Friday, March 19, 2010

Passports and how to be a US Citizen

The "Medical Facility"

Ah, the logic of the US government.

When Angelina was born, we ordered her passport when she was about 6 weeks old and did a rush order because we were travelling in 3 weeks. Fortunately, no problems, it arrived and off to Switzerland we went.

It’s a good thing we had no such trip planned after Lenaïc was born.

When he was 11 weeks old we dutifully went to the passport office with his official, certified birth certificate from the State of Texas. Signed appropriate documents indicating we were his parents, paid our fee and sent it off.

Yesterday he received a letter. “The evidence you submitted is not acceptable for passport purposes for the reason below:
Your birth certificate does not indicate the medical facility where you were born, so you will need to submit a combination of additional documents to support your claim to United States citizenship.”

Huh? A birth certificate is not sufficient evidence???? What does physical building where the infant was born matter? For the record - the place of birth is listed as "Home" with our physical address, which is in, you know, the US.

And what amazes me, is what is accepted as additional documentation:

*Mother’s birth certificate (ok, this makes sense, although the mother need not be born in the US for the baby to be a citizen). But that’s not enough, I must ALSO send other documents:

• Church records – um, because church records are somehow considered legally valid proof of citizenship? Last I checked, you didn’t have to be a US citizen to be baptized in a US church

• Medical records created within the first year of birth showing your name, date, and place of birth – um, because you have to be a US citizen to receive medical care in the US? Last I checked, all you had to do was be able to pay to receive medical care. Not to mention such records rarely indicate place of birth.

• Immunization record that shows your name, date and place of birth – um, because you have to be a US citizen to receive immunizations? No. You just have to show up at the public health clinic and pay. We don’t ask your citizenship before giving you a shot.

But somehow, all these are all more acceptable than a BIRTH CERTIFICATE?!

Fortunately, we’re in no rush.

Fortunately I happen to have a certified copy of my birth certificate (done a few years ago, but they don’t indicate it has to be recent) because I wisely ordered a couple of extra when I needed it for our marriage. Otherwise, it can take months to receive by mail.

And fortunately we’re doing this now. Most Americans don’t apply for a passport until they’re an adult. I can’t imagine Lenaïc having to track down all that info in 20 years, when he’s lived in multiple places, has no idea whom his doctor was in his first year of life, and they don’t keep immunization records past 18.

Hopefully I can gather sufficient evidence, and I’ll throw in copies of both Frédéric’s and my passport (he’s a naturalized US citizen now) for good measure. But really, this is ridiculous. Homebirths may not be the norm in the US (as they are in The Netherlands), but they’re not that rare. And why should the building matter? He could have been born in a field, but as long as it’s US soil, esp. if he’s born to American parents (my place of birth is also listed on his birth certificate so my citizenship should be clear), he’s a citizen!

[Friends suggested I send a photo of me giving birth, with a picture of our house and a google earth map. Here we are about 12 hours after birth, in my bed, at home. In the US.]

In the interest of full disclosure, I did some searching as I vaguely remembered some story about birth certificate fraud. Sure enough there was. However, we're not in a border community, and my midwife is licensed by the state board and has not been involved in any fraud accusations.....


misschris said...

What a great picture!

In Monterrey when we did Charlotte's passport she never got issued a social security number because we didn't have her vaccination records on hand. It still makes no sense to me why the needed such a random document and now we have to try and do it all from here!! So frustrating!

Cherise said...

Vaccination records? That's crazy! Here the SSN application was submitted with the birth record, so it came within a week or so.

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