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Jan 24, 2008

And people complain about Israeli bureaucracy???

Today I spent the day at the US Embassy.

Two recent articles in the press, one at Ha'aretz and one at YeshivaWorld News, detailed some of the inconveniences of going to the Embassy. Now you can read about it first-hand.

We had to register our baby with the Embassy for a Birth Abroad to get a US birth certificate and passport. The Embassy changed their system a little while ago.

It used to be you showed up between 8:30 and 13:00, took a number and waited for your turn. You filled out some forms, showed some documents and went on your way. I remember going to the embassy and being out of there after less than half an hour, having taken care of everything very quickly.

It seems that was either too efficient or they thought they could improve a system that was ok. You now cannot walk in to the embassy and get your services taken care of. You have to make an appointment on their website. We made an appointment the week after our baby was born, and we were able to get an appointment for 3 months later (today). The news has reported that the backlog is now up to 6 months and they stopped making appointments for beyond 6 months.

Not only that, but there has been advertised in the frum press (Hamodia, for example) of a gmach that someone started for giving out embassy appointments. Some people make an appointment and then cancel. Or they make too many and realize later. So instead of canceling, they transfer the appointment to the gmach who can give them out to people who need them for quick emergency appointments. Supposedly they now have stopped the transfer of appointments, because, according to Ha'aretz, they found some people were booking a lot of appointments and scalping them!

So our appointment was today for 10:45am. They recommend that you give yourself enough time to arrive half an hour before the appointment to go through security (half an hour to go through security!).

We get there and are immediately told you can no longer take anything in except for yourselves and the documents you need. Nothing else. If you have a baby with you, you can take in the stroller and diaper bag as well. They send you to a little company that opened up next door that will store your stuff for you for a modest fee while you are in the embassy.

After emptying our pockets and everything we had into the storage company, we go through ridiculous amounts of security, as if it was possible to sneak something in between one guard and the next after we were already in the Embassy complex.

We finally get in and see a total balagan in the waiting room. Appointments mean practically nothing. Parents could not bring stuff in to keep their kids busy, so kids are getting restless, and parents are getting testy. People are congregating around the windows of the clerks hoping to sneak in between appointments and maybe be able to get in before being called up. People are being called up more than an hour and a half after the time of their appointment. It was wild.

They only called us about an hour and 45 minutes after our scheduled time. After you take care of your documentation with the clerk, you go to a different window to pay. Then you wait some more for the US Consul to call you to review the paperwork and sign off on it. We had to wait another hour and a quarter until the Consul called us.

Officially the policy is that anybody who comes 20 minutes late loses their appointment. People came very late and they were not told to leave. They also let in some people without appointments and some people who claimed emergencies. Another thing to be aware of if you are planning to visit the embassy is that you need an appointment for each item that needs to be taken care of. There was a guy there who brought 8 kids with him to register for passports. Each one needed an appointment, but he did not realize that. he had only made one appointment. They refused to let him process the full 8, as he only had one appointment.

We only got out of the Embassy after 2 pm...

Also, they used to let you apply for a Social Security number at the same time as applying for the Birth Abroad. Now you cannot apply for Social Security until you actually have the Birth Certificate in hand, which can take a few weeks. Which means we have to go back again.....

And people complain about Israeli bureaucracy??? I have never seen anything this bad in any of the many government offices I have been in...

9 comments:

  1. Next time you better make the appointment while your wife is still pregnant. . . :)

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  2. And you inspired me to get out the passports--one (out of 16) expires in six months. We updated most of them about six months ago.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Me thinks that they don't really want to issue the passports...

    ReplyDelete
  4. RAFI:

    i guess this means you finally decided how to spell her name.

    MII:

    you have a family of 16?

    JACOB:

    i don't doubt it. i am currently involved in 2 separate beaurocratic fights with the city and i can only conclude that all the red tape is intentional

    ReplyDelete
  5. Two passports each.
    JDJ--There was something about too many Israeli-Americans taking advantage of the grandfather law to get their grandchildren American passports. But I think you have to do it in the US.

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  6. moi - people are doing that now. They are making a couple of appointments before the wife gives birth and then choosing the better date when it comes up...

    I am nervous because we have one passport expiring in a little over a year. We cannot renew it yet (I think you can only renew within 6 months of it expiring), so we did not do it when we went, but we probably already need to make an appointment for it...

    JDJ - could be, but this is not going to deter people...

    LOZ - guess so.. We did it with an H..

    MOI - that is right. to get the citizenship from a grandparent you have to do it in the US... I read an article that the most popular place to do this is Chicago. They seem to be the most helpful there.... I know a couple of people who did it in Chicago and they have no connection to Chicago. They flew there to take care of it because that is the easiest place to do it. If you need info on it, I can ask some one for you..

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  7. First, it akes 3-7 months to renew a passport thru the Chicago office. I know of a family whose passports still had six months viability before they expired; they were taken off the plane in Chicago and told with less than 6 mos left before expiration they could not fly to Israel. I do know a guy "burrow" in Mexico city who can get you into the US over night for a lot less money and aggravation; instead of storing your stuff in a little office, he stores you in a little van. Dad

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  8. I received the following email recently, urging us to send in complaints about the new appointment system (by the way, I did hear thru the grapevine that they have allowed the appointment Gemach to transfer appointments again, you can contact them at epsteinp @ bezeqint.net):

    The consulate and embassy have disabled the ability to transfer appointments, making it impossible for us to continue helping people with appointments. There are no appointments available until mid-July. Agudath Israel of America, along with the Consulate Appointment Gemach is urging everyone to bombard the embassy, consulate, and your senators and cogressperson, urging them to act on the issue that there are no appointments available. These calls and emails are taken very seriously. In fact, the government has employees whose sole job is to count and record the amount of phone calls and letters they receive regarding each issue.

    The embassy e-mail is amctelaviv@state.gov, phone: (03) 519-7551; the consulate e-mail is jerusalemACS@state.gov, and the phone numbers are (02) 628-7137, (02) 622-7219, and (02) 622-7250.

    To find out the number of your local Congressman, call (202) 224-3121; for your senators call (202) 224-3121.

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  9. one more thing - even if you cannot get an appointment, you should keep trying because appointments open up all the time due to cancellations..

    ReplyDelete

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