Tag Archive | report of birth abroad

The Final Trek – Consulate, Part 3

If you remember, two months ago we went to get Tova’s Report of Birth Abroad, and to request social security cards for both Shlomo and Tova.  We were told that Tova needed a passport, and that I needed to bring Shlomo’s birth certificate in, and since I was short ten shekels to have the Report of Birth Abroad delivered to our home, I decided to do both things at once, and come back.

That was two months ago, and today I have just come back from the consulate, having accomplished both of the above goals.  What happened in these past two months?

Well, first of all, we were told that the report of birth would be ready in a week or two.  Not willing to travel all the way to Jerusalem only to find out that it wasn’t ready, I called two and a half weeks after our appointment, thinking that enough time would have passed that they would definitely have the report of birth waiting for us.  The call didn’t go through.  So I called again, a different day.  On the third try, someone answered, told me that they couldn’t help me, and told me to email the consulate.  I went online, found the email address, and emailed.

Two days later, I got an email saying that it was ready, and that I could pick it up on a Tuesday or Friday, between the hours of 12 and 2pm.  Wow, good thing I emailed!  When I was last there, I was told I could come in any day, any time, to pick up the documents.  But apparently, they changed the rules.  Which kind of makes sense, given the fact that they changed the appointment-making system, too, annoyingly enough.  Now, you have to email them with date and time preferences, as well as all the forms and documents, and they get back to you with an appointment.  Very annoying.

This left us, three weeks after our appointment, in a difficult position of having to go ONLY on a Tuesday or Friday, and if we didn’t make it out early enough – missing the opportunity entirely.  Now, Tuesday does happen to be my day off, but because of that, there is always something that needs to happen that day.  A couple of times I wanted to go, but something came up last minute.  If it hadn’t been an only-Tuesday thing, Yitzchak would’ve gone a long time ago.  In fact, we happened to be in Jerusalem, about a month ago, for two Shabbats in a row – but the first one didn’t work out (don’t remember why), and on the second one, I got lost because I tried to take a faster bus, and then got there too late.  That was over a month ago, and the month that has passed since we have tried not to travel, simply because we have been forced to travel way too often, and we needed time at home.

Today, again, was a Tuesday, and I decided sometime last week that I was going to go today.  Of course, as luck would have it, Yitzchak ended up needing to take Shlomo into Be’er Sheva today.   I considered having Yitzchak go to the consulate instead of me, but dragging two kids by myself to gan, back, and dealing with them on my own until 5 or 6pm didn’t sound too great.  Plus, like I told Yitzchak, if I go, I don’t have to worry about what might happen to him.

We got onto the bus to Jerusalem, and Tova and I fell asleep.  We just missed the bus to the consulate, so I waited, took the “faster” bus, had the same thing happen, got off the “fast” bus and got on the right bus, and finally made it in.  The citizen services window was closed, so I went to the non-citizen, visa window.  Weird.  Then they took my cell phone, charger, camera, and USB device, x-rayed my back and checked it manually, and told me to leave the stroller by the door.

I went in, no numbers this time, and went up to the window to ask for my documents.  The guy at the window told me he’s not sure he can drop off the social security forms.  What do you mean, you can’t?  Nolan Klein said I can, and he’s the vice consul.  Look at the back of the slip, he wrote that I can, signed it, and stamped it!  But, of course, I didn’t say any of this, because the next thing that the window-guy said was, “When was this?”  I said, “A while ago,’ and he looked at the papers and said, “A long while ago.  I don’t think I can do it, but I have to ask my boss.”

In the end, he took the papers for the social security cards.  My passport, Shlomo’s passport, and Tova’s passport, as well as Shlomo’s birth certificate and Tova’s report of birth, were all photocopied.  Previously, they had photocopied both Yitzchak’s passport and mine, but this time they only took mine.  I double-checked that it was okay and would still go through, and they said it was.  So all we have to do now is pray.  Because it can take six months (this time I heard eight) to get the papers, I asked what would happen if we moved in the middle.  We don’t have any plans to move, but I asked just in case.  They gave me a paper with the email of the social security on it, and said that if we move, we need to update them.  Sigh.

At the consulate, there was one woman who needed her emergency passport for her flight tomorrow morning; and a mother and daughter who needed their emergency passports for their flight three hours from then (in other words, it took off three hours ago).  When I had finished my business, I asked the mother and daughter to hold Tova for a minute so that I could use the bathroom.  When I saw the huge wheelchair stall, I thought, “What a shame!  I could’ve brought her in with me!” until I remembered that I couldn’t, because the stroller had been parked at the gate.  Oh, well.

We got out of there, waited for a bus to the central station, just missed a bus back to Be’er Sheva, and then slept on the bus.  With a baby and a big bag, I didn’t feel like sharing a seat, because I knew I’d need both spots.  If Yitzchak had been with me, I wouldn’t have minded sharing, but whoever would have sat next to me wouldn’t have let me change diapers with the baby half on her and half on me, wouldn’t have liked my elbow or the baby’s feet taking up some of their personal space during a nursing session, wouldn’t have held the baby so that I could reach down and get stuff out of the bag at my feet, or given me what I needed from the bag without having to bend over double with a baby (if you share a seat, your bag goes on the floor; if you have two seats, your bag goes on the seat next to you, and if you have only one hand free, that’s a world of a difference), and wouldn’t have taken care of my bag so that I could hold Tova, or taken Tova so that I could have a break.  Sooo . . . since three and a half hours had passed since she had last nursed, I plopped the bag in the window seat, took out a cloth diaper, plopped myself and Tova in the aisle seat, and started nursing.  Yep.  The bus was nearly overstuffed, but anyone looking for a seat just glanced at us and moved on to look for something else.  In other words, it worked.*  And I don’t feel bad, either.  On the bus from Be’er Sheva, I had to share a seat.  The lady next to me was nice, but it was squishy, I had no space, Tova was bouncing all over, I couldn’t even put my bag by my feet for lack of space and lack of hands, and while it was cute for forty-five minutes, I don’t know how I would’ve passed an hour and forty-five minutes that way.  So, sorry guys, but I’m not sorry.

I would’ve gotten something to eat while I was in Jerusalem, but I was just going from bus to bus, and by the time I had half an hour (because I had just missed a bus), I had no energy to walk around, wait in line, find something, and then run back before the bus left.  I figured to give myself ten minutes to get to the bus stop, which would have left me with fifteen or twenty.  Chumus and crackers, or anything requiring two hands, was out of the question.  And finding something edible, fast, that only required one hand – too much work.

So, I have only had two cups of hot chocolate today and some water.  I’ve been up since six in the morning, and it’s now 7:15pm.  And I’m too tired to get up and figure out what to make now, even though I’m home.  Yitzchak went vegetable shopping (which means there’s nothing worth eating until he gets back), and pretty soon I have to leave for the school’s end-of-year party.  I hate parties, but I feel like I should be there for my students.

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*This would not have worked with a bottle, because maneuvering with a bottle is infinitely easier.  Also, when people see someone breastfeeding, they immediately think, “She can’t move easily,” but when you are bottle feeding, you are simply holding a bottle as well as a baby.  Therefore, I can’t see myself as having been able to pull this off if I were bottle-feeding.  Actually, I have a story to prove this point, but that’s for another post.  The point is, breastfeeding is terrifically convenient.

A Trip to the Consulate

Part of being an expat is deciding if you want your kids to be registered as citizens of your birth country.  Sometimes you want the tax benefits; sometimes you think that it is better for the kid in the future; and sometimes you think that it is worthwhile, or necessary, of the present.

We never really debated the subject; it was just kind of obvious that since Yitzchak and I are both American, and we have family in the States, that we would register our kids as American citizens.  When Shlomo was born, and we realized the expense involved (admittedly a pittance in comparison to expats who are not married to other expats, or who did not spend any time actually in America), we thought about just getting him a visa for his Israeli passport whenever we wanted to travel.  Not only did this turn out to be against the rules, it wasn’t even worthwhile financially.  We spent about a thousand shekels on getting him a Report of Birth Abroad and an American passport, and then we still had to get him an Israeli passport (because we were planning to travel).  Now, we had to register Tova.  Having no immediate travel plans, we pushed it off and pushed it off and finally decided to get it over and done with, for the sake of taxes.

Here is the story, for those who are interested in life in Israel and life as an American expat.

Part One: Making the Appointment

There is a U.S. Embassy in Tel Aviv, and there is a U.S. Consulate in Jerusalem.  Because we used to live in Jerusalem, we went to the consulate to register Shlomo.  Because I hate Tel Aviv, and know where the consulate is (since I’ve been there before), I emailed the consulate and asked if we could still come to Jerusalem, even though technically the consulate is only for the residents of Jerusalem, Judea, and Samaria.  The response I got was that we could go to the consulate and did not have to go to Tel Aviv.

Throughout this narrative, I write, “I,” because while we weren’t sure if Yitzchak would end up coming, it was pretty obvious that I had to go, since I am nursing Tova, and was still on maternity leave.

Then, I had to make an appointment with the consulate.  There were a few issues with this:

1. It is, at minimum, a two and a half hour trip into Jerusalem, not including the bus that goes from the Jerusalem Central Bus Station to the consulate.  Two and a half hours, multiplied by two trips (there and back) is already five hours minimum.  From the Central Bus Station to the consulate is about an hour each way, by bus.  Taxi might be faster, but costs a lot – maybe 100 shekel, or more, per trip.  The taxi may not save us time, either, because Jerusalem has awful traffic jams.  So far, we have a seven hour trip at minimum – and that’s not even counting the time we would spend at the consulate, which is calculated to be about an hour and a half, on average.  Total amount of time to travel from home to the consulate and back: 8.5 hrs.  Or, in other words, an entire [work] day.

2. We needed to get Tova a Consular Report of Birth Abroad.  Let it be known that this is an absolutely gorgeous document.  We also wanted to get her, and Shlomo, social security numbers.  When Shlomo was a baby, I sent in an application for a social security card, but we never got the card.  I don’t know if the application was rejected or if the card never reached us.  At any rate, because we wanted their social security numbers for taxes, we wanted to make the appointments in enough time to send in the forms at least before the June 15th expat tax date.  Looking back, I realize that my calculation was foolish, since it can take up to six months to get the social security cards.  But no matter.  We need to do it, and the sooner the better.

We debated whether to get Tova a passport at the same time.

The pros: No need to worry or race if we end up traveling, or if we decide to move back for whatever reason.

The cons: An extra $105 (about 420 shekel), and it expires in 5 years; Yitzchak would need to waste an entire day so that both of us would be present, or we would have to waste money on a notarized consent form that he allows his child to get a passport when he is not physically present; if both Yitzchak and I are at the consulate, where is Shlomo?

Which leads us to #3:

3. Only the people who are absolutely necessary for the appointment are allowed into the consulate.  In other words, if you are applying for a Report of Birth Abroad, one parent accompanies the child.  If you are applying for a passport, both parents.  But – if you have another child who has nothing to do with the appointment – he will not be allowed into the consulate.  Hmmm . . .  I considered making a fake appointment for Shlomo (because, after all, he did need a social security card, even if I didn’t need a separate appointment for it), but Yitzchak reminded me that Shlomo coming with us meant Shlomo running laps in the consulate, for about an hour.  We decided to that it was worth trying to avoid having to discipine him.  After all, what’s wrong with running laps?  (Answer: Nothing.  It’s just that the consulate isn’t really the place to do it.)

4. We are always loath to part with such large sums of money.  The trip to Jerusalem is about 80 shekels round trip.  The Report of Birth Abroad is $100 (400 shekel).  That’s a LOT of money.  But we have no choice; we are required to file taxes and we want to be able to write down all exemptions possible, just in case, somehow, it may in some fashion look like we earn enough to actually owe something.  Plus, we probably qualify for $1000 a year, per child, in tax returns.  With Shlomo we were too lazy, and stingy, to get an accountant to deal with it, and we didn’t know how to file ourselves.  But things have changed since then (mostly expat tax laws), and it looks like, lazy or not, we need to file this year.  Which means, why not do it all at once?

5. The appointments are made online.  You can only make one appointment per child.  I cheated the system, not knowing which day I wanted to go, and wanting to make sure I had an appointment that worked for me.  The system allows you to make appointments only for the next three weeks or so, and they get taken very quickly, leaving only 8 or 8:30am appointments, and even then, only on one or two days out of the month.  You need to really keep on top of the appointment site in order to get one that works.  I made two appointments for Tova, and got past the system’s block by changing a letter in her name.

Part Two: The Stupid Rules

American security is infinitely stupider than Israeli security, for the simple reason that they do not know what they are doing.  One example is what I wrote above – only the people pertinent to the appointment are allowed entry.  Here are a few others:

– If you come more than half an hour early for your appointment, you may be denied entry and your appointment will be rescheduled.  Gee, it’s nice you wrote that on your website and not just on the window outside the consulate, for folks like me who are dependent on buses, live a few hours away, and called Egged, only to be told that the only bus that goes to the consulate leaves once an hour, at a quarter to the hour, and takes 50 minutes to get there.  It’s a shame I didn’t schedule my appointment differently.  On second thought, maybe I couldn’t have scheduled it so that it worked with the bus schedule.

– If you have a stroller, you need to leave it at the gate.  Oh, and they aren’t responsible if it gets taken.  Make sure you bring a sling, if you have a baby, or your arms will get exhausted.

– In order to be allowed entry, you first need to prove you have an appointment.  This you do by handing them the printout of your appointment details and the documents and forms that you brought with you.  The guy you proved it to gives you a pass.  Then, pass in hand, you go to the security guy, who asks you more questions, gives you a basket to put your phone and charger in, and asks if you have other electronics that need to be in the basket.  Basket in hand, you go through the doors, to pass through the metal detector and put your bag through the x-ray machine.  If, like me, you have forgotten about an electronic device that you happen to have in your bag (I forgot that I had the camera), they get very angry at you and treat you like you are a bigger threat than Iran.  The contents of the basket are put into a “cell” and you are given a card with the cell’s number, which you present in order to get your belongings back when you are done.  By the way, they are not responsible for any electronics put in the “cell”.

– Let’s say you need to make a phone call.  You go back to security, show your card, get your belongings (all of them), walk outside, make your phone call, and need to be readmitted by the guard.  Let’s say you need to get a document or whatever, and you walk out for a second.  Same deal.

– They take checks, written for the exact amount, according to that day’s exchange rate.  No credit cards.  They take cash, but do not give change.

– No one is allowed to wait outside the consulate.

– No sealed envelopes are allowed in.

For more stupid rules please see here.

Part Three: The Debate 

I had a Thursday appointment and a Friday appointment.

Advantages of Thursday:

– If only I go, and I am on vacation, it is just a waste of a day (and not a waste of two peoples’ days and double the money).

– It leaves me all of Friday to prepare for Shabbat.  Therefore, it is less stressful.

– I can also do some clothes shopping while I am there (I hate clothes shopping, but sometimes there is no choice); on Friday the stores close early and I probably won’t have time to shop.

Advantages of Friday:

– If we are not home for Shabbat, it is not a wasted trip.

– Yitzchak has books to pick up in Jerusalem; if we go as a family and are not home for Shabbat, we “kill” two birds with one stone.

– We do not want to be home for Shabbat anyways, since it is the Shabbat before Pesach.

– If I go on Friday by myself, I can meet my friend, who I haven’t seen in ages.

In the end, my cousin saved the day.  We went on Thursday afternoon to Jerusalem, I did some shopping, we stayed at my cousin’s overnight, and early in the morning I went to the consulate, and Yitzchak went to pick up his books.  Then, we all traveled to Kfar Chabad for Shabbat, and after Shabbat went home.  On Thursday night we changed the clocks, which meant an hour less of sleep for everyone, but more time to get things done.  It was tough, because we were exhausted from all the running around, but we made it.  My cousin was also traveling for Shabbat, so we helped them get out, as well.

Total time spent going to and from the consulate: 4 hours.  Not bad, considering that if we had traveled to Jerusalem just for the consulate, it would have taken an entire day.

Oh, and I forgot – Friday was our fifth anniversary.  And we spent it traveling.  To and from the consulate, from Jerusalem to Kfar Chabad.  We had thought to do something else, less for the anniversary than because it was an excuse to get a babysitter and take a breather.  But in the end, like every year, we forgot the date until afterwards.

Stay tuned for the next section of this riveting narrative . . .