16.8.11

Expat Nesting

My maternity leave started a week ago. Although I know that I should be kicking back, relaxing and enjoying the last quiet moments of my life (according to friends anyway), it is hard to go from 240 km/h to idle after so many years. Last week I 'worked' a full week from home supporting my backfill and taking care of various odds and ends and I plan to continue at least part time the next couple of weeks. I am ready to let go and am grateful to have a colleague I have known for nearly 10 years from my former company backfilling me while I am out.

Another friend asked me last night if I am nesting yet. In the traditional sense, that hasn't hit me too hard so far. The Saffa and I did a more small steps approach to preparing for the baby over a longer stretch of time so we could savor the experience rather than be overwhelmed. We have clothing, an awesome pram (I can't believe the Saffa has me calling it a pram now), almost everything for the hospital bag assembled, the nursery is painted, critical furniture is bought, birthing class is finished, midwife has been found, hospital selected and so on. We have narrowed down the Pea's potential names to two options, one we chose two weeks after I found out I was pregnant and the other that seems to fit Pea's pre-birth 'personality' a little better - final decision will be after birth. Mom's ticket is booked to come over for 10 days in October. All in all quite a bit has come together and I thought we were ready.

This weekend the Saffa was on his annual camping trip in the UK with his two older children so I had some time. And google. And therein lies the problem. What started as a simple query to find out how we can get Pea an American passport for our trip to the US over Christmas and New Year has resulted in my entrapment in a tangled web of internet information and misinformation around Pea's options for nationality, passports, birth certificates and extra documents needed because both parents are expats, divorced, and (horrors) not married (yet). Most worrying of all, it looks like Pea can never run for US president! Ok, I joke on the last point but nevertheless I seem to have opened a nasty can of worms.

My hormones conspired to increase my anxiety by prompting me then to look into Pea's health insurance options, daycare options, how to apply for my and Pea's benefits and soon enough, the spin out was complete. Well done on my part!

So, a taste of the fun that has just begun:

As a short background, we have potentially four options for Pea's nationality (US, British, German and South African). I wanted Pea to have American citizenship no matter what, no question, as there are various situations I could imagine where Pea would want/or need it. I also thought it would be a good idea for Pea to have dual citizenship and after discussion with the Saffa, who had no strong preference to go for South African citizenship, we decided an EU citizenship would be most beneficial in providing additional options (so either German or British, preference British).

As mentioned, while having a little time on my hands this weekend, I decided to look into what is required to take care of the American citizenship. I went to our friendly Munich consulate webpage and found out that it is not a given that Pea will be an American citizen. Huh?! Brief panic attack.

After more extensive researching of all the relevant links on the State Department's website, it seems for our specific case we need:
  • Application for Consular Report of Birth
  • US Passport Application Form
  • US Social Security Application Form
  • German Birth Certificate
  • Both of Our Passports
  • Both of Our Divorce Decrees
  • Evidence I lived in the US
  • German Acknowledgement of Paternity (Vaterschaftsanerkennung)*
  • German Statement Regarding Custody (Sorgerechterklärung)*
Once I could boil down all the info and compare some anecdotes on the internet it doesn't seem to be too bad actually but it took awhile to get to that point. We are missing some of the Saffa's documentation so he now is on the mission to acquire them. The only stress there is how long some of it will take to gather. Some websites actually suggest bribes as the only means to get a copy of a South African birth certificate in the next year, for example!

I have no clue how to get the last two items so need to check into those more but they surface again in other places due to the way German law works around paternity rights and obligations for unmarried couples. (Sidenote, we plan to get married and it might seem easier just to do it before Pea is born but don't even get me started on what would be required in Germany for two expats, both previously married, to get a marriage license and certificate in Germany - no chance to make that happen before Pea is born).

The gathering of info and documents to get other documents is similar across the board for all the things Pea needs. Only way I can deal with this bureaucracy, the internet confusion and language challenges is by breaking it down step by step in a trusty excel spreadsheet. The Saffa's approach is to make phone calls. Easier and faster but I have been caught out in the past when I actually show up and the story has changed.

I feel like I can't relax until everything is clear and sorted. Is this a special version (expat style) of nesting instinct or just another bout of German and International bureaucracy anxiety attack?

We will get there step-by-step and hopefully are not way too late with anything!

* Bonuses for not being married, otherwise we would only need a marriage certificate.

5 comments:

heather in europe said...

'Tis a bout of German and International bureaucracy anxiety that is further heightened by dealing with multiple government requirements.

I went through a similar exercise trying to assemble my work paperwork in Germany for the UK government, so a triangle of requirements/documents from the US, DE and the UK.

'I need these DE bank statements stamped with a bank stamp and initialed.'
-We don't do that in Germany. (says the big Green DE bank)
'It's not for Germany, it's for the UK.'
-(huge German sigh) I don't see why they require it.
'I don't either but here is the binder of information in English (with a giant thump on the desk) of what I need, and here it is right here, highlighted.'
-Ach so. Alles in Ordnung. (stamp, stamp, stamp...)

Go with the Excel, it's just a matter of organizing it with German efficiency. ;-)

Mandi said...

I'll be curious to hear how everything works out with the citizenship for the baby. D and I aren't plannning to get married, but I've often wondered if that'll make it more bureaucratic and complicated if we decide to have children here. I guess there's the bonus that D is German, but still seems like a pain in the ass every time I get the courage to start doing some google research. ;) I love your Excel approach -- seems the most logical!

C said...

Getting dual citizenship for my daughter was a snap and I think that despite the lengthy list of paperwork you need, you won't have much of a problem. At least, not with the US citizenship -- if you're born to an American, you're American is the way that it was explained to me at the consulate in Frankfurt.

The Vaterschaftserkennung is, if I remember correctly, something to be done at the hospital after the birth. **Note: as a foreigner, you are required to take your birth certificate with you to the hospital (just fyi -- I didn't have mine so our kid had no birth cert for a few days, meaning she didn't legally exist in Germany).

And though I don't know you personally, I'm curious about the question of adding German citizenship to your list of possible citizenships.... laws here are strict so it's not automatic that the kid gets German citizenship unless one of the parents is...? By the way, if you want help from a real person instead of google, feel free to send me an email :)

click clack gorilla said...

Oh jesus. I'm pregnant now and have yet to delve into this worm hole. I'm hoping it's not quite as hard since my husband is a German citizen, but you never do know with German bureocrats do you?

Megan said...

Oooh how I love the paperwork and craziness with making anything official in Germany! I just finally did my permanent residence visa earlier this year. I stayed on my work visa forever just because it was easier than switching over to one based on my marriage. Making phone calls has merit - I learned long ago that what you need really depends on who is handling your case (for German stuff not US citizenship). There's a lot of arbitrary decision making going on. I've got to get cracking on making my kiddo official with the US consulate...frankly I haven't wanted to deal with it all.

As two expats with a non-citizen child, do you qualify for elterngeld, kindergeld etc? Have you checked? You're still within the deadline to apply, just in case.