Those of you who have babies that are born in Australia should count yourselves damn lucky. The process of getting Grace’s citizenship began 2 months ago and has tested my patience. Read on…
STEP 1 – Australian Embassy
Being the organised guy that I am, I decided an initial visit to the Australian Embassy to go over the mile long check list of things I need for Grace’s Citizenship by Descent application would be a good idea. I emailed the embassy’s dedicated appointment email address and was promptly given a 4.30p.m timeslot a few days later with instructions to be 10 minutes early.
On the allotted day I turn up 30 mins early with my A4 folder containing a myriad of information and forms and on arrival I am told by the security guard to “take a ticket” from the ticket machine. I tell him I don’t think I need a ticket as I have been given a 4.30pm appointment time and he looks at me like a rabbit in the headlights. As it turns out EVERYONE gets given the same time from that email address and then it is the quick and the dead to get a ticket as fast as you can.
I wait for my number to come up and then I proceed to the window. I am told I need all the documents on the form. I tell them my own birth certificate is in storage at my parent’s house in Australia and ask if I really need it seeing as I have a passport and I had to use the birth certificate to get the passport. Some conferring with a nice young embassy guy ( NYEG ) and I am told, no…I don’t need it.
STEP 2- Pack Grace and Leakhana into the Jeep and go to digital photo shop to get Grace some passport size photos. Fail; Grace is doped to the eyeballs on mummy milk.
STEP 3- Pack Grace and Leakhana into the Jeep and go to digital photo shop to get Grace some passport size photos. Fail; Grace is doped to the eyeballs on mummy milk.
STEP 4- Pack Grace and Leakhana into the Jeep and go to digital photo shop to get Grace some passport size photos. Fail; Grace is doped to the eyeballs on mummy milk.
STEP 5- Pack Grace and Leakhana into the Jeep and go to digital photo shop to get Grace some passport size photos. SUCCESS! Grace is not doped to the eyeballs on mummy milk and we get some great shots.
STEP 6 – Australian Embassy
After 4 trips to the photo shop to get some shots of Grace where she is alert and doesn’t look like she has been doped to the eyeballs with mummy milk and a trip to see Sandra ( our mid-wife) to get copies of her passport and credentials, I am ready. I email the Australian Embassy again and I am given a meeting time of 3.10pm on a Thursday a few days later. I arrive 30 mins early on Thursday and when I get to the counter, the embassy official looks at me and says ” can you come back next Monday as we do not process these applications today”. I tell her I have an email where I have specifically stated I wanted to come for a Citizenship by Descent application and that I was told to come today- Thursday. She asks to see the email. I said I didn’t think I would need to bring it. She asks me to wait a few minutes and soon returns with NYEG who says ‘Sorry mate, looks like we have dudded you, we only do these applications on Mondays and today we are not equipped to take the cash from you as we do not have a float”. I tell him there is a section on the form where you can fill out PAY BY VISA so surely we can get this thing rolling and he says ” um……..that option is not available for the embassy here in Phnom Penh”. DEEP BREATHS. He asks me to come back the following Monday and we organise for a meeting in my lunch hour.
STEP 7 -Australian Embassy
I turn up 30 mins early with all my paperwork and $110 CASH and I am ready as I will ever be. A nice young lass calls me over and I start handing over the original application form, the passport photos, the baby photos of Grace showing her over the weeks, the copies of Sandra’s passport and qualifications, my passport copies, our original wedding papers and a copy and Grace’s Birth certificate as provided by the clinic. All of a sudden the flow of paperwork hits a wall. The lass tells me “we need the original birth certificate”. I point out she has one from the clinic and I am told…no..they need the Khmer one from the Sangkat. REALLY DEEP BREATHS. I tell her the Doctor told me this one would suffice for my embassy and can we please proceed. I tell her this is my third visit and I was less than happy and I ask to see NYEG who appears on cue. “Sorry mate….can’t budge on this one”. I tell him I am sick of dealing with corrupt Khmer Sangkat officers that extort money from me at every turn and explain that I am going to have to get a letter from my landlord to prove our address and then go to the Sangkat and he said
“I know what it’s like, I am sorry for you…”. I ask him if he is married to a Khmer or has any khmer family ” er….no” so tell him I doubt he knows what it is like. I tell him about the 5 month delay in retrieving our wedding papers from the Sangkat at Kandal market and how they blamed Hun Sen and the election and now I have to deal with Toul Tom Pong Sangkat. The embassy takes my money and all the other papers and tell me if I can just get the original birth certificate, all will be done.
STEP 8- Kampoul Pich Clinic
I go to the Clinic where we had Grace and I ask one od the old nurses to ask the Doctor to please prepare a birth certificate in Khmer for me to take to the Sangkat and she tells me “ok but can you come back tomorrow at 5pm ?”. Sure can.
STEP 9 – Kampoul Pich Clinic
I pick up the Khmer birth certificate from the clinic.
STEP 10 – Sangkat Kandal (the local council) 12p.m Thursday
Sorry…the guy you need will be back at 1p.m
STEP 11 – Sangkat Kandal 1p.m Thursday
Sorry…the guy you need will be back at 2p.m
STEP 12 – Sangkat Kandal 2p.m Thursday
Sorry…the guy you need will be back at 4p.m
STEP 12 – Sangkat Kandal 4p.m Thursday
“The Guy” is back.
Him;”You need to go to Kampot with this”
Me;”My daughter was born here in Phnom Penh”
Him; “Yes, but your wife was born in Kampot”
Me; “That’s crazy”
Him; “I know”
STEP 13 – One week later Leakhana goes to Sangkat Toul Tom Pong (our local Sangkat where we are renting) and asks them if we can do it at their office.
Him; “We can do it if you get a letter from your landlord stating that you rent from him”.
Leakhana thinks Panha is unlikely to agree as there have been many cases of Khmer people getting these leases and then claiming the houses are actually theirs. I tell her that is ludicrous; it is just a bit if paper that says your rent from someone and live at such and such addre
ss. Apparently not.
STEP 14 – Ring our friend Srey Pov and ask her if her and her husband can give us a bogus lease letter. She wants to have a further meeting to discuss. Jesus Christ.
STEP 15- Send mother-in-law to Sangkat Psar Thomei where she is told “no worries, we can do it for you here for $50. We just need a copy of the Aussie bloke’s passport, an original birth certificate fro the clinic and the Khmer wife’s ID card”.
STEP 16 – Send mother-in-law to Sangkat Psar Thomei with copy of my passport, an original KHMER birth certificate for Grace from the clinic and the Khmer wife’s ID card along with $50.
Mum returns empty handed and tells me they need Grace’s full name ( ITS ON HER BIRTH CERTIFICATE YOU DIPSHITS ) my full name in English (er…it’s on my BLOODY PASSPORT), my DOB (ON MY PASSPORT) and my occupation. ..(I AM A MONKEY WRANGLER – WHAT THE HELL DOES IT MATTER YOU ? ) Turns out they cannot read English so have no idea what my name is or what to put on certificate. Fair enough I guess.
STEP 17 – Tra comes over and I give him all my paperwork which he takes to work the next day translates to Khmer for and emails to me. I then print this out and give it to Srey Neung to give back to Mum for round #2 ( or step # 18 ) with Sangkat Psar Thomei.
STEP 18 – Seek Suicide Counselling for self
STEP 19a,b,c,d,e,f – Mum visits the Sangkat office repeatedly over a month after being told it would take 2 days.
STEP 20 – Having finally got the Khmer Birth Certificate I head to the Embassy and lodge the final document needed for Grace’s Australian Citizenship by Descent. I am told that this will take about 3 weeks to process.
So….there may be a chapter 2 to this story but for now I am feeling relieved and happy that our little girl is 95% on the way to being a fully fledged Aussie.
3.5 hours after posting this on my blog originally I get a phone call from the embassy.
HER ; Sorry sir but the birth certificate you gave us from the Sangkat is wrong. They have listed your daughter’s surname as GARNETT SOKHAN
ME; Well, sorry…that is not my problem. ( as per STEP 17 )I gave the Sangkat a very clear document outlining everything in perfect Khmer and English. I have been to the Embassy 4 times and the Sangkat over a dozen times and this is getting beyond a joke. PLEASE HELP ME !
HER; Wait………I will talk to my boss.
I wait ……..about ready to explode….
HER; OK…..just send us an email with the right names and we will do our best at this end.
So I have sent the email and am now going to drink heavily at Lone Star Saloon.
11 days later I get an email from embassy boss (EB) saying they cannot accept the certificate and I have to do it again.
BLOOD STARTS TO BOIL
I ring EB and talk to him and he will not budge but he does say if i get it redone I can call him personally and he will meet with me and do the final Australian Citizenship on the Spot.
I give Mum the original Sangkat Birth Certificate and ask her to please take it back and get it done again. I am so god-damned mad I actually end up being inadvertently rude to my mum-in-law. I try to explain I am not mad with her, just the process. Lost in translation. *sigh*
Mum picks up the new certificate
Leakhana tells me I can go to mums and pick it up. I go to mum’s apartment and she says she has given it to Srey Neung
I go across town to Srey Neung’s place of work and pick up certificate which looks the goods.
I take certificate to translation company and tell them I need new one TODAY. They tell me to come back at 4.00pm. Only charged $1.
I call EB and ask organise to meet 4.30p.m same day as STEP 28
Go back to Translation service and pick up Translated certificate.
Go to Australian Embassy for meeting with EB
GRACE HAS CITIZENSHIP !!!!
I’ll Drink to that !
Next up ; “Applying for Leakhana’s Spousal Visa and How it turned me into a mass murderer.”
Oh and as another footnote, I just went out and bought Mum a brand new outfit ; Slinky top, pin-striped suit pants and lovely shoes to say thanks and SORRY ! She loved them…