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They want to know what?! A new passport questionnaire could get very personal

By Kaeli Conforti
October 3, 2012
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(Courtesy <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/megoizzy/" target="blank">megoizzy/Flickr</a>

Do you remember the names and contact information for every supervisor you've ever worked for? How about the names of everyone present at your birth? A proposed passport questionnaire asks these questions and others that are equally unexpected.

Be prepared to list out the addresses of every place you've ever lived from birth until now, every school you've attended and where your mother received pre-natal or post-natal medical care. You'll also be asked for the names, job descriptions, and contact information for every job in your repertoire.

The new form, DS-5513, would only be used in cases when passport applicants cannot provide "sufficient proof of citizenship or identity," the State Department says.

Critics claim the new questionnaire is discriminatory, whether towards elderly travelers who would be expected to list 65 years worth of supervisors, or towards people of different religious and geographical backgrounds. Some questions (ie. "List your mother's residence one year before your birth; List your mother's residence at the time of your birth; List your mother's residence one year after your birth") hint at racial profiling towards illegal immigrants, while others (ie. "Was there any religious or institutional recording of your birth or event occuring around the time of birth? Example: baptism, circumcision, confirmation—at birth?—or any other religious ceremony. Please provide details including the name, location of the institution, and date.) beg the question as to why these topics are appropriate to deem someone worthy of obtaining travel documents.

Perhaps the strangest thing is the part where they ask you to describe the circumstances of your own birth, "including the names (as well as the address and phone number if available) of persons present or in attendance at the time of your birth." As one anonymous reader commented on BoingBoing.com's article, "Circumstances of my birth? How would I know, I wasn't there until the very end!"

What's even more laughable is the fact that the State Department suggests the form shouldn't take more than 45 minutes to complete. Given the amount of detail they're asking for, it would probably take me a few hours to compile all of this information, and I keep fairly accurate records of my former employers and addresses. What about someone who is adopted or moved around a lot as a child and no longer has parents around to verify old addresses? And every single job? Even the three month ice-cream-scooping gig from four summers ago at a place that probably went under by now? Come on.

What do you think about this newly proposed passport questionnaire? Does this seem too personal or are deep, thought provoking questions the way to go?

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