There are several reasons why a woman might find herself having to give birth while traveling abroad; childbirth is difficult to pin down to an exact date. With our modern lifestyles, trips taken for either business or pleasure can wind up with unexpected complications. Many people own properties or timeshares in foreign countries; a person may also be unaware of (or unconcerned with) the potential complications of giving birth in a foreign country.

In such an instance, there are things that an American citizen needs to know, in order to ensure that both she and her baby are safe and healthy. Here are five of the most important things to bear in mind, should you find yourself giving birth abroad:

You may want to find a reputable medical institution.

Giving birth outside of a hospital is a little riskier for the health of the child, but not all countries have a reliable medical infrastructure on a par with that found in the United States. The nearest U.S. embassy should maintain an awareness of the ratings of local medical institutions, including information on those which meet American and international healthcare standards, and which ones are typically favored by American citizens traveling abroad.

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Your child may acquire U.S. citizenship at birth.

The United States will issue a Form FS-240 in your child’s name, confirming their American citizenship. Following the birth of a child abroad, their parents need to contact the nearest U.S. embassy as soon as possible. There typically aren’t any issues, provided the parents’ citizenship is not itself in doubt. A local consular officer can make the final approval, streamlining the process and reducing the wait time significantly.

Your child may be eligible for a U.S. passport immediately.

The Consular Report of Birth Abroad of a Citizen of the United States of America (conveniently abbreviated to CRBA) documents the birth of a child to a U.S. citizen abroad, provided circumstances do not interfere with the immediate recognition of the child’s citizenship. The CRBA is considered proof of American citizenship for all legal purposes by the U.S. State Department. This includes the issuing of a passport, registration for school, and so on, but a passport may be applied for at the same time as the CRBA.

Take all inclusive steps as quickly as possible.

Failure to promptly apply for both the Consular Report and a U.S. Passport for a child born abroad can lead to serious problems down the road. It can be difficult to re-enter the United States without the appropriate documentation, or to receive recognition for a newborn’s citizenship without the properly timed filing; subsequent efforts to receive recognition of a child’s status may be hindered, despite the unquestioned citizenship of their parent or parents.

All documentation was recently improved.

As of the summer of 2011, the U.S. Department of State made improvements to the security of both the hard copy and digital forms involved in proving American citizenship. Up-to-date and innovative features have been added to maintain information security, as well as to prevent fraudulent filings. This has enabled U.S. embassies to streamline the filing process, and make it easier to rapidly acquire proof of citizenship and a U.S. passport for a newborn child, as needed.

By taking a few simple steps in mind when giving birth abroad, a mother can greatly improve the health of her child. The parents can also ensure that their child’s rights and privileges as an American citizen are immediately and unquestionably secured.