Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Inheriting citizenship, part 2 of 2: why kidlet had a rap sheet before he turned 1

The consequences of a system that confers citizenship by blood rather than birth can be quite...well, I don't know if "amusing" is the right word, but in retrospect it definitely falls into the "you wouldn't believe it unless it happened to you".

What happened?

Well, in 2006 - well before we had kidlet, before I even arrived in the Netherlands - Karel went to Belgium for a year to work on a research project.  It was only a year, and since Belgium barely has a govenrment at all, he didn't bother to register a change-of-address (you can only have one official address) since he was going to be moving back to the Netherlands after the year was over.

Fast-forward 6 years:  I'm 8.5 months pregnant, living with Karel but not married to him (this is an important detail), and at my midwife's appointment the midwife asks me whether I've arranged for Karel to be recognized as Kidlet's father.  I stare at her like she just spouted another head.  She tells me that because we're not married, I have to grant Karel paternity, and that takes a little arranging through the gemeente.  "Just a few papers to sign," I'm told, nothing to worry about.

Because Karel is working essentially right up to my due date, and because I am too exhausted to lumber to town, though, we don't get this fixed right away.  But it's not a big deal, I'm told, because I can sign things at the hospital and over the next few weeks postpartum. So I have kidlet, more or less on schedule.  Because he came out of my body and because we're not married, he gets registered as an American, and Karel is assured that he can get it changed over the next few weeks.

Except:  remember the little research stint in 2006?  According to the city clerk we spoke with, before Karel could be recognized as the kidlet's dad, he first had to demonstrate that he wasn't married in Belgium.  Which is easier said than done, because if you never register your temporary residence then there is no way for the Belgian government to know that you were ever there, and not being able to provide proof of a non-event is (in Dutch circles) not the same as providing documentation that anything ever happened.

In the meantime, the Immigratie en Naturalisatsie Dienst received word that an unregistered American (irony, anybody?) had appeared at our address, and as this was highly improper, we got served with papers filled with scary-sounding-official-Dutch that told us to explain our case to the police department.  I call the IND, asking them what I need to do to get kidlet on the right side of Dutch law, and they tell me that if he has an American passport they can process him like any other American expat.

An American passport, though, is $200+ dollars that I didn't have, and assuming that I had a printer (I didn't) to print out the forms I needed to fill in, find the papers that I needed to have, and could take an entire day to go to Amsterdam (while breastfeeding a kiddo who won't use a bottle) and visit the American consulate, it would STILL have taken a minimum of 8 weeks for kidlet's new passport.  Our conversation with Nijmegen police was in 4 weeks.  Not to mention that, because of FACTA, I didn't want him to deal with having the IRS run a surprise audit on his bank account when he's 13 and working his first paper route, so I never intended for kidlet to be an American until he was aware of the consequences and could decide for himself.

So you can kind of see how things were really, really not looking good for us.  But then, in the space of 1 week, everything got miraculously resolved:  Karel finally managed to reach a manager who had an ounce of common sense and realized that the Belgian government couldn't say that Karel didn't get married if they didn't realize he was living there.  The police officer we spoke to was sympathetic and gave us a week to fix everything.  The manager that Karel spoke to had Karel sign a few papers two days later, and voila--Kidlet was Karel's son, got Karel's last name, and became officially Dutch.  The police dropped the investigation, and I never heard from the IND again.

As Kafka-esque as this whole thing was, though, at least it ended happily, and I'm married and carry dual citizenship now, so everything will be much easier if/when we have Kidlette.  But just imagine something like this becoming the norm in a country like the US...

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