Business & Technology Nexus

Dave Stephens on technology and business trends

Applying for a Passport Should Be Free

with 7 comments

While life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness can all happen without ever leaving your hometown (let alone the country), you have to wonder why getting or renewing a passport is so darn expensive.

My wife and I make it a point to have passports for each of our children – so today was the day our 2-month old daughter’s application was filed. $82! Ouch.

Practically speaking, I guess you can freely leave the US if and only if you can find a spare C-note to get your papers.. Of course, it’s exactly the same situation elsewhere, including in the UK.

Maybe I’ve got this wrong, but freedom of movement should mean “free as in free” not “free as in pay me”. I just don’t see it as a priviledge to be won economically; it’s a freedom and an entitlement all citizens should enjoy. The counter-argument is that because so many Americans do not have or want to have a passport it’s unfair to burden them with the costs. This argument is often applied to bridges, tunnels, and other pay-for-play roadways. Of course, most times there’s another way into or out of town..

I suspect many of you are thinking “come on, $82 isn’t that bad, what’s the big deal” – the question I’d ask you is at what price would you start feeling differently.. $820? $8200?

Of course I forked over the cash and moved on. But imho there’s something “off” about buying a pass to leave the country…

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Written by Dave Stephens

08/3/06 1:08 PM at 1:08 pm

Posted in Opinion

7 Responses

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  1. Should be free? And who would pay for the cost of making it? Nothing is free.

    Marian Crkon

    08/3/06 1:36 PM at 1:36 pm

  2. Um, I would pay anyways with my tax dollars.. Sure, nothing is free – point taken. And you can argue a passport is no different than a driver’s license.. Which costs $26 (for Class C) to get in California. But I guess I thought $82 was so high I was/am ready to group passports with library cards and social security cards (both FREE as in you don’t have to pay to get one).

    Of course we could go the other way and require pay-for-play for these items as well. How about $100 to get your Social Security card (with annual renewal) else no benefits. Because hey, that program costs money to run, right? :)

    Btw, if the true cost is $82 (or $52 as the USPS tacked $30 on for processing), I want my daughter’s new passport in something other than cheap blue plastic… Part of the higher cost seems to be due to a new electronic chip that is embedded in the back cover of the passport. Why should I pay for that? It helps the government, not me or my children.

    Dave Stephens

    08/3/06 2:01 PM at 2:01 pm

  3. IMHO, library cards and SSN cards are different from Passport. The Govt wants everyone to have SSN to be able to track them and make them pay their taxes etc. In otherwards, Govt also benefits from it.

    The logic of “cheap blue pastic” or “electronic chip” (rfid) is probably not right as well. Someone has to review the data. They have to reenter into the internal system. So, who will be paying for the salary of these people? Who will be paying for the database and other software that is needed for tracking the issues passports? I am sure the govt is probably not running open source database or application software. Even if it did, they would need IT people to manage their databses.

    Bottomline is, there is probably so much hidden cost that’s not immediately apparent.

    Also, long back I remember reading that only 20% of Americans have a passport. Quick googling got me

    http://www.gyford.com/phil/writing/2003/01/31/how_many_america.php

    Obviously, that’s not the ratio for SSN cards. So, yes, there is sense in making only those 20% pay for their extra benefit.

    AnonymousCoward

    08/3/06 6:38 PM at 6:38 pm

  4. i’m clearly & quickly finding myself in the minority with my viewpoint. thank you for your comment & for the interesting 20% statistic! also, i agree w your assertion on the “systems” and “people” costs associated with passport issuance.

    Dave Stephens

    08/3/06 7:33 PM at 7:33 pm

  5. saw this http://news.com.com/Researchers+E-passports+pose+security+risk/2100-7349_3-6102608.html
    i guess the new RFID chip in US passports not only costs more but is also “surprisingly easy to copy” – great..

    Dave Stephens

    08/6/06 9:41 PM at 9:41 pm

  6. The main issue I have with passports is not so much the cost (though it is way too high). I’m currently going through hell to get my passport because I do not have adequate proof of identity. I have my birth certificate, that’s fine. I have my expired minor passport, that’s fine too. I have my state issued non-drivers id…. that’s not fine. You must have a *Drivers License* (it doesn’t matter that you go through the same process to get both). Apparently being physically able to drive, Knowing how to drive, and being able to afford insurance are prerequisites for getting permission to leave the country. Now if THAT isn’t discriminatory, then I don’t know what is.

    emily

    08/9/06 10:13 AM at 10:13 am

  7. I disagree that there is sense in making someone pay for a passport as an “extra benefit.” My statement is not about whether people should payfor extra benefits in general, but whether obtaining a passport should indeed be counted as one.

    The government is requiring the passport so obtaining one is not a benefit; it is a requirement. It is a rather arbitrary one considering one does not need a passport to go to Canada as of this writing, but the law is subect to change in the relatively near future.

    Governments themselves do benefit from passports due to the increased tax revenue earned from taxes generated by tourism. It is in every country’s reciprocal financial interests to support tourism and therefore make passports available as cheaply as possible.

    Matthew W. Grant

    08/9/06 12:34 PM at 12:34 pm


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