Most of the documentation process is relatively painless. As you might imagine, there are a plethora of forms to complete followed by several swipes of the credit card to appease good ol’ Uncle Sam. In preparation for our embassy trip, Chris filled out the necessary forms and made an appointment to hand in said forms. So far, so good. However, there is one part of the passport/visa process that strikes fear and anxiety in the hearts of parents around the world: the passport photo. If you have ever gotten your passport picture taken, you know that there are certain requirements about size, background, etc. that must be met for the photo to be valid. One cannot simply show up with the latest Glamour Shot to impress the customs agents. In the same way, there are requirements for infant photos. As might be expected, they also must have a white background and have a straight-on shot of their face. No problem. Here’s where things get a little ridiculous. Infant passport photos also require that they baby’s eyes be open, mouths closed, and their hands away from their face. Seriously? When has this magical trifecta ever occurred naturally in a three-week-old child? Excuse my cynicism but why not make them recite the Pledge of Allegiance while we are at it? Nonetheless, this was the task that my mom and I set out to conquer earlier this week.
Having received several recommendations for a photo shop near our school, we packed up the babies and said a little prayer for success. We headed to the photo shop where I hoped that the Korean owner would understand me when I asked him for “passport photos”. We were quite relieved when, not only did he understand me, he was also evidently aware of the perfect storm of requirements for these photos. We all prepped ourselves and geared up for a long afternoon in the photo lab. Much to my surprise, the babies cooperated so nicely that we were actually on our way out the door a mere 20 minutes after we arrived, enough time for my mom and I to enjoy a lovely celebratory lunch.
Pictures and forms in hand, we headed to the embassy to make our little babies legal. Everything was going swimmingly until we reached the last window before we were sent on our way. The nice lady closing out the girls’ files mentioned to us, “Oh, by the way, these photos won’t work.” What? Why not? We had achieved the trifecta! What more could she want? Was it indeed time for the girls to recite the Pledge of Allegiance? You see, the photos we had received were Korean passport size. We needed them to be U.S. passport size. Weary from a sleepless night and not a little frustrated, the nice lady directed us to a passport photo place near the embassy. So, off we went in search of said photo place. After following a map, we found ourselves standing in front of a photo booth. Yes, ladies and gentlemen, we were expected to achieve the trifecta in a photo booth just like the carnivals when you were a kid and you took four photos of you picking your nose and sticking out your tongue. Frustration level rising, we found another photo shop who said that they could take the pictures that we needed in the size required by the embassy. So, we spread my mom’s white jacket over the red velvet chair that the photographer wanted to use as a background and we propped up the girls pleading with them to open their eyes and shut their mouths. Eventually, success was achieved and we received the painstaking photos. Wearily, we made it back to the embassy where the new photos were approved.
Here is the funny part to me. While the government requires these incredibly difficult specifications for babies’ passports in order for one to be sure of their identity, the passports that we will receive in a few weeks will be good for five years. Five years! That means that these precious moments will be captured in the BOGOs passports until their first day of school. Ah, Uncle Sam, how silly you are.