Friday, 9 March 2012

Another "Passport Day" tomorrow

The US State Department is having its third annual Passport Day tomorrow, Saturday, 10 March 2012.

As on the previous "Passport Days" in 2010 and 2011, this will be the one day a year when you can apply for a passport at one of the regional State Department passport offices around the country:

  1. Without needing to make an appointment (the backlog to get an appointment is typically a couple of weeks, and at times has been up to a couple of months),
  2. Without having to show proof of imminent departure on an international trip in order to get an in-person appointment at a passport office for a passport renewal (rather than being told to apply for renewal by mail), and
  3. Without being charged the usual US$60 per person "rush" fee for applying in person (you still have to pay the fee if you want your application processed more quickly, but on "Passport Day", unlike other days, you can apply in person for regular service without the rush fee.

"Passport Day" may be of special interest to those who have gotten the "long form" Supplemental Worksheet in response to their passport application, requesting voluminous supporting information that it's impossible for most people to provide.

As I've discussed at PapersPlease.org, this is probably illegal, and the Identity Project is pursuing a Freedom Of Information Act (FOIA) request and a formal complaint to the State Department that this violates US obligations under Article 12 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights on freedom of movement.

But that doesn't help if you just want to get a passport now.

Some people have been able to establish their identity through having an "identifying witness" -- which requires showing up in person at a passport acceptance facility -- as an alternative to answering all the questions on the "Supplemental Worksheet".

The State Department rarely points this out, but the Department's own regulations at 22 C.F.R. § 51.28 entitle passport applicants to establish their identity by the affidavit of an identifying witness in lieu of documentary evidence of identity.

If you want to go this route, make an appointment at a passport acceptance office or show up tomorrow on Passport Day when you don't need an appointment. Bring a witness who is willing to sign an affidavit that they know you and you are who you say you are, and who has their own ID credentials (preferable a passport) with them. Ask the passport acceptance officer for a copy of the current version of State Department Form DS-71 for your identifying witness to complete and sign in the passport acceptance officer's presence.

In theory, you should be able to do this at any passport acceptance facility, and tomorrow on "Passport Day" it won't cost you anything to try. But Post Offices and other passport acceptance offices may not know about or understand this process, and may not have the witness affidavit form available. So if you plan to use a witness to establish who you are, you are better off going to one of the State Department's own dedicated passport offices, if possible.

Feel free to share your experiences with "Passport Day" and/or the "identifying witness" procedures in the comments.

Link | Posted by Edward on Friday, 9 March 2012, 12:45 (12:45 PM) | TrackBack (0)
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