork!

  • http://consumertraveler vivian caramanna

    close the borders to keep illegals out. not Americans in.

  • nespinosa

    1. Who is going to verify that the infor provided is true and accurate?
    2. How much is it going to cost the taxpayers for the salaries of what I’m sure would be a very large agency estalished to oversee this?
    3. How does this help our current immigration problem?
    4. What idiot sits around and thinks up these ideas?

  • Betty Grossweiler

    This is no longer the home of the Free and the land of the Brave. We will all be prizoners of the Federal Goverment and I guess we are already. We are taxed to death and no one seems to care in Washington. Just so they can get their piece of the pie. Don’t touch their funds.

  • Susan

    Like David, I too had to complete one of these forms this year to get my passport. I submitted a valid certified birth certificate with a stamp and all (and no, there are no irregularities around my birth) along with a copy of my state issued driver’s license (verified by the post office worker at the passport acceptance facility). I filled it out, telling the state department every address I’ve ever had, every job I’ve ever had, names of all my immediate family and every school I’ve gone to coupled with tons of identity documents and got my passport about 5 days later. I’m glad I got my passport, but I still feel violated and don’t understand why most of the information I submitted was relevant.

    So yes, people are being asked to do this already, and it’s not just people who don’t have valid ID/proof of citizenship.

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  • Michelle

    Just checking back in to this thread as it was getting full of knee-jerk reactions and off topic. I should not contribute so it keeps going, but I have to ask:

    From earlier comments:
    3. How does this help our current immigration problem? <– what has this got to do with getting a passport?

    We are taxed to death <– seriously?! Take a look, our tax rates are not that high, haven't been for decades. Yes, they are higher than paying no tax at all. Many countries with higher tax rates actually have happier and more satisfied citizens. Maybe the USA problem is the return on investment; or maybe Americans are greedy and only want to help themselves instead of the community/all US citizens?

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