Is getting a US passport about to become a LOT harder?

Can you list every address you’ve lived at since birth? What about every employer – including the name of your supervisor and their phone number – you have ever had? Every school you attended, including address and phone number? If not, you might not be able to get a passport if the State Department has its way. And those are the easy questions on the newly proposed form DS-5513.

Here’s the justification for the new form as provided in the Federal Register filing:

The primary purpose for soliciting this information is to establish citizenship, identity, and eligibility for a U.S. Passport Book or Passport Card. The information may also be used in connection with issuing other travel documents or evidence of citizenship, and in furtherance of the Secretary’s responsibility for the protection of U.S. nationals abroad.

If you can demonstrate (arguably via a certified birth certificate) that you were born in the US then the above questions are the only ones you really need to complete. If not, however, the questionnaire gets way more detailed. Here are some of the specifics that are asked for:

    • What type of document, if any, did your mother use to enter into the United States before your birth?
    • 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.
    • Was there any religious or institutional recording of your birth or event occurring around the time of birth? (Example: baptism, circumcision, confirmation or other religious ceremony. Please provide details including the name, location of the
      institution, and date.)

They even ask for specific details regarding any medical professionals that may have been involved, including a history of appointment dates. Oh, and the mother’s profession, address and, because we don’t want to be particularly obvious that we’re discriminating against immigrants, "What type of document, if any, did your mother use to enter into the United States before your birth?"

In case you’re curious, they estimate that compiling all this information will take only 45 minutes on average. I only have to answer the easy questions and I’m not sure I can do it that quickly.

Sadly, this will almost certainly become the rule, just like all the other asinine things the government is doing to infringe upon our rights "out of an abundance of caution." Today is the last day to register a complaint to the appropriate officials. The easiest way to do so is to email You must include the DS form number (if applicable), information collection title, and OMB control number in any correspondence. For this particular abomination those details are DS-5513 and Biographical Questionnaire for U.S. Passport; there is no OMB control number currently assigned.

UPDATE (17:55 EDT 25 APR): This form is supposedly only to be used if the veracity of the initially supplied documentation is in doubt. So it probably won’t apply to everyone. Still, there is a TON of data in here way beyond what should be needed to establish citizenship and well beyond what the government should need from us.

Here’s the letter I’m sending. I encourage you to contact them as well. Oh, and the 60-day comment period started on February 24th so it is pretty much over so it is important to act quickly (i.e. TODAY) on this issue!


Subject: Comments on proposed rule for DS-5513 – Biographical Questionnaire for U.S. Passport

To whom it may concern:

I am writing to comment on the proposed rule change published in the Federal Register as Public Notice 7345 regarding form DS-5513 – Biographical Questionnaire for U.S. Passport; there is currently no OMB control number assigned to this document.

The proposed form is collecting an excessive amount of data, well beyond what is necessary to confirm citizenship and issue a passport for qualified individuals. The time burden suggested – an average of 45 minutes – is a gross underestimate of how long it will take to collect even the basic information; answering questions 5-12 will take significantly longer. As an adult in my 30s who is qualified to answer only the basic questions I found that it took me well over one hour to compile the information and it is still incomplete.

My schooling and job history have no bearing on my citizenship status, yet the form asks for full details of both. If I fail to provide it (and potentially if I miss something) the State Department can deny me a passport, even though I am a naturally born citizen.

The form show significant bias against home-birthed children, requiring them to complete extensive documentation as though they are an undocumented alien in this country. Similarly, the extensive details requested about the circumstances of the birth – names and phone numbers of everyone present, for example – are excessive and go well beyond what is necessary to document citizenship.

Travel is a wonderful thing. It provides education, experiences and perspective all at once, helping to better both the people doing the traveling as well as those whom they visit. It should be encouraged and facilitated by our government, not impeded. This form represents an excessive data collection against US citizens and is an undue burden for demonstrating citizenship. It is working against these goals, not towards them.

Thank you for your time.


Wandering Aramean.

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Seth Miller

I'm Seth, also known as the Wandering Aramean. I was bit by the travel bug 30 years ago and there's no sign of a cure. I fly ~200,000 miles annually; these are my stories. You can connect with me on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn.


  1. According to Mr Trump, this would sure make it harder for our president to get his passport, haha! Maybe we should just forward this request on to the White House and they’ll side with us (reason!). Great post, thanks.

  2. Thank you for posting about this issue and sharing the e-mail that you sent. I’ve also sent a modified version of your letter, so hopefully others are doing the same as well. The insanity must stop.

  3. Thanks for the information… and the template for a letter. Modified version also sent!

  4. You seem to be suggesting that anybody unable to provide a birth certificate issued by a US state should receive a passport with no questions asked. That’s just reckless.

    An original birth certificate (or a certified copy of one, if the original is lost or destroyed) is something that the vast majority of Americans have, and can use to obtain a passport. If you have anything other than that document, I feel the State Department is well within their right to question its authenticity and ask for supporting documentation before issuing a travel document that confirms your citizenship.

    These people are fully aware that they are edge cases and conclusively proving their citizenship will not be easy. They should expect additional complications while due diligence is done.

  5. Actually, @Elliot, the vast majority of adopted children don’t have copies and are not legally allowed to get copies of their ORIGINAL birth certificates. They are allowed to purchase certified copies of their amended birth certificates, and those will work, but there is a lot of information missing (for instance, time of birth) and I wouldn’t put it past some authority figures to make this a hurdle for someone.

    You are also not considering the problems of transsexual and transgendered people who may have great difficulty getting their original birth certificates properly amended if they live or were born in some of our less trans-friendly states.

  6. If someone handed you a birth certificate that said they were born male but identified themselves as female, are you really saying we should just hand them a passport without asking any additional questions? I’m glad you don’t work in the State Department.

    Are adopted children and transgender/transsexual people the vast majority of Americans? What percentage of the US population is that demographic? How many people, realistically, change or represent themselves as a gender other than the one they were born with? As I said before, they’re edge cases and should be prepared to explain why they are entitled to a passport – surely an adopted child can provide some documentation that they were legally adopted by a US citizen. I really can’t speak for transgender/transsexual people, but is anybody forcing them to amend their original birth certificate? I didn’t even know that was possible.

    1. Elliot, I have no problem with expecting people to prove their citizenship. At the same time, however, there should not be the potential for undue burden placed on them without reasonable cause. As the document is currently set up there isn’t any clear oversight on what constitutes a need for the additional proof. Add on to that the fact that the details requested – such as what documentation did your mother use to enter this country – are structured to be rather biased and there is simply too much potential for abuse.

      If the agent reviewing the app decides they want to deny you a passport for any reason they effectively can, using this document for political cover. Not good at all.

  7. First time interest in obtaining a passport. I just read the numerous questions required…I’m not cool with it! I’m grown & old! What the hay they need my parents personal info for?

    The U.S. Governments’ hands are dirty! How much more money are they going to sucker US out of?

  8. My fiancé just applied for a US passport. He was born and raised in the USA and has never been outside the USA in his entire 57 years of life. When he sent in his application (which he did in person) he provided them with a birth certificate and a state-issued ID – which the Department of State website said was required. They wrote to him three weeks after receiving the application stating that the birth certificate and ID card were not sufficient to identify him. He now has to provide AT LEAST FIVE more documents to “assist them in identifying who he is”!!!! These documents have to be OVER five years old! They want marriage certificates from a marriage which ended over ten years ago. They want the birth certificates of his two adult (married) children. They want his medical records. They want a copy of his social security card. He recently renewed his driving licence and they want a copy of that too. If the Department of State is so hard up for investigators who can successfully identify their own citizens, I think they need to start coming down harder on the organisations who issue birth certificates and ID cards and driving licences, instead of coming down on the ordinary citizens! Every dealing I have ever had with any government department in the USA has, honestly, been like dealing with a 3rd world communist country – its like some awful novel by Solzhenitsyn. Unbelievable.

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