My Country, ‘Tis of Thee: Adventures in Obtaining a U.S. Passport

by JL Beeken on 7-14-2009

All Ye Faithful,

Back in April I applied for a U.S. passport since I’m still a citizen there and the government has made it so that we can’t go across the border without one. This is a mind-boggling process. Here’s the short version: If you don’t live in the U.S. don’t try to get a U.S. passport.

Not that I really felt like it but I researched this whole process online, made sure I had all my paperwork lined up, ordered (at great expense) a properly certified birth certificate, paid my fees and walked away expecting to see a passport in the mail within 2 months.  They promised.

About 6 weeks later I got a fat envelope with 7 pages on which I had to swear that I’ve never borne arms in a foreign country – I’ve never borne arms, at all (except for the BB gun owned by the boy next door when I was 7) – and that I’ve never sworn allegiance anywhere else – nowhere else I’ve lived has ever asked me to swear allegiance (and not over and over and over daily from the age of 5 before school can even start in the morning) and on and on and on about foreign governments and foreign allegiances and military this and that – my god, people, I’ve lived in Canada since I was 14 – and it had to be notarized at further expense.

I sent that off, another month went by and I got another fat envelope. Yippee, my passport!  Nope, another 10 pages to fill out. Can’t help feeling they’re just starting to get warmed up here. This time they want an autobiography because apparently the last 11 pages of detail, driver’s license with photograph, certified birth certificate and $300 wasn’t enough.

They want to know every single place I’ve lived since I was born, right down to the zip codes.  We don’t call them zip codes in Canada, they’re postal codes here.  I once lived in a teepee. Does anyone really need to know that?

They want to know every single place I’ve worked since I was born, in and out of the U.S., right down to employers’ names, addresses, zip codes and dates.  That’s a good one.  I’ll get right on it.  Ever heard the saying, “If you remember the 1970′s you weren’t there”?  Anyone remember all their jobs?  I remember doing half a day in a Jack-in-the-Box near San Diego. After about an hour I thought, ‘This is not the real me.’  It took two more hours to get over the guilt of quitting and then I was gone.

They want to know every single place I’ve gone to school since I was born, addresses and zip codes. Anyone remember where they went to kindergarten? I don’t. And there’s not a single family member still living who could tell me.

They want to know ALL my family members – good thing I spent some time putting that together – and their birth dates.  And whether they’re U.S. citizens. Do you know I don’t even know the answer to that?

AND they want a minimum of 5 pieces of identification that are at least 5 years old, which include photographs of me and/or my signature and physical description. Right. On a page of 24 possible types of acceptable ID I’ve been able to come up with 2, one of which would be my high-school yearbook photo. More than a few decades later, it doesn’t even look like me but if they want it, sure, what the hell. The other one is my driver’s license but that’s iffy because it’s not quite 5 years old yet and they already have a copy of it and apparently it isn’t acceptable. Several of the options are military IDs. There they go again. I live in Canada. We don’t really do military up here all that much. We have soldiers around somewhere. I don’t think I’ve ever even seen one.

Do I really think, in my wildest dreams, that they will accept any form of Canadian identification?

I tried calling their 1-800 number to inquire what all this has to do with anything and, considering the mood I was in, it’s a good thing I got an automated response telling me that their number can’t be reached from my area. So I went online looking for a way to contact them.  Nothing but the same 1-800 number. Apparently, they don’t email, instant message or tele-communicate with U.S. citizens who don’t live in the U.S.

So, it’s just me and this pile of paper. And if I don’t fill it out they won’t let me into my own country. I’m getting closer and closer to telling them what they can do with my country …

Hey! I heard Barack has a Blackberry and he takes calls from ordinary citizens. Do you think he’d take a call from Canada? Anyone have that number? Anyone have a friendly connection in the Passport Agency?

As a genealogist, doesn’t it make you wish that this level of bureaucracy had started up on the day the world was born?  Even in the 1700′s?

{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

Myrna Jorgensen 7-24-2009 at 11:33 AM

Don’t know if it will help but have you tried doing this at the consulate in Canada instead of sending it back and forth to DC? When we lived in Mexico I had to get my passport renewed and they were very helpful there. Much better than the experience two weeks ago with my daughter at the new passport place in Dallas.

Hope you get it done soon. Don’t give up, we are still a great country it is just that some people seem to want to exert more control than they should (like OB).

Keep up the good work,
Myrna

Reply

JL 7-24-2009 at 3:53 PM

It’s not like I didn’t think of that; I live hundreds of miles away from the nearest consulate. This is actually easier. ROFL

Reply

JL 8-04-2009 at 2:15 PM

Yippee! I’m free, hallelujah, I am free at last! My passport arrived today. I also ordered a passport card which did not arrive. Oh, well, one out of two ain’t bad.

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