Overreacting? Perhaps, but it’s funny how many things can look suspicious in the wee hours — especially in an era when unscrupulous thieves can steal not just your money but your identity itself, while nefarious “homegrown” but foreign born terrorists posed as ordinary citizens while plotting to kill American servicemen and women in the name of jihad at Fort Dix as I waited on perpetual hold that night.
As luck and better timing would have it, I called the passport information number again early the next morning and actually got through to a human being. To my relief, I found out that this was indeed a legitimate request, and quite routine at that. I asked the undoubtedly harried woman who took my call why nothing I’d seen online or off had indicated anything about additional ID being needed. I also wondered why my non-driver’s license State ID was not acceptable. I pointed out that this system was making more work for her, me, and everyone else who got stuck in this potentially nail-biting situation. She was sympathetic, but did assure me that the request was legit. As for the non-working number message from the New Hampshire center, she said undoubtedly that was due to the fact that everyone would be calling there nonstop if they had access to it.
I got my letter from the National Passport Center in Portsmouth, New Hampshire via “express” mail on May 4. It provided a brief list of some of the documents I could submit in photocopy form to help established my identity. Required were at least five personal documents with either name/photo (and issue date) or name/signature (with issue date.)
But that wasn’t all. Though no one had told me about this additional little wrinkle, also enclosed was a three page “Supplemental Information Sheet” which asked for:
- The name, address, phone number, and date and place of birth of my mother, father, and all brothers and sisters and spouse (if married);
- Names, addresses, and phone numbers of two references who had known me at least five years;
- The name, address, and attendance dates of all schools I had attended in the US and abroad;
- Complete addresses for all my residences for the last ten years;
- The name, address, and phone number, with supervisor’s name, for all employers for the last ten years.
And finally, for applicants not born in the US, there were two additional lines provided to list when and where they first arrived in the United States. This seemed rather “underwhelming” to me, somehow. I could have thought of a lot more incisive and detailed questions to ask of visitors leaving our country in this day and age in light of the fact that I was being put through quite the wringer myself for the privilege of visiting the Van Gogh museum and perhaps taking in a few windmills.