Registering a citizen born abroad

american citizen

There are all sorts of complications that come with an international relationship. Many of them are fun – I love having an “exotic” husband. He uses words and language that I find intriguing, and we are both continually discovering aspects of each other’s lives that are amusing or strange to each other. It’s enjoyable for both of us as we get to explore our different countries, our different perspectives from an outside angle thanks to each other. We are global citizens and it’s something that I’m excited to pass on to Harley as she will come from both backgrounds, a true citizen of the world. However, the admin involved isn’t too pleasant.

I already wrote about the mission we had just to get her birth certificate resolved. But that was just on the South African side. With our plan this year to move to the States, I wanted to get her American documentation sorted out. But it’s not as easy as it might sound – like so many nationalities, passing your citizenship on through the blood isn’t a simple matter for Americans. Well, it was in the end, but it wasn’t easy in the middle.

You see, in order to pass my citizenship on to Harley, I had to prove that I had lived in the States for five years, of which two had to be from the age of 14. Easy enough. Well, except for the fact that we moved overseas when I was 15 and I finished High School in Holland. Then I moved back to the States and had a gap year in New York, but I didn’t have any pay stubs or transcripts from that period. I did, however, go on to attend acting conservatory for a term, so that transcript helped. I’d also travelled back and forth from the Netherlands to the States for every holiday while I was studying. So, the dates all added up.

Unfortunately, I had to put in every single date I was back in the States. Every. Single. One. It was a mission that involved going back through old passports and checking stamps, asking for transcripts from my old schools, checking ancient email addresses for flight confirmations. It was definitely a labor of love just to fill in that form. My mom also helped, providing me with an affidavit confirming that I lived with her and stayed with her when I’d visit. I made my appointment with the American consulate and was really unsure what to expect.

They were so very nice there. I took Harley in the baby carrier and everyone was so warm and supportive. The ladies working behind the counter were relaxed and funny and I handed over all my papers and then paid my $100 to register Harley as a citizen born abroad. Then I waited for what seemed like ages. Thankfully, I could chat to another guy who was waiting there, but it really did seem to take forever. Finally, I was called into an interview room where I had to tell my life story. Yup, starting from birth all the way through until now, I gave the story of where I lived, what I did and how I went from place to place. The lady was very nice and asked such unpredictable questions that didn’t really seem related – how did I meet my husband, how did I afford flights back to the States when I was a student, what did my parents do, etc. I think it was more a thing to prove I wasn’t lying – someone might prepare for questions about why they travelled for certain dates or what airline or something, but it’s hard to prepare the random details of your life unless you’re telling the truth.

Eventually, the woman came forward and told me that Harley had been granted citizenship, that I just needed to go pay another $105 to request her passport and I’d basically be done. There was a funny moment, though, as I waited to get my documents back and last chat with the ladies. I stood there, rocking Harley to sleep in the carrier, looking out at the beautiful garden with the flagpole and American flag. I’m not generally patriotic – it’s not that I don’t like my country or anything, but I’m just not a flag waver or a chest pounder with this stuff. But in that moment, I was so proud, so happy that Harley would be an American. It felt important somehow, meaningful. She will be American and South African, and it made me so happy, like we are providing for her future or something.

All in, I was at the embassy for two hours. It was basically my whole morning, but that’s also because I had a full page of dates with entries and exits from the States, and they literally added up every single day. Still, it was so worthwhile – Harley will be an American citizen, and we are one step closer to emigrating to the States. Now I just need to pick up her documents and apply for Dean’s Green Card. Here’s hoping that process is as straight forward as this one was.


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