|Happy Retirement, dear Charlotte.|
Someone really should write a manual on how to navigate the logistics of having a baby abroad, and then transporting said baby across foreign borders in less than 3 weeks.
The moment I went into labor in South Africa, Adam started the paperwork. In order to take our newborn back to Congo we needed a South African birth certificate, American Consular Report of Birth Abroad, passport, plane ticket and visa. In that order. The one thing you're not given and do not need is a Social Security number. So we skipped it.
The day after Charlotte was born, Adam headed to a Cape Town administrative office, which he still refers to as the "DMV on steroids." There he smooth talked some poor lady into giving him a hand-written South African birth certificate instead of waiting weeks for a proper one. Meanwhile back at the hospital, I was having an equally bizarre experience and getting my laser boob treatments. Remember that one?
The next day instead of taking our newborn home, we took her straight to the American embassy where I kid you not, they had a velvet rope around a red-carpeted section just for Americans. They obviously knew we were coming.
The diplomats here were the first folks to gush over our baby and we swore with our right hands that we were her parents. And then spent the next hour writing down every country we'd ever visited, listing all entry and exit dates, and trying to prove we're good American citizens. A new mother's dream.
|Hospital to Embassy. Otherwise known as shakily driving your first-born in a foreign country on the "wrong" side of the road.|
A little while later we were given her Consular Report of Birth Abroad with which we could apply for her passport. Now. Talk to anyone who's ever tried to take a passport photo of a baby that is essentially still a fetus, and they'll tell you it's nearly impossible. And so we begged the kind man at the camera store to break federal law and Photoshop our newborn's passport pic until it met all the regulations. (Eyes looking directly at the camera, head unsupported, solid white background, no shadows, etc.)
He still told us it might not pass the passport photo test because "American officials are the worst."
|There are about 50 more attempts where these came from.|
Fortunately when applying for a passport outside the US, the State Department gets it back to you toute de suite. They probably assume you're a study abroad student, lost your passport at a bar, and it's an extreme emergency. Never mind you're only 3 days old.
So exactly one week after Charlotte was born, we had a quickie passport from the United States. (We would find out 17 months later, this is not the case when applying for a newborn's passport after they're born within the United States. Thanks Annaïs.)
Interesting fact for cutting red tape: Did you know you don't need a Social Security number to get a passport? Just enter all zeros, 000-00-0000.
Even though we technically had 18 years to apply for Charlotte's SSN, we decided it was time for her to pull her own American weight and give us the tax break. So last week we spent the better part of the morning at the Social Security Administration chatting with a kind agent on whom I forced a Mama Congo business card.
(Hello and thank you if you're reading, to the nice worker who pretended to be interested in this blog.)
|Ready to give her passport to the Social Security man in the window.|
Voila. Only 3 1/2 years later we have an official American baby. And the tax break to prove it.
Did you have your baby abroad? Is this red tape adventure similar to your experience?
Update: After going through all this, we learned as Americans abroad, we don't actually get a tax benefit for our children. C'est la expat vie.