Registering a British Newborn in Saudi Arabia

By far the most challenging and frustrating part of the whole process was registering Lucas and getting all his birth documents in order to apply for his British passport. We also had a deadline of 10 May to get back to the UK for my best friend’s Hen do and my younger brother’s wedding, but hey, that was 3 months away, plenty of time right??

Is Lucas a Saudi?

I get asked this a lot, actually many people just presume he is as he was born here. The answer is no. Contrary to popular belief being born in Saudi Arabia doesn’t give Lucas any rights to citizenship here, damn right in my opinion! This is also the same in the UK, post 1983 just because someone is born in the UK doesn’t necessarily mean they are a British citizen, (pre 1983 anyone born in the UK got a British passport!!!!). In the USA however anyone born there is classed as a US citizen and will get an American passport, crazy if you ask me, but thats just my opinion! The only rights that Lucas might get is he may one day be allowed to play for the Saudi national football team, not actually checked the facts on that one but Dave is hoping so!!

Interestingly Lucas is only classed as a British citizen by descent. If we were to bring up Lucas abroad and he was to meet someone who wasn’t British, get married and have a child, his child would not be entitled to British citizenship unless Lucas had spent at least three consecutive years living in the UK at some point!

Where to start?

Luckily we had a few friends out here who had recently had babies so we were lucky enough to have advice on the whole process, though it was still as confusing as ever!! So….it begins with the birth document from the hospital which was in Arabic, this document was then taken to the Ministry to then create the birth certificate (sounds easy enough). We are also very lucky out here to have ‘brokers’ these are Saudis who work for Dave’s company and are the go between for things such as registering a birth, they will basically make everything happen.

We had heard from more than one person how difficult it was to get the documentation back correctly, particularly when registering a middle name, in Lucas’s case this was going to be William. The reason for this – there weren’t enough boxes on the form to write the whole name (I kid you not). As we knew this was going to be an issue, we sent the broker with explicit instructions to ensure that Lucas’ birth certificate had his middle name on, we even wrote it on a post it and stuck it to the form. I might add that Dave did this the day after we got home from hospital, so Lucas was three days old, still leaving us plenty of time to get the passport sorted!

6 weeks later

How it got to 6 weeks I have no idea, both myself and Dave have spoken about it since then and both realised we should have been chasing the broker, but in our new bubble of family life with a newborn, plus both our parents out, time kind of ran away with us! Anyway, the birth certificate is finally back!! Hurrah!!! And guess what, no really, guess……. THERE WAS NO MIDDLE NAME ON THE CERTIFICATE!!!! At this point we were starting to worry a little, did we have to start the whole process again? Was it going to take another 6 weeks? Our flights were a mere 8.5 weeks away and we still had to register the birth at the Embassy, fill out the passport paperwork get that sent back to the UK and wait for it to get back here, not only that but we then had to Lucas his Iqama (Saudi ID) in order to get him his visa to enable him to return back to the country!

We sent the broker back the the Ministry in the hope that they could just create a new certificate including his middle name, since it was specified in the first place. A few days later the broker returns and he’s sorted it, amazing we thought, that’s actually quite efficient…and then we looked at the certificate. Now, this is Lucas’s official birth certificate, his document for life, needed for such things as passports, when he gets married one day, buys a house, has a child of his own etc. The broker had taken it back to the Ministry and all they had done was tip ex’d over the original, written over the top and added an additional stamp over the top of that, REALLY??!!! I will be interest to see if the tip ex lasts the test of time…

At this point we didn’t have time to waste correcting it, in all fairness when it comes to later life he will use his British birth registration document accompanied by his Saudi birth certificate which is in arabic anyway so most likely won’t be referred to.

8 weeks to go…

The arabic birth certificate had now been translated to take the the Embassy and finally register Lucas birth!! We took all the details and the registering process then took another 3 working days and then a weekend, so another week had passed.

7 weeks to go…

Passport form all filled in online, printed and ready to send via courier to the UK. Current turnaround times on the internet suggest it will take 6 to 8 weeks, uh oh! It will be ok we thought, Dave’s boss applied for his little girl’s passport and the whole turnaround process, door to door took 2 weeks, it will be fine!! We sent via Fed Ex who gave us a tracking number, this was Thursday, for some unknown reason the application didn’t leave Saudi until the Monday, it flew via Dubai and Paris and got to the the passport office in Liverpool on the Tuesday morning!

6 weeks to go…

We got an online ID number to check the status of the application, the number of times I must have refreshed that page over the next coming weeks…Once the application had been put on the system the status would change. We thought as soon as the application was at the passport office this would happen, it didn’t. It took a further four weeks before the passport was even put onto the system.

We have your application and it will be processed within the communicated timescales

This really frustrated Dave, this was the standard line he got every time he rang the passport office, which was daily by this point. Having worked for the Embassy and been involved heavily with the visa section I knew exactly how this whole process worked and it was fair enough. You can’t be giving people any more information than the above just in case there are any issues with the application which then extends the process. There’s nothing worse than someone coming back and quoting that “you told me it would be XYZ day” so on it lingered…

2 weeks to go…

We had resigned ourselves to the fact we weren’t going to make the original flight. Dave was still ringing daily and every now and again he would get a very nice person who was very apologetic and told Dave all the information they could. It was at this point we found out about the huge backlog a the passport office. Apparently in the new year the Home Office had relocated ALL new passport applications to the office in Liverpool and they were totally overwhelmed. Great! This was extending the whole application process to at least 8 weeks, we had no chance.

Should I stay or should I go?

My best friends hen do was going to be in Portugal from 13 to 16 May. My brother’s wedding on 17 May was looking in doubt, never mind the hen do. Lucas was 3 months old, what should I do?? I was always going to go back for my brother’s wedding, I couldn’t not, but I did have to think twice about the hen do, mainly because I felt like a bad mother. What kind of mother leaves their 3 month old baby to go and get drunk on a hen do in Portugal?! Well, turns out I am that type of mother!!! I wasn’t breastfeeding, Dave was absolutely amazing with Lucas so I had no doubts there and to be quite honest after 3 months (and 7 months trapped in Saudi) I was ready for a break!!! Dave was very supportive and told me I should go, as I was always going back for the wedding, what was an extra few days?! I’m sure there will be many appalled by this, and thats fair enough, but in my opinion it was the best thing we could have ever done!! Dave loved every minute of spending so much quality time with Lucas, yes it was very challenging, but there aren’t many dads who get the opportunity to spend such quality time with their baby as Dave did. It has made him an amazing Dad because of it, more importantly, he thoroughly understands just what a tough job it is being a mum sometimes!!!! It also did me the world of good too, I had an absolute blast with the girls and I’m not ashamed to admit that, I also know I can trust Dave to do anything with Lucas. I know of some mums who can struggle letting their husbands do the bedtime routine for example, as they don’t do it properly. After the baptism of fire that Dave got he can now do everything I can with/for Lucas and I trust him to make decisions for Lucas too without thinking he has to check with me first.

10 days to go

I think it was at this point the status finally changed to application being processed! After this apparently it only takes a few days and it get despatched. You don’t find out when its despatched, you just have to wait. There was (of course) a hold up. We had moved house since Lucas was born and since we sent off the application so there was inconsistencies between the ‘home address’ and the ‘return address’ that had to be clarified, luckily a quick phone call and this was done, but then the application was put back in the ‘to be processed’ pile all over again, who knows how long that would take!! I hasten to add we had May day bank holiday weekend to contend with as well so just skeleton staff in! JOY!!!

1 week until the wedding and the day of my flight

Dave rang hourly by this point and managed to get through to someone with a heart who listened to the situation and took pity on us. They assured us they would get the application waved in front of the approver so it could then be printed and despatched. I left for the UK that night and the status still hadn’t changed, but we were hopeful it would be printed the day after and despatched the same day. I was sad to be leaving Dave and Lucas of course, but I fully trusted Dave would be amazing and a part of me was extremely excited to be having the break and the chance to remind myself I was me again and not just Lucas’s mummy!!!

6 days to wedding

Passport printed!!!!! Finally!!!!!! It was starting to look like Dave and Lucas would make the wedding, it was tight but no longer impossible (which it had looked like a few days ago!!) We were now blind as to where the passport was, just waiting with baited breath!!! We did our calculations based on the outbound journey, worst case scenario it could take 5 days to get here but that would be if there was a Saudi style hold up which was unlikely. 5 days would be too long, 5 days took us to the Friday, holy day here, nothing is open. No Iqama = no visa = no travel.

2 days to wedding

Dave had been to the post room at work every day since the passport was despatched, bless, even the post guy there was waiting with baited breath for the passport, as was Dave’s whole office and all of our friends and family, even the broker was ready and raring to go as soon as the passport arrived and with two days to go it did!!!! Thursday morning (which was lucky as this was the last day before weekend). The final hurdle, getting Lucas an Iqama and visa in a day, and do you know what, the broker did!!! God bless him he did it, turned it all around in a matter of a few hours actually!!! Though as wit every step of this whole nightmare process, all wasn’t quite as it seemed. Quite ironically considering the struggle we had to get a middle name on the birth certificate, Lucas’s Iqama came back with the name Lucas William David William Park! We could deal with that, it wasn’t going to cause any complications with anything so we left it. I have friends who had to send back the Iqama twice because it came back with the wrong nationality each time, which does need to be correct!


Saturday 17 May – The Wedding Day

Dave flew on the overnight British Airways landing at 5am in Heathrow, a quick transfer to Manchester where I would pick them both up at 930am. I’m still in awe of Dave to be honest, he looked after Lucas for 7 whole nights and then flew on his own with him including a transfer at Heathrow, he’s a keeper! I was up at 5am to get ready before having to drive to Manchester to pick them both up, flights were all on time, Lucas was very well behaved, the one and only flight he’s ever slept through….! We had to be at the church for 11am so it was a quick change at my mum and dad’s before getting to the church. Lucas was a bit tired and overwhelmed all day bless him but we still had an amazing day, not forgetting the fact that this was also the first time most of our family and friends had met Lucas!!

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If we were to go through this whole process again, and I would advise anyone else to do the same one of us would have flown to the UK and paid for the premium service to get the passport turned round within the week. It would have been more than worth the cost of a flight to have had the passport in our hands weeks before the flight to avoid all the stress and also cost of changing the flights!!! But alls well that ends well!!

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