Tuesday, July 24, 2012

The beginning of the end

[With Archer came release in more ways than one - including my drive to publish new entries. Shannon has been begging, pleading, threatening me to finish this blog. There is more to share and the story should be told. Let's pick up the thread...]

All told, it took us three weeks of aimless waiting to get Archer his US passport. We literally had to sit around and bide our time on a three week waiting list because the US Consulate had limited visitor hours and one heck of a backlog. The only solace was our understanding that once we established Archer's nationality and got our hands on a passport, the final pre-departure step - getting our little guy an exit visa at the FRRO - could occur the morning of the flight home. As our three week clock (and aimless pleading with the US Consulate for an earlier visit) wound down, we gambled on this next-day fact and booked a Thursday evening flight out of Mumbai, the day after our Wednesday appointment to get Archer his passport.

The US Consulate visit proceeded, shockingly, just as expected. With all our documents in order - including Archer's super cool dual language Hindi/English birth certificate - the local personnel needed no more than 45 minutes to process everything. Shannon and I raised our right hands, swore that all the information we provided was true, and then collected the new passport. Archer was now formally recognized as ours and as a US citizen! Shannon and I locked eyes at the enormity of this moment. All it lacked was a puff of smoke as, like magic, with one hand-raised incantation, Archer officially became our boy. We left with a letter attesting to this fact, a key ingredient for acquiring his exit visa. Overall, it's hard to complain about this process considering the comparatively low hurdle next to most other countries. Try bringing a baby born of surrogacy into, say, Italy or England. Commercial surrogacy is illegal in those countries and the red tape can literally require months of India-based residency before permission is granted to return home.

We ran back to the hotel and packed. The plan was to hit the FRRO - India's exit visa-granting agency - early the next morning and then kill time before our flight. On the spur of the moment we decided to formally enlist the aid of a handler to help us through the FRRO process just to be sure our departure wouldn't suffer any delays. As it turns out, this was the greatest decision we made throughout our entire stay....

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