The alarm rang promptly at 6:24 this morning, I only got up about twenty minutes earlier than usual. I had to get four kids, myself and my husband ready to go register our youngest sons birth and renew passports. I took the older three out of school for the day and made sure to get to the embassy early as instructed.
My previous experiences with the US Embassy have all been nothing but pleasant. However, today, is a completely different story. Now, I understand people are doing their jobs, but this morning was pretty messed up. I can identify certain mistakes that were made; I just don’t understand why they were made. Of course this is a case of the left hand not knowing what the right hand is doing.
Two weeks ago I set an appointment via the required State Department online scheduling system for our embassy. The scheduling system specifically states to only schedule one appointment, no matter how many services you need. It also only gives you space to write the name of the child. We chose the option to register our sons birth as opposed to passports, because we were naturally going to do the passport along with the birth registration. No problem, all set. At 4:47 p, yesterday afternoon, 13 minutes before the embassy closes, I got an email.
Thank you for making an appointment with the U.S. Embassy in La Paz to register the birth of your child.
It is very important that the names of all non-applicants who will be coming with you to this appointment have been included in your appointment. Otherwise they will not be admitted to the Consular Section. To include the names in one single appointment please use comma’s to separate the names.
Please use the following checklist to make sure that you have all the required documents before you come to your appointment, otherwise your application will be pending and won’t be processed until all required documentation is provided.
Checklist for Consular Report of Birth Abroad (CRBA)
· Both parents and child must appear in person
Checklist for Your Child’s Passport Application (Form DS-11)
· Both parents and child must be present
You may apply for your child’s Social Security Number card once you receive the U.S. passport. To apply:
Please arrive a few minutes before your scheduled appointment and be prepared to undergo a security screening before entering the Consular Agency or Embassy. Be sure to bring two forms of ID (or an ID and a copy of your ID) to leave at the entrance, since you will be required to provide an original ID when you submit your application. Mobile phones or laptops are not allowed inside the Embassy and you will be requested to check them at the entrance, additionally the following items are prohibited from entering the building: METALLIC ITEMS, COSMETIC ITEMS, ELECTRONIC ITEMS, PERSONAL ITEMS such as cigarettes, lighters, matches, razors, OTHER ITEMS such as firearms, knives, ammunition, etc.
U.S. Citizens Services Unit
U.S. Embassy, La Paz”
Now I have deleted a little bit of info from the checklists, but I left in the important info to make my point. It states that all non-applicants need to be added to the appointment, it does not state how. I responded at 5:01 pm, asking how to go about it. Then I tried calling, but guess what, they were already closed. So I responded one more time via email, with the names and ages as my other children, identifying them as additional applicants. I did not know what else to do, they definitely did not tell me how to go about adding additional people to the scheduled appointment. And the State Department scheduling system does not have an edit option, I made a mistake on my first appointment request, had to cancel and reschedule before making the appointment I got for today.
So we get to the embassy early, my husband ran to pull some extra cash, guess what, they don’t take checks or credit cards like some other embassies, and it stated on the email to pay in dollars. So I go to the window, give the lady my appointment printout and my US drivers license. She proceeds to tell me I don’t have a scheduled appointment. I told her I did and gave her a printing of the email and my responses to the embassy. So she continued to try to get us in. After about 15 minutes of waiting, she told me there was nothing that could be done and I had to leave. I told her I was not leaving and wanted to speak to a supervisor. I was NOT HAPPY and it was quite obvious. I told her I took my children out of school, I scheduled my appointment, I did everything I was supposed to do and yet, it was not sufficient. Of course she just kept speaking to me in Spanish. I don’t have a problem with it, she is Bolivian, she works for the embassy, but I had already told her, I could not really understand her. I am nowhere near fluent in Spanish.
So, a supervisor called me on the phone outside, and was of no help, just told me that I had to leave, that we were not authorized. I told her, I could not keep talking on the phone, my three year old son keeps running around and I could not continue to ignore him. I of course started to have a bi-polar infused rant. I was not yelling, but we tend to speak a mile a second when the emotions start to slip. At this point, my husband was still not back. She told me she would have a supervisor call me back in two minutes. About 8 minutes later my husband got there and I explained what was going on. I was pretty much fighting back tears at this point, again, un-medicated bipolar and stress. Of course the hundred or so Bolivians in line were staring at me at this point. HA, watch the crazy white woman have a meltdown, whydontcha…
My husband is really level headed, something that drives me nuts sometimes. So he spoke calmly to the lady at the window, of course, I wouldn’t shut up. He had to ask me at least 5 times. What can I say, it’s the brash US Citizen in me. We continued to wait about 10 more minutes. I picked up the phone and told the lady at the window I really didn’t understand, because their system was faulty and technically they were all applicants as we were renewing passports.
I hung up with her and about 40 seconds later the outside phone started ringing. I had pretty much gained a bit of composure at that point. The consular official explained that the procedure had changed due to the new embassy security policies. He was very kind and apologized for the confusion, he went out of his way to set an appointment for us tomorrow morning, a day they don’t usually hold appointments like this. Of course it was partly because Carnival is starting so Monday and Tuesday are holidays. Nonetheless, it was very kind and I greatly appreciate it, otherwise I would have just been sent packing and had to of set the appointment allover again, possibly with the same crappy results. I did not get his name, but I thank him dearly.
Now, I am not really done, because you realize, an embassy just turned away 5 US Citizens (the youngest is one, although we have not registered his birth) due to a “security threat”. I fail to see how 3 children, 10 & under, all US Citizens, truly pose a security threat. This is madness. All because an online scheduling system cannot be updated to reflect current changes. Nor can embassy staff send an email, anytime before they did. I mean, seriously, why send it 13 minutes before closing, the day before a 8:45 am appointment? That is my biggest issue with it all, had they been on the ball, or even called, they had our number, this could have been prevented.
I left once I had a resolution, had I not been my brash “American” self, I would had no resolution and no appointment for the foreseeable future. Of course, the Bolivian’s were all staring at us as we left.
We went ahead and took the kids to school, we don’t want them missing an additional day for no reason. Then my husband took us to a breakfast that we really probably can’t afford, as we have over $500 in application fees to pay tomorrow at the appointment.
The security issue still bothers me a bit, I love my Country. If I didn’t, why would I fight through all the years of nonsense to get my family home?