Saturday, September 19, 2009

Making Gabriel a Gringo

Here's my special archive for the the whole process that I went through to get US Citizenship conferred on my Tico-born baby Gabriel... in order to travel to the States we needed to go through this (or we could have applied for a visa and had him travel on his Tico passport, but that would have been a useless expense since he qualifies for US citizenship anyway). In the end, we were able to obtain Gabriel's equivalent of a US birth certificate (called a Consular Report of Birth Abroad) and his U.S. Passport in a process that lasted a little more than one and a half months.

First of all, plan to spend two whole days at the U.S. Embassy in Pavas; you'll probably get out before noon on the first day but it's better not to have anything else you need to do those days.

Here are things I did before turning in my paperwork:
1) Filled out a DS-2029 form (printed from\
2) Provided an "official record of the child’s foreign birth" a Costa Rican birth certificate from the Registro Nacional de Costa Rica (there's one in Heredia city)
3) Provided "evidence of the parent(s)’ U.S. citizenship" with my own certified birth certificate, my current US Passport. However, since I was told incorrectly by phone that I needed to prove 5 years of physical presence in the U.S. (which I would have had to do if I were married) I also submitted high school transcripts and college transcripts. Another option would have been to get "proof of employment" letter or payment stubs from a long-term job in the States.
4) Since Julio and I are not married I did not have to provide "evidence of the parents’ marriage", but this might be pertinent to other friends who might be going through this same process soon! :-)
5) Provided "affidavits of parent's residence and physical presence in the United States" - I thought I had done this by including this info on the DS-2029 form, but it turned out I needed to do more (see below)!

I had the above documents and a few more on the day I turned in the paperwork at the US Embassy. They only accept documents through their Walk-In Service: Monday - Friday 8:00 am - 11:30 am but do not recommend coming in on Mondays as that's a high-traffic day. They went through them and strongly suggested I bring more supporting documents to the interview. The interview was scheduled for several weeks later in the early afternoon.

So here's a list of additional supporting documents brought to the interview (which Julio, Gabriel and I had to attend together):
**Since I am an "Unwed US Citizen Mother" it turned out that I only needed to prove 1 year of physical presence in the U.S. and that can be done using my passport (mine proves only 1 full year staying within the US borders since it was issued in 2003, but that's enough!)
**In item number 12 on the application form it requires you to: "List periods of physical presence in the U.S. Prior to the child's birth in exact detail... Vacation trips abroad, schooling in foreign countries, and any other brief absences cannot be counted as periods of physical presence in the U.S." So I had done that at home while Gabriel was asleep and I could type it out simply enough. Now here's the fun part: when I got to the embassy they required me to create an affadavit including me writing out all of my physical presence OUTSIDE the U.S. prior to Gabriel's birth!!!! I had to write that all out longhand with Gabriel fussing in one arm (took me about 40 minutes!) because he had been waiting a long time and was no longer patient or willing to be in the baby carrier. And because I was in the U.S. Citizen Services section (and not in the other waiting area where the Ticos wait for their visa appointments), no one offered to help me with my baby.
** Gabriel's Costa Rican passport
** Julio's Costa Rican ID card (cédula)
** Julio's Costa Rican passport
** They wanted to see any other proof that I was pregnant with this baby and that he is really mine... so I also provided photocopies of:
-The "Expediente de Parto" document from my midwife Rebecca
-The official letter from my midwife Rebecca stating that she had seen me throughout my pregnancy and attended the birth.
- Ultrasound photos and corresponding health records from the 2 visits we had with Dr. Adam Paer during pregnancy (even carried a copy of the CD with photos)
- Snapshots of me throughout my pregnancy, one during labor, and a couple of the first photos of me and Julio with Gabriel on his birth day.
- Copies of blood and urine tests I had taken during pregnancy (which if a medical official were to review them would indicate I was pregnant)
- My Carné Perinatal and Tarjeta de Citas from my 3 visits to the ebais (health clinic) before Gabriel was born and the 2 visits I made after he was born. (After that I told them we were seeing a private pediatrician so they didn't need to schedule further appointments for us.)

Some related online resources:

Acquiring Birth Cerificate Abroad (CRBA)

VIP treatment!

One thing I love(d) about being pregnant and now a mother in Costa Rica is the VIP treatment! Not only do we get to go in the "preferential" line at the bank and other offices, but EVERYONE is so considerate and helpful. There is a true respect for the hard work that is carrying and raising a baby. If I am alone I get even more help. For example, the parking lot guard at the farmer's market will help me load my bags in the car, people will give up a seat to us on the bus, or attend to me first at the meat counter at the grocery store.

The very best VIP experience I had was back in June on a Saturday when we needed to withdraw money from one bank and deposit to another. The only banks that are open on Saturdays are in the mall, so that's where we went. We were frustrated when we saw that there was a line of over 50 people at the first bank - not only were people packed inside, they were waiting out the door and down the hall. However, there were no babies and no small children outside, so I went to the guard and asked to go in. There were no babies or small children inside either; I was called up to the cashier immediately... and (shockingly, amazingly to my gringa mind) no one groaned or complained at all - rather they smiled at Gabriel and continued to wait patiently. I repeated this experience in the other bank.

The second best VIP experience I had was at Immigration... more on that later!