Israel at War 2006

Life in Haifa and north of Israel during the 2006 war with Hezbollah in Lebanon

Thursday, July 20, 2006

July 20th - Part 1: Tel Aviv: Boos for Canadian Passport services

Some months ago, long before the war broke out, I started the process to renew Yarden's Canadian passport so that I can take him to LA and also visit his aunt Corinne's place in Albuquerque, New Mexico, see the Grand Canyon, etc. . But due to various delays (mainly Yarden's mother who refused to cooperate in a timely fashion) I was only able to submit it 3 weeks ago. It was supposed to be ready a couple of days ago, but the consulate didn't answer their phone or return messages or emails. I wont go into much detail because it will only frustrate you to read how much preparation and work goes into getting a Canadian passport.

And so began a nightmarish story of trips from Haifa to Tel Aviv to submit, re-submit and re-submit again documents for Yarden's passport. Today I found out, that it was rejected due to the photo having a slim, light-grey shadow next to the right side of Yarden's hair. I do not exaggerate when I say the shadow was one millimeter wide and in no way affected the identity of the subject. Last time it was rejected because a small box on the guarantor's form was improperly filled in (in part to the very Byzantine instructions and complicated forms.)

Here is a list of just some of the requirements for a Canadian passport:
  • $35 Canadian dollars or equivalent Israeli currency (but you have no way of knowing the exchange rate in advance, which you need, because they require exact change).
  • 2 photos signed by the photographer, one by a guarantor (must be a doctor, Lawyer, accountant, etc.) who knows the child for at least two years. You must follow the full page of small text instructions.
    • Example of some bizarre instructions:
      • No teeth must be seen
      • No shadows - AT ALL!
      • White background
      • Unique size 50mm by 70mm (every other country is 50x50)
      • Face must be 31-to 36 mm from chin to "crown, the natural top of the head"
        Any idea how hard it is to get the face that size in that size a photo?
  • From filled out by the custodial parent (they don't write if being a guardian is enough)
  • Form filled by the Guarantor, who must know the child, but also the applicant.
  • Expired passport
  • Translation of custody agreement (not clear if notary or translator signature is enough). In fact, the instructions only tell you to bring the agreement (nowhere are you told to get the translation). I only got a heads-up to translate it from a friend who was rejected for this in the past. Cost: $200 cdn.
  • Long-form birth certificate (which itself took me 3 weeks to arrange and cost $60 cdn)
When I ask the clerk for the reason the expired passport is no longer proof of citizenship I get a bizarre answer: The rules have changed. I ask again what the reason for the new rules are and I get the same answer.

Now, if a photo is rejected it must be taken again and then submitted again to the guarantor to sign. Unfortunately, the guarantor is in Haifa and the consulate 100km away in Tel Aviv.Each trip to Tel Aviv is 200km round-trip.

I thought one of my arteries will explode when the clerk told me that it was rejected again. I was filled with anger towards small minded bureaucrats and Yarden's mother who delayed things to a critical stage. I would have thought that given the situation here, they might be a little more lenient. I asked to speak to a supervisor and the consul. I wanted them to stamp and renew the passport on the spot. I was refused.

Yarden and I and my good friend Laura in Tel Aviv spent nearly 4 hours going from photographer to photographer (5 in all) who could take a picture that could possibly meet the demands of the mandarins. One said he'll do a passport photo from any country in the world - except Canada. Too hard. After each rejection, I felt my already elevated stress level rise from 7 back up to 9. I'd calm myself down a little until we'd get to the next one. Finally we got something which I still doubt will do the trick, but I have no choice but to submit it.

I delayed our trip and cancelled the hotel reservations at a cost of about $400cdn ($350 US). I don't even feel like going anywhere anymore. They way I was treated by the embassy, I actually prefer katyushas!

By the way, I am embarrassed to tell this story to my Israeli friends who assume Canada as a model of efficiency and fairness. It only takes 30 -60 minutes to renew your Israeli passport. You just have to bring your old one and a couple of photos and the fee.

Oh yeah, they also give change.



At 24 July, 2006 13:42, Anonymous Sara Wenger said...

I empathize entirely as we went through the process 2 years ago for 6 of us. It was a first class nightmare! Our Israeli passports took minutes to get in comparison. I couldn’t help but laugh at the line:

"The way I was treated by the embassy, I actually prefer katyushas!"

Some things aren't so wonderful in the old country...


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