Saturday, September 28, 2013

Passport Baby: Round 2!

Noah's passport picture

Side Note

Wow. I am so behind in posts. How I think about, and plan, what I will write about is by the pictures I take. I don't think I take "too" many pictures--but it's probably a few hundred per week. Since I haven't really updated on common-life stuff since before Noah was born, and since we did add a new life to our family--I have THOUSANDS of pictures to go through. There are so many pictures that I want to share from the past seven weeks that I'm feeling overwhelmed. Should I just skip all those fun memories and start with a fresh slate, or should I try to catch-up? That would be a lot of editing and uploading time. A lot of posts to share as well. Is it worth it? For my own memory's sake, probably yes. But realistically, I wonder if it will happen.

Painful Passport Process

Willow's passport process was one of the most excruciating times in my life. Aside from labor, anyway.

You can read about the passport nightmares I had with Willow here and here.

There were 3 factors that made getting Willow's passport unusually difficult.

  1. Adam was in China. Meaning, I was the one on the newborn schedule, trying to figure everything out, not getting enough rest, getting up super-early to travel downtown everyday, and dealing with all the complications and detours. Matters grew worse when the consent we needed from Adam to apply for her passport was notarized incorrectly, leading to several extra trips to the passport agency downtown and a bunch of trouble for Adam in China.
  2. I had no idea what I was doing. Never having done this before, I was doing my best by researching the fastest routes online, and spending hours on the phone (bureaucracies like to put you on hold for undetermined amounts of time). We had to figure everything out one step at a time.
  3. It didn't matter what I would learn from agencies over the phone or online, once I was in their offices I usually found out ADDITIONAL information that made it impossible to apply for documents that day. I would have to turn around, go back home, get the additional info they requested, and try again the next day. This lead to lots of money wasted on gas, parking, food, and expedited service fees.

Fortunately, I wrote about everything that happened, including all my mistakes, on this blog. Which became a valuable resources to us the second time around. Furthermore, Adam didn't go to China without me. He stayed and helped with the whole process. Since the process of acquiring Noah's social security card, birth certificate, passport, and visa was so much 'easier' this time around--he thinks I am lying about how difficult it was to get Willow's paperwork completed!

Here is a list...I guess of mistakes we avoided and praises for details we had no control over but that the Lord took care of on our behalf.

Noah's Document Journey

  1. We made sure that the hospital checked the box on Noah's birth certificate application that said that we would apply for the social security card ourselves. This had been an issue with Willow, since SS thought we were trying to apply for two cards, so that we could sell one on the black market.
  2. Noah's birth certificate was ready to pick-up in five business days, instead of the 10 we were told it would take. Adam picked the certificate up with no problems, and didn't make the mistake I made with Willow's (having them stamp the certificate with an extra stamp that I thought China required).
  3. We only had to wait a maximum of 2 hours at the social security office--that feels like forever with an infant less than two weeks old, but at least it was doable. We also knew to bring a certified medical form from his pediatrician that stated our baby was in fact Noah Johnson.
  4. When we applied for his social security card, we had all the correct documents. But we were told it would take 4 weeks to receive Noah's social security card. At this point, that was very bad news, since we were going to be flying to China in 4 weeks time. But, by some sort of miracle, we recieved his social security card in the mail only one short week later!
  5. It is very difficult to take a passport picture of infant that's two weeks old. You need his eyes to be open, for his face to be neutral, for the proportions to be exact, for the lighting to be perfect, for the background to be was the most stressful photo shoot. I was not a happy person. But the picture that we ended up capturing, editing, and getting printed at Wal-Mart was a success.
  6. The next step was to apply for Noah's passport. By looking at what went wrong with applying for Willow's passport, we made sure we had EVERYTHING we would possibly need at the federal passport agency. There was hardly a wait on the day that we went, and we were not too late for our appointment (although we cut it pretty darn close--I had to go in with Noah while Adam looked for parking in downtown Chicago). We applied for the passport within a few minutes, there were no preliminary issues with the application, the passport picture we presented was satisfactory, and we received no phone call later that week telling us that there were problems with our papers (like we had last time).
  7.  While we were downtown, Adam and I walked with Noah (minus a stroller or baby carrier, because we forgot it) to another federal office; the Index Department. We actually passed it up accidentally, and had to backtrack a bit. But finally, in the sweltering heat, we made it to the Index Department, which can certify the authenticity of a birth certificate. I had a bad experience at this office two years ago. Anyway, it all worked out within five minutes, and we had the document that we needed in order to get Noah's birth certificated authenticated at the Chinese consulate.
  8. The day that Adam went to pick up Noah's birth certificate (it was a four day wait because of Labor Day weekend), was a success. The passport was ready when they said it would be, and Adam's name was called at the correct time. Unlike the time when I had to wait four hours with a hungry newborn to pick-up Willow's passport.
  9.  Adam tried to apply for Noah's visa the same day that he picked up Noah's passport. But the line was too long, so he decided to go early the next day. The one disappointing thing about that trip was he discovered that same-day service had recently discontinued. So Adam had to return again the following morning to pick-up Noah's visa. At the same time, he also applied for Noah's birth certificate to get authenticated. Between the Visa application and the authentication of the certificate, we needed to turn in 15 separate documents to the Chinese Consulate. It was a huge praise that we had everything that was required, and didn't forget a single document. Especially since the Consulate's website hasn't been updated in awhile and doesn't include everything you need to bring; this is when our past experiences were a huge help. We knew what we needed because of all the trouble we went through with Willow.

So, just like *snap of the fingers*, we had everything Noah needed to travel to China. He had his birth certificate (which had been notarized, certified, and authenticated), his social security card, his passport, and his visa--all within 3 weeks! This took twice as long with Willow because of how timing worked out. It was especially good that it went so quickly because we had only 5 weeks to get all this stuff done.

I'm still in shock that it went so smoothly. I was expecting a few more road bumps along the way, since Willow's process was terrible. With Willow, I had to go to the courthouse twice, the passport agency five times, the consulate 3 times, and twice to the Index Department. It was so much easier this time around. PTL!

I can't believe that we got all this accomplished, plus lots of shopping, hair cuts, dentist appointments, doctor appointments, specialist appointments, birthday parties, last minute visiting, a few road trips...not to mention packing 14 pieces of luggage...all within 5 weeks!

What a whirlwind.
I guess that's life with us, Noah.

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