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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.

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