We are a family of four, and between us we have 6 passports, soon to be 7. I will, once my husband gets his US citizenship, be the only member of our foursome with one lone passport. With two kids under the age of 16 that means we have to renew both of their 2 passports every 5 years, which can be a hassle to say the least.
F, my son, was born outside the US, in London, and had both his US and UK passports by the time he was 7 weeks old. L, my daughter, was born inside the US, and had both of her passports by a similar age.
The process for getting these passports was not dissimilar, except the UK ones can all be done by post, and the US ones have to be done in person, with both parents present (or a notarized letter from the absent parent), and this continues every time you renew it until they are 16.
(As a side note, for anyone who is a dual citizen with the US, if you own a US passport you must enter and leave the US on your US passport, and they can deny you entry if you try to enter on another passport. I am unsure of how this works in other countries, but I do know my kids can enter the UK on their US passports with no issues. I also asked once how they could tell that the almost 5 year old in front of them was the same as the 2 week old in the picture and they said they look at ears and they ask them their name. I am skeptical of the ears comment!)
So, with my son turning 5 this year, and a trip to the UK and Spain last month, we had to renew his passports. The UK one, as always, was easy, filled out some forms, sent in some photos, and had it back within a week. The US one? Well, like everything else with our government, wasn’t so simple.
I took my kids to the post office to renew his passport, after waiting almost a month for the appointment.
I had everything laid out last night; the application, his UK birth certificate, a copy* of his Consular Notification Of Birth Abroad, Pictures, and a notarized letter from Lee saying he gave permission even though he couldn’t be there.
We get there. We wait. The kids play, they get yelled at by a big postal worker who didn’t want them sitting on what appeared to be a bench but was apparently not a bench and subsequently sent my daughter straight to my arms and my son clinging to my legs, so I was feeling slightly beaten down at this point. And then we got called up.
It was fine at first, she checked all our papers, said everything was okay, until she got to his UK birth certificate. And then, well, this happened.
Her: So, this is what? A foreign birth certificate?
Me: Yes, yes it is. He was born in England. And there is his passport, and my passport, and you can see that it is all it asked for.
Her (looking it over suspiciously): But, this is a foreign birth certificate? From the UK? Is it translated?
At this point I take a moment to collect my thoughts. I remind myself, several times in a fast mantra, that she has the power and we NEED this passport.
Me: Well. No. No it isn’t translated because, you know, it is from England. Where they speak English.
Her: Hm. Okay. Well, they won’t take it. I need the official Consular Notification of Birth Abroad to prove his citizenship.
Blink. Blink. Blinkblinkblinkblink.
Me: Um, isn’t his current US passport proof of citizenship? I mean, they gave him that one. And it doesn’t say on the application that you need anything other than that.
Her: I know, but you need to look at the list like it is a new passport, where it does say that. Do you have his green card?
Me: Nope. No green card. Because, well, he is a citizen. As you can see from his passport.
This went on, and on. She agreed to hold our envelope ‘open’ for us, so I could come home and get the official Consular Notification of Birth Abroad. And then I went to pay and they don’t take credit cards. Fortunately for a mere $1.15 more I was able to do a money order because, really, who carries checks around with them now? Not me.
We made it home, and under much duress went back, she took our form, I thanked her profusely, walked out and wondered how the US government can find the stupidest employees in the entire world to work in every post office I visit.
So, here are my travel tips in regards to the US passports system, renewing a minors passport and its bureaucracy:
- Always check, double check and triple check what you need. And bring more than you think, because apparently a child passport renewal should be treated exactly like a new passport, even though they have already received a passport once before. The logic baffles me as well.
- If one parent can’t be there make sure you download the appropriate form to be notarized from the web site. They won’t take a general letter, it has to be a specific form.
- Most post offices that do passport applications also take the photos. But you can also get them at Costco and most major drugstores.
- Make sure you have both parents drivers licenses photocopied, front and back
- Book an appointment (if necessary, in our state it is but I don’t know if this varies) in plenty of time. It took us a month to get our appointment and by that time we had to expedite his passport to ensure we received it in time
- Bring cash or money order
- Take a deep breath, prepare for the worst, bite your tongue because they have the power, and think of the adventures to come!
Have you had any crazy passport experiences?