I have a friend who is unable to get a passport because she was asked to provide extra documentation which she cannot obtain, period. The Department of State will not help.

They are asking for old documents and she does not have any history/records with any of them to satisfy them. Note that she provided all accurate/requested information in first applying for a passport, but the Department of State decided that wasn't enough -- so they're asking for stuff she doesn't have and cannot obtain to give them because no such records exist that they want -- namely, driver's license 5 years or older (she has never had one), among 4 other documents 5 years or older that she has no records of and cannot provide. She's really frustrated and feels out of options.

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I heard about NEXUS, and I was wondering if I should give that to her as an alternative? I read that you pay $50, submit to a background check, provide some info, and then have a short interview -- after that you get your card if you're approved. Can you get a NEXUS card with no passport though?

Could you use it, if so? She really has no other options to travel -- they won't give her a passport because she doesn't have old documents that they want and they will not compromise or help.

As a bonus question, is there any other way to get around this? Funny thing is that everybody she knows, including her family and friends, have applied for a passport exactly as her and were ALL approved without further ado, but she was unluckily asked for tough info.

To add, she's 19 years old and has next to nothing of what they're asking for -- except the social security card but it has no date so they probably won't accept it. Homeschooled so has no yearbook/student ID records of any sort and she has never had a job (one with an EI/ID).

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    @Senejerry NEXUS is a trusted traveler program. A card would be accepted for identification for re-entry to the United States from abroad, but would only really useful for visiting WHTI countries, and you didn't indicate where she was planning to travel. I'm just trying to get a fuller picture of what's happening, and I'm not accusing her or you of making any mistakes. We've all been lost in the machinery of the government at some point or another. – choster Mar 24 '16 at 21:27
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    @Senejerry possibly related? Your friend wasn't delivered by a midwife in Texas by any chance, was she? travelersunited.org/columns/… Or was her state ID a learner's permit? inthesegenes.blogspot.com/2008/09/traveling-through.html Or was it out of state ID? (see item 4 at travel.state.gov/content/passports/en/passports/first-time.html) – phoog Mar 24 '16 at 21:46
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    It could be a name mix-up with someone on a watch list. Ask for a TSA redress number. Pull credit reports to make sure identity hasn't been hacked. Check SSA record as well. Contact local representative/senator's office and ask for their help. – mkennedy Mar 24 '16 at 22:03
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    This letter is almost always sent when there's a problem with the birth certificate. You should begin looking in that direction. – Michael Hampton Mar 24 '16 at 23:56
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    Experience. You can take the advice or not, but applying for a NEXUS card is much more intrusive, and if you can't get a passport because of these document issues, you won't be getting a NEXUS card either. – Michael Hampton Mar 25 '16 at 2:31

It's possible to get a NEXUS card without a passport. A US citizen must show one of the following documents:

  • a valid passport;
  • a birth certificate and photo ID;
  • a proof of U.S. citizenship;
  • a certificate of naturalization; or
  • a border crossing card.

Source: http://www.cbsa-asfc.gc.ca/publications/pub/bsf5084-eng.html

Unfortunately, the NEXUS card will be useless for travel outside North America. Having it might help with future passport applications, however.

The question of how to satisfy the documentation requirements for the passport application itself is interesting, but should probably be asked as a separate question.

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    It wouldn't be useless for her since she wants to go to Canada. I also don't know if you are correct about air travel -- I've read that NEXUS is valid for air, sea and land. – Senejerry Mar 24 '16 at 21:19
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    @Senejerry apparently that is true. – phoog Mar 24 '16 at 21:22
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    @Senejerry well according to TIMATIC, the database the airlines use to decide whether to board people, one of several valid exemptions from the passport requirement for travel to Canada is "Nationals of USA with a NEXUS Card if residing in Canada or USA embarking in USA or Canada and entering Canada from the USA only." – phoog Mar 24 '16 at 21:26
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    I wonder if NEXUS will be as skeptical of the photo ID as the State Department. – Andrew Lazarus Mar 25 '16 at 23:56
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    @AndrewLazarus as Michael Hampton pointed out in a comment (on the question itself), it seems to me that it's far more likely to be the birth certificate with which they've taken issue, not the photo ID. But in fact I believe that NEXUS vets applicants both with the State Dept and their Canadian counterparts, so it's very likely to be true that "if you can't get a passport because of these document issues, you won't be getting a NEXUS card either." – phoog Mar 26 '16 at 0:25

Touching on the passport issue, applying for a passport really only requires two documents, ID to prove you are you and a birth certificate or naturalization certificate to prove you are a US citizen. The fact that the clerk who accepted her application assumed it was complete really means nothing, other than the clerk got the necessary documents from her. The clerk really doesn't have the ability or authority to double check the validity of those documents, that lies in the hands of the passport office itself.

As the Passport Office is requesting additional documents, means that one or both of her proofs are suspect.

Was the birth certificate an "original" or a certified copy from the government agency that records births where she was born? If an "original", then consider getting a new certified copy of her birth certificate from the town/state she was born in.

Have you checked into the possibility of providing an Affidavit of Identifying Witness (DS-71 form) in lieu of the requested documents.

Does she have a bank account (that would have name & signature)? Has she no school records? No extracurricular activities at those schools (permission slips might have names, signatures, group photos)?

  • OP says she was home-schooled, so no yearbooks, usual school records, etc. – mkennedy Mar 25 '16 at 16:34
  • Why would an original birth certificate and brand new ID be suspect? If those two things raise alarms, I can't imagine why they wouldn't send this letter in the mail to 90% of the people applying then and make everyone go through this hell. Her friend is also a teenager like her -- actually, younger -- and he was given a passport without further documentation despite having no credit, bank, driver's license, etc. – Senejerry Mar 25 '16 at 17:18
  • Also the document doesn't give bank accounts as an option for proof, and even if so she doesn't have a bank account signed from five or more years ago. – Senejerry Mar 25 '16 at 23:22
  • @Senejerry - in the last line of instructions it says you may submit any documents with name & photo or name & signature. And since she has very few documents to use, I would submt anything you have even if it isn't on the list. You don't get penalized for supplying extra info. – user13044 Mar 26 '16 at 2:17
  • @Senejerry - ps: I doubt they send that letter to 90% of people applying, maybe to 90% of people who needed secondary screening. – user13044 Mar 26 '16 at 2:20

First, Tom has a good idea for a DS-71. Let me amplify the suggestion.

Assuming that the birth certificate is a proper certified copy, the issue is connecting your friend to the certificate. To this end, it may help to have documents like the government requests for her parents (to prove they are US Citizens or Permanent Residents), and DS-71 affidavits from them.

Photographs of church events (I say this because many homeschoolers attend church) of the family. DS-71 from a long-time pastor wouldn't hurt either.

Child medical records show the parents' names. The pediatrician may also have either a photo or a thumbprint or both on file.

  • DS-71 is for submitting the passport -- it's already been submitted and the Department of State still has her birth certificate. While she doesn't attend church, medical records could be possible -- but photos along with medical records/thumbprints is highly unlikely. I'm afraid this suggestion isn't suitable at this point. – Senejerry Mar 25 '16 at 23:20
  • DS-11 is the passport application. DS-71 is an affidavit of an identifying witness. DoS is asking for more data, and given that your friend seems to have a most unusually light footprint in the world, this is the sort of back-up she will need. papersplease.org/wp/wp-content/uploads/2012/09/ds-71-2-2012.pdf – Andrew Lazarus Mar 25 '16 at 23:23
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    @Senejerry You seem pretty invested in rejecting as many suggestions people are giving you as possible. I have no idea if you have to wait for a formal rejection letter and do a complete new application, or whether they are keeping the current application open and pending, and you can add new material (e.g., DS-71) to it. Incidentally, your friend may want to contact her Congressman as they sometimes like to help constituents with this sort of problem. – Andrew Lazarus Mar 25 '16 at 23:32
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    In conjunction with need not mean "executed at the same time as". If you have a pending DS-11, they may or may not accept additional documents to try to resolve the issue. If they do, I would certainly attempt to add DS-71 affidavits, in addition to the various items (e.g., medical records) already mentioned. Thinking further, orthodontists take pictures of patients. – Andrew Lazarus Mar 25 '16 at 23:51
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    As I said, you are wasting everyone's time by rejecting every suggestion you are given. They will also accept dated photographs as additional evidence. I'm trying to think of places your friend might have been photographed. Medical records signed by a parent are useful if the parent can also swear to the child's identity. This is probably why the younger friend got a passport with no trouble: he still needed parental signatures and their ID was sufficient. What exactly have you come to this forum for? For fresh ideas on getting the passport, or merely to vent? – Andrew Lazarus Mar 26 '16 at 0:05

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