Thirteen minutes

June 7th, 2011

That’s how long it took to renew the Boychen’s Swiss passport and Swiss national identity card yesterday. Well, that’s how long we spent in the offices of the Amt f├╝r Migration und Personenstand des Kantons Bern Pass- und Identit├Ątskartendienst. I spent some time last week on-line filling out the forms in advance and securing an appointment via email, so that when Boychen and I arrived at the offices for our appointment all they had to do was type a few things into the computer, take his picture, punch holes in his expired documents, and give me the bill, which I then paid at the cashier. Thirteen minutes, spit-spot, in and out.

It takes a good couple of hours to renew the US documents. It’s not possible to make an appointment at the Embassy here in Bern, though I have recently learned from Cosmopolitan Friend that such a thing is possible in US Embassies located in other lands; we just seem to have a crappy system here: first come, first served. It is possible to fill out some forms in advance, but that hardly saves any time – it’s not filling out the forms that takes the time, it’s then waiting to have them looked at. If we could fill out the forms on-line, the way I can for the Swiss documents, then they could also be reviewed prior to my arrival at the Embassy. Imagine that.

Renewing the Boychen’s Swiss documents was lovely. It went so quickly that we had time to pop over to Starbucks for a coffee (me) and heisse Schoggi (him) and still be back before Small Boy finished morning Kindergarten.

Americans living abroad outside of Switzerland, I’m curious: what’s your experience with the US Embassy where you live? If you have minor children, are you allowed to make appointments to get or renew their passports?

6 Responses to “Thirteen minutes”

  1. Tracy on June 7, 2011 3:32 pm

    Ask me next Monday afternoon when we got to get the Sprout’s certificate of birth, social security number/card, and US passport for our trip to the US exactly 1 month later. This was the first appointment we could get. Our appointment is actually at the Consulate and not the Embassy and I hear the process in a nightmare. Also, for some reason, locals, not Americans manage it, which I find odd. I also hear the local country process is much easier and sounds similar to yours. Wish us luck!

  2. Jennifer on June 7, 2011 7:53 pm

    Ah, the dreaded Consular Report of Birth. Tracy, may the force be with you.

  3. rswb on June 8, 2011 7:59 am

    The Australian consulate is a delight, full of helpful and efficient staff and a hot security guard who is so ridiculously polite and helpful and who will charm you in any language (well, french or english I guess). Sadly these aspects are sort of undone (for me) by the fact that it’s in Geneva and I have to spend 2 hours getting there (and then another 2 getting home).

    Our experience of getting Nonie’s Swiss passport was the same, though (although we didn’t pre-do anything online, but it still all zipped by in the blink of an eye). On a related note, they suggested to us that we just get her a passport and not bother with an identity card yet, because no one would ever really expect her to have an ID card (because babies don’t carry wallets) whereas a passport is really necessary for going to Australia.

  4. Jennifer on June 8, 2011 8:10 am

    Robyn – I thought about just getting the Boychen the ID card, since he’s got the US passport. By law, US citizens must enter and leave the US on a US passport, so he always has to have that one. Then he could travel outside of europe on the US pass and inside Europe on the ID card but I’m a paranoid freak and like having both Swiss documents, because YOU NEVER KNOW. That’s my approach to documentation. YOU NEVER KNOW. In my head, it’s always in all caps like that.

    When we go to crowded things like Zwibelemarit where we might get separated, I often tuck the boys’ ID cards in their pockets.

    Australian Consulate sounds lovely.

  5. Tracy on June 15, 2011 6:36 pm

    Ok, not 13 minutes, about 50. Of those 50, about 10 were spent going through security, 30ish were spent sitting in a small lobby area, and 7 with 1 of 3 people (only 1 American) actually on the process. Other than the amount of time, it was all easy. I’ll hold my final judgment until the documents appear in the mail, though! Then, we have to do the local country process to get a residence permit. First to the police station 30 minutes from home and then to the magistrate 3 blocks from home. Well, the current home. We move in two weeks (not our choice) and leave for the US in 4. All with a new baby. Sigh. I enjoy living here, but some days . . .

  6. Jennifer on July 5, 2011 9:10 am

    Tracy, you’re going back to the US already! Good luck with the move(s).

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