New passport application – Kafka’s Catch-22

If you don’t have a US passport you might want to get one now before a proposed new application form is adopted. This is particularly true if you don’t have a copy of your long form Birth Certificate. According to this story, many of the questions are almost impossible to answer.

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.”

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.

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.  So if the passport examiner wants to deny your application, all they will have to do is give you the impossible new form to complete.

This form is a bureaucrat’s dream come true – Kafka’s Catch-22. With the stroke of a pen some government drone who may be having a bad day has the power to deny your passport.

You’re probably thinking, “How could they possibly know any of this – I’ll just make up a bunch of stuff.” That’s true, but that’s also the beauty of it. They don’t have to know any of it. If they deny your application, the onus is on you to prove it.

Please make it stop…

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