My place of birth has begun to bother me more than ever with the systematic rise in discrimination of those with US birth places, clearly obvious for all to see the moment that you open your passport, by banks and other financial institutions due to FATCA. Yes, that horrible component of your personal data that, along with your name and date of birth, allows you to be systematically categorised and cataloged. For many, where you were born also happens to be where you grew up and where you most identify with. Many are born, live and die in the same city their entire lives and come from families that go back generations in the same city as well. Some of my French friends have even told me that an unwritten rule in Paris is that you need to be no less than the 5th generation to be born and raised in the city to be a real “Parisian”.
But what about those of us who, for whatever reason, would prefer our place of birth to not be listed, or for the country name or three digit code (like USA) not to be used? Many are born in countries which they would prefer not to be shown in their passports, and others are born in areas where the legal definition of where they were born is unclear. Those born in Jerusalem, for example, are listed usually solely as being from “Jerusalem“, without a country code in both US and Canadian passports. Similar approaches to Hong Kong are used due to the different country codes after the transfer from British to Chinese rule.
Normally, a country lists you as being born in a city if you were born in the issuing country, unless you were born abroad. The US does the opposite by listing the state and country, but they accept requests for those born abroad to have only a city listed and not the country (they strangely do not accept requests from those born in the US though to only list the city or city with the state). The UK, Germany and several others list your city of birth, even if born abroad. I have a friend from Germany born in “New York”, and it says only “New York” in his passport. Another from India has “Mumbai” in his UK passport. If you are Canadian you may request Passport Canada to enter only a city name without a signifying country code, which might work to deflect unwanted “US Person” status if you were born in a city somewhere vaguely English-sounding that has a duplicate elsewhere (For example there is both a Boston, UK and a Boston,US…). You can even request them to leave the Place of Birth totally blank, though I imagine that that would bring too much unwanted attention.
This is all well and good, but what if your place of birth does not signify where you actually came from, like several on the Canadian border who were born in US hospitals? An alternative exists that several countries use called “Place of Origin” or maybe even just simply “Registered Domicile”. Swiss passports do not list your place of birth at all. If you are Swiss but born abroad, say in Los Angeles, your passport would list your Place of Origin as being Bern if your parents are from there. The idea is to establish where you or your family ancestrally hail from. Japanese passports list simply your “Registered Domicile”, ie where you are living at the time that your passport was issued. My EU passport also lists this information, but unfortunately only in addition to the place of birth.
Two years ago I couldn’t have cared less about where I was born and what was listed in my passport. Now, however, I will be honest with the fact that I am more and more uncomfortable showing my personal details in my passport, especially each time that I open a bank account. I am not a dishonest person – If someone asks if I have US citizenship I will not lie, I just don’t like the unwanted attention that having a US birthplace is already drawing when I open an account. I would love for my passport to just list my registered domicile or place of origin. I find both options to be less discriminatory and arbitrary, and, aside from being born in the US or avoiding military service somewhere like Singapore, there aren’t many instances where “Place of Birth” is really a relevant piece of information except to make us easy for bureaucrats to understand. I am envious of those of you based in Canada, since I have heard that the banks there have absolutely no information on where you were born or even what your citizenship status is. This would not be possible at a European bank – They need to know everything about you almost and you normally can only open a bank account with a passport or national identity card. Driving Licences also aren’t ID in the EU, so no use trying to use that as an ID. Even if you could, they are vastly inferior to the Nexus cards that Canadians can use since EU driving licences list your place of birth as well! My UK licence once said “United States”, while the example UK one above says Wales, so you know that that is not the place of residence at the time it was issued…
Am I alone in obsessing over where I was born and wishing that there were esoteric ways to hide it? I wish my passport just listed where I am domiciled, yet this goes against the general Orwellian trend that governments worldwide are following. I hate that even after somebody renounces US citizenship, there it is, your birthplace, bright and clear for everyone to see and begging to be explained, making me feel like less of a citizen of my own country than those fortunate enough to be born in one of the other 192 countries in the world