The American embassy in Jerusalem has announced that emergency passport appointments for urgent travel to the United States will only be valid for persons already documented as U.S. citizens.
The change in policy, which took effect Monday, has stranded hundreds of Americans living in Israel with young children who had planned to visit the U.S. over the Passover holiday that begins on the evening of April 5.
“Please understand that for us emergency means the death or illness of a loved one in the United States. It does not mean a trip to bring a new baby to meet their U.S. relatives,” the March 10 embassy announcement that was posted online read.
The message said that the previous urgent appointment system had to be taken offline because of the sheer number of non-urgent appointment requests, and that there would be no exceptions to the new policy.
The change in policy took U.S. citizens in Israel by surprise, with one online petition against it garnering nearly 3,500 signatures by Wednesday evening.
“Does America value family?” asks the petition by Rena Zoldan. “Sadly, this new change basically closes the only avenue available to those with newborn children seeking to travel to their native United States for Pesach.”
Zoldan said that her young family was “rudely and abruptly” turned away from a pre-scheduled emergency appointment at the US Embassy this week. They had hoped to fill out paperwork for their two-month-old son so they could visit family over the holiday. She had made the emergency appointment ahead of their planned travel after seeing that the first available regular appointment for registering the birth of their child abroad was not for another eight months.
“With a six-month backlog in Consular Reports of Birth Abroad (CRBA) appointment bookings, it is next to impossible to obtain a CRBA, rendering hundreds of American families stranded in Israel before Pesach,” she wrote in the petition.
“For the first time in my life, I am embarrassed to be an American citizen.”