"Hey, if she comes a little early you can get that tax break."It's not just the IRS that tries to ease the burden a child places on new parents. There are meals in restaurants discounted in size and cost, less expensive theater tickets, and airlines charge nothing or very little for kids to fly until they reach two years.
Unfortunately for us, the government of the United Kingdom has no such provision.
One of the first administrative orders of business after Charlotte was born was to set about obtaining her visa to live in the UK. With our departure scheduled only three months after Charlotte's birth, there has been no time to lose. The procedure is almost identical to the one Bethie and I followed when we applied for our visas, in both complexity and cost. Before we could begin that process, however, there were a few prerequisites.
The first was a social security number. This was easy because the hospital began the required paperwork before Bethie and Charlotte were discharged. We got Charlotte's card in less than two weeks after she was born.
The second was a birth certificate. This was a bit more complicated because the State of Maryland takes 4-8 weeks to put one of these in the mail, which is more time that we could afford. The alternative to waiting was, for me, an early morning field trip to the Department of Vital Records. The thought of a road trip to Annapolis was refreshing to me: a few hours out of the house after being cocooned for a couple of weeks, and in the scenic state capital no less. If you have the chance to visit Annapolis, I highly recommend it. I was surprised to learn that the office I needed to visit was not in Annapolis, but rather Baltimore, but no matter, Baltimore is a short drive away, and I think beautiful in its own right (I've told Bethie a few times that, city-to-city, I'd take Baltimore over Washington). Unfortunately, I was not to be headed to downtown Baltimore or the Inner Harbor, but a place called Reistertown Plaza. Precisely why is outside the scope of this blog, but I recommend avoiding Reistertown Plaza. OK, one hint: there is a store named, "Novilty King." No misspelling on my part there.
The third prerequisite to the UK visa application was a passport. The only really interesting part of this step (I'm filing the trip to the Dupont Circle passport agency under "traumatic" instead of "interesting") was the photo. We decided to try taking Charlotte's photo at home, thinking it would be easier than posing her at a photo shop. Remember: we needed a plain white background, face and shoulders, and no other person in the frame. Our first attempts were made by placing a white sheet in her crib:
Then, we tried holding her against a white background:
Finally, placing a sheet in her car seat:
In the end, we thought this one was the most passport-like, even if it doesn't look much like Charlotte:
Unfortunately for us, our printer's ink cartridges were nearly empty, and we couldn't get the photos uploaded to our local drug store, so we ultimately had to visit the photo shop next to the passport agency in DC. I had hoped to end with that photo (which Bethie says "makes Charlotte look like a Russian mobster"), but her passport is at the British Consulate in New York awaiting its visa. In a couple weeks' time -- when her passport is returned, hopefully with a UK visa -- we will post that photo.