I stressed out about getting Darwin’s passport for months before he was even born. To me, the process of getting a passport is arduous and time-consuming, but there was nothing I could do ahead of time and attempt to cut down this process since, you know, you can’t really get a passport for someone who doesn’t exist. To make things even more difficult on myself, I had already purchased my return flight to Bishkek, giving myself a six-week deadline if he had been born on his due date. Since he came a bit late, I had about 3 1/2 weeks instead.
But the stress was unnecessary; yesterday we drove into the city and picked up his freshly minted passport. The whole process of obtaining his passport was relatively painless, but relied on the cooperation of several parties. Luckily, everything fell into place before our scheduled international travel.
Obtaining the passport itself was super easy because we made an appointment at a regional passport center, where it only takes three days to get the passport once you submit the documents. The biggest obstacles were figuring out what to do about his birth certificate and social security number, both of which take at least six weeks to obtain (in Pennsylvania at least) under the best conditions. Since the little man didn’t leave us with enough time for that (well, I guess my return flight didn’t either), we had to expedite those.
But, it turns out, newborns don’t need a social security number to apply for a passport. You just have to put “000-00-0000″ on the application. That solves that.
As for his birth certificate, my midwife warned me that certificates from home births usually take longer to process than hospital births (in Pennsylvania, I’m not sure about other states), but the woman at the Department of Vital Records office who specifically deals with home births was quite kind to make sure that she processed Darwin’s birth certificate as soon as she received his information, meaning we had his birth certificate less than two weeks after he was born.
After that, we just had to make an appointment at a regional passport agency, and take the completed application, proof of international travel, birth certificate, and our IDs to the appointment.
Oh yeah, and his passport picture. We took it ourselves, with Darwin laying on a white sheet on a bed, and printed out a couple wallet-sized photos at a local pharmacy that we cut down to 2×2 inches. His head looks gigantic in the photo, but the agency accepted it without any problems. The agency in Philadelphia had a couple shops advertising passport photo services nearby, so I would guess that other regional agencies have the same. Judging by how many little babies were there to get passports (lots!), I would assume that those shops know how to take a good newborn passport photo.
Other than that, the most important thing is that both parents are there to sign the application in front of the agent who’s collecting their paperwork.
Three days later, we picked up his passport and our little man is ready to go global.