Can’t wait to show off your new baby to family in the States? You’d better get started on the passport paperwork.

Parents of newborns often do not realize how long it takes to get passports for babies born overseas. Some parents want to take their babies back to the States as soon as possible to be with their families but neglect to do all the paperwork in time for the flight they booked.

“It is very important to start the passport process as soon as the child is born,” said Kinney Yumi, who handles passport processing at the U.S. Consulate on Okinawa. “Usually it only takes a month, but sometimes the parents don’t take that into account.”

She said the consulate handles approximately 100 passports for babies every month — 1,310 in 2002, 998 last year and 1,014 for the first eight months of this year.

All military personnel and Americans covered by the status of forces agreement should initiate the process as soon as possible after their children are born, she said.

On Okinawa, she said, parents must start the process at the Naval Hospital on Camp Lester. Appointments are available by calling 634-7516.

“The Navy can assist with the paperwork and answer most questions,” Yumi said. She also recommends parents attend the birth registration briefing held at the hospital at 1 p.m. on the first and third Wednesday of every month.

“It only takes an hour and attendance is mandatory,” she said. “After the birth, parents will need to submit several types of documents to the hospital.”

In terms of paperwork, she said, having a baby overseas is more complicated than having a baby in the States.

“Some parents are surprised to hear about all the documents they will need in order to get a baby a passport and a Consular Report of Birth Abroad,” she said.

To begin the process, parents need proof of their U.S. citizenship, proof of the baby’s birth, proof of their marriage to each other and proof of the termination of any of their previous marriages. And the documents must be originals, not copies.

All of that documentation must be submitted with an application for a Consular Report of Birth, passport application, two identical photos of the baby and fees.

“It’s important all the paperwork be original copies, usually with a raised seal,” Yumi said. “We cannot accept photocopies or notarized copies.”

Starting Dec. 1, processing passports for all babies born after Nov. 1 will be given priority, she said. “This is the annual holiday rush. This way babies born before the holidays can travel home with their parents. Also, remember that children’s passports are valid for only five years. Please make sure your child’s passport is still valid when you go on vacation.”

Another frequent problem, said Kaoru Agena of the U.S. Consulate on Okinawa, involves active-duty personnel who did not realize they might need a passport to travel to certain countries while on duty.

“There are many countries active-duty military members can travel to with just their ID cards and military orders,” she said. “But that depends on where you go.”

She recommended that all servicemembers transferring or deploying with their unit to another country check whether they need a passport.

“Remember, it may take a month to receive your passport,” she said.

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