By Parviz Malakouti-Fitzgerald, Esq.
(Document dependence is kryptonite to freedom of movement and second citizenship)
This article is part of our series on mobility concept & strategy explainers.
Few people really understand how papers (the literal wood pulp and ink) affect freedom of movement.
One pernicious restriction on movement and stay between borders is having an immigration benefit or status, but not having the accompanying original or certified vital record needed to prove or use the status.
It's having the legal right that comes from your citizenship, residency or life event, but not being able to PROVE it with the wood pulp and ink (the actual paper document).
🚩 You're an American citizen but you don't have a passport
🚩You're the descendant of a Croatian national, but the church that kept his/her baptismal record burned down, with all the records
🚩You urgently need your certified birth certificate but the state's health records department is backed up and taking three months to process birth record requests (true story in the state of Oregon this year)
🚩You need to prove your grandparents were married in Ohio in 1948. You have an electronic copy but the probate records office that should house the originals has no record of it (true story for a client this year).
There are many more examples.
Unfortunately, in most cases, if you can't prove the status or life event, you can't "use" it. Sometimes, creative solutions can be found (e.g. proving the life event by substitute means). But doing so usually means a delay, at very least, and substantial increased cost and stress.
Immigration and mobility lawyers are well familiar with this issue, but it still comes as a great surprise for people going through a once or twice in a lifetime immigration process.
I call this concept "document dependence."
For years now, I've felt that the issue gets short shrift in discussion given how important it can be to peoples' freedom of movement. Remember, many people never anticipate leaving their home country, and then are forced to leave in a hurry, whether because of a sudden opportunity...or emergency.
This is one of the reasons I'm a big advocate of building your personal archive by ordering two (ideally three) certified copies of all your vital records, and those of your children.
It's why I have my cheesy aphorism: If there's a stamp, seal and fee, you should probably order three.
If you're into family history or in any way interested in citizenship by descent, then add the vital documents of your ancestors to the list.
I suggest buying a nice faux leather binder from amazon, and a pack of 50 plastic sleeves. Save a PDF copy of each vital document as you get it, and put the original/certified copy in the binder.
(Personal archive of vital records in a nice faux-leather binder - all the cool kids are doing it)
The binder looks handsome, and regal, and dare I say, you might actually end up enjoying looking at this "proof of bureaucratic work"(shout out to bitcoiners who recognize the reference).
More importantly, you'll have an enormous head start if you ever need to apply for a visa, citizenship, or residency...especially if you're in a hurry.