Your mission, if you choose to accept it: Initiate US Citizenship for Logan Stravaigin Berg Gibbons.
First step, Google. Find the US Embassy nearest you is in Stockholm, a four and a half hour train ride or six and a half hour drive away from your home in Malmö. Resign yourself to a long trip with a newborn. Make the soonest available appointment, which is a couple weeks away.
Next step: Follow every instruction on the US Embassy website. There are three forms: One to declare the birth, one to get a social security number, and one to get the passport. Follow all the instructions on these forms, including the ones that tell you there are other forms you need to fill out, which don’t actually exist and turn out to be other names for the forms you’re currently filling out. Also, do you fill in eye and hair color for a newborn? Can you put “unknown?”
Go through the checklist provided for all the things you need. Some of these items you will understand and will be easy: Proof of US Citizenship (passport), ID, marriage certificate (originals only!), baby’s birth certificate . . . oh, wait, what? Sweden doesn’t do birth certificates! Discover you need a “personbevis” or extract from the Swedish population registry. OK, how do you get that? First, you get something in the mail (in Swedish) telling you “Yay, you had a baby, please send this in with his name! Tack!” Then you send in the form, but make sure you spell his name wrong so that you have to go to the Skatteverket (Swedish tax office) and embarrass yourself by explaining this and having to fill out more forms to get it changed. Then you can request a personbevis, but make sure it says mother and father and not legal guardian or you will be shot! Oh, and make sure you’re in a hurry to get all this done because you have to travel.
What else does the US Embassy site tell you it needs?
Proof of physical presence in the United States.
What? I’m a US Citizen. Does it matter if I lived there? According to the website it does. So how do I prove I lived there: High school transcripts, college transcripts, utility bills . . . because everyone packs those when moving overseas. Actually, luckily, I did have my college transcripts in case they were needed for job hunting. But John didn’t bring anything. Such a lack of forethought! If you hunt around on other Embassy websites though, you find that only one parent needs to prove physical presence. Phew!
But wait, there’s more. Have you been previously married? If so, you must present an original, certified divorce decree. How this in any way influences the citizenship of the child of two US Citizens I cannot even imagine. Also, don’t be shocked, but John did not bring this with him. Well, all you need to do to get one of these is to go over to the vital records office in Madison, Wisconsin and you can have one in two hours. . . wait, don’t live within 4000 miles of Madison? That’s OK, you can order one by mail or fax! Oh, but you need that in a hurry . . . how is two to three weeks for you? Well, maybe someone could go pick it up for you in Madison. Nope. You need an immediate family member. I’m sure John’s 92 year old father would be happy to fly over from California for him. So that leaves a lawyer. Do we even want to know how much that’s going to cost?
Right, is it time to panic? Let’s call the Embassy and find out! There’s this number on the website . . . let’s chill on hold for 30 minutes or so . . . and, oh, not this number. You need to call this number between 1:00 and 2:00 on Tuesday, Wednesday, or Thursday only. Right, tomorrow is Thursday. The appointment for the US Embassy is Monday (next available about two weeks after that). Set alarm for 1:00 tomorrow. Sit on hold. Talk to someone who says that you absolutely have to have this original divorce decree. No question. Non-negotiable. But, there’s hope yet! It can be mailed after the appointment directly to the Embassy, at which point they’ll process your application. Phew! Just in case though, have a copy emailed by our lawyer to show that you at least have something.
So, after a six hour car ride that was actually nine hours because Newborn Baby (Time to eat! Time to eat again! Hey, I pooped! Pee! I haven’t had a cuddle lately . . . time to eat!) you finally make it to Stockholm, cozy up in your hotel for as good a night’s sleep as you get with a newborn, then show up at the Embassy at 9:15, a solid 15 minutes early for your appointment and . . . wait outside in the rain for security for twenty minutes.
Bonus: Strollers get priority, so we get to cut in line. John misheard this as “stoners get priority” and apparently spent the entire afternoon wondering what the guy actually said, or maybe wondering what his beard says about him.
Also, we both amusingly raised our arms when the security guy told us to turn around so he could check the bottom of our shoes. (John tried not to panic when they took his phone.)
So, while you wait in line inside the Embassy, brace yourself for the arguments. This won’t do. What the woman told you is wrong. You’ll need these six other forms and more proof of this and that, and really you think that photo of your newborn is acceptable? Can you see his ears? Are his eyes open? Mouth closed? No smiling! Is that background white enough? (Just in case, bring two sets of photos.)
So of course, the staff is friendly, impressed with our paperwork, tells us we didn’t even need half of it, and doesn’t bat an eye at the copy of the divorce decree.
So, mission accomplished? Well see if that passport shows up in the mail!