Tuesday, April 26, 2011

The State Department, Passports and Driver's Licenses

Apparently, the U.S. State Department has proposed a new Biographical Questionnaire form for some passport applicants, form DS-5513. The blogosphere is quite upset about the proposed new form, which asks details such as your lifetime history of places of residence and employment, all the details on your family that you can scrounge up, and any "religious ceremonies" that could have accompanied your birth.

Of course, what few blog posts have noted is that this is simply an update to an existing form. How do I know this? Well, when my wife applied for a passport several years ago, her application was subjected to extra scrutiny- including a copy of the Biographical Questionnaire that is going about the intertubes. She was also asked to provide copies of things like student ID cards, utility bills and high school yearbook photographs. (Actually, the new form is more multicultural- the old one asked simply about "baptism.")

You're probably wondering what this has to do with alternative transportation. I'll get there. See, at the time, I had an expired passport and driver's license as my proof of identity. My wife had her birth certificate and a non-driving California ID card. That last item is supposed to be equivalent to a DL for identity purposes, right?

Wrong. We called up the State Department when we got the massive, invasive questionnaire packet, and we asked them why they needed all this information from my wife and not myself. The answer? "Oh, it looks like she applied with a state ID card. That's usually a red flag."

So remember- drivers are Americans, non-drivers are suspicious.

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