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Updates from India, Day 15

28 May

Happy news from India!

Today at 12:45 p.m. we got the call that the twins’ passports were ready for pick-up. Ellen stayed with the kids while Matt and I trekked down to the U.S. Consulate in Bandra, about 25 minutes south of our hotel.

Completed passports are given out at the consulate only between 2 p.m. and 3 p.m., so we showed up at 1:45 p.m. Before we could enter the consulate compound, a security guard at a station out front asked to see our passports, as well as the receipt from the payment for the babies’ passports.

We ended up having to wait outside for 15 minutes before we could go in, though, as the consulate workers were on lunch break until 2 p.m., and nobody was allowed inside until they were finished. After waiting outdoors (92 degrees and very humid–yum! ;)), they issued us visitor’s passes, and an escort took us into the compound.

julianne henry us american passport blueOnce inside, getting the passports was a fairly easy process. Matt was first in line, and after another 15-20 minute wait, we had the passports in our hands. The only problem? The consulate’s letter that accompanies the passports, part of the required paperwork to get the twins’ exit visas, had an error in it. (We are not, as it turns out, “Mr. and Mrs.” ;)) It took another 15-20 minutes to fix the error and have the letters reprinted, but then we were all set. Just under an hour after we’d arrived, we were back in our cab with the magical blue passport books in our hands.

And just like that, our kids became American citizens. 🙂

Two of the three big steps in getting home (obtaining the birth certificates and passports) are now complete.

Back at the hotel, Matt logged onto the FRRO website to get the third and final step rolling. On the site, he filled out the application for Henry and Julianne’s exit visas, and managed to snag a next-day appointment to present our case and our mountain of paperwork. There are a finite number of slots available each day, so we felt lucky landing two of them.

After finishing the online exit visa application, Matt printed the work he’d just finished (an FRRO requirement) and added it to the fearsome stack of paperwork for tomorrow’s appointment.

While Matt worked on the exit visa stuff, I went to the front desk at the hotel to request a special letter on hotel letterhead that states our full names, check-in and check-out dates, and our passport information, with duplicate copies. (It’s just another of the FRRO’s dozens of fun/bizzare/frustrating hoops to jump through.) I thought I’d have to carefully explain to the front desk about the letter I needed, but the manager was like, “Oh, no problem, we’ve done this before.” A few hours later, we had our hotel-signed letters, and added them to the stack.

So, alas, we now enter the final stages of the process of leaving India. We’ve been told it takes about four business days to get the exit visas, so hopefully we’ll have them by Monday.

Then, hopefully, we can fly back to the U.S. on Tuesday (June 4).

We’ve had a good time here, but we’re ready to be home. Not much longer now!


Preparing For the Return to Mumbai

10 Apr

Today was filled with phone calls and emails with the US Consulate in Mumbai, the DNA processing lab in Arizona, and the Hiranandani Hospital in Powai.  It started with a 7:00 AM EST email from Rotunda Clinic letting me know that our surrogate had just been admitted to the hospital due to a blood pressure concern.  As she is at 30 weeks 4 days, any little concern needs to be thoroughly examined by a physician.  I called the hospital directly and was able to speak with Dr. Anita Soni, the OBGYN who will ultimately oversee the birth of the twins.  She reassured me that our surrogate is doing well and that she was admitted for observation and to provide nutrition and support.  We aren’t sure how long before she will be released, but I assume that it will not be longer than a day or two.   Our 100,000 INR deposit at Hiranandani was received months ago in anticipation of any complications, so treatment will be deducted from that balance.  Of course, I have no idea how much any of this will cost.

081009-dna-02Next, I reached out to the US Consulate to obtain information on the process for DNA verification of my genetic link to the babies.  Thankfully, the process has recently been streamlined (as of March 28, 2013) and we no longer have to scramble across the city to make a payment to the hospital for a doctor to perform the cheek swabs.  They can be paid with a direct bank draft available at any bank in the city.  The fee will be 1000 INR (about $20 USD) per cheek swab.  If any other potential parents need the specific details on the DNA process, please let me know via email or a comment.

The DNA testing kits have to be sent about a month in advance of the birth to account for travel time and potential early labor.  I will be completing my cheek swab here in New York on Friday, and the two sealed testing kits will be shipped directly from Chromosomal Labs in Phoenix, Arizona.  Melissa at Chromosomal Labs has been absolutely fantastic and I highly recommend her as your DNA lab provider.  The lab must be an AABB accredited center and they should be familiar with the required paperwork and processes when you call for a quote.

Once the babies are born and released from the NICU, we will schedule an appointment at the US Consulate to complete an application for a CBRA (Consular Report of Birth Abroad).  This document will be used to process the passport application for the newborns after the DNA test confirms their citizenship through my genetic link.  The cheeks will be swabbed, the kits will be mailed back to Arizona, and the results will be available 2-3 days after they are received.  The results will be emailed to the consulate, and HOPEFULLY, I will match!  Once a link is established, the passports are issued and the last step is the exit visa.

I have spent hours putting together a plastic binder full of documents that I may potentially need to complete the applications for CBRA, passport, social security card, and exit visas.  While photocopies are pretty easy to obtain in Mumbai, I’ve made multiple copies of everything.  This includes documents to prove my time in the US, including tax returns, college transcripts, utility bills, old passports, and a list of every date and time that I have ever left the US.  While it seems overwhelming at first, the process is actually keeping me focused on my checklist and allowing me to briefly stop stressing about all of the uncertainties ahead.

I can’t believe that I will be a daddy in about 5-6 weeks.   I’m already so in love with our babies.