|Child Australian passport|
#1: Lodge an Application for Evidence of Australian Citizenship (Form 119) to proof your baby's Australian citizenship
If you are an Australian permanent resident and your baby was born in Australia, your bub automatically acquires Australian citizenship at birth however the birth certificate is not sufficient proof as it does not specify the parents’ citizenship nor permanent resident status; your permanent resident visa grant letter is not acceptable proof either. The only form of proof accepted by our local post office was a visa label in my passport. Problem is I do not have one and this is true for most permanent residents as Australia no longer issues visa labels and instead records them electronically. I explained and argued at length with the post office staff regarding this matter who subsequently rejected Xavier’s passport application and turned me away, insisting that I had to get the visa label and to bring up my grievance with the Australian Passport Office as they were just going by the book. Unable to find any means of obtaining the label, I rang up the passport office and the lady answering the helpline sheepishly told me that she gets calls about the visa label problem all the time and that I needed to lodge an Application for Evidence of Australian Citizenship (Form 119) to get around this issue. Why doesn’t the passport application form clearly state so??!
Form 119 come with its own set of quirks - it requires that your baby's identity declaration and photograph to be endorsed by an Australian who is not related to bub by birth, has known bub for at least a year, contactable by phone during office hours AND hold one of the thirty-eight listed professions referenced in the form. For expats like us who hardly know many Australians let alone one that meets all the criteria, we had no one to turn to but the local Justice of the Peace who very kindly agreed to endorse the documents having only met Xavier for a mere ten minutes. “I declare I have known the child for 0 years and vouch for his identity...” Ironically, my visa grant letter is acceptable proof of my visa status for this form! This application set us back $60 and took three weeks for the Australian citizenship certificate to arrive in the mail.
#2: Have your baby's passport photo taken by an experienced photographer
Your baby's passport photo has to meet a set of standards - photograph dimensions, baby's face is centred and looking at the camera with eyes open and a neutral expression (no smiling), white or light grey background, not held in the arms just to name some - and most post shops and pharmacies who provide passport photography services are unwilling to take on the job as they take polaroid photos (if they do, expect to pay a hefty cost as they will charge you for every image taken regardless if it meets the standards). You can attempt to do this with your own digital camera referring to the photo guidelines, or get it done at a camera shop. I opted for the latter and took Xavier to Rainbow Camera on Princess Highway to have his passport photo taken. It was effortless (in part sheer luck that Xavier didn't know how to smile yet at 7 weeks old) and took less than ten minutes as the photographer knew what she was doing - she had Xavier laid on his back on a white sheet then climbed up the stepladder to take his photo using a digital SLR while her assistant jangled a set of keys to get Xavier's attention. The photographer took multiple shots until she got one she deemed satisfactory. It costs us $20 for four prints and the digital file is stored on site so we can always have more printed if required. I can't believe the child passport is valid for five years - Xavier doesn't even look anything like his passport photo today!
|Passport photo that meets the set of standards|
#3: If printing the application form, increase your toner density to print darker
On my third attempt to submit the passport application, it was rejected on the basis that the border of the boxes in the 'Interviewing Office Use Only' section was not visible. "You've got to be kidding me, right?" Well, I kid you not. We were informed that we didn't have the printer tone set correctly; FYI, all other boxes in the form had clear borders with exception to this section due to the greyscale of the online form itself. To save the hassle of having your printed form rejected, increase your toner density prior to printing. Alternatively, just pick up the passport application form from the post office and skip printing altogether.
Reason for application rejection: Borders of boxes not visible
On the subject of printing, make sure your form is printed single sided; double sided printing guarantees application rejection as we duly discovered :/
#4: Bring all original evidence/support documents as well as photocopies
The post office staff will want to sight all original documents used as evidence or support in the application and will request for photocopies (to be submitted with the application). If you do not have copies, you can pay the post office for the copy service at 50 cents per page. The photocopies do not need to be certified as the post office staff can certify them as being true copies of the originals.
#5: Book the passport interview
The passport interview is essentially a time slot for the post office staff to review the application form; your baby doesn't need to attend the interview. Though some post shops are happy to process the application without appointment, it is highly recommended that you book in the passport interview to avoid disappointment as the post office staff can turn you away if you do not have a booking, especially when they are busy.
If at first lodgement you do not succeed, make sure you get the post office staff to review the entire application and note down any other issues present to save having a repeat incident - most parents would storm off in frustration in their first attempt (I did so myself) only to find their application getting rejected for another reason in the next visit. Once the passport application is successfully lodged, all you have to do is wait for it to be processed which takes around three weeks.
Making that first maiden trip overseas with your baby is a very special milestone that marks the beginning of many family travels to come - make sure you get your baby's passport done ahead of time so you don't get caught out!