Passport for transgender people

Disclaimer: This is legal talk, not legal advice. Laws vary by state, and some of the information discussed on this page may not be applicable in your case. Some of this information is reader-submitted and not verfied. It is up to you to confirm any information herein by doing your own research.

Contents

  1. United States
  2. Australia
  3. United Kingdom

Passports for US citizens

A reader notes:

The process is as follows: If you already have a passport, fill out form DS-82 and mail it in with your old passport, your physician statement, new passport photos, a copy of your drivers license front and back, the letter from your surgeon and $140 dollars (expediting extra). If you do not have a passport : you'll need to fill out form DS-11 and have all of the above, except your original (or certified copy) birth certificate instead of your old passport - you must take everything to to the post office and be prepared to pay $165. The doctor's statement must be similar to the following (or at least contain all of the info in parentheses): I, (physician’s full name), (physician’s medical license or certificate number), (issuing State of medical license/certificate), (DEA Registration number), am the attending physician of (name of patient), with whom I have a doctor/patient relationship. (The letter must indicate that the physician is either an internist, endocrinologist, gynecologist, urologist or psychiatrist.) (Name of patient) has had appropriate clinical treatment for gender transition to the new gender (specify new gender male or female). Or (Name of patient) is in the process of gender transition to the new gender (specify new gender male or female). I declare under penalty of perjury under the laws of the United States that the forgoing is true and correct. I recently updated my old passport, and through trial and error, figured out that this is the correct way of doing so.

A reader notes:

In June 2010, the State Department announced a new policy to issue passports in a person’s current gender when either a previous passport or other personal documentation presented by an applicant reflects a different gender. Under the new policy, a transgender person can obtain a passport reflecting his or her current gender by submitting a certification from a physician confirming that he or she has had appropriate clinical treatment for gender transition.

Under the new policy, you can obtain a passport with an updated gender if you have had clinical treatment determined by your doctor to be appropriate in your case to facilitate gender transition. It does not matter whether or not you have previously obtained a passport listing another gender. If you are just beginning transition and need to travel abroad, you can obtain a two-year provisional passport. (The State Department calls it “limited validity” though it has all the force of a regular passport but is only good for two years.) Once your doctor and you believe you have had clinical treatment appropriate in your case, you can obtain a full, regular passport.

If you have a valid passport with an outdated gender designation

If you have a passport that is still valid but does not reflect your current gender, you should submit the following by mail:

1. Use Form DS-5504 http://travel.state.gov/passport/forms/ds5504/ds5504_2663.html Application for a U.S. Passport (Name Change, Data Correction and Limited Passport Book Replacement)

2. A signed statement by a physician who has treated you, on office letterhead, stating that you have had appropriate clinical treatment for gender transition

Submit these documents to the address specified on the form. For expedited service include a $60 fee; otherwise, no fee is required.

If you are applying for a passport for the first time

Anyone applying for a passport for the first time must apply in person. To find the acceptance facility closest to you, visit the State Department’s website, “Passport Acceptance Facility Search Page,” at http://iafdb.travel.state.gov/ or call the National Passport Information Center at 1-877-487-2778.

You will need to present the following:

1. Two 2x2 inch photographs of yourself

2. Proof of U.S. citizenship such as a birth certificate or enhanced driver’s license

3. A valid form of government-issued photo identification such as a driver’s license or tribal identification card (may be the same as proof of citizenship)

4. A completed form DS-11 http://travel.state.gov/passport/forms/ds11/ds11_842.html, Application for a U.S. Passport

5. Relevant fees

If your proof of citizenship and identity reflect your current gender, you do not need to submit any additional documentation; for example, if you have changed both your birth certificate and driver’s license to reflect your current gender, you can use these as they are now without any other documents. However, if one or more documents used to prove your citizenship or identity does not reflect your current gender, you must also submit:

6. A signed statement by a physician who has treated you, on office letterhead, stating that you have had appropriate clinical treatment for gender transition.

For those residing overseas and who are US Citizens the State Department has released the changes to U.S. Department of State Foreign Affairs Manual - Volume 7 Consular Affairs to reflect the new policy on Gender Change. Included in the text is the change of gender, which is found in http://www.state.gov/documents/organization/143160.pdf 7 FAM 1300 Appendix M, Gender Change. This appendix provides policy and procedures that passport specialists and consular officers must follow in cases in which an applicant requests a gender on the passport application different from the one reflected on some or all of the submitted citizenship and/or identity evidence, including a prior passport.

The State Department's new passport policy and procedures are based on standards and recommendations of the World Professional Association for Transgender Health (WPATH) http://www.wpath.org, recognized by the American Medical Association http://www.ama-assn.org as the authority in this field.

Travel advisory

Following the 2001 terrorist attacks in the U.S., are more stringent requirements for documentation used when traveling by air, train, or bus in the U.S. and abroad. For this reason, I strongly urge all transgender travelers to get all documentation dealt with quickly and completely, especially Passport and Birth Certificate changes following completion of the physical aspects of transition.

Those planning vaginoplasty outside the U.S. should make preparations with the U.S. State Department well in advance of their expected travel date. I recommend having all necessary papers in hand at least two months before traveling. Be sure to check with them as your travel date approaches to make sure no new requirements have been put in place.

Besides the potential embarrassment of having to explain discrepancies of name or sex in your documentation to airport security or customs officials, discrepancies in documentation may delay or even eliminate your ability to travel. It could also cause problems in the country to which you are traveling and may affect your ability to get back into the U.S.

Although some states allow a name change on a state driver's license without a court order, I strongly recommend getting a court order for name change in order to facilitate any documentation changes, especially federally issued items like passports.

Travel to Canada

In January 2004, I received the following letter:

Since a lot of women go to Bressard and Menard in Canada, this may well be old news, but I thought I'd pass it along since it was from my personal experience last month. Ever since September 11th, US Customs requires a birth certificate or a passport for US citizens to get back into the US when they visit Canada.

They used to just require a drivers license.

My traveling companion and I attempted to go to Vancouver one day and we were advised by "good ol' Duane" (which is my name for Canadian Customs) that it would not be a good idea to continue on into British Columbia without one of these.

The US authorities let us back in, since we turned around right there at the customs site, and they just looked at the drivers license without checking anything further.

But this might be something to tell others about and for them to consider, not just from the viewpoint of going once, but going again and again and having the ID change "suddenly" on the next trip. We do not plan to go back to Canada until after I get a passport that has my correct gender on it. Being from Texas, I may have to wait some years for the birth certificate to change. Rats - and we *so* wanted to visit there, too! Since this was the first time I have traveled to Canada using my new name, I don't want to get logged into their systems as the wrong gender and have to worry about undoing it in the future.

Temporary passports

From a reader in 2004:

I travel about 4 times a year to the UK, and so getting my passport changed was pretty important. I started full-time in July 2003, have my surgery scheduled for June of this year, but I did not want to have to travel under my old name and sex. So I filled out the new passport form that I downloaded from the web, checked the "F" box and included myname change court-order. About a week later I got a call from the passport office telling me that they could issue a temporary (1 year) passport with my new name and "Female" as long as my doctor sent a letter to them stating that I was his patient and had SRS scheduled.

A few days later, I received my new passport with everything as it should be; no aliases, no indication of my transgender status, just a note that this is a temporary passport. I can have the passport extended to the usual 10 year period after surgery when my doctor sends a letter stating that I have had SRS. What is really nice about all this is that I couldn't get my DMV to change the M to an F on my license, but at least now I have one piece of ID that has the correct sex on it.

Also, I should say that the people at the passport agency were incredibly nice about all this, and seemed to have handled this before.

From a reader in May 2006:

Well, I got my passport in the mail today.  And, the U.S. government came through!  I got my 1-year "F" passport!  (I was told they will give me a proper 10-year one after my vaginoplasty is complete (for no extra money).
 
And, I got it FAST!  It was supposed to take about three weeks, but I got it in exactly one week.
 
So, to recap:
 
To get a pre-vaginoplasty, 1-year temporary "F" passport, give the passport official these items:
 
1.  Your current passport (if you have one).
2. A certified copy of your name change court-order (if you are requesting a different name on your new passport than the name on your old passport).
3. A letter from your vaginoplasty surgeon that stipulates the surgery is irreversable.  The letter should also have your surgery date on it.
4. A letter from your therapist that states you should travel on a female passport.  This letter should also give your background info.  (It might be a good  idea to have your therapist confirm that he/she believes you are a good candidate for vaginoplasty surgery.)
 
That's about it.  I brought the items listed above and getting the passport was a breeze.
 
I hope this might aid others.

A reader sent this interesting note in June 2007:

How I changed my passport gender without a surgeon's letter (but with an orchiectomy)

First, with my suggested additional phrasing like "as an adjunct to the gender reassignment process" and "which represents an irreversible surgical transition pertaining to her sexual reassignment surgery", my orchiectomy surgeon was kind enough to provide me with several notarized copies of his surgery letter. He made sure that it accurately and legally stated the nature of his work. The underlines i've added here are for emphasis. And he also used my (then male) name alongside my intended female name, and referred to the surgical reason as "Gender Identity Dysphoria". i believe that his choice of language was very helpful with subsequent authorities. Note: i was satisfied that having an orchiectomy was the right thing for me in the order i did things, instead of waiting until much later to have full SRS. Not everyone will want to do that.

Two, i took the surgeon's letter, a letter from my psychologist stating i had GID and recommending surgery, and my recent court-order name change paperwork to the "insert state" DMV to get a new driver's license. Phone calls were made to some powers that be while i waited, and also a supervisor was needed, but though they were initially cautious, they did indeed change my gender marker to "F". They also of course changed the name on my car registration. i suggest that anyone be especially polite and courteous with government officials, but calm and firm as well if necessary. Present yourself well, and be prepared to conduct business by having any forms accurately filled out and at your fingertips. Need a pen...take one. Checks, social security card, auto registration, credit cards, letters...anything you may possibly need.

Three, on the same day as the driver's license change, i went to the local social security office. In 5 minutes tops, by presenting my new driver's license, the surgeon's letter, and my name change order, they also changed both name and gender. The clerk made copies but didn't hesitate or ask any questions at all. She gave me a temporary printout showing the change until i got the new card. It didn't show the gender so i asked to make sure that was corrected as well.

Four, and the final effort that same day in 2006, buoyed by the previous successes, i went to a post office that does passports and photos. A clerk there very kindly assisted me in accurately filling out the necessary paperwork, and took pictures for a new passport to replace my old one. In this case, i sent along either original or notarized documents (if possible) that included my old passport, my original "insert state" birth certificate, the pending name change form from social security, a non-notarized color copy of my new driver's license, the court-order name change, and the same letter as above from the orchiectomy surgeon.

i crossed my fingers and waited. And a few weeks later, after initially being elated, i was mildly chagrined to see that the Dept. of State had yes, changed my name permanently, but the gender marker was changed to "F" for one year only. It didn't say anything about my gender on the notations/endorsements page, but alas...it was temporary. A letter accompanying the passport said that if i completed my SRS within that one year, and provided certified medical records for that, that they would issue a new 10 year passport for free...so there was yet hope.

Five, after receiving the temporary passport, i sent the necessary documents to "insert state" to have my name and gender changed (that state luckily marks the new certificate as "Amended" only). Again i supplied everything possible, especially copies of the new passport and driver's license, and the actual recently arrived social security card. All of which, except the notarized name change, identified me as female, however they would have needed to actually check with social security to confirm the gender. And in about a week i was rewarded by receiving my new birth certificate...name and gender changed as appropriate. Some few states won't change the birth gender, so i felt fortunate that mine did.

Six, i had everything changed, except for a permanent passport. So in the meantime, i changed everything from credit reports (removing any aliases), bank and credit card accounts, voter registration, library card, etc. etc. All those were very simple, yet slightly different in each case, and i just checked them all off as i went. Be sure to change any kind of record that might appear on a credit report, before you ask them to remove the old name or aliases, so that a credit issuer or legal judgment won't mistakenly cause the old name to be included again. i didn't actually change my health insurance right away, so use your judgment on the pros and cons there.

Seven, now it was coming up quickly on one year for my passport renewal. i had stalled quite a bit so that i would (vainly) look my best for my new photo after having had facial surgery. And still i did wonder and worry whether, being the federal government and all, if they would honor the documentation of every other state and federal department...all now identifying me as female. But i had nothing to lose so i went for it. i did not include the letter they'd asked me to return along with my SRS letter. i also did not include any letter of any kind regarding surgery. But again, i sent the now one year old temporary passport, my new social security card, the new birth certificate, and a copy of my driver's license (you get them all the originals back when they send the passport). And happily, in less than two weeks, i received my new permanent passport with "F" for the gender. At first i anxiously scrutinized it to see whether there was any amendment, or some such, but no, everything was in perfect order.

Now i know that i'm long-winded in writing, and it doesn't make it sound simple, but in fact i believe that one could very probably do all this in much less than a year's time. i've given the steps i took, in the order i took them, and tried to give relevant background tips as well. It won't be easy for everyone i'm sure, but in this case i was able to get a permanent passport without a notarized letter from a surgeon stating that i had completed irreversible sex reassignment surgery. True, i know that having the orchiectomy very early on helped immensely with the documentation changes and its process. Also, i carefully thought out what i believed would be that best process, and i always gave more documentation and proof than needed if at all possible. But hey, i thought it was about time for it to be acknowledged that i'm female, and i wanted to be as prepared as possible. You probably will not do things exactly as i've described...i think that's good...do what works best in your particular case and individual life. And good luck!

From a reader in May 2009 who got the gender marker changed without surgery:

I wanted to share with others the success I had at getting my passport changed. I'm a FTM, but have not had any surgery, just hormones. I have cancer, so even top surgery might not be an option for me. I have had a legal name change. I filled out all of the passport paperwork completely and perfectly, but purposefully didn't include a letter. I got a call from a very nice woman from the processing office asking me to send in the letter from my surgeon. I acted as if I didn't know to include it and got her name and ID# to send it directly to her. I wrote the attached letter and my endocrinologist signed it without a problem. It implies, but does not state that I've had surgery. So it's not the absolute truth, but it's not a lie either. She isn't a surgeon, the letter was not notarized and the signature wasn't even original--my letter was copied onto to her letterhead. The letterhead itself even says something about "primary care." I got my permanent passport back with the big "M" about a week later.

I'm writing not to boast, but to give hope to those who haven't or can't have surgery that there's a chance they can get their passport changed. I don't know if my processor was unusually lax, or maybe the Obama administration has decided there are more important things to worry about. I'd also gotten lucky with my driver's license. My state has contracted with private companies to supplement some of the DMV work, so I went there. When the clerk reviewed my name change I nonchalantly said, "It's basically a gender change," and he changed it to male without a problem. I haven't been so lucky with my birth certificate or social security--I'm from Texas and don't have any money for a lawyer. But who really cares as long as my two important photo id's say "male"!


Passports for Australian citizens

Extracts from the ministerially-written regulations of the Australian Passports Office, courtesy of Zoe Brain at http://aebrain.blogspot.com/


Passports for UK citizens

Below are some key resources: