Americans who have a child abroad are in for a lot of paperwork. True, the child can never be president, but that is the least of your worries once you have your child safely in your arms and start to consider how you plan on getting your new baby back home.
We had our daughter in Beijing, China. Having researched the process in advance we felt certain we could tackle the mountain of paperwork and embassy interviews without much hassle. Ladies and Gentlemen, schedule some lag time because no government office anywhere in the world operates with urgency.
For starters, the hospital had to assign a birth certificate in Chinese to us. The first hurdle here was that they wanted us to abbreviate or shorten her name because it didn’t fit in the tiny space allotted for Chinese character names. We refused to change our daughters name to suit their paperwork needs. This resulted in a few long debates until eventually, the font was made smaller. This was a gracious honor given by hospital administration quite unwillingly. Once this holy piece of paper was ready we could go to the US embassy.
At the US embassy you need a lot of paperwork including proof of your own citizenship. Since both the father and I were US citizens it was easier for us than for an American woman in the consulate whose husband was Finnish. Her child was already six months old with no passport from the US embassy.
We met with a consulate officer who asked us very personal questions at rapid pace about our relationship, the birth of our daughter, and the pregnancy. We were asked to provide pictures proving we had produced the child on our own. We had to produce the baby and hold her up to the little glass window. We produced our own passports and had them eyeballed. In all, we were under the microscope for about half an hour (not counting wait time). We were granted citizenship for our daughter, and he read a short oath to her as she dozed in her car seat. The American with the Finnish husband looked on, jealously.
Two weeks later the passport arrived at the Embassy and we picked it up. Now back to the Chinese side.
We had ten days from the day of birth to get her a Chinese visa. Without the passport back yet, this was impossible. We went to the public security bureau and explained our position. They needed a stamped envelope from the embassy proving we had just picked up the passport. Luckily, this is common enough that we had it with us. We handed them the cash, passport and birth certificate and held our daughter up to the counter for them to eyeball. The officer nodded curtly (the lady behind the officer cooed and poked at our daughter’s belly playfully) and gave us a receipt. Ten days later we could pick up the passport with the visa in it. Only then could we leave the country with our daughter in tow.
One final hurdle, adding our daughter to our flight booking now that we had a passport number to supply. Many flights limit the number of babies on board because there are only so many exit rows to accommodate the built-in bassinet to hold the child once at cruising altitude. We were lucky to still be able to add her. One solid piece of advise would be to advise the airline in advance of your intent to bring a child and explain the lag in providing a passport number.
In short, our daughter is an American citizen born abroad. She is not Chinese and has no citizenship there. They do not recognize her in any way other than to affirm that she was indeed born in Beijing. There are other countries where children can have duel citizenship, but many require the child to choose a primary country once they reach 18. Keep in mind that if the child doesn’t choose they are beholden to that other country’s laws (including mandatory military service at a given age!).
Written by Lauren & Mike – Abandon the Cube Travel Blog
Ever really wanted to abandon the cubical and travel the world? Lauren and Mike are two travelers who did exactly that. Join them as they travel, mostly by ground transport and sea, across the globe at Abandon the Cube. Their thirst for adventure has taken them all over the globe and anywhere from managing a bar in Beijing to creepy night train to Bulgaria.