10 May 2011

New Long Form Passport Form Intimidating

Humor writer W. Bruce Cameron's latest column described a government form so awful, I feared that he might be simply making it up. But, alas, his summary of the DS-5513 long form passport application, proposed late this April, is every bit as bad as claimed.

It asks for all sorts of information, that while including many of the sort of questions that a lawyer might put on an intake form for someone trying to prove their U.S. citizenship in a court case, asks for a host of details (e.g. dates of pre-natal appointments), that reasonable people who happen to have been born outside a medical facility and without having a birth certificate issued within a year of their birth are exceedingly unlikely to know, especially if they, rather than their parents, are completing the form while they are adults. Moreover, many of the details asked for provide evidence that does not directly prove or disprove citizenship, while not asking other questions that might directly establish one's citizenship.

The form does nothing to acknowledge that a typical applicant will not have complete answers to all of the questions asked and can apply with incomplete information, even though in many or most cases, citizenship could be established with only an incomplete portion of the form. It doesn't even make clear who must fill out the long form at all.

Also, while the form contains a variety of questions targeted at the issue of establishing citizenship by paternity or citizenship by birth in the United States, it doesn't seem to address citizenship by naturalization of a relative, or address the issues involved in nationality v. citizenship. Finally, it doesn't seem to have any questions calculated to address the "Superman Rule" (Generation Y readers may prefer to call it the "Roswell Rule") which grants U.S. citizenship to children of unknown paternity and unknown circumstances of birth found in the United States at a young age.

Anyway, this is one more reason I'm glad that I secured passports for my children last year, with no particular reason for doing so.

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