Sign In  |  Register  |  About Menlo Park  |  Contact Us

Menlo Park, CA
September 01, 2020 1:28pm
7-Day Forecast | Traffic
  • Search Hotels in Menlo Park

  • ROOMS:

American couple stranded in Brazil facing 'bureaucratic nightmare' after newborn son arrives months early

Bureaucratic red tape has left a Minnesota couple stranded in Brazil after their son was born months earlier than expected.

A Minnesota couple in the midst of a "bureaucratic nightmare" amid a months-long stay in Brazil, where paperwork issues regarding their newborn son have prevented them from returning to the United States, is one step closer to being able to leave. 

Chris and Cheri Phillips, of Cambridge, located 50 miles north of Minneapolis, visited the South American nation in February for what was supposed to be a two-week trip. The couple consulted with doctors before leaving and were encouraged to travel, as Cheri Phillips' due date was not until June 2. 

Chris, who has a young daughter who lives in Brazil with her mother, visits the country at least three times each year. His wife usually accompanies him on at least one of those trips, they said. 


On March 8, two days before they were slated to return home, Cheri Phillips began bleeding, and they went to the hospital. Several days later, Greyson Phillips was born through C-section. He spent 51 days in a neonatal intensive care unit before being discharged to his parents on May 3. 

"While his health track has gone overall quite well, we are still stuck in a bureaucratic nightmare with regards to Brazilian documentation and American documentation," Chris Phillips told Fox News Digital from the AirBnb where the family is staying in the coastal city of Florianópolis. "The only reason we can't bring him home is because he doesn't have a Brazilian birth certificate, and we can't get him his American passport until he's got that birth certificate."

Despite the fight for their son's life, the fight to get him to the U.S. has proven to be an unexpected challenge. To leave the country, they needed a passport for Greyson, which requires a birth certificate. However, the local registry office, called a cartorio, refused to issue one because the passports for Chris and Cheri Phillips do not have the names of their parents on them, which is required in Brazil, they said.


Loved ones back in Minnesota sent the couple their individual birth certificates containing their parents' names and their marriage license. A court translator said the documents would still be denied because they lack an apostille, a little-known provision that certifies a document to be recognized by member nations of the 1961 Hague Convention, Chris Phillips said. 

As their plight caught the attention of the Brazilian media, the cartorio "had a change of heart" and issued Greyson's birth certificate. The agency blamed the holdup on an employee who refused to comply with the request, Chris Phillips said over the weekend. 

"No acknowledgement of wrongdoing. No admission of ignorance regarding a law of which they should have been fully aware," he said in a statement. "No apology for the 2+ months of unnecessary stress and mental anguish they had caused for Cheri and me."

"Supposedly, as we were told by somebody here, Brazil had passed a law in 2023 that excludes foreigners from needing to present official documents with apostles that contain a child's grandparents' names in order to process their Brazilian birth certificate," he said in a statement.  

Getting American documentation was equally difficult. Getting the proper paperwork required Greyson's birth certificate and a trip to a U.S. consulate or embassy. The nearest facility is some 300 miles away in an area that has been heavily impacted by flooding. 

Additionally, the newborn doesn't fit in a car seat, so driving was out of the question, Chris Phillips said. The couple contracted a local lawyer, but the court process has been slowed to a halt, likening the infant to a child without a country, they said. 

"He (Greyson) does not exist officially on paper yet in any system," Chris Phillips said last week. "He has not officially been registered as they say in Brazil."

The couple also reached out to Sen. Tina Smith, D-Minn., for help to cut some of the red tape.


"I can only imagine the incredible stress that this family has had to endure, both in giving birth unexpectedly in Brazil and then having to overcome bureaucratic hurdles to come home," Smith said in a statement to Fox News Digital. "After calling on the Embassy in Brasilia to do more to help the family, we received the news that they will provide extra service to ensure the family does not have to travel to get a U.S. passport."

As of Sunday, the couple was working with the U.S. Embassy in Brasilia to produce a passport for the son.

"We will not begin to feel truly comfortable until we have that passport in hand. To be clear, we still have a long road ahead of us. But, at long last, at least we can see it," Chris said. 

Aside from the stress of trying to navigate Brazil's legal system, the Phillips have had to deal with the mental and financial ramifications of their predicament.

"I don't speak Portuguese and not a lot of people here speak English," said Cheri Phillips, a first-time mother. "It's incredibly taxing to go through childbirth and having a child in the hospital when you can't directly talk to their care team."


The family has had to stay in several Airbnb properties, forcing them to move each time their reservation ends. Additionally, they have had to extend the contract for their rental car and adjust their flight home, which can come with significant costs. Their health insurance provider has so far covered their medical expense claims, Chris Phillips said. 

Chris, a photographer and video producer for a pediatric health provider, has been working remotely, and Cheri will return to work virtually on a part-time basis next week.

"Getting him home, that's the goal now," he said. "By birth, he's is a Brazilian citizen. Being born to Americans, he has a right to be an American citizen, which he will be."

Fox News Digital has reached out to the Brazilian Embassy in Washington, D.C., for comment. 

Data & News supplied by
Stock quotes supplied by Barchart
Quotes delayed at least 20 minutes.
By accessing this page, you agree to the following
Privacy Policy and Terms and Conditions.
Copyright © 2010-2020 & California Media Partners, LLC. All rights reserved.