Thursday, December 06, 2007

He's an American boy

Today we finally got to the US Embassy to register the birth of an American child. Our child, Buddy. After the calamity of trying to find our marriage papers which we needed (apparently) and requesting a last minute copy of my high school transcripts to prove I'd been in the US for a period of time, we were pretty convinced that we'd be missing something essential. Or that somehow the US Embassy records would be linked the University of Tennessee's traffic citation section and that Buddy couldn't get his passport until I'd paid off my brother's campus parking tickets. And that was before we left the house.

We were only a little bit late leaving the house, but we didn't reckon on the fact that we'd have to queue up in the rain (stupid really) or that all the sidewalks and the road in front of the embassy were completely torn up as part of a "beautification" effort. The US Embassy is one of if not the ugliest buildings in that area of London, and it takes more than a new forecourt and little bit of window cleaning to beautify that thing. If I weren't afraid that it might be construed as a terrorist threat, I'd say that only a stick of dynamite could beautify that building. But anyway, why lie? They're not beautifying - they're bolstering the security cordon, which does need doing.

Another couple nipped ahead of us in the queue, so we were a couple of minutes late for our appointment, otherwise we'd have been there on the stroke of eleven.

Now, when I say appointment, I assume that means we'll meet up at the appointed time (or slightly later since I'm punctuality challenged) and we'll discuss stuff and then we'll part having accomplished something.

When the Federal Gummint says appointment, they mean that's the earliest that you should show up to wait in their well appointed waiting room.

I digress:
A few words on the waiting room. It's oddly transatlantic. The snack machine is stocked with oreos and Hershey bars and pretzels and Reese's Cups (American snacks not usually found in British vending machines and Scottish shortbread and flapjacks (oaty bars).

The signs say "Please place your rubbish in the bins" and "Please place your trash in the bin".

There were a few toys in the corner and posters suggesting that we register to vote and a lot of families with small babies who looked they'd already been waiting a very long time. A very, very long time. And if I thought that long waits for officialdom were bad when I had sudoku and a novel to keep me occupied - well, with a little baby they're that much worse.

We also waited a long time and I had rehearsed my explanation of why I didn't have the exact dates of my various entries and exits from the US. Like my one evening trip over the border to Ciudad Juarez. I can't recall the exact date, but the buckets of Corona were mas barato.

Anyway, I don't know exactly what checks they do - but they didn't want my high school transcripts (though it was interesting to see how my memories of high school matched up with my permanent record) Nor did they want the sordid tale of the one night in Mexico and the buckets of Corona and goodness knows what else. But they took the papers away and deemed that I qualified as sufficiently American to pass my rights along to Buddy. We swore or affirmed some stuff and paid a lot of money - almost $200 for the paperwork including first passport and £15 for the new passport and social security card to be sent to Master Buddy Vol-in-Law. And then they told us that Buddy was indeed American - and with this finding he had, in fact, been American all along.

We were warned - strongly - by the Consular official not to lose this very important piece of paper. And we tried, very hard, to give him a look like "Who us? Do we look like the kind of people who would lose such a thing?"

And one day, son you could be President

Or maybe not. I had heard that if you got this retroactive citizenship certificate, that meant that your child wouldn't be denied the opportunity to sit behind the desk at the Oval Office just because that American was foolish enough to be born on foreign soil. On our explanatory paperwork that accompanies the certificate of a Consular Report of a Birth Abroad that proves that Buddy was always American is this nifty little paragraph:

Running for President or for Congress
Legal scholars disagree whether someone born overseas to a US parent or parents is considered a "natural born Citizen" one of the Constitutional requirements to become President of the United States. The courts have never made any definitive ruling on this section of the Constitution. One US Senator introduced a bill in October 2004, however, to clarify what this term actually means. If this bill becomes law, your child would definitively be considered a "natural born Citizen" of the US and therefore could run for the White House. At ay rate, as an American citizen your child can indeed run for Congress, even though born overseas,....

and then the kicker

...but he/she would still have to meet the Constitutional residency and age requirements to run for the House or Senate.

So no matter how well your little tot can press the flesh and work the room and raise money and no matter how bright you think their political future ought to be they still have to wait til they're way past kindergarten.

But I guess the point is, it's never actually been tested by the courts. Anyway, I wouldn't want Buddy to be President. I wouldn't want those pesky reporters looking into Mommy's colorful past. And besides, who would want to vote for a guy who said:

My fellow Americans, I end tonight where it all began for me- I still believe in a place called Tooting.

first passport pics
Buddy's first passport pictures


Vol-in-Law said...

Embassy "beautification" - yeah, right. Beaufortification, more like!

Sam said...

Is your young'un gonna be exclusively straight-up 'Murican, or will he be a UK citizen at the same time? I find the whole citizenship issue perplexing.

Vol-in-Law said...

He'll be a dual national, British and American.

Vol Abroad said...

He'll be a dual national. British laws are complicated - you don't get citizenship just from being born here. But Buddy is well entitled.

I should have also added that even when he gets his US passport, he still won't be able to go anywhere because he has to leave and enter on his UK passport. Which we've been meaning to get....

Anonymous said...

Get that boys passport situation cleared up pronto. I may want to kidnap him and bring him back to the land of the free and the brave.
(Remember who saved England during WWII.) the American GM

PS How did he get such a great passport picture. He doesn't look like a criminal or terrorist at all--he looks like a red, white and blue American poster child.

Vol-in-Law said...

"he looks like a red, white and blue American poster child"

That's what I said - the red is actually orange stripes, but it came out as red & white stripes in the photo, appropriately.

Vol Abroad said...

it's orange dammit - the darn photographers messed with the color balance.

Furrow said...

If he's going to run for an American office someday, you'd better watch what kind of accent he develops. Oh, wait. Nevermind. Arnold broke down that barrier. Still, a Southern accent seems to work best, for some reason.

Sam said...

Speaking of accents, my circle of buddies have been having fun with the following:

It's only for American types, but of my Texas brethren, I'm proud to say I'm the only one that came out "Southern". It's a silly quiz but fun all the same.

andrea said...

I am dreading this experience after our baby is born next month (I hate the US embassy here, it really is the ugliest building in London) - but I know we won't be able to return to the US without least the UK one should be a lot easier, I think we will go for that one first!

I love the passport photos!

Vol Abroad said...

Andrea - you can book your appointment now online. I thought you had to wait til after the baby was born, but you don't. If you book now, your baby will be about two months old by the time you actually get an appointment - if you go for the earliest appt possible. How's that for backlog?

Snappy snaps for the photos. Cost me 20 quid to get both American and Brit size.

missyb64 said...

I thought Tooting was the beginning of the end... but nevertheless I believe in it too! Good enough for Buddy... he's a real E. Tennessee boy if he believes in Tooting... just tell him not to fall for the old "pull my finger" thing. It's a dirty trick!