Made in Malaysia: An Immigration Saga

For those following our blog, you remember the seemingly never-ending battle with immigration that plagues C and I.

I mean, what happened to the “American Dream” whereby one used to be able to just show up in the country with a few bucks to your name and create the life you’ve always dreamed. Now, it requires a smidge more than a couple bucks, a mound of paperwork, and wait-times that make standing in line at the Los Angeles DMV seem like nothing. We are still planning a return to the US, once C gets a Green Card, but the process is delayed a bit since now I have to be in present in the United States in order to move forward… which, with a 3-month old baby, is a little more complicated than it sounds.

Baby girl

Anyway, forget about C and I for a moment, and enter our beautiful baby girl. We decided before she was born that she would be an American citizen, since, among other things, traveling on an American passport is a lot easier than and Indian one (for now). So, when baby girl was born, we had three huge immigration tasks that needed to be done in order for her to 1) become an American citizen 2) travel to India whenever she wanted to see her father’s side of the family and 3) legally stay in Malaysia beyond 60 days.

So, if you ever find yourself in a situation where these processes apply to you and your family, here’s what we did. Hopefully it can help you out.

Process 1: American Citizenship

  • Obtain Malaysia Birth Certificate: Upon discharge from the hospital in Malaysia, you should be in receipt of a Birth Registration Application. Complete the form and take the form along with parents’ passports and a certified copy of your marriage certificate to the Malaysia National Registration Department within 14 days of baby’s birth. We asked for several originals of the birth certificate for baby girl, because, I mean really, what would happen if we move 9,000 miles away and need another original of her birth cert? Simply call Malaysia and have them mail it? I don’t think so. Why not have several on-hand, just in case.
  • Settle in For a Photo Shoot: No, not the typical cutesy newborn photo shoot, but one that will probably come with several meltdowns in the process since requirements are so specific. Take your baby to the neatest photo shop and get several photos made. One meeting specific US-standard requirements (white background), and, helpful hint: complete the Malaysian-standard photos (blue background) on the same visit so you only have to traumatize your newborn ONCE making them “pose” for these photos.
  • Make an Appointment at the U.S. Embassy: This step requires a lot of paper work! You can first email American Citizen Services to confirm the most up-to-date forms, OR, you can complete them ahead of time, and email them a zip file of all the forms and required documentation to save a step. All birth reports are pre-screened, so this step MUST be followed before you actually visit the embassy to bring all the originals for an interview. The forms that must be completed include: – CRBA, DS-11, DS-2029, SS-5-SF and passport application contact information.
  • Visit the U.S. Embassy: Once you email the US embassy, and they review your completed forms, they will give you an appointment to actually come in with the originals and supporting documents which include: hospital bills, ultrasound pictures, baby and pregnancy pictures and proof of physical presence in the U.S. This process takes anywhere from 1-3 hours. We, unfortunately, were closer to the 3-hr mark due to busy day for the embassy workers, so plan ahead and either bring an extra bottle for your little one, or plan to breastfeed in public, because you MUST bring the baby with you. They will review your paperwork, collect a fee, and interview your family, then approve (or not) your child’s’ application for a passport and social security card.
  • Wait & Go back to the Embassy: Upon approval, you must wait anywhere from 1-3 weeks for processing of the passport, and 6-months for a social security card. Once your passport and “Report of Birth Abroad” certificate are ready, the embassy will email you, and only one parent (sans baby) need go collect the minted passport and cert!
  • Celebrate: Cheers to your newest citizen of the good ol’ US of A!!

American Citizen

Process 2: Malaysia Dependent Pass

Now, American citizens can stay in Malaysia on a tourist visa for up to 90-days, I believe. However, that’s not going to work when the family actually LIVES here. So, like her mom, the baby needed to get a dependent pass (stay visa attached to my husband’s employment visa). The specifics of this process I am a little less clear on, only because we worked with an agent to facilitate, but the process and required documentation went a little something like this:

  • Scan baby’s passport: Yes that’s right. EVERY.SINGLE.PAGE. All 56 pages of your baby’s newly minted US passport, probably even sans stamps yet, need to be scanned (not just the cover/picture page).
  • Submit photographs: Remember how I mentioned above to ensure you get TWO sets of photos taken during your child’s passport photo shoot? Well, here’s where it comes in handy, so you already have them, and can breeze right along with the rest of the paperwork.
  • Surrender baby’s passport: The Malaysia processing center will take your baby’s passport and, pending all completed/approved paperwork, will stamp with a Malaysia Dependent Pass! Woohoo!
  • Celebrate: Another celebration indeed. Two processes down, one to go!

Process 3: Indian PIO Card

We are obtaining a PIO (person of Indian Origin) card for our baby, so we can visit our family in India anytime we want without having the hassle of obtaining a tourist visa each time. Our baby girl is half Indian, after all!

  • Visit the India High Commission: I highly recommend visiting the IHC first and speak to an employee to have them document for you the EXACT forms and processes you need in order to apply for a PIO card. I say this, because the exact process isn’t well documented online, and you don’t want to keep going back and forth with missing documents or wrong forms to finish the process.
  • Complete PIO application for Baby: After completing baby girl’s tedious US paperwork, this simple two-page document is a refreshing change and quite simple to complete. The only slightly, well, two slightly irritating processes are: 1) You have to submit two originals of the document, so you have to fill-out, by hand, the paperwork, TWICE. Then, because obviously an infant cannot sign her own name, you have to ink her right thumb print three times, on each document for a total of 6 right thumb prints… a messy, yet comical ordeal indeed.
  • Gather Supporting Documentation: Mom & Dad’s passport, marriage certificate, baby’s birth certificate and passport, and guess what? You need more photos. So make sure to get a soft copy of your baby’s passport and visa photos, and/or get several printed so you have them on-hand for such cases!
  • Visit the High Commission: Go back to the IHC and wait in line to submit this documentation and fees (about 600rm). And, the process of obtaining the actual PIO card takes up to two months, so settle in, it’ll be awhile! Thankfully, the baby does NOT need to attend. That’s C’s job all the way!

Phew, I am exhausted writing all of this, and currently we are in the thick of the India PIO process, so we are ALMOST done! Takes a lot of work to have a global baby. However, the benefits of growing up abroad in a multi-cultural environment definitely outweigh the burdens of all this extra paperwork. So, having a global baby with mixed-raced parents growing up in a third country is easy as 1-2-3! Not!

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2 thoughts on “Made in Malaysia: An Immigration Saga

  1. Wow. That is a long series of processes. I live in Morocco with my husband – after finishing my Peace Corps service and I wondered just what other women who live abroad deal with during pregnancy and all the paperwork processes that happen after giving birth. Thank you for sharing!

    • This is the not-so-glamorous, behind-the-scenes aspect to having a baby abroad! Definitely an adventure and going to be a great story for the family, but a LOT of extra leg work, for sure. Wow, Morocco! Very neat.

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