Dec 15 2015

No Social Security number? No passport. Why?

When we reported last week on the passport provisions in the new “Fixing America’s Surface Transportation Act”, we focused on the details of the rules for denial or revocation of US passports of citizens alleged to owe more than $50,000 in Federal taxes.

We should, perhaps, have put more emphasis on the other new basis we mentioned for the denial of a passport application: failure to provide a valid Social Security account number on the passport application form. This could affect more people than the linkage of passports to taxes.

While the shorthand title on our blog post referred to people who “don’t have” a Social Security number, the same fate could befall anyone who chooses not to disclose their Social Security number. The new law would authorize but not require the Secretary of State — at her standardless “discretion” — to deny any passport application that doesn’t contain a valid Social Security number.

There are probably more US citizens who don’t have a Social Security number than who owe more than $50,000 in taxes. And there are good reasons for even those citizens who do have a Social Security number not to want to disclose it to the State Department and to all the other government agencies (including the DHS) with which it shares passport data.

Federal law and IRS regulations already imposed a $500 civil penalty for applying for a passport without providing a Social Security number. This was a high price to pay for freedom from travel dataveillance based on Social Security number. But it wasn’t always enforced (more “discretion”), and it was not a basis for denial of a passport. Now it is.

Why would someone who has a Social security number not want to give it to the State Department? The answer is obvious once you reverse the question: Why does the State Department want to record the Social Security number of each passport holder? And how do the State Department, and the other agencies with which it shares this data, plan to use it?

There’s a separate legal requirement and required form, which includes the passport number, for reporting any international transportation of $10,000 or more in cash or “monetary instruments”, either as accompanied baggage or in an unaccompanied shipment. So the State Department doesn’t need Social Security numbers in passport files to know whether large sums of money are being taken in or out of the country by the holder of a particular passport.

The new law doesn’t just require that you show that you have a valid Social Security number before you can receive or renew your passport. You must provide your Social Security number to the State Department, so that it can be entered into the passport records database.

Nor is your Social Security number used only to check with the IRS whether you are suspected of owing back taxes. The principal routine users of this data outside the State Department are the DHS, “for border patrol, screening, and security purposes.” Screening is, of course, a euphemism for algorithmic profiling and profile-based search and control.

In other words, the real point of requiring each US passport applicant to supply their Social Security number is to enable all the financial records linked to that Social Security number to be combined with the travel records linked to the passport number in the DHS “Automated Targeting System” and included in the inputs to the pre-crime “black box” that decides whether to give airlines and other common carriers permission to transport each US citizen, and how intrusively to search and/or interrogate each US citizen who is allowed to travel.

DHS Automated Targeting System records include many identifiers and pointers that can be used to link them to other databases: timestamped IP addresses, cellphone numbers, passport numbers, credit card numbers, names of emergency contacts and traveling companions, etc. But they haven’t yet contained Social Security numbers, so far as we know. Now they will, or will be linked to a related database that does.

Government records indexed by Social Security number aren’t just tax records, but records of your worldwide assets and financial affairs. Records identified by Social Security Number (but not passport number, so they would otherwise be at least somewhat more difficult for DHS to use for this profiling), include not only US bank accounts but also foreign bank accounts (reported by Social Security number on the required annual FBAR form) and other foreign “financial assets” (a partially overlapping category) required to be reported each year on IRS Form 8938.

None of this has anything to do with citizenship, which should be the sole criterion of entitlement (not merely “eligibility” at the government’s “discretion”) to a US passport.

26 thoughts on “No Social Security number? No passport. Why?

  1. Very interesting site. Good article.

    I’m one of the minority who has a US passport but no SSN.

    Will be interesting to see how things play out for everyone involved.

    Will be back to check on progress.


  2. Indeed. As someone who was born in the USA but have lived outside it almost my entire life (with non citizen parents) I actually tried several times to get a SSN and was denied or my applications just disappeared into a black hole.

    Now with the financial reporting requirements I’m screwed. I havent filed forms, because I don’t have a ssn. I can’t file taxes, so I can’t even renouce my citizenship without drawing attention to myself for fines and possible prosecution.

    Thanks USA. Once my current passport lapses guess I’ll have to travel illegally to the USA on my other passports or even better avoid the place entirely.

  3. Not sure if the page you’re linking to is describing the new law you’re talking about. It’s not linked to anything directly talking about not getting a passport for failing to disclose a SSN. My wife and I renewed passports without a SSN and had no delays or fines.

  4. Any one esp. any adult, recently and successfully applied or renewed their passport w/o disclosing their SSN ? Like to know what you did – do I need to send the IRS a statement or use their form 13997 here?

    I got a letter demanding SSN on my renewal (I wrote “EXEMPT” on the SSN since I am US-based, no foreign residence address either and outside the scope and purpose of 6903E) and did not under any of the restriction and not delinquent taxpayer, etc which allows the SoS to deny the renewal.

    Or does the recent 2015 FAST act allows CFR §51.60 (f) this denial?

  5. Kyle,

    I recently applied for a passport (April 2017) without providing a SSN, and the passport application was processed and a passport issued. The postal clerk balked and showed me a notice, but, because of my politeness, she still accepted my application, warning that it might be delayed. It was delayed, as I received a request two weeks later from the Passport office for either a SSN or a sworn statement indicating there was no SSN for the applicant (my son).

    My letter, which provides a clear explanation of why MOST US citizens (the ones living stateside) are explicitly exempted by law from this requirement, can be found at:

    Best regards,

    Brian Harriss

  6. Brian,

    I did the same thing you did as far as the letter goes. In fact I used most of your letter to write mine. I had already received their first letter to provide the SS# and I was actually in the process of writing a letter of my own and was still doing research when your letter was posted on I immediately formatted my response much like yours, thanks btw for doing that, it made it much easier for me. However, After I sent that letter, I received a second letter saying I needed to provide my Ss# or my application would be denied. I again shot off a letter asking them if they did not receive my first letter. Now I was doing this for both myself and my husband. This past weekend I received a letter in the mail where they denied my husbands application and then yesterday I received a phone call about mine. I called them back today and the government worker basically told me to either give it to them or be denied. So I have spent today doing research but still do not have a definitive answer on whether it is actually law that we have to provide it or not. It is beyond frustrating.

  7. has anyone noticed the change in the Privacy Act, endorsed by PresidenT Gerald Ford. Originally, it stated……NO GOVT’ AGENCY CAN DENY OR REFUSE THEIR SERVICES FOR FAILURE TO DISCLOSE YOUR SOCIAL SECURITY NUMBER” Somewhere along the way, our government decided this had to go, otherwise the “MARK OF THE BEAST” plan for all of us would be foiled. I am an old man now, and my original SS card states at the bottom,
    FOR TAX PURPOSES ONLY….NOT FOR IDENTIFICATION. Ever get the feeling that you are living in a fish bowl?

  8. I’m wondering if any of you successfully received a passport after getting the letters and the phone calls.

    25 years ago I had gotten a passport, but never renewed it. In March 2018 I submitted the Passport Application for a new passport, and the postal worker gave me a bit of a hard time because I did not provide a SSN. But, put it through. I got a phone call from someone that pretty much made it sound like that she was a ‘higher up’ and said she would send a letter that I could fill out. I got ‘the letter’ which I responded to with “I do not use a number attached to my name for identification purposes.” Then I received that same letter, again. After much research and finding this site, I responded with a letter that included information re: Acts and Amendments, and some information from Brian’s letter, proving my right to not provide a SSN.

    Now it is January 2019 and a couple days ago I spoke with one of the passport workers and she said that if I did not provide a SSN my application would be denied. I think that since they know I’ve had a passport in the past, as she said to me, that I provided a SSN at that time, they know there is one to be given. I told her that it was because back then, I did not know my rights. She had answers for all the statements I made in my defense (they are very well trained and programmed) and just repeated the same words ‘proving’ that they are in their right to require the SSN.

    In much research I’ve done so far, I have found that a passport will be provided to those that do not use a SSN, but it seems that they are all young children, as in Brian’s case. The only reason I can see for that is because they are not of working age, yet, and in the end the Passport Agency doesn’t see it as an issue at such a young age, because in the future, they will have to provide it for a renewal or new passport.

    A friend that has helped me in this quest suggested that I make an appointment with the legal division and be armed with more information, and bring a witness that is also knowledgable in our Constitutional Rights. I am feeling that this is a situation of ‘because I told you so,’ and will not be taken seriously unless I retain an attorney that will help protect my rights… which, I really cannot afford.

    I am wondering, if any of you have had success after the rejections, as I am not finding any information that will help me with taking a next step. If you have, can you share what your next step was, or did you give in, or just let go of the battle and succumb to not being able to travel outside of our country?

    I realize this comment may not be seen for some time, and my quest may have expired. I have asked for more time before she deny my application, and she was kind enough to do so, and did not give me a time constraint, but I can pretty much assume that she will not wait too long, in order to move the paperwork along.

  9. Denise – I live in South America and my passport renewal application was denied because I didn’t supply a SSN despite submitting a sworn statement under penalty of perjury that I did not have one nor was I ever legally issued one.

    When I originally applied back in 2008, I put all zeros in the SSN field indicating no SSN and the application was approved resulting in my passport being issued by the State Department not a passport office.

    If you or anyone else reading this finds a way to overcome this “requirement” please post the information so we all may benefit.

  10. I received a renewed passport in October 2018 on the basis that I confirmed I have never held an SSN (as I have a U.S. passport but never lived in the U.S.). I am using that passport to travel to the U.S. for the first time in 20 years and am concerned that the passport could be revoked at the border on the basis that I have no SSN. Has anyone faced similar issues?

  11. My passport renew has been delayed due to not having an SSN on the passport aplication. I was a victim of ID theft and Social Security Administtration said multiple people in different states were using my SSN and they split my earning statements in case those illegal immigrants claimed the benefits in the future. SSA refused to reissue me a new number despite the fraud. I sent in a letter rejecting it since I believe it is used by an evil ungodly system to control people and the system can’t even police itself.
    I applied passport years back without SSN or any problems getting issued and now the State clerks demand or they will deny. The women acted like she knew my number. I told her if you know if put it in and she said it was confidential. I wonder why they demand it everytime someone renews if they know you number? She said it was to check against deadbeat dads and tax evaders. This seems like the State dept is policing and screening people for passports. I think it is a fundamental human right to be issued one. Most other countries don’t demand national ID for passport issuance. US govt has a problem with SSN and ID theft and does nothing about it but them expects US cits to expose themselves to more ID theft and abuse.
    Has anyone got a passport renewed recently without the Socialist Security Number?

  12. I was issued a passport without an SSN in 2010 without question or delay, but was recently denied a renewal in 2020. Not sure how to proceed.

  13. I renewed a passport without problem 10 years ago, but my recent application was denied, with a letter dated December 15, 2021, specifically citing 22 U.S.C. 2714a, which says that a passport application may be denied if the applicant does not provide a Social Security Number. I have no outstanding tax or child support liabilities, nor any other qualifying reason for a denial, other than refusal to comply.

  14. Anyone who had a new born trying to get a passport?
    My son was born 5 weeks ago, hospital did apply for Ssn however , we had to move to another home and apparently mail fwding doesn’t work if the post contains Ssn.. wondering what our options are as we need to have his passport to travel to India in Feb.

  15. I am having a problem with the Social Security Assholes refusing to accept my US Passport to issue me a new Card, because they keep saying they refuse to accept the Passport as standalone proof of my IDENTITY (which includes one’s NAME which part they do not understand) as in the United States Code of Federal Regulations 42 CFR § 436.407. This keeps being IGNORED every time I quote it in my applications to Social Security, in my complaints to Congress and the Senate, all they do is regurgitate the Social Security Administrations’s insistence that they think that a Passport is not sufficient proof of identity. WTF. So on my passport replacement application I put in 000-00-0000 as the “number” and filled out the SSN Affidavit and put it in those exact words. That Social Security is refusing to accept the Passport. I’m suing Social Security but if I get denied an actual physical passport to have in-hand I won’t have a leg to stand on in court against Social Security, is what the lawyers are all saying. I mean then I’d have to sue the Department of State, too, now wouldn’t I. Why the hell is everything back here Stateside refusing to obey the United States Code of Federal Regulations, anyway? It’s not nuclear physics. Your US Passport is standalone evidence of your IDENTITY. Your name is your “identity.” End of story. Any “ifs” “ands” or “buts” are in violation of the law of this land. Again, not rocket science.

  16. @Chris:
    People who are US citizens born or raised overseas would HAVE to be issued a US passport without a SSN because they don’t need SSN’s to live overseas. That would still apply. I don’t hear of anyone in that situation, online complaining about this, so obviously it’s not happening, not overseas anyway.

  17. @Pamela Sztyblewsky – A US citizen born and/or residing outside the US is liable for US taxes and needs a Social Security number for US taxes, Social Security payments and benefits, and many other purposes.

  18. I live in the UK ( have lived here for 22 years). I need to renew my US passport which has not been used since 2001. A long time ago. I can’t find my SSN, have no idea how to locate it, can’t remember the number. But without it I can’t renew my passport. And apparently the British passport I’m applying for won’t be any good to visit my family in America. I don’t know what to do as people working in these government offices do not seem to care. What can I do?

  19. @Brian Harriss: Thanks for the template, I think I’ll paraphrase it somewhat and sent that to my stupid Congresswoman’ office because they seem ignorant of the laws surrounding Social Security and the Passport Office. Social Security refusing to accept US passport to issue me a social security number in my correct name; Passport office demanding a social security number even though there ISN’T one in my correct name!! This is like “Alice in Wonderland.” This is Looking-Glass Land. This is no longer a “real” country.

  20. @ Edward Hasbrouck Not necessarily. I’ve known US-born citizens who were raised entirely outside the US and never had to have a damn SSN their entire lives. There’s no way the IRS can go around the whole world punishing people who have US passports but who have never had to have a US social security number because maybe all their lives they’ve lived in that other country and never dealt with the US.

  21. I’d like to know why NO ONE is willing to address the Social Security Administration’s refusal to obey the US Code of Federal Regulations 42CFR§436.407(a)(1.) Including but not limited to the Social Security Administration themselves, Congress, the Senate, and the Passport Office. It’s not just “why is no one listening to ME” more so that it’s “No one is listening to THE LAW.”

  22. Ok I’m just going to have to sue both Social Security and the Department of State. This makes me de facto Stateless!!!!!!!

  23. Well I finally got my Passport back from the San Francisco passport office, with everything correct and fixed. Now all I have to SUE is the Social Security Administration for basically refusing to accept this as my legal name. I’m having a hard time getting “my Congressman’s” help with this because the congressional aides these days are half my age and complete morons who clearly didn’t go to the same law school as I did.
    42 CFR § 436.407 – Types of acceptable documentary evidence of

    RM 10205.120 How the Number Holder’s Name is Shown on SSN Card
    The first and last name listed on the number holder’s (NH) SSN card must agree with the first and last name shown on the document submitted as evidence of identity or legal name.

    § 436.407 Types of acceptable documentary evidence of citizenship.
    For purposes of this section, the term “citizenship” includes status as a “national of the United States” as defined by section 101(a)(22) of the Immigration and Nationality Act (8 U.S.C. § 1101(a)(22)) to include both citizens of the United States and non-citizen nationals of the United States.

    (a) Primary evidence of citizenship and identity. The following evidence must be accepted as satisfactory documentary evidence of both identity and citizenship:

    (1) A U.S. passport. The Department of State issues this. A U.S. passport does not have to be currently valid to be accepted as evidence of U.S. citizenship.

    These two things should be self-explanatory, the FIRST things they teach the idiots at Social Security under “enumeration” and yet they’re refusing to listen to THE LAW. Maybe because it’s coming from ME, a “black” person and they don’t like it that I’M right and they’re wrong to refuse to OBEY their own damn laws as well as the United States Code of FEDERAL Regulations.

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