Today is the last day to comment on new rules the State Department may impose on people seeking new passports.

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.”

Submit your comments to the State Department

(Via Shakesville. No word on WHO those “some people” would be.)

12 thoughts on “YOUR ATTENTION, PLEASE

  1. Epluribusunum

    And in addition to the requirements Liz presents below, a clear process for appeal if one’s documentation is determined to be “inadequate.”

    What this proposal means in practice, Larry, is that some as yet unidentified group of people would be denied the right to a passport, with no apparent recourse. If there is one fundamental right of citizenship, it is the right to legally leave the country. As far as I can tell from the available information, that right would be effectively denied to a group labeled only as “some applicants” – and that goes well beyond badgering them, whoever they are. The fact that it’s the Obama Administration doing it doesn’t magically make it ok.

  2. Liz Miller Post author

    You’re right. In the real world, requests for extra documentation are used to badger those who are poorer, browner, or otherwise marginalized. That’s the reason I put up the post in the first place.

  3. Liz Miller Post author

    The problem is, Larry, that it is not made clear WHO will be asked for more information or HOW the determination that more information is needed will be made.

    Where there is room for interpretation, there is room for abuse.

    I would need to see VERY clear guidelines for when, how, and from whom this document is required before I would begin to feel comfortable with it.

  4. Larry Roeder

    Dear friends, at the risk of entering a long email exchange, I thought it useful to comment once more on the DS-5513 dispute, because it seems to me that the context of the Department’s effort has been lost in the debate. Otherwise known as a Biographical Questionnaire for a US Passport, the DS-5513 is only a supplement to the normal application and I and everyone else submits. In other words, the fears being expressed here seem misplaced. The DS-5513 is an excetional tool, only used when an applicant submits citizenship or identify evidence that is felt to be insufficient to establish one’s eligibility for a passport. Remember that a US passport is the international gold standard for identity. Both crooks and terrorists want them. So do people simply wanting to live in America without going through proper immigration procedures. What then is a government to do when someone presents evidence which appears weak or questonable? It has an obligation to protect all of us by doing due diligence. That’s what the DS-5513 is about, taking an extra look in order to protect the rest of us. In some cases, it will help a citizen and in others prevent a non-citizen from obtaining a pass to America. In addition, while, the form is new; but the government has always had the authority to ask these questions. This simply makes standard the process in special circumstances warranting an extra look. I like to think I am as Democrat as anyone; but I feel, based on what I’ve been told of course, that this is simply a practical approach to deal with a real security issue. Let’s not forget, this is the Obama Administration.

  5. Epluribusunum

    Well, I don’t know anyone at State to ask, and frankly I shouldn’t need to in order to have questions about this disturbing language answered. In your estimation, who are the “some passport applicants,” how is that category determined, and what recourse would a person so classified have? And what in the world does “any ‘religious ceremony’ around the time of birth” refer to? Circumcision? Will they also be verifying the answer?

    I hope the State Department puts out a public response addressing what I imagine are the many concerns about this language, and I hope they do so quickly.

  6. Larry Roeder

    Taking a break before volunteers begin to assemble this afternoon and take over the computer, and I happened upon Liz’s thoughtful complaint.

    Perhaps in situations like this we need to keep in mind “context” before complaining, and not immediately assume we will all suffer. The form is not for everyone. It for “some passport applicants.” I of course no longer work for the Department and could be wrong; but my understanding from sources this morning is that the new form has been in the works for years as an investigative tool to reduce passport fraud and identity theft, and thus is only intended for those situations where there “might be such an issue.”

    Passport theft is a real problem, don’t forget. Perpetrators could be criminals intent on some financial fraud or could be terrorists intent on physical harm. And of all the passports in the world, ours is the most sought after, since it makes entry into many countries a breeze — no visa required.

    Again, I had nothing to do with creating the form, and my information is second hand from folks at the Department, just some quik calls — so Liz might well be correct to be concerned; but I gather that the form is nothing more than a tool to protect all of us by placing a fine eye on a few potential fraud cases. Probably better to ask folks at the Department directly before getting too upset. Larry

  7. Matthew Osborn

    Great. So even though I have intentionally separated myself from organized religion for the last 20 years, the State Dept insists on classifying me based not on what I believe, but on an arbitrary ceremony that I was subjected to without consent when I was a baby. My parents are gonna hear about this.

  8. Ref

    “Religious ceremony” around the time of your birth? What does that even mean? Furthermore, why in the world would the State Dept. have any use or business knowing that? Ick.

  9. kathy a.

    you’re kidding. i’m 53 years old. both my parents are dead. i had a whole lot of jobs, getting myself through college and law school, and lived in a number of places. i could piece together addresses and employers for the last 30 years — but not so much before that. how could anyone remember the supervisor on a temp job, years after the fact?

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