I’m not superstitious, but I was nervous about today.
Early this morning, at 6 a.m., I hopped on a train to Berlin for my appointment at the US Consulate to do some paperwork related to my wedding.
I slept most of the way over, in that special state of train dozing — in and out of consciousness, somehow waking up right as the conductor was there to check my tickets, even though I hadn’t heard him — as a large group of Polish people chattered around me. In my strange state of dreaming, I thought I even understood some of what they were saying! I’m pretty sure my mouth was open while I was sleeping, though. Umm…talk about embarrassing!
I made it to Berlin and followed my directions I had written for myself on how to get to the embassy. S7 to Zoologischer Garten, U9 to Spichernstraße, U3 to Oskar-Helene-Heim. I had been nervous about navigating a transportation system I didn’t really know. (Last time I just blindly followed Tobias around the town. I’ve got a bad sense of direction anyway.) But it ended up being quite easy, and I was impressed with my directional skills when I guessed the right direction walking out of the U-Bahn station to get to the Embassy.
At the Embassy
Soon I saw an American flag on a big building, and a line of people standing out front. So I stood behind them. A [German] policeman outside asked me if I had any cell phones, USB sticks, mp3 players, cameras, or electronic equipment. I told him I had left it all at home (without a phone…another reason I was nervous about going to Berlin by myself!) and he joked around with me a bit – he was in a really good mood!
A good-humored American guard called a group of us in to the security check area. Easy peasy. I had gotten there a little bit early for my appointment, like around 9:40. But that wasn’t a problem – had an appointment list and they let me come in early (and it didn’t feel like they were making an exception or anything). So I went up and got things taken care of, and I don’t know if it was my luck (take THAT, Friday the 13th!) but I was finished and out of there by 10:00 – which was my appointment time!
That meant I had extra time to go explore a bit around Berlin. Although I didn’t really explore much – I remembered the name Hallesches Tor, so I just went there and walked. (VIP side note: I also found a Dunkin Donuts and bought a dozen to take back home with me, which I then walked around with for 2 hours. But for next time I now know that there are two Dunkin Donuts in Berlin Hauptbahnhof!) So I walked down the U6 line and ended up at Unter den Linden (a huge shopping boulevard with the Berliner Tor at one end) and then took the S-Bahn back to the central station. I spent the rest of my time there looking in shops and ate lunch at McDonald’s while waiting for my 1:24 p.m. train. And then I headed back to Hamburg, sleeping (once again with my mouth open…oy) most of the way back.
My Tips for going to the US Embassy and Consulate in Berlin
A big reason for my nervousness about this process was the lack of answers I found online to some questions I had, so I was worried I wouldn’t have the right stuff. So here are a few tips I’d like to share on the experience:
- You’ll see it on your appointment print-out, but the embassy is located at 170 Clayallee. NOT the one near the Berliner Tor! Clayallee is about 40 minutes away from the Hauptbahnhof station.
- Make sure you check the prohibited items list on the Embassy’s website. For this reason, I didn’t even bring any of those items with me from Hamburg. If you’re staying longer, leave them at your hotel. It will expedite the security checkpoint if you don’t have any of these items. That said, they have (tiny) lockers for you to keep prohibited items, so if you absolutely need your cell phone, or if you forget you’ve got a USB stick or a lighter in your bag, it won’t get thrown out. You’ll just have to pick it back up at security on the way out.
- After you’ve cleared security, the guards will tell you where to go, but it’s easy – you just go inside the doors to the building and follow some red signs. The first floor is for visas. I didn’t need that, however, and went past the guard on the first level to the American Citizen Services section on the 2nd floor.
- There’s a sign that says to go to windows 1 or 2. If you’re lucky like I was, the office will be empty when you get there. If not, you may have to wait in line, but that’s no biggie. I went to the lady with my documents. She told me what was necessary. (See below.)
- As with any notarized document, if you’ve brought your own document to get notarized, wait to sign it until the notary tells you to. For it to be valid, it must be signed in a notary’s presence. I brought a permission slip I wrote to allow my mother to pick up my birth certificate for me, which I just typed up and printed out to bring with me. (Included in that were my name, place & date of birth, my mother’s name and current address, and of course the purpose of the letter.)
- If you’re looking for a Single Status Affidavit or a Marriage Affidavit (Familienstandzeugnis or Ehefähigkeitsbescheinigung), you DON’T need to bring your own letter. I had brought one just in case, because I wasn’t sure if they had their own form. They do. So just tell them you need one and they’ll type up the affidavit in English and German. They’ll need your passport and your current address, as well as the name of the courthouse you’ll be getting married at. Wait while they type up the documents, and then they’ll call you over to another window to sign the document. The document is in English and German, and does not need an Apostille.
- The Single Status Affidavit is just basically a document that says you’ve never been married before and that you are not in the US Armed Forces. (If you have been married before, then divorce papers would of course be necessary.) The notary will ask you to read the documents to verify the information is correct, and that you understand the document, as they are not permitted to explain the contents to you. You then swear (or declare) that the information is true, and they will instruct you to sign the form. You put it back through the window and they’ll sign it, and then you’re official!
- You’ll need a birth certificate with an Apostille as well, which you can only get in the state where the birth certificate was issued. Since I’m not planning on going back to the US before the wedding, that was my reason behind the permission slip for my mom to pick it up for me. It’s possible via mail and via VitalChek, but the reason I decided not to do it through them was because they can’t get the Apostille part, at least for Washington DC. So I figured it was just as easy to get my mom to pick up my birth certificate as it would be to pay a company to do it.
So that’s a list of the information I wish I could have found before going there. Hopefully it will help someone out there with the same questions!
And last but not least, here are the links I read for information on all this stuff:
- Embassy information on getting married
- Obtaining vital records (birth/marriage/death certificates)
- Washington DC Department of Health Guidelines for Obtaining a Birth Certificate
- US Embassy in Germany Notarial Services
- E-How article on How to Get Married in Germany