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Sunday, April 17, 2011

Legalizing Your Baby: US Passport

Today we successfully completed Step 2 in what I have dubbed the "Legalizing Your Baby" process. This step is perhaps the most important one for us because once it is complete, Gretchen will officially be a United States citizen.

Before you even think about starting the US Passport process, you first need to have a Certificado de Nacimiento. Once that is in order, let the passport application begin! To set the scene for our situation, Jon and I are both US citizens living in Argentina with work visas. Jon is a naturalized US citizen, but this was not addressed during our application process. So our daughter is eligible to be a US citizen because of us, but we need to apply for her citizenship status. Here is the step-by-step:

  1. Make an appointment to apply for a passport with the Embassy. Be sure to print out the appointment conversation and bring it with you to the Embassy.
  2. Go to the "reporting a birth abroad" section of the US Embassy website (and read it very carefully). This is where it is very important to read directions, and to have all of the documents listed on the website with you at your appointment.
  3. Both parents and the applying child need to attend the appointment. When you arrive at the Embassy there is a window to the left of the entrance - go straight to this window. Don't wait in the line of people applying for visas, it's generally a really long line.
  4. Be sure to also bring your US passports, without the passports you will not be admitted. (We found this out the hard way, my poor mom had to turn around and go home because she only had a drivers license.)
Our appointment was this past Friday, here is how it went.

We were admitted directly into the Embassy without waiting in line. After they took our electronics and liquids (keep this in mind if you have a formula-fed baby, no liquids are allowed inside the Embassy), we were told to proceed to window 15 inside the Embassy waiting room. We waited for 10 minutes and then were called up to window 15 - which is where they collected all of the paperwork listed on the US Embassy site referenced above. We then proceeded to the cashier window, paid our US$210 and waited for the next step.

Here is where our appointment took a ridiculous twist.
Original Photo
All of our paperwork was in order, however the passport photos we provided were too close up to Gretchen's face so we to have new photos taken. The agent collecting our paperwork said that she would start the application process, but we needed to bring in new photos before they could fully apply for her passport. She gave us the option of going to a photo shop and getting pictures done OR there is a "guy in the park" that takes photos and knows the requirements. This was great news! We could go to the guy in the park across the street and have pictures done in 15 minutes without needed to return to the Embassy another day. So we ventured across the street to find the Photo Guy. The Embassy guards gave us the directions to the Photo Guy: "he sits by the second big tree across the street", and this is exactly where we found him.

The Photo Guy photo
The Photo Guy is a very enterprising man that sits by the second big tree across the street from the US Embassy and takes pictures until 12:30pm Mon - Fri. When I approached him to take Gretchen's picture, he directed me to the backseat of an old beat up car that had a white sheet hanging in the back seat. Let me describe the state of this vehicle; there was at least an inch of dog hair in the car floor, it smelled of booze and sweat and the front passenger's seat had been replaced by a tree stump with a pillow on top. I held my infant daughter up against the white sheet while the Photo Guy sat on the tree stump and took her picture. The result is the lovely photo on your right. Then the Photo Guy went into the car parked in front of the photo lab car and developed the pictures.

That's right. My infant daughter's passport photo was taken in the back seat of a homeless man's car while she wore a bib that said "fabulous". Whatever works.

After we reentered the Embassy and turning in our Photo Guy photos, we waited for another 15 minutes for our consultation. We answered a few minutes of questions, signed a few documents and Gretchen's passport was ready for processing. We then proceeded to the DHL line in the next building over to prepay for the delivery of the passport. This was very similar to my experience with renewing Jon's US passport last July. The nice part this time around was that we were allowed to cut ahead of the DHL line because we had a baby with us - score! We were given a receipt that we need to show when the passport is delivered and we were on our way.

So now we wait. Just like with a passport renewal, we were told that Gretchen's passport would be delivered to us in 10 working days. All things considered, we were at the Embassy for a total of 1 hour and 45 minutes which includes our make-shift photo shoot.

Next up, Step 3: getting an Argentine passport for our little portena.


    1. HAHAHAHAHAHA This is ridiculous. Seriously. Hilarious and painful at the same time. How on EARTH could that fuzzy pic be better for a passport??! Meanwhile my US passport is like 2" of just my face, super close up! :-) Poor little Gretchen. Obviously the photo guy is well connected somewhere in the embassy.

    2. Good thing Gretchen will not remember this. The story is great though. You'll have to return and take a picture of the "photo guy" and his studio.