State Department’s new, excessive passport application rules

If you thought it was an ordeal for Obama to prove his citizenship, wait until you see the new passport application. Form DS-5513 is a “Biographical Questionnaire for a U.S. Passport,” according to the State Department. The new document would require certain applicants to provide detailed lifetime employment and residency information. Many are worried that the painfully extensive interrogatives are impossible to answer thoroughly enough. This might prevent some people from obtaining a passport.

 

Passport applicants who are presented with the new form will have to list every residence at which they’ve ever lived and every job they’ve ever had since birth, along with supporting details. The U.S. Department of State announced the new rules in February, to take effect after 60 days of public comment. According to a supporting statement submitted with the request for the new information to be gathered in the Federal Register, the department’s questionnaire:

 

     “is used to supplement an application for a U.S. passport when the applicant submits citizenship or identity evidence that is insufficient or of questionable authenticity.”

 

On a side-note, it is ironic that the White House timed the release of the president’s “citizenship/identity evidence” alongside public acknowledgment of the state department’s new draconian measure.

 

If you do wish to brave the DS-5513 and voluntarily compile your own biographical dossier, make sure to supplement with ginkgo and have your parents on hand before you start. The new form “solicits information relating to respondent’s family, birth circumstances, residences, schooling, and employment,” says the department’s supporting statement.

 

Know that your mother’s pre-natal and post-natal care are of concern to the State Department, as well as her place of residence in the two year span preceding and following your birth. Did you have a New Age-y uncle who ascribed to you a spirit animal after you took your first breaths? They want to know about that too. List all persons in attendance along with the religious, ceremonial observances surrounding your birth.

 

Don’t make a mistake, you suspicious person, you. The department reminds us that making a false statement on the application is a crime under the Prefatory Statement and the Passport System of Records Notice (State-26).  The State Department claims that the average respondent would be able to complete the form in just 45 minutes.

 

During the comment period, which ended Monday, several consumer and civil rights groups weighed in on the matter. A poignant statement came from the Consumer Travel Alliance, which opposes the questionnaire as:

 

     “exceeding the statutory authority of the DOS, unconstitutional, and in violation of U.S. obligations pursuant to international human rights treaties to which the U.S. is a party,” according to draft comments prepared by the group.  They added, “[C]hoosing to require an applicant for a passport to complete the proposed Form DS-5513, which few if any applicants could complete, would amount to a de facto decision to deny that applicant a passport. And that decision would be standardless, arbitrary, and illegal.”

 

So, if you are disillusioned with the politics of your home state and have longed to be an ex-patriate but don’t have your papers in order, here’s another “go figure” bit of news for you.