Before I get to sharing about our trip (I hope to get to it this weekend), I wanted to answer a few questions and share a bit about what happens next in this process.
Technically and legally, our adoption is complete. However, until Baby K sets foot on (or, in her case, is carried onto) U.S. soil, becoming a U. S. citizen, she is a foreign national, and as such, she needs permission to enter the country. [It’s a pesky detail – the whole permission to enter the country thing.] So, what we need is the U.S. Embassy in Addis Ababa to issue her a visa. However, it’s not as simple as that; there are actually quite a few things that have to happen before the Embassy can issue the visa.
First, our agency will pull together a number of documents and submit the request to the Embassy. Some of these documents our agency already has, like the I-600 application that we completed and sent to them after accepting our referral. (Some may recall that ages ago, the approval of our I-600A was the last piece we needed before getting on the wait list. The I-600A essentially, in very simple terms, pre-approved us to bring home a child adopted from Ethiopia, and the I-600 makes the request particular to Baby K.) Other documents need to be issued and obtained, like the court decree approving our adoption and her birth certificate and passport. Our agency tells us that it typically takes about 3-4 weeks for this paperwork to be gathered and submitted to the Embassy.
Once the Embassy has the paperwork, it will conduct an investigation into the facts and circumstances surrounding the adoption. This has already been done by the Ethiopian government, but at this point the U.S. government needs to verify that Baby K qualifies as an orphan (under U.S. immigration law), and that nothing improper went on during the course of her relinquishment and subsequent adoption. Accordingly, the Embassy will review all of the paperwork and also interview Baby K’s birth parent. We have been told that the Embassy is asking for additional information on virtually every single case it reviews, so we will know not to panic if Embassy staff asks our agency to obtain and provide more information about our case. Once the Embassy feels it can approve our request, it will invite us to attend a brief meeting in Addis and subsequently classify Baby K as our daughter and issue her a visa. And then we can bring her home!
In rare situations, the Embassy may decide that it does not have enough information to clearly approve a case, and it will require significant further investigation through the USCIS office in Nairobi, Kenya. The process can add months to the timeline. So we are seriously crossing all fingers and toes that our case won’t, as they say in the current world of Ethiopian adoptions, be sent to Nairobi.
Once the Embassy has our file, we should receive notifications as it works it way through reviewing our case. This means that we should have some idea of how things are progressing, and that will help us to estimate when we might expect to travel back. In the end we will receive about 7-10 days notice of our travel date. Since most families right now seem to be having their Embassy appointments around 8 weeks after their court dates, we are hopefully looking at mid-July for a return trip. We know, of course, that it may take longer (and it could be shorter, although that is probably less likely), but it does seem like a realistic time frame to keep in mind at this point. [Knock on wood. I have never been so superstitious in my life as I have been through this process.]
One week down…