Thursday, December 8, 2011

Fly, Baby, Fly!

How to get your baby to fly? You need to get her a passport. And to get her a passport, you need to get her a citizenship.

It was exactly one year ago, when we had a bit of drama with our daughter's passport.  So, I though I would tell you about all the snags there are in getting a citizenship and passport to you baby, when she is born abroad.

1. Do not give birth without the birth certificate
We didn't know that, when you give birth to a child, you must also prove that you have born yourself. So, when our daughter was born in Wiesbaden, it wasn't enough that I had my passport with me to prove my identity, but I was supposed to have my birth certificate with me as well. And Herr Welle's (baby's father's). And our marriage certificate.

The lady handling all the paper work in the hospital was certainly not happy with us. First of all, I didn't have German insurance card (not my fault, but more about that in a later post). And then we didn't have any of these certificates with us. On the day we were leaving the hospital, Herr Welle spent quite a while on the phone trying to get these papers. There were two snags: none of the Finnish registry offices thought it was their job to help us, as we lived abroad and didn't 'belong' to any of them. And we wanted the papers in English (well, German would have been the first choice, but much too difficult).

We finally convinced the lady that the papers were on their way and she let us leave. But this meant that after the certificates arrived, we had to make an extra visit to the office where babies are registered. But finally we had a certificate to prove our baby was born (well, plural 'certificates' would be more appropriate, because you get several documents for different purposes).

On our way home from the hospital

2. Be ready to travel because of a stamp
One could think that as both Germany and Finland belong to European Union, things would be relatively easy to sort between these two countries. But we couldn't just send the German birth certificate to Finland. We needed a certain stamp, called Apostille stamp, to the baby's birth certificate, so that Finnish officers would believe the document was real and original.

OK, we would get the stamp. But even if the listing we found on internet said otherwise, the closest stamp was in Darmstadt. This meant that Herr Welle had to make a nice road trip (about 100km, 60 miles) to the city to get the stamp. Finally, the stamped document was sent to Finland.

 3. Wait for the officers to choose who should look at the papers
Normally, there wouldn't be any rush in getting the Finnish citizenship and the social security number when you live in Germany, but you need that information before you can apply for a passport. And you need a passport quite urgently, if you have planned the christening of your baby to be held in Finland before she is two months old. Fortunately, they promised to call us from the registry office as soon as our baby was officially Finnish, so that we wouldn't have to wait for the notification to arrive by post.

4. Try to get your baby to keep a strate face
While you wait for all this paper work to go forward, you can get a bit of extra excitement by taking your baby for passport photo.

The rules for passport photo are quite strict:

  • your eyes must be open, 
  • your mouth must be shut,
  • your expression should be neutral,
  • you should look straight to the camera so that both of your ears are shown, and 
  • the background should be smooth and neutral.

This is difficult even for an adult, so try to get a passport photo of a three-weeks-old baby... Fortunately, the officials are not so strict when it is a baby's photo. In her passport photo, our daughter has eyes open and both of her ears are showing. But also her mouth is open, her expression is surprised, and there are a lot of shadows in the cloth on the background... I later thought that it would had been easier to lay the baby on her back and take the photo from above.

5. Be ready to travel with the baby because of the passport
When you apply for a passport, the person who it is for must be present, even if she is a newborn baby. So, I couldn't send Herr Welle for another road trip, but the baby had to present in the consulate.

There is a Finnish consulate quite close here, in Frankfurt. But it is a honorary consulate, so they do not handle any of the important stuff, like passports. The real consulate is in Hamburg, but the distance there is more than 500km (310 miles). So, the closest one is actually in Luxembourg, only about 200km (130 miles) from Wiesbaden. Great that you can pass the border without a passport!

As we were in a hurry, we needed to get to the consulate as soon as our daughter's information was registered in the Finnish system. Conveniently, Herr Welle spent that week in Korea, so I packed my six-week-old daughter to the car and we drove there just the two of us.

This trip we made exactly one year ago. Now the memories are smoothened a bit, but on that day I swore I would never laugh at this.

There were quite a lot of roadworks going on, so the drive took us about four hours. And as the consulate is only open for a couple of hours before noon, we really needed to get there in time (I wasn't willing to drive there again the next day). Fortunately, the baby was so young that she slept the whole drive there. I found the right place quite easily, but the parking lot, where I had planned to park my car in, was full and I didn't have time to wait to get in. After a small search I found a place to park at the railway station. I unfolded the buggy (that took some time, as I hadn't yet had much practice) and ran to the office.

I took the elevator up to the third floor, but the door didn't open and I couldn't get out on the right floor. So, I went back down, took only the basket and the baby with me and ran upstairs. It was five minutes before the closing time when I stormed in. The paper work was quickly done, but I was a bit disappointed, that the officer didn't even take a look at the baby to check that the photo matched. Fortunately, the officer promised that we wouldn't need to drive back to Luxembourg to get the passport when it had arrived, but they would send it to us.

Before driving back home, I needed to feed the baby and change her diaper. Looking back, I don't know why I didn't breast feed her in the car, even thought there were people passing by. But I took her to the toilets at the railway station. There were a lot of stairs but no elevator. Just as I was mid-way down the stairs, my phone rang and it was Herr Welle calling. I just angrily replied "I'm in no mood for talking" and hang up.

Luxembourg Railway Station

As I was in the toilet feeding the baby, I heard noises outside. It turned out, that someone was being resuscitated inside the men's toilet. When we left the toilet, there were a lot of paramedics and police officers there in the toilet area, but none of them helped me and the buggy upstairs.

As I was walking back to the car, I checked my phone and noticed a SMS. Herr Welle wrote that they had phoned him from the consulate, because I had left my own passport there. I could go and get it (they would let me in even though they weren't officially open) or they could send it to us with our daughter's passport. I decided to pick it up, as I use it as an ID in Germany.

After our second visit to the consulate, I took this picture,
even though I didn't know I would use it one year later in my blog!

After another visit to the consulate and up to the third floor, I quickly ate something at McDonald's and then we drove back home. When we got home, we were both so tired that we fell asleep at 8, even though my daughter had a habit of crying her colic until midnight. As a result of this trip, I got myself a breast infection. And we still had other thrilling moments to come when waiting for the passport to arrive.

But I guess this is enough for one post. I'll tell you about this thrill in a later post. Stay tuned! :)


Wiffy said...

This was really helpful. I had no idea I needed to have a birth certificate to get a birth certificate for a baby. Thanks!

Frau Welle said...

Nice to be of help! :)