When you are an American expat living abroad and decide to have a baby in your host country, it's vital to report the birth as early as possible, so that your baby legally acquires his American nationality. Since we try to travel to the United States every two years and especially right after the birth of our children, this forces us to do the procedure during the baby's first year, so that the baby has a passport to travel with.
This is Rémy right after we finished the application process and once back in the car.
He had nursed, he was happy and sleepy
and we carefully placed his mini American flag in his chubby little hand.
It was adorable!!
My little Americano!
When you report a U.S. birth abroad, it is actually a three-fold process. All three applications must be done at the same time.
- passport application
- report U.S. birth abroad application
- Social Security number application
The process is well explained on the American embassy webpage: Report Birth Abroad, but the actual putting all the paperwork together is my own personal nightmare. And that is an understatement. So, I'm not going to bore you with all the ins and outs of this process, but for those who are interested, here's just a few things I learned this time around.
French birth certificates: Now this is true wherever your baby is born, but just make sure you check and double check the name at birth, especially because you will be asked to submit this document. I was too excited and fatigued when Rémy was born and didn't pay attention to the names on the birth certificate, and the hospital made a mistake, which then had to be rectified. It took more than three months! The upside? Going to pick up his birth certificate at the town hall in Versailles. So beautiful! If you look carefully, you'll see Elena in the bottom right of the photo!
Chronopost envelopes: You'll notice in the below photo that there are three Chronopost envelopes because we were also renewing passports for Alex and Gabriela. Each application has a rigorous list of items that must be submitted. One of the items is a Chronopost envelope that is used to return the passport to you. Since there were three applications, I did the math and bought three envelopes. Easy, right? Yes, but not cheap. I paid 70€ (about $91) for all three envelopes!!! I had tried to contact the Embassy, but no luck talking to a live person. So rather than be sent back home for missing items, I bought three envelopes!!! But as I learned the day of our appointment, if you submit several applications at the same time for members of the same family, then you only need one envelope! Gah!!!! Luckily, I went back to the post office the following day and I was kindly reimbursed for the extra two envelopes.
Passport photos: You can actually do these yourself. The specs are given on the American Embassy website: Photo Examples. But since we ran out of printer ink the day before the appointment AND I was pretty nervous about taking the photos myself, I took them to a photographer experienced in U.S. passport photos. 8€ (about $10) for 2 passport photos, so 24€ (about $32) for all three children. Gah!!! More money out of my pocket... But at least this way I could rest easy knowing they wouldn't send me home because the photos were not taken the right way. (And even then, I was still nervous!) Oh, yeah, if you need to find a passport photographer, most opticians have a photography section and do passport photos. What's the relationship? I have no idea, but that's the way it is! Go figure. There are also photo booths at the Embassy, but I believe they are only for emergency passports. See true story below!
How much it costs: It's expensive to have an international family! But it's the price to pay if you want to travel, take your children and family to your country and have them spend time with your family! Traveling to the USA means a full year of scrimping and saving for our family, but I will also be the very first to tell you that it is well worth every bit of sacrifice! The joys of being reunited as a family far surpass any inconveniences and what felt like sacrifices during the year, are quickly forgotten. For what it's worth, to report a birth abroad with its three-fold process costs $205. We also had two passport renewals so we ended up paying $415.
Parking: Save yourself the trouble of finding parking in the city and park in underground parking. We parked at the Place de la Concorde and then just had to cross the street to get to the Embassy. Another 8€ (about $10) for less than 2 hours of parking = expensive. Not having to find a parking place in Paris = priceless.
True story: When Alex, our firstborn, was born, we were living in the United States. We planned a trip to France to present Alex to our French side of the family when he was only 6 weeks old. It was a fatiguing, but wonderful trip! However, when we were broading the plane to return to the U.S., the airport officials asked us for his passport. Sam and I were baffled! The idea that a baby needed a passport had never occured to us! He was so tiny, and after all, he was ours! Oh, naïveté! We were not allowed to board the plane and had to apply for an emergency passport at the American Embassy in Paris. I sat in a photo booth holding 2-month-old Alex in front of me with my head covered with a blanket because I was not allowed to appear in the photo! (If you'll look carefully, you'll see my hand and my blanket covered head in the photo!!!) We flew back home a few days later once we had his passport. Phew! But we still don't understand how we were ever able to leave the United States in the first place with a baby who didn't have a passport! Life is such a teacher!
True, all this is a bit of an administrative headache, but it is such a joy to be handed a tiny American flag honoring the official recognition of your child as an American citizen. Plus, the passport comes in pretty handy for that trip to the U.S. to present our new baby to our American side of the family! California, here we come!