Mar 18 2011

State Dept. proposes “Biographical Questionnaire” for passport applicants

The U.S. Department of State is proposing a new Biographical Questionnaire for 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.

The proposed “Biographical Questionnaire” follows the introduction in December 2010 of a new Form DS-11 for all passport applicants. 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.

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.

The State Department is accepting comments for OMB on this proposal on this proposal for 60 days, which began February 24, 2011, and thus should run through April 25, 2011. (Under the Paperwork Reduction Act,  OMB must approve and assign an OMB control number before any new form can be used.) Details and instructions for submitting comments are in the Federal Register notice (also available here as a PDF):

You may submit comments by any of the following methods:

Mail (paper, disk, or CD-ROM submissions): Alexys Garcia, U.S. Department of State, 2100 Pennsylvania Ave., NW., Room 3031, Washington, DC 20037
Fax: 202-736-9202
Hand Delivery or Courier: Alexys Garcia, U.S. Department of State, 2100 Pennsylvania Ave., NW., Room 3031, Washington, DC 20037

You must include the DS form number [DS-5513], information collection title [Biographical Questionnaire for U.S. Passport], and OMB control number [none yet assigned; 1405-XXXX requested by Dept. of State] in any correspondence.

Alternatively, you can submit comments online at until midnight EDT on Monday, April 25, 2011.  Go here, then click the “Submit a Comment” button at the upper right of the page.

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

We’ve submitted comments, and we encourage others to do so as well.

Our comments (PDF) were co-signed by the Center for Financial Privacy and Human Rights (CFPHR), Knowledge Ecology International (KEI), Center for Media and Democracy (CMD), Privacy Activism, Consumer Travel Alliance (CTA), Robert Ellis Smith, and John Gilmore. If you would like to use these for ideas for comments of your own, here’s a version in OpenOffice format for easier editing.

You can view the comments docketed to date here. (There’s sometimes a delay of up to several days before comments are docketed, so don’t panic if you don’t see yours immediately.)

Extra points to the person who gives the best answer in the comments to the question, “”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.”

[P.S. – To those who have been wondering if this is a hoax: We understand that it may seem fishy that the State Department chose to publish a notice in the Federal Register that it was proposing a new form, but didn’t publish the proposed form itself in the Federal Register. But that was their choice of how to proceed, not ours. We were sent the proposed Form DS-5513 in March, in response to our request, by the person identified in the Federal Register notice as the point of contact from whom it could be obtained: Alexys Garcia,, 212-736-9216. We immediately published the form we received from the State Department here on our website. There’s more at the links in the sidebar on who we are and how to contact us, as well as links to press reports on our previous work and current projects. You can also check out the other co-signers of the comments we submitted to the State Department. We’re for real, and so is this proposal from the State Department. We wish this were a hoax, but it’s not.]

[Follow-up: Public outrage at proposed questionnaire for passport applicants]

[Follow-up: State Dept. already using illegal passport questionnaire]

[Follow-up: State Dept. responds to passport form furor — with lies]

95 thoughts on “State Dept. proposes “Biographical Questionnaire” for passport applicants

  1. To whom it may concern,

    After reading through the proposed form, I must say I am anxiously awaiting having my passport (renewal?) application rejected for lack of filling out this form.

    Section A: Seems fairly reasonable.
    Section B: I don’t have birth location (and in some cases date) information for all of the relatives in the list. Did I just fail?
    Section C: As I was adopted, and to my knowledge my birth parents are dead (at least my mother, when I was aged 11), there is no way for me to fill out this section, for more than one reason: My parents (mother?) are/is dead. And if she/they wasn’t/weren’t, I would have to request their permission to get the information by contacting social services, and there is no guarantee they would agree to such. This seems discriminatory. If nothing else, it shows a significant lack of foresight.
    Section D: Being a military brat, we have moved significantly. Not to mention divorce and remarriage. I can guess at how many places I have lived, but have no clue where. And while I could find out, due to timezone difference between Europe and here, it would take longer than 45 minutes to find out.
    Section E: I can possibly recount where I have worked, but have no idea what phone number(s) or information about supervisory personnel to give. I think I just failed the form a third time.
    Section F: What does where I went to school have anything to do with whether I am an US Citizen or not?

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  3. And just who is going to follow up on all the info reported and at what cost? Assuming, of course, that you can even find enough info to report it. How does one report a house address that has completely changed? I’ve lived in a house that is now in another city! Processing this new form will overwhelm the passport offices.

  4. Adoptee in Search… Of real mom to get birth information. ( I know you didnt want to be found)
    The State of Florida promised to keep your name from me by changing my DOB by anywhere from 3-7 days and City of Birth by up to 3 cities away. Heck I could have even been born in another state. And all of this follows the Laws of Adoption in Florida
    But hey I really need you now !!!
    I need to get a passport and see , The State Dept want to know who was in the room at the time of my birth and where you lived a year before I was born… Guess what I want to know that too.!!!
    While your at giving me answers I’ve been told are sealed. Who exactly was my father, and what did he do? Was he a US citizen? are you ? Why did you give me up ? Oh wait not on the questionaire. but as long as your answering questions, Could we answer the one I always wanted to know? Do I have any other family? Sister , brother?

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  6. This is rrdiculous, to say the least. Most of us have a general idea of our life’s journey, but didn’t bother to write down every address, and all the other information required! This is not necessary! i.e. The comment above of an adoptee who has no idea of his birth parents! Stop this outrageous digging into our private lives!

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  8. Frankly, I think we all know that this questionnaire has absolutely nothing to do with national security, identification, citizenship, or even intrusive prying into our private lives. It’s all about preventing US citizens from leaving the country when the balloon goes up – and believe me, it’s imminent. Take another look at the history books, folks. A close look – because history is repeating itself right now. The whole Nazi drama is once again unfolding, like a slow-motion train wreck picking up speed – only worse this time, because it’s not some maniacal dictator with insane dreams of taking over the world who can be stopped by military might. No, what we’re up against is a corporatocracy/oligarchy, and truth to tell, it’s already too late to stop them. The multinationals own the world, including the good ole’ U S of A. They own the politicians of this and all the other countries; they own all the infrastructure and the environment; they’re privatizing all the government services they care to keep running and are in the process of dismantling the rest. This country is doomed, and all of us with it (unless, of course, you happen to be one of the fortunate 1% who hold all the wealth . . . they will always have all the freedom they want to go about their business and pleasure in any way their black little hearts desire). Oh, and even if you were somehow able to escape – without a passport, no other country in the world will allow you legal entry into theirs. We’ll be reduced to the status of Cuban “boat people” or the “illegals” from Mexico that the “patriotic” Americans who put these sellouts in power are bashing now. Be assured that the powers that be know that, too. We’re now prisoners in the world’s largest gulag. Welcome to your nightmare.

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  10. These new regulations would make it impossible to be totally accurate and that would then prevent Americans from visiting relatives and friends or a simple vacation out of the country .The required information is unnecessary. All one should have to prove is citizenship, photo for ID to leave or return. this would also increase spending as many more people would have to be hired by the government to process all this information. It already takes a long time to get your passport or renew one. . Pure nonsense in a time when we are in so much debt already.

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  12. I want to know just where you got this “document”. You are hosting it yourself, it does not have an official government signature, and I can’t find another copy anywhere else. So, did you make this up? If you did, not cool. There are legitimate things to complain about the government intrusiveness – if this is made up, not only did you generate a lot of useless commentary that government employees will have to filter through to find any actual input, but you will undermine your own efforts to reduce government intrusiveness.

  13. Something fishy about this story

    Has anybody else noticed?

    1) The Federal Register link has no link to the document linked here.
    2) All the internet stories with a link to the alleged DS-5513 document lead back here.

  14. Pingback: New / Renewal United States Passport Application - Page 2

  15. I’m 56 years old. Half of the companies I worked for are no longer in existance and half of the people I worked for are dead. I had thought of traveling when I retired, but there’s no way I can find all of this information. One of my brothers disappeared years ago and doesn’t even want to be found.

    Who has time to read and check all of this anyway?

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  18. Pingback: Papers, Please! » Blog Archive » Public outrage at proposed questionnaire for passport applicants

  19. I have tried to click on the hyperlink to look at Form DS-5513 at least 10 times today, on several different web sites, and every time the page comes up blank. This is really a frightening; this country is quickly becoming a police state.

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  21. Seriously! This is more Govt intrusion. When will they start expecting proof of the circumcision? Who knows where their Mother lived with address 1 year before their birth and who was present at the birth? If Obama can not provide a Birth Certificate before he travels abroad why should anyone else have to go the next step and provide a circumcision report? Communistic!

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  23. Unlike many people posting here, I don’t really have any extenuating circumstances like dead parents, not being born in a hospital, a 20+ year work history, or frequent moves aside from my college years…and I would still be struggling to complete all of the information on this form. This is absurd. If they want to know about my birth, they should be asking my mom, not me. And as far as employment history, why can’t they just pull up Social Security or tax records? What the hell?

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  25. Pingback: Papers, Please! » Blog Archive » State Dept. already using illegal passport questionnaire

  26. I was able to bring up Form 5513 at 10 AM, but when I came back at 1 PM, I got a whole page of the following:

    %PDF-1.5 %âãÏÓ 155 0 obj stream hÞLŽA‹Â0_F
    ½#_ÉÝ_¢¨M|¥_-_…SŠ___ ÂEýrßåçpѺúá’¢Úr¾

    A ‘Supplemental Worksheet is basically as intrusive and is located at:

    Thank you for revealing this. And find out why State destroyed the 5513 web page.

  27. Pingback: Papers, Please! » Blog Archive » State Dept. responds to passport form furor — with lies

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  29. You have got to be kidding. I move every 2 -3 years and am 63 years old. I can barely remember who I’ve worked for for more than 3 decades. And my immediate (DNA )family is about 78 people (Easter last a new member joined us). Get real.

    Suzee Cameron

  30. Travel without a portpass…look into it. You are not required by
    law to have a portpass, a driver’s license or car reg. or a SS#, on and on..all legal fiction backed by violence. If you keep giving into this BS, they will continue to harass you… You
    are free to travel… Get on a military transport, or charter a plane
    with a few other people…it’s all possible…

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  32. “I oppose the proposed new regulations for U.S. citizens to acquire a passport. The breadth and width of the biographical information which would be required is excessive, unnecessary, and totalitarian. The citizens of the U.S. are being contorted into subjects of a police state. Enough privacy has been surrendered. Far too much. There is no legitimate need to undergo such a procedure to acquire a passport. Is the U.S. now to move many steps closer to becoming a penal colony? Do the bureaucrats have nothing better to do than generate more and more unnecessary regulations? The threat of “terrorism” is grossly exaggerated to justify the creation of new windmills with which the federal government may joust. War and financial speculation are now the businesses of our ‘elected’ officials. For the sake of decency and liberty, do NOT approve these preposterous new burdens on the people. Wall Street, allied with the U.S. government, has exported most of the manufacturing jobs. It will soon be necessary for more and more citizens to look overseas for employment as the U.S. economy, having been gutted and plundered, continues its collapse. Don’t make us prisoners of whatever form of government this behemoth in Washington has become.”

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  35. One saving fact was I was born in a hospital. But the rest is impossible to put together. I lived in at least twelve places before I graduated from high school. Now at nearly 69 years since birth, I have lived in at least twelve places and could not repeat the specific address.
    All sexual partners I do not recall. Opps, that is not on there yet.
    One wonders if they ask for this much information for the candidates running for president. This is a police state and I am shocked but not so surprised to see this kind of attempt to make Americans learn how to bow, and how far down we must go. An exercise in obedience. Getting us ready for the 800 FEMA camps.

  36. To everyone reading these comments and is wondering if these forms are “real”, yes they are, because I just received them. “I will just say no to these forms” commentators, just wait till you have to renew yours. I was born and currently living in the same hometown in California. As both my parents before me. We never left because of raising a family and hardly travel ever. This is my 1st application process for a passport, its my 1st time to Canada. I feel very nervous of effen up on the forms because I really want to travel to see the world, but how the hell can I remember all my jobs, ph. numbers,address’s and names of good or a-hole bosses that I’ve had. Summer jobs/temp/”under the table”=mowing my neighbors grass for extra couple of bucks, is nearly impossible . The “Every place I lived” question was a lot easier than most people, but will I be held liable and denied if I forget to dot a “i” or cross a “T”. All this for CFR and any other agencies/foreign country/private sector that need my info. WTF. All without the OMB (Office of Management and Budget) control number.
    Paperwork Reduction Act


    § 3512. Public protection
    (a) Notwithstanding any other provision of law, no person shall be subject to any penalty for failing to comply with a collection of information that is subject to this subchapter if–

    (1) the collection of information does not display a valid control number assigned by the Director in accordance with this subchapter; or

    (2) the agency fails to inform the person who is to respond to the collection of information that such person is not required to respond to the collection of information unless it displays a valid control number.

    (b) The protection provided by this section may be raised in the form of a complete defense, bar, or otherwise at any time during the agency administrative process or judicial action applicable thereto.

    So what happens if in light of these facts, under penalty of perjury, I give them my personal history they need and I am still denied. Even if it’s a right as a US law abiding/tax paying citizen, to travel freely. Was I baptized. No. No passport for you! I am deeply troubled, because I got nothing to hide. My eyes/ears/mind is far from shut though. I just need my 1st real vacation in 33 years before the ish (Modern Global Pardigm haha) goes down. I am the .5%, 1 out of 200 minority, I guess, whatever that is. The TSA and now this. Wish I had a private plane. Thanks for this website and all its info, and maybe I will see you on vacation in Canada?

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  38. Hi there!

    I send a expired passport and application for renewal early as january 2012,so in february they send a letter
    content this Biographical Questionnnaire in order to prove my citizenship, well if my old passport
    is not prove of my citizenship what document is?,this people go too this time still no passport
    not documents (in original) back and no money.
    so what can i do?

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