This evening, if the world was a perfect place and passports always had enough room for just one more visa, my husband would be relaxing in the lounge of some hotel somewhere in China after a weekend of snapping photos of panda bears and golf, and preparing for the next three days of business meetings. Instead, he's sitting on sofa here in our apartment, feeling sort of frustrated over the amount of work that goes into renewing a Canadian passport from abroad.
Life over here has really been eye-opening in so many different ways, but our experiences with the Canadian overseas bureaucratic process has not been one of the highlights. I'll admit that my first encounter with the Canadian Embassy in Bangkok was sort of demoralizing, and that probably set the tone for all other things.
In November of 2008, I hauled myself and my three week-old infant down to the Embassy, with a completed application form for Sadie's Canadian citizenship certificate. This was an urgent matter for us - this little card functions in the same way that a Canadian birth certificate does, so we'd need it to apply for her passport. Sadie dozed in the Baby Bjorn for most of the wait at the Embassy and during our interview. At the end of the interview, I was given a receipt and told that we could expect to receive her card in six to eight months time. What? Six to eight months? Why on earth? I wasn't sure that I heard correctly at first. Her entitlement to citizenship should have been a no-brainer as both her parents have Canadian birth certificates. I still have no idea why it takes that long to determine that little babies born abroad are eligible for a citizenship certificate. Sadie's arrived in the mail in August 2009.
About a year ago, I was back at the Embassy with the baby, this time for passport renewals for myself and Madeline. We'd only been living in Thailand for a little over a year and a half, so there was no one local who could possibly have known us for three years and be a guarantor, so we had to fill in "in lieu of a guarantor" forms and pay another fee. What was annoying about this visit is that in addition to the two references required on my application form, the Embassy employee who was conducting my interview was insistent that I needed to provide 2-4 more. I hadn't really come prepared for that. Thankfully, the lady behind the desk was understanding and gave me her fax number so that I could just send her more references once I'd contacted a few more friends.
At the same time, I also was armed with a passport application for Sadie. She didn't have her citizenship documentation yet, but if we could produce evidence that we were leaving the country, the Embassy could issue her a "limited validity" passport. This application was fairly straightforward, but the Government of Canada's website failed to mention anywhere that when the passport applicant is a minor, BOTH parents need to show up at the Embassy. Chris, of course, was working at his office. Again, the understanding lady behind the desk indicated that it would be alright if he faxed a note with his signature. But still, arggggh!
Each time I leave the Embassy, I feel annoyed. If their on-line communication was just more specific, I could show up with the right number of personal references, the right forms of identification, the right people with me, etc. Surely my family is not the first to run into these unexpected difficulties! Anyway, wish Chris luck for his visit to the Embassy tomorrow, okay?