Your Passport File

Posted by DipNote Bloggers
March 21, 2008
Application form for U.S. Passport

We received many questions from the press and the public, several on this blog, about the information contained in a person’s passport file. This entry details exactly what information can be found in a passport file.

You may also view a Policy Podcastvideo featuring Under Secretary for Management Pat Kennedy that discusses "Passport Data Security."View Video|Full Text

Generally, after the State Department issues a passport, all personal documents are returned to the applicant – the only document kept in the Department’s passport file is the passport application. Passport files do not contain travel information, such as visa and entry stamps, from previous passports. Almost all passport files contain only a passport application form as completed by the applicant.

Download the actual passport application forms at:

PDF Application for U.S. Passport or RegistrationsPDF Application for U.S. Passport by Mail

The application form asks for the biographic information needed to determine if the applicant qualifies for a U.S. Passport, including:

· Applicant’s name, sex, date of birth, place of birth, social security number, marital status and mailing address and previous passport number if applicable.
· Applicant’s physical descriptors like height, hair color and eye color.
· Names and place of birth of the applicant’s parents.

The application form also asks for optional information that helps us to deliver applications on time, and to contact a citizen in case of an emergency:

· Occupation and employer of the applicant and contact information for the applicant as well as his or her emergency contact. (these have proved invaluable in contacting next of kin when a US citizen dies or needs assistance abroad).
· Travel plans as completed by an applicant on the form would be in the record. (This is valuable in getting the passport to the applicant on time.

In complex circumstances, for instance if there are grounds to suspect possible fraud or if a person born overseas claims citizenship by virtue of having an American citizen parent, we may need additional evidence to review the applications, and we keep this information in the passport file with the applications.

Comments

Comments

Neil
|
United States
March 22, 2008

Neil in U.S.A. writes:

Can you explain how contractors on staff are able to access Senator Obama's passport records? Does everyone in the State Department have open access to these records? Can you explain the controls you have in place to limit access to these private records?

(Let's see how open your blog is... I doubt you publish this comment-- which will tell me all I need to know about the transparency of your blog. Also, can your Office of Chief Council -- Privacy Officer, please explain why I am required to enter my email address?)

Thank you, I look forward to reading a response to these questions on your blog.

Chris
|
District Of Columbia, USA
March 21, 2008

Chris in Washington, DC writes:

@ Neil in U.S.A. -- Hi Neil, thanks for your comments. I'm a consular officer who works in the Department of State. The process of receiving, adjudicating, printing and delivering U.S. passports involves several steps. Certain contract employees, all American citizens with background clearances, perform support functions in this process which requires them to have access to the electronic passport record. Contract employees are not involved in the actual adjudication of the passport application, the actual decision to ensure that applicants are American citizens eligible to get a passport.

Their job may include responding to customer inquiries -- when you produce 18 million passports a year, lots of people call in to check on the status of their application -- or it may involve entering data into the system or checking the accuracy of information in printed passports. State Department employees have many different responsibilities including protecting Americans abroad, international affairs, public diplomacy, economic reporting and managing our operations. Only those State Department employees who need to perform certain passport functions have access to passport databases.

Employees with access to passport records are well aware of the privacy rules related to these records ã and they are reminded of those rules every time they access records. In order to make sure that people adhere to the rules, we have the monitoring system that led to the detection of these incidents.

John
|
Greece
March 21, 2008

John in Greece writes:

@ Neil in U.S.A. -- Neil,

Since your post is POSTED, it's proved AND it's sure AND secure:

The Blog is VERY much OPEN.

Why do you worry so much for your IP footprints?

I live in Greece, I write with my name.

SNP lives in Syria but do gives h/his e-mail address.

NB lives in Pakistan, but also participates to this Global conversation...

For sure, Maria from Spain or George from France do exactly the same.

...Plenty of us who love this Blog.

You live in America, where the FED system secures every privacy, and you are trying to make us nervous and destroy the site?

Nevertheless, YOU DID GIVE your e-mail in order to get posted... for your initial scope!

I do not worry why you are so worried, but do not try to make internet more anarchic.

Sign! your Thesis, as long as you believe it.

Ronald
|
New York, USA
March 21, 2008

Ronald in New York writes:

First... I had to type in Green76 to make this comment. Is that Green as in Green Card? Is that 76 as in 1776?

Now for the comment:
Breach of passport records can only be explained in terms of a sick Patriot-Litmus Test...an unconstitutional, and seriously damaging assault on the Constitution and Bill of Rights. The USG must develop a better domestic self-concept and a better global sense of security. Whether Obama or anyone else....this practice smacks of McCarthyism.

Dan
|
District Of Columbia, USA
March 22, 2008

DipNote Bloggers write:

@ Neil in U.S.A. -- Thanks for your comment Neil. The "Your Passport File" entry begins to address some of the concerns you mentioned. We also released a video Policy Podcast that specifically addressed concerns you raised regarding controls in place to limit access to information contained in passport applications. As for email addresses, please refer to the DipNote Privacy Policy.

DeAnna
|
Utah, USA
March 22, 2008

DeAnna in Utah writes:

I would like to know why the names of the contract companies involved in this scandal, and I am asking for BOTH, have not been released? And the names of the people involved. They are paid to do their work with U.S. TAXPAYER money. It is OUR INFO.

Neil
|
United States
March 22, 2008

Neil in U.S.A. writes:

@ DipNote Bloggers -- OK, count me as impressed! Responsive, transparent, forthright. That's good government and the way a government blog should be run. It's clear you know what your doing.

I like the use of video as well. Have a good weekend!

Sean
|
District Of Columbia, USA
March 22, 2008

State Department Spokesman Sean McCormack writes:

@ DeAnna in Utah -- You ask a good question, and the Secretary of State also asked us why we had not released those contractor names. We made them public last night (Friday). They are: Stanley Associates and The Analytic Corporation (TAC). Sean

John
|
Greece
March 22, 2008

John in Greece writes:

EXCELLENT video and interview Mr. McCormack!

Extremely informative!

I hope that foreign government officials also visit the Blog in order to have a chance to understand how procedures should be and take similar security measures (in other countries as well) on how a "passport procedure" can be ABSOLUTELY SECURE.

Congratulations for the very high-end technology and security platforms that you use in order to secure your citizens' privacy and other components as your national security.

Dan
|
Maryland, USA
March 22, 2008

Dan in Maryland writes:

I work for the State Department as a USG employee. However, I do not work in or have any special insight into State's Bureau of Consular Affairs or State's Passport Office and their operations -- the organizations and operations responsible for processing passport applications, and the subject of recent news reports concerning inappropriate access by some Passport Office staff to certain persons' passport files. In addition, the views I'm sharing here are mine alone as a U.S. Citizen, and do not represent the views of the U.S. Department of State.

In this regard, it is certainly very important for the State Department -- as well as other USG agencies, our USG partners in the international community, and private businesses -- to protect privacy information to the very best of their abilities. In addition, there should be serious repercussions for those who fail to follow the rules relative to the protection of such privacy information. Nevertheless, it seemingly comes off to me as rather severe for the State Department to fire employees for what appears to be mainly a one-time or two-time act of accessing someone's file due to what has been described at this juncture to be "imprudent curiosity" (the term used by State Department Spokesperson Sean McCormack). While perhaps there is more to these inappropriate access infractions than has been publicly detailed to date, according to reports at this time the staff that accessed the files in question seemingly did not do anything with this information once they viewed it, e.g., there has been no mention or suggestion of them sharing it with someone else either inside or outside the State Department for nefarious purposes, or taking any action themselves to exploit such information.

Additionally, the information found in a person's passport file seems to be mostly information that is publicly available from a variety of sources as passport files includes one's name, address, telephone numbers and the like and seemingly not much else (with the important exception of a person's social security number).

I raise these points for two reasons. First, I feel that all individuals and employees, whether they work for the USG or private companies, obviously should be treated fairly.

Secondly and perhaps of more strategic importance, any move -- in response to these or other such episodes -- to increasingly inhibit access or make such information less readily available to the relatively large number of persons who perhaps need to access it might also have serious consequences for our nation and its security. In this regard, as reported on page A4 of the Washington Post on March 22:

"...the State Department recently expanded access that various government agencies and even foreign law enforcement agencies can have into the passport system, according to a notice in the Federal Register earlier this year. The notice said the action was being taken 'for counter-terrorism and other purposes such as border security and fraud prevention.'"

According to this same article in the Washington Post, the State Department recently described the reason for expanding access to information such as that found in passport files as follows: "One lesson of September 11, 2001, is that restricting access to information poses serious risks, often outweighing the impact of potential unauthorized disclosure," as the State Department report said.

In working to ensure appropriate and effective protection for privacy information, our nation must also balance the need for appropriate persons to have quick and easy access to such information, as such information can be vital to protecting our nation.

Francisco
|
Florida, USA
March 22, 2008

Francisco in Florida writes:

It's ironic that when I get to immigration control upon entering into the U.S., the customs officer uses my passport to gather information about me. My question is what information do they gather and from what sources?

Lisa
|
United States
March 22, 2008

Lisa in U.S. writes:

Thanks for your blog post. I'm curious about something you didn't mention. I read an interview with a former employee of the Foreign Service who said that for people who have lived abroad, their passport file sometimes contains more information than the files of people who have only traveled abroad, never lived elsewhere. However, I have yet to find any information that either confirms or denies this. Is this true? If so, how common is it to do that, and what kinds of things would be included in files that had more than the basics?

Thanks!

DS
|
United States
March 23, 2008

DS in the U.S.A. writes:

Right after the news of the passport breach at the State Department hit the web the night before last, conspiracy aficionados had a field day online. The Huffington Post did a brief news update on its site quoting an MSNBC news item and citing "Maura Harty" as the person who was in charged of the passport office when the breaches occurred. There was not much on the report; it was approximately 250 words (it's not online anymore and has now been replaced with this) but it did mention that "Maura Harty" was an ambassador appointed during the Clinton administration and left readers to draw their own conclusions from what was still breaking news. And that they did, quite unfairly towards a dedicated public servant. Tsk! Tsk! Did not even bothered to fact-check her name ... I understand that this is the price we pay for the 24/7 barrage of information that comes with technology but isn't this quite disturbing? Do we think so lowly of our public servants that we cannot afford them the courtesy of waiting until the facts are in before drawing virtual blood? The feeding frenzy reminds me of sharks feeding, really!

You can read the complete post here:
http://diplopundit.blogspot.com/

Mathilda
|
Illinois, USA
March 24, 2008

Mathilda in Illinois writes:

This isn't a blog entry. It's an office Web page.

Martha
|
Texas, USA
March 24, 2008

Martha in Texas writes:

So, this file at the State Department on me...it sounds quite innocuous, not to mention miniscule. Can I read it? My interest is this: my brother suffered an identity theft a few years ago and the SSA changed his number. Does that show up in that record, or does the State Department only maintain records on people who have applied for passports?

John
|
Greece
March 25, 2008

John in Greece writes:

@ Mathilda in Illinois -- What do you mean Mathilda?
(Is it Illinois or "Illinoi")?

I am at my house!
What do you mean an "office Web page"?

.

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