How to: Document an American birth abroad

This post has been a long time coming, our son E was born 2.5 years ago now! Oops! He was born at Pantai Hospital in Bangsar, Kuala Lumpur (Malaysia) and we couldnt have had a better experience.

Side note: If anyone needs an OB in Kuala Lumpur, I would highly recommend Dr. Kamaljit Kaur Manocha at the Women Specialist Centre: 28a, Jalan Telawi, Bangsar Baru, 59100 Kuala Lumpur, Bangsar, Malaysia +60 3-2282 1828. I found her after much googling, and reading of expat blogs, particularly this one.

Anyway, after the birth, no matter where you are, you’ll have to get your wee one’s papers in order. To document your baby’s US citizenship, and at the same time get his or her social security number and passport, it’s necessary to file a Consular Report of Birth Abroad, commonly referred to as a CRBA or crib-uh. This is generally handled by the American Citizens Services representative at your nearest US embassy or consulate.

All US embassy websites have a US Citizens Services menu bar where you can find the requirements for filing a CRBA. Each country’s embassy website differs slightly, as do submission guidelines, so read the CRBA instructions carefully.

By the way: You need an appointment to apply for your child’s CRBA and passport, and both parents must bring the child to the Embassy or Consulate. The embassy in Kuala Lumpur only takes CRBA appointments for a few hours a day, just a couple days a week. This means appointments can book out a month or more in advance. We didn’t realize this and were scheduled to leave the country a week after the first available appointment… and it takes two weeks to get the documents back. Let’s just say I was a little stressed. Luckily, after several phone calls and emails we were able to get an emergency appointment.

Necessary documents:

CRBA application form, called the DS-2029

Passport application form, called the DS-11

Social Security application for, called the SS-5-FS

Upon request

Affidavit of parentage and physical presence

Supporting documents

Child’s original birth certificate, speak with your doctor or hospital about where to get this

Both parent’s passports

Parents marriage certificate. For a child born out of wedlock see details here:

Hospital records, ultrasound pictures or anything else that proves the mother did indeed carry and give birth to the child

Evidence of physical presence in the US:

Physical Presence

Physical presence is the actual time when the parent was physically within the borders of the United States. This means that any travel outside the United States, including vacation, should be excluded. Maintaining a residence in the U.S. does not constitute physical presence. You may submit tax returns, wage statements (W2s), school transcripts, utility bills, rental/lease agreements, etc. as evidence of your physical presence in the United States. If you submit W-2s as evidence of physical presence, please also submit a letter from the employer stating your period of stay in the U.S. If a parent is a naturalized U.S. citizen, previous Chinese passports can be used as evidence of physical presence.

We were required to submit all of our documents via email, and then had our in person interview which the embassy recommended we scheduled for at least 2 hours. I don’t believe the actual interview took this long, but we had to take a number and wait to be seen.

Good luck!

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