Alternate Title: Moral Turpitude and Transferring Citizenship to the Children
This article is a follow-up to the 2013 piece, American Visa Process in Lima, Peru.
My daughter was born in Lima. Unlike my American-born son, who got U.S. citizenship upon his birth, I would have to formally request citizenship for my daughter.
Citizenship is transferred to expats’ children born abroad, but you have to go through a bit of paperwork. You have to submit a Consular Report of Birth Abroad (DS-2029) and bring the baby to the embassy for an interview. At the interview you also have to turn in the Peruvian birth certificate and other legal documentation.
But the most difficult quirk in the process I found was the requirement that the parent whose American citizenship is supposed to transfer must have lived in the United States for five years since turning 14 years old.
Of course I lived in the States for five years since turning 14. I was born and raised a true-blue, red-blooded American. I never even took a trip abroad until I was 27. But how do you prove that?
I don’t have my high school diploma or the old Imo’s paycheck stubs. I don’t have anything from those years. What would you use?
I started worrying. Can’t I just show up and talk? Look at me, listen to me, I’m the textbook ugly American!
No, I won’t take any chances with my daughter. I found documentation.
My credit report goes back 10 years to 2016. It showed school loans, a car loan or two, apartment leases and more. I got my official criminal record from the FBI, which unfortunately has a major event in 1997 (when I was 18). I had a copy of an expired Colorado driver’s license from 2004.
I had a strong case. But I wanted an airtight case. So I went the extra mile. I got all of the above and piled some extra shit on top so there was no chance of denying my daughter her bona fide gringo status.
As a college student I was active in several school organizations. I had been mentioned in the campus newspaper a handful of times. I found four old articles from the UMSL website and threw those in the mix.
Then came the big day … the interview!
I entered the embassy compound with wife and both children and we made our way to Citizen Services. My number was called and I turned in the forms and birth certificates at the window.
And that’s when I realized I brought the wrong birth certificate. When wife went to get the daughter’s Peruvian birth certificate from RENIEC, she also took the American-born boy in to get his Peruvian citizenship in order. They issued him a Peruvian birth certificate which looked the exact same, and that’s the one I brought to the U.S. embassy on the big day. I had found a Peruvian birth certificate in wife’s unorganized documents and assumed it was the daughter’s, when it was the son’s!
No problem, the agent told me. I can bring it in over the next couple days. They’ll get everything else out of the way today.
“Thank you so much,” I gush into the plexiglass separation window. I can barely contain my affection for this functionary.
She told me to sit down and wait to be called for the interview.
So I went back to trying to keep the boy from pulling all the number tickets or knocking things over.
We were eventually called into the side office for the interview. Is my suit pressed well enough? Is wife’s skirt just a little too high? Dammit, too late now. Deep breath, here goes …
And the officer tells me we’re all set. Daughter’s U.S. birth certificate and passport can be picked up in two weeks, assuming I bring in her Peruvian birth certificate this week. But if I can’t make it until next week, then the U.S. papers may not be ready for three weeks. So if we plan to travel soon, it’s really important that I come back with that Peruvian birth …
“Don’t I have to show you my evidence?” I ask incredulously.
“Well, you’re born and raised, right?” the officer replied. I glanced at my folder of documents. It was at least a half-inch thick.
“Don’t you want to see my credit report? My last few years of 1040s filed jointly with my Peruvian wife, my criminal record? I have articles from my university too…”
“No, you’re all set.”
“After all this work, would you care to read about my extracurricular activities at the University of Missouri-St. Louis?”
She didn’t say no, but I could tell she didn’t.
“Thank you, thank you, thank you so much you wonderful government representative, thank you!”
You may ask, why “glowing review” in the title? Isn’t everything at a government office supposed to be a pain in the ass?
I think the embassy gets an undeserved bad rap.
Every once in a while you’ll see somebody on the gringo expat forums post a long rant because his girlfriend/fiancé/wife just got rejected for the tourist visa or whatever. And they condemn the arrogant, unjust embassy gringos to hell, and that’s why USA is going down the toilet!
But I always wonder, was something else going on? I briefly worked in the visa industry, which is nothing less than an “industry.” Most of the clients who needed help getting visas to the States were, obviously, people who had already been rejected when going the normal route. I saw a lot of these rejected profiles, and 100% of them had some kind of red flag in their past.
You also have to think about the visa officer’s point of view. Put yourself in his shoes. His only job, in the case of a non-immigrant visa, is to determine that you are likely to return home and not stay in the States for decades or life as an illegal laborer. Or in the case of an immigrant visa, that the relationship/marriage is legitimate.
When I see these gringos ranting on the forums, I have to hold myself back from needling them for more details. It’s not too polite to ask things like:
Is there a huge age difference between you and your fiance?
Has she been married before?
Has she applied for a visa or residence before?
How did you meet?
Because in all likelihood, the gringo’s Latina soul mate overstayed a 60-day tourist visa and lived in the States illegally for several years, during which she married some Puerto Rican who got locked up for selling dope and her citizenship didn’t come through before they got divorced. So she got deported back to [your Latin American country], where she immediately started trolling online dating websites for a gringo husband to get a ticket back to the States. And that’s where you come in, dickhead. And you wonder why the embassy denied her K1 fiance visa for you two to get married?
I wanted to set the record straight because most people don’t write positive reviews, only rants. I received nothing but A++, 100% completely-satisfied service from the U.S. embassy in Peru.
Over 80% of tourist visa applications to the Lima embassy are approved. Less than one in seven are denied. So if you were denied, you are in a small club. You may have deserved it.
That was the conclusion I came to before wife was pseudo-denied a tourist visa to bring our newly minted U.S. citizen daughter back to St. Louis to meet the gringo family.
The wife got her green card in May 2013. After a year and a half in the States, we moved back to Peru in October 2014.
You may not know this about green cards, but “permanent residence” is not necessarily permanent. You are supposed to actually live in the United States and work towards citizenship. If you leave the country for more than one year, you abandon your residence and path to citizenship. You lose the green card.
We want to live in Peru. We knew we were abandoning residence.
In fact, the green card is not for people who do not live in the United States or working toward citizenship. People who legally reside outside the U.S. are supposed to enter on non-immigrant visas. So we went through a new process where legal aliens formally renounce residence in order to avoid confusion at immigration when visiting.
After confirming this was the correct course of action, wife formally renounced residence at the Lima embassy.
I figured renouncing residence would make a tourist visa a no-brainer. Plus, wife is married to a U.S. citizen and is the mother to two U.S. citizens.
But when we applied for the lowly tourist visa and she queued up with all the second-class visitors to the U.S. embassy, she received a document saying they needed more time to decide.
I was worried. I peppered the wife with questions about the interview. What did they ask? What did you say?
But it turns out they didn’t ask many questions at all. She was finished in just a couple minutes.
Where the **** is our visa!!?
Then the embassy called. They asked her about a misdemeanor she was charged with during our year and a half in the States. They said they needed us to clear that up, and to bring documentation if possible. They scheduled another appointment with wife.
The charge from December 2013 had been dismissed. I contacted the courthouse in Missouri and confirmed that it was dismissed. But I decided against requesting the court disposition because it would not arrive in Lima by the time of the next appointment. I decided to write a letter explaining everything for her to present to the visa officer.
Wife presented the letter, but the visa officer said it wasn’t enough. They said they wanted to see the documentation, and she set another appointment two weeks later.
I started some web searches and found the legal concept of moral turpitude. According to the USCIS, moral turpitude “refers generally to conduct that shocks the public conscience as being inherently base, vile, or depraved, contrary to the rules of morality and the duties owed between man and man, either one’s fellow man or society in general.”
In layman’s terms, moral turpitude in American immigration law refers to the state’s policy to deny any visa whatsoever to people who were convicted of serious crimes in the United States. So basically all my deported buddies in Bogota.
But not my wife. No way. Can’t they see the charge was a misdemeanor, can’t they see it was dismissed?
I guess not. I have to order that court disposition from Missouri. Just when I was praising the U.S. embassy in Lima to high heaven …
The disposition arrived to my old man’s house, who emailed me a scanned copy. Instead of mailing it to Peru, I wanted to see if they’d accept the scan. So I emailed the digital file to the embassy from wife’s Gmail account, explaining that this was the disposition and, would I need to have the original or could I bring in a printout of this scan?
And the embassy replied the email was sufficient. Wife didn’t need to come to the interview. Her papers were already being processed. Could she just bring in her passport to receive the visa?
And I praised the U.S. embassy in Lima all over again!
Seriously, I have some expat friends who could say the agent was being cruel in making us jump through those extra hoops. But I tend to give people the benefit of the doubt in doing their job. Especially when giving out a 10-year visa, especially in the year of Trump’s GOP coup, especially in the year of rising nativism around the world, I give visa officers the benefit of the doubt when going the extra mile to ensure the United States does not let in anybody from the world’s second-class countries who may be guilty of moral turpitude!
In an unrelated testimonial for the Lima embassy, last year Ambassador Brian Nichols began holding a town hall in which he, the man himself, speaks to the expat community about the issues in Peru. I don’t know how many ambassadors in America’s embassies around the world step down from the ivory tower to field questions from any and all riff-raff pukes pelting them with unworthy questions. But Nichols does!
Team America, fuck yeah!
Seriously though, wanna see my old college newspaper articles?
- “Fraternities begin formal rush for first year”
- “What does the Riverpup look like?”
- “Colin Post, a recent graduate from UM-St. Louis …”