Thursday, July 31, 2008

Another State Department Rant - Hague

This rant is on behalf of others, as hopefully it will be resolved by the time we need to deal with it – in early 2010.

As most know the US ratified the Hague treaty on inter-country adoption in April. This has little effect on our Kazakhstan adoption as Kazakhstan is not party to the Hague, but China is. Our China agency received Hague accreditation, so we assumed there would be no problem. We are willing to take the additional required courses and we have not lived that many places (the new Hague form requires a background check from every state and country we have lived in since the age of 18).

But now the first few people who have been approved for immigration through the I800a rather than the I600a (pre-Hague) are starting to receive TA (travel approval) for China. Presumably they let their 171H expire at some point and therefore when they needed to renew approval, they had to fill out the I800a. (We also have technically let our 171H expire, by virtue of switching it to Kazakhstan to expedite that adoption). Despite having received a new valid 171H, these people are being denied US Consulate appointments and are therefore not able to travel. The US considers their adoptions to be Hague cases simply due to use of the I800a form, but China considers them pre-Hague based on the text of the Hague regarding transition cases (more correct interpretation). Apparently the only problem is one piece of paper that the US is requesting from China that states that the referral process was done according to Hague standards. While it seems that this should be something simple for China to provide, they are currently not willing. As annoying as this is, China really is in the right here based on the text of Hague that states that all adoptions begun before ratification of the Hague will continue to be processed as non-Hague adoptions. China does not care that the US has started requiring the new immigration form regardless of when the adoption actually began.

I am glad we are still far away from having to deal with this as it is bound to be resolved in the next year, right? At some point nearly all families will be traveling on an I800a despite their adoptions being started before Hague. For NSN adoptions with LID before about mid March, if people have consistently kept their 171H valid, they may still be fine. These families would have missed the opportunity for the free renewal the first time and therefore are able to use it now - for their third renewal of the I600a and are therefore able to proceed under the old rules. For later LIDs, most of us used the free renewal for our first renewal and are being told that we cannot then pay for another renewal of the I600a, but must now submit the I800a. I know the Hague is really a good thing as it helps to ensure that all adoptions are done in an ethical manner, helping to limit the chance for baby trafficking. I just wish people involved would also use common sense and realize that unreasonable hoops are preventing children from getting families, even when everyone already agrees that there are no ethical issues or questions.

I know we said we were going to make the blog private, and still will. We just have been swamped at work and not had the time to figure out how to do it yet.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

A Rant - with a Happy Ending

“Please be advised that we have received your approval Cable…We are ready to process the case.”

After six months of emails and phone calls we finally received confirmation that the National Visa Center has sent our cable to the US embassy in Almaty. This very important step will allow us to get a visa stamp on our child’s Kazakh passport that will automatically make our child a US citizen when they touch down on US soil. We can finalize the adoption in country without this approval, but we cannot leave Kazakhstan.

While navigating the ever changing requirements of a foreign government has at times been difficult, the real difficulty for us has come from our own government. Due to security concerns (from babies??) all adoption visas began to be routed through the National Visa Center late last summer. This had not been true when we applied for our first I7IH for China; at that time the local USCIS office was able to send the approval cable directly to the country. While many people complain about their local USCIS office (primarily due to processing times) I do not recall anyone ever complaining that they did not do their job. Since the switch to routing through the National Visa Center, I have heard of MANY people who have had difficulty with approval cables not being sent. I even read that one family’s approval was sent to Thailand, but they are adopting from Ethiopia!

We received our 171H for Kazakhstan in December of 2007. About six weeks later we emailed the embassy in Almaty to make sure they had received everything and they notified us that they had not. So we emailed the NVC to see when the cable would be sent, but got no response. The first time we called the NVC they stated that they had no record of us adopting. So we went back to our USCIS office and asked them to resend our approval information to the NVC. Several weeks later we called the NVC again and this time they actually found our name, but only had record of our approval for China from early 2006 (why didn’t they find that information the first time we called?!) As a side note, when you call the NVC they request a case number. Adoptions do not get case numbers – only every other kind of immigration does. So once you explain that, they state that they have to pull up a different spreadsheet. So adoptions are not even in the same system as the rest of immigration, so how does it help to be routed through the NVC? Often their excuse to inquiring adoptive parents when they have no record of anything being received from the local USCIS office is that they have thousands of pieces of mail to go through. Isn’t that their job?

Luckily our local USCIS office has been very helpful and they are as frustrated as we are with these problems. So they started sending everything FedEx with tracking numbers. We got the tracking number from our USCIS office and called the NVC again. This time they again said they had no record of us, but after my wonderful husband insisted on speaking to the supervisor and stated that we had the name of the person who signed for the package, they suddenly found our information and said that the cable had been sent on June 30. So we emailed Almaty again – and today got confirmation that they had received the cable! No matter where you are adopting from, always check with embassy to ensure that they have what they need. I cannot imagine having to try to resolve this from Kazakhstan.

Again, we will be making our blog private in the near future, so if you would like an invite, please leave a comment on this or the previous post. Thanks!

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Big News! - and going private

First, the big news - we received our region assignment! Just when I was starting to get discouraged we got the call.

I have found that I go through the same pattern for every step of the Kazakhstan process. When we first begin a step, I am really happy for a few days at the prospect of progress, and then I settle in and just start marking off the days. But when it gets within a week or two (or beyond) our estimated time to complete a step, I start to worry that something is wrong or that we have been forgotten. When I finally am convinced we may never hear anything I am caught off-guard by good news. Unfortunately, recognizing this pattern has done little to help me deal with all the waiting.

As an aside note - I love where we live. We went to the bank to get a cashier’s check for the next installment of the adoption fees and the cashier who helped us had been born in Almaty! He had moved here about six years ago. It is fun to live in such a diverse place that you can just run into someone from Kazakhstan. We also have neighbors from Kazakhstan (and Korea, Vietnam, Central America – you get the picture).

Well we have reached a point in the adoption where we feel we need to limit what we put on the internet. So we will be making our blog private. Please leave a comment or send us an email to tehop1 at gmail dot com if you would like an invitation. We will automatically be sending an invite to our friends on the “gang” list as well as relatives.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Happy 4th of July!

Our nephew, Ryan, at the parade.

Our niece, Alexis, at the parade.

Our friend, Tyler, at the parade.

In the big pool.

It's never too early to learn to build a fire!


New Friends

Mmm, Frosting

Ok, so I am a few days late. We had a wonderful weekend since my sister and her family and our friends from Salisbury came to visit. We all hung out at my parents’ house, which is only about 20 minutes from us.

No update on the adoptions. Our dossier has been in Kazakhstan for about 9 weeks.