Tuesday, March 17, 2015

The CRBA Saga

I figured it had been too long since we'd had a good "saga" post. The drive home from that birthday party that I mentioned? That could have been an entire post in itself. I left out all of the drama of Kennedy getting sick in the car on the way to the party. I neglected to mention the fact that as we're walking through the mall back to the car after picking her up, she threw up all over the floor...and continued to do so for about 50 feet until we reached the bathroom. Once we'd finally made it to the car and were on our way--in the middle of terrible traffic in the dark--she threw up again, all over herself (in spite of the fact that she was now armed with a plastic bag and gobs of paper towels). So I was trying to figure out where to drive while Eric was trying to clean her up in the backseat. Oh yeah, it was a saga alright.

The CRBA saga went on for so long, though. It really deserves it's own post.

Back in December, I mentioned that Eric had accidentally thrown away Reece's Consular Report of Birth Abroad (CRBA). This document is nearly as important as his passport. He's got a Korean birth certificate and an English translation of his Korean birth certificate, but when it comes to dealing with anything official in the States, they're going to need his CRBA. It basically acts as his birth certificate when registering for school, etc. It is also an important document to have here in Korea, because without it Reece can't get his Alien Registration Card (ARC). Which basically means he's still here as a tourist. Sweet.

Our trip home at Christmas was obviously contingent on the arrival of Reece's passport, but we also needed the CRBA so that we could apply for his ARC. (gotta love the acronyms!) Even if we didn't have the card, the woman at school who organizes all of our official Immigration paperwork said that we needed to at least have his ARC number to re-enter Korea. Since, we'd lost the CRBA, we were in a huge rush to get all of this done.

So, we wrote out the request for another, per the Dept. of State's website. Then, I went to the Embassy to have that letter notarized. (Seriously?!) Then, we paid extra to have it expedited. Of course. (The same guy who did all of our passport and CRBA paperwork at the Embassy notarized my letter, so that was embarrassing! Ha!) At this point, we'd paid more for the replacement than we paid for the original. We were now more than $200 into this thing and still didn't have anything to show for it!

Thankfully, because Reece wasn't 90 days old by the time we returned to Korea, we didn't have any problem traveling, but we still had this January 28th date looming. The CRBA still hadn't arrived. You can't call the Embassy here and talk to anyone; you have to make an appointment. They also don't communicate via email; you have to make an appointment. But, the fact is that once we'd sent this letter, the Embassy here in Seoul couldn't do anything. Now, it was up to the Dept of State, located on the East coast. Eric's only option at this point was to either stay up late to call once they'd opened or get up early to call.

So, for a couple of weeks, Eric stayed up until 11:00 pm our time to call. He was never able to speak to the person who was responsible for getting us the CRBA. It was an extremely frustrating time. He would call every night, and every night someone would say that the person he needed to speak with was "out of the office" or "busy." He left messages, and in the beginning, he would stay up even later, waiting for the guy to call back. But he never did.

As it was becoming increasingly clear that the CRBA was not going to arrive in time for Reece's 90 days, we started talking about and looking at the nearby "Immigration trips." We have many friends (not working for international schools!) that have had to make the trip to Japan just to deal with expiring visas. Since Eric knew that the idea of flying to Japan and back was not going to thrill me, he instead started looking at flying to Guam and spending the night before returning. (This "little" mistake was getting more and more costly.) That was sounding much better.

Unfortunately, this is when my genius kicked in. For whatever reason, it hadn't occurred to us that Reece's 90 day tourist visa started over when we returned from the States. As a matter of fact, it doesn't expire until right after we leave for the Philippines. Only God could have orchestrated that timing!

A couple of weeks ago, Eric was talking to one of the dad's at yet another birthday party when he picked up the kids. This man happened to work at the Embassy and so Eric brought up our dilemma. As I mentioned, the Embassy here doesn't have any control of the CRBA once the paperwork is taken care of, but he was willing to look into it for us. He made some calls and found that it was on track and it should be arriving soon. He said that while he doesn't really have any pull, if we run into any more snags, we should contact our State Senator because when they get involved, things start moving quickly. I think he must have more pull than he knows, though. Shortly after, Eric received an email informing us that the CRBA had arrived at the Embassy here in Seoul!

Reece's CRBA finally arrived at school last week. We don't have time to apply for his ARC before we leave this weekend because they have to take his passport, but hopefully things will be on track now. And hopefully, we won't have any problems at Immigration upon arrival back in Korea at the end of the week. A happy ending to yet another expat saga...and now I'm off to continue packing for the Philippines! We're so excited for warm weather and sandy beaches!

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