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Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Baby Paperwork: Getting a US Passport

Getting a US Passport was the most bizarre of the paperwork steps that we went through with Gretchen, it involved a jalopy, a man sitting on a tree stump and a photograph for the baby books. This time around I was better prepared. With photo composition guide in hand, I went to one of the many Kodak locations in the city and had passport photos taken of Alex. The poor Kodak employee took about 30 pictures with her camera and even then I had to send back the first developed photos because Alex's head was too big in the shot. If you have the pictures done for you, double check their work. Ask for a ruler, be sure to measure to the millimeter, because you don't want to have to go to the embassy for this appointment twice.

The embassy refers to this process as "Reporting a Birth Abroad" and it includes several steps: receiving a CRBA (Consular Report of Birth Abroad aka foreign born birth certificate), receiving a US Passport and - in a separate appointment - getting a social security number. The CRBA and the Passport can be done at the same appointment, so that's a bonus.

Before you go to the embassy:

On the day of your appointment bring with you (taken from the US Embassy website):
  • The child’s birth certificate.
  • Proof of citizenship of the U.S. citizen parent(s). Your current U.S. passport is the most frequently used form of proof. Your U.S. birth certificate or naturalization certificate is also acceptable.
  • Parents’ marriage certificate, if applicable.
  • Proof that you were in the United States prior to the birth of the child (tax returns, pay stubs, utility bills will suffice. We brought W2 forms, one for each of our jobs in the US, and that was all we needed)
  • Completed application for consular birth abroad
  • Completed application for U.S. Passport
  • Passport photograph
  • US$205 (or equivalent cash in AR pesos depending on the daily exchange rate), payable in cash or credit card. US$80 for the passport book, US$25 for the processing fee, US$100 for the registration of birth abroad.
Both parents needed to be present, as did the baby. As we entered the embassy, it was a quick reminder that the US is not as baby-friendly as Argentina. No liquids (including milk/formula), no special line for infants or expecting mothers, no cell phones or electronics. As American citizens we can bypass the huge line for visas and go right in, but that still includes a metal detector, passing another guard, entering a separate building, passing another guard and then taking a number and waiting our turn. This waiting took over an hour and 20 minutes, even with an appointment.

We approached the window that called our number, the agent collected and reviewed each and every one of the documents above. Once finished, we sat back down and waited for the cashier line to call us up (they call each person by name). Then we sat down and waited for another window to call our name. By this time, the entire embassy had cleared out and we were one of only two families still waiting. We were called up to the final window for a short interview, when that was complete we needed to sign the two forms we brought in front of the agent.

Now comes the part where the US Embassy page was a bit confusing. In order to have the certificate and passport delivered to you, you need to prepay for a DHL envelope. There is only one DHL location that works with the embassy on this, located at Avda. Cabildo 1209. Tell them that you need to purchase a guia for the US embassy, it should cost AR$70. This gives you a tracking number and receipt, but the actual envelop stays at DHL (the deliver it to the embassy themselves). Ours was delivered 11 working days later, and anyone at home could receive the delivery.

Our happy little American. USA! USA!
So now we are the parents of a full-fledged American citizen! And he is officially grown out of his 3 months clothes to top it all off - he is, truly, an American.

Friday, November 15, 2013

Baby Paperwork: DNI (Documento Nacional de Identidad)

Now that we have our Partida de Nacimiento (official Argentine Birth Certificate) we are ready to apply for our son's DNI.

This process is remarkably easier than it was back in 2011, maybe the whole "Nuevo DNI" campaign is really making a difference! Many of the "Comunas" have services that allow you to pick up the Partida and then go directly to a different desk and apply for the DNI. Our particular location (Comuna 11) did not have that feature, but the good news is that you can apply for the baby's DNI at any Centro de Documentacion Rapido location (for a list, click here: http://www.nuevodni.gov.ar/centros.htm) or at any shopping center in Capital. The greatest part is that there is no appointment needed - you just need to apply for the DNI within 40 days of receiving the Partida.

Only one parent needs to go accompany the baby for this little tramite, a nice change from many of our other baby paperwork appointments. Alex and I went a few days after getting the Partida, and we were in and out in under 30 minutes.

If you're adorable and have a new DNI, raise your hand!
Bring with you:

  • The original Partida de Nacimiento
  • The accompanying parent's DNI or Passport
  • The baby
  • AR$35

That's it. We needed to take a number and wait our turn, which only took a minute or two. The agent confirmed a few details, had me double check the information she typed up about Alex (name, address, etc) and then took his picture and digitally recorded his thumbprints.  These last two items are the hardest for a little baby, but the agent was patient, nice and helpful and had clearly dealt with newborns before. 

We left with a receipt of payment and the all-too-familiar form that you give to the delivery guy when he brings the DNI to your house (Jon and I just renewed our DNIs so we have quite a collection of these forms at home). Anyone can receive the DNI when it's delivered, so long as they show an ID and have the form. The DNI is promised to be delivered within 15 days - it was delivered to us within that timeframe - so we are happy campers! One last difference, Alex's DNI is good until his 8th birthday, his sister's is only good until she turns 5. 

We can only hope that Alex's hair stays this awesome until his DNI needs to be renewed. Until then, mom will have a bit of fun combing it after bathtime. What a precious little guy!!

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Baby Paperwork: Getting an Argentine Birth Certificate

After giving birth to Gretchen in 2011, I considered myself a bit of an expert on registering a baby's birth in Argentina.  Low and behold, everything has changed in the last 2 years.

Now that we have our precious little boy, we need to go through the process all over again, and for that I need to re-learn the system. At least the order has remained the same, and the fact that the whole process is a domino effect, one step needs to be completed before you can begin the next step.

Here is a breakdown of the steps:

  1. Register for the baby's official Argentine birth certificate: Partida de Nacimiento
  2. Apply for the baby's Documento Nacional de Identidad (aka their DNI)
  3. Apply for the baby's Argentine Passport
  4. Register a "birth abroad" with the US Embassy; this step now combines the certificate of birth abroad (official US birth certificate), application for US passport and application for a social security number
  5. Have a permiso de viajar made for the new little one (this step is not required by law, but it allows each parent to travel with the child out of the country. A really good idea in case a emergency happens at home or while on vacation and parents need to travel separately with the baby.  Without this paper, both parents must be present to take the child out of Argentina - and here are stories of immigration agents that have refused travel even when both parents are present if you don't have the permiso.)
On to the Partida de Nacimiento (aka Official Argentine Birth Certificate).

In the hospital the doctor, midwife or attending nurse writes us a birth certificate that has all of the details of the birth along with a footprint and thumbprint from the baby. You are given a copy of this document, called the Partida de Nacimiento, and the original is sent to a central location for your hospital. Our hospital is located in Palermo, but Alex's birth certificate was sent to a building called "Comuna 11" way out in Villa del Parque. The hospital will give you information on how to obtain an appointment to get the official version of the birth certificate, there is a phone number to call or you can request an appointment online. Once you have your appointment, you need to bring the following items on the day:
  • DNI of the Mother and Father, and a photocopy of each
  • Original marriage license (with apostille seal) of parents (if married) along with a photocopy.
  • Passports of Mother and Father
  • Copy of the birth certificate document from the hospital
With these documents, the appointment was simple.  We went in at the allotted time, sat down with an employee and filled out a questionnaire (asking about education level, place of birth).  This process was easy and the employees were quite friendly (as opposed to the last time we had this pleasure...) but it would be a difficult appointment to complete if you did not have at least a basic understanding of Spanish.

Once the information was collected, they asked one parent to sign a document and then shuffled us to a different desk to sign the partida de nacimiento. The same person needs to sign both places, though it doesn't matter which parent signs.  We were given a slip of paper telling us to come back in 48 hours to pick up the completed partida, and sent on our way.  Only one person needs to return to pick up the completed document, and when I went to retrieve it I was in and out the door in under 5 minutes.

I am unclear as to if the baby needs to come with you or if both parents need to be present at the first appointment. All three of us went just to be sure.

One great perk about this new system is that the birth certificate has the baby's DNI number posted right on the back, so with the partida you can get the ball rolling elsewhere. You still have to apply for an actual DNI, but at least you have the number for things like adding the child to health care plans or purchasing plane tickets for Christmas travel :) And I'll save the DNI process for another post. 

Here is a picture of our little guy, complete with a birth certificate all his own! Precious boy!

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Estancia La Porteña

The Big House at La Porteña
My mom and dad came to Argentina for their 6th and 3rd trip (respectively) to meet their new grandson. We wanted to show them a different part of the country without traveling too far (since our son doesn't have his documents yet...) so we decided on an estancia.  We've been to a few estancias in the past, but we wanted to try a new one, preferably a place that had more options for children. A few people had recommended La Porteña so I checked it out on Trip Advisor, and all of the reviews were raving. They also boasted an option to stay in one of their three houses, the Big House, the Small House and the Polo House - which has an apartment with two rooms, which sounded great for our family of four.

I sent the online booking form in English and a nice woman named Catalina responded in English as well. We booked a room for my parents in the Big House, and the Polo House apartment for us. When we arrived on Friday morning, the forecast called for rain and the weather was colder than normal for a weekend in late October. Catalina told me that we had been moved into the Big House (an upgrade free of charge) since the Polo House would be difficult to keep warm and we could be closer to my parents. Though this was a nice thought in theory, it also meant that all four of us were sleeping in the same room - a difficult venture considering my light-sleeping husband and our 5-week-old baby. I'm pretty sure that in the end, it was a better option for the staff as much (or more than) for us.

The estancia has beautiful grounds, lots of space, lots of animals and nice walking paths around the property. We arrived around noon on Friday, got settled in our rooms and met in a common area for what they refer to as a Welcoming Reception. There was wine, water and some snacks to choose from, along with hot empanadas, which were great after the ~1 hour 45 minute drive.

After the reception was over, you could choose to go horseback riding or just wander around the estancia. The day we arrived the weather was threatening rain so Catalina offered that we feed the animals before the rain came. We took a basket of bread to the horses, pigs, goat and sheep, though I'm convinced that as much bread went to feed Gretchen as the animals. Catalina was great, she helped Gretchen feed the horses and then when the rain started she shared that her two boys (ages 2 and 4) have a fantastic toy room that Gretchen could use during our stay.

Similar to many other estancias, La Porteña offers a dia del campo option for people that want to experience the estancia for the day without spending the night. This was never more obvious than at La Porteña where they had dia del campo visitors each of the three days that we were there. This is a great option for people on a tight schedule, but I felt like it forced us into an awkward schedule for people staying overnight. Each day before and after the dia del campo was very laid back and we could wander around the grounds, but since the very small staff was busy with the impending visitors and their own personal affairs, we felt kind of aimless during these times. We asked for a tour of the estancia grounds and were told that they were ready for this at any point - yet it took asking repeatedly for two days before we could get someone to show us around. They were so relaxed that we almost felt overlooked. Additionally, each afternoon had the same multi-hour lunch schedule: welcome reception, asado lunch, folk guitar singer and dance demonstration ending with the gaucho show. A great afternoon once, but we didn't need to repeat this experience to the letter on Saturday. No disrespect to the staff, the food was good and the singer/gaucho (Pablo, who is picture above) was great, but we would have preferred to take a hike or something else on the second day. Also, there is a great town nearby, San Antonio de Areco that we visited on Saturday morning, but we were told that they would wait for us to return for lunch, which meant that our food sat out on the table for a few hours (salads, vegetables, etc) since they didn't want to hold up the other folks visiting for the day. All this to say that it was not as accommodating as the other estancias we've been to in the past.

Once we finally went on a tour of the grounds, it was great! We could walk the trails and appreciate the history of the place.  There are trees from each continent in the world, many of them well over 150 years old.  Like this spruce from Lebanon in the background of the picture below.  This is the tree on the Lebanese flag yet it has been made virtually extinct in the country of it's birth. This was was enormous, beautiful and very old.

The original entrance to the estancia was used in a movie starring Antonio Banderas, Imagining Argentina, and is impressive with the large trees and the beautiful canopy:

 And after we knew what paths to take, we went walking on our own around.  Some of us got to ride...

 La Porteña is a beautiful location, it is very traditional and was named a national monument back in 1999, so it legally must stay true to its history. The weekend stay there was a mixed bag, the food ranged from mediocre (breakfast) to quite good (the asado) and the dinners were OK. All beverages were included in the cost of your stay, which was preferable to sorting out how many waters, cokes and glasses of wine everyone drank at the end of the weekend. The accommodations left a bit to be desired; the beds were nice and the rooms spacious, but the showers were laughable (we all skipped at least one shower, the water pressure was so bad) and the bathrooms in desperate need of renovation.

The staff was extremely nice and well-intentioned, but I felt like the stay could have been much better if there was more of a process for those staying overnight. Give us information about the town (how to get there, when the shops close, a recommendation for shopping or lunch...), find out what we are looking to get out of the weekend, and provide a general time table for what they offer (when is the tour, when can you ride horses, when are the animals fed, etc).  For the cost per person, I'm pretty sure we will not be back.

That's not to say we had a bad time, it was really fun and a clear window into traditional life in the 1700s. It was a nice way to spend time together as a family, and we were never crowded or bothered by anyone. The little ones liked it too, though Gretchen's favorite part was playing with the other children's toys that Catalina offered us. Playing with someone else's stuff is exhausting!