Registering a 17-Year-Old Baby Abroad

Like many people who made aliyah, my husband and I were blessed to bring two more children into our family that added to the three blessings God gave us before we moved to Israel.

When I was supposed to report her birth…

I was quite diligent in registering the first one as a US citizen some twenty years ago, and much less so four years later when my youngest child was born.

“Why did you wait so long?” asked the woman who called me this morning from the US Consulate in Jerusalem. Well, that’s really a personal question and I’m not sure it’s any of her business, but I decided to be polite and responded with “There were many reasons.”

Truthfully, there was only one. I just didn’t want to. In 10 days, my baby turns 18 and I will no longer be able to register her birth abroad…only her birth wasn’t abroad. It happened here in her home, but that’s another discussion.

The bottom line was that they either have to give me an appointment or I will only be able to get her a “first passport”. She’ll still be a US citizen, but her birth will have gone unrecorded. I’m not sure if that matters or not but I do know that a birth certificate doesn’t tick down, while the time on a passport does. She has no immediate plans to fly abroad. In her whole life, she’s only left Israel once, and that was for a trip to Poland.

I’m a firm believer in those trips – both for what it does for the individual and because we can’t bring the remains of 6 million plus Jews here and so I view each trip as a pilgrimage of sorts. It reminds Europeans that we have entrusted them with the remains of the people they butchered and they have a responsibility to honor them in death (given how badly they failed them in life); and it’s our way of connecting with those we lost. Look at our children, I wanted to tell my great-grandmother as I stood before the gas chambers in which she died, the crematoria in which her body was cremated. But I digress…back to the US Consulate.

She’s not going to the US any time soon. She’s never been there. So why get a passport? I told the woman – it’s either reporting her birth or nothing. She said she might have an appointment, but wasn’t sure. “Well, could you get sure?” my brain responded as my mouth patiently responded, “Maybe could you please check?”

So, she gave me an appointment and sent me an email with all the details required. And that’s when I began to get amused.┬áBeing a technical writer is both a blessing and a curse. Almost automatically, I click to test links; I think about how something is phrased.

The first thing I noticed was that I am required to pay $100 for reporting the birth. How can I pay? Well, I can’t answer that because the link they gave me goes to “Page not found.” So I wrote to them and asked them…and pointed out the links.

Shortly after, they wrote back to me to tell me that I can pay with a US $100 bill…no comment on the broken link. Included was a note, “This email is UNCLASSIFIED” – Good to know…cause I was real worried about email security for this matter.

Speaking about security, being that this is the US Consulate, there is no question that security is a huge thing. I know from others that they do not allow you to bring guns into the Consulate. Since I don’t have one, that’s not an issue. No phones either. Well, that’s a pain. The email wants to make sure you know what the security requirements are. And that would be great…if the link worked. That one goes to “this site can’t be reached.” So, I decided to thank them for clarification on the payment issue and while I was at it, I pointed out the broken “security requirements” link and a rather amusing note tacked on.┬áThe phrasing was…peculiar.

Please read our security requirements closely, and note that you will be required to leave your baby carriage at our security checkpoint.

Better late than never…right? Last chance to report my baby’s birth…

So, according to this, I am to bring my baby carriage and leave it at the security checkpoint. This is a requirement. I must leave my baby carriage there. Truth is, with young grandchildren visiting often, I decided that it would be best to buy a baby carriage and so I do have one. Must I really bring it and leave it there? Certainly my 17-year-old daughter won’t be using it and I didn’t plan to bring any of my young grandchildren. What a pain to have to schlep that carriage there, just to leave it with security, no? So I wrote trying to point out the phrasing…yeah, that’s another thing we tech writers do.

Apparently they don’t have much of a sense of humor. The woman from the Consulate called me back to let me know that I don’t have to bring the baby carriage. Again, good to know.

So, if you plan to go to the US Consulate – you don’t have to bring your baby carriage and apparently, they really don’t like it when you wait to days before your child turns 18 to report that she was born.

On the bright side, they gave me an appointment and two days before she turns 18, apparently I’ll be letting the US government know about our youngest blessing.


Paula R. Stern

Paula R. Stern is the CEO of WritePoint Ltd, a leading technical writing company in Israel. She is also a popular blogger with her work appearing on her own sites, A Soldier's Mother and PaulaSays, as well as IsraellyCool and a number of other Jewish and Israeli sites.

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