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Preparing the Paperwork - International Adoption




Excerpted from
The Complete Book of International Adoption: A Step by Step Guide to Finding Your Child
By Dawn Davenport

International adoption is not for the fainthearted, and a strong constitution is needed more at the paperwork stage than at any other stage so far. Your agency is the expert on exactly what is needed, and they will guide you. Although it looks daunting, trust me, the process is more tedious than difficult, and you simply have to plod your way through. How long the process takes is mostly up to you. I've interviewed people who have completed it in less than a month and others who have taken over six months.

Before I address the specifics, allow me to preach for just a moment. Try not to view the seemingly endless paperwork as a roadblock being put in the path between you and your child. Try, as hard as it may be when you are standing in line yet again in front of your friendly (or not) neighborhood notary, to see these requirements as the governments', both domestic and foreign, honest attempt to make sure that these children go to the best possible families. For our children to have a positive self-image, it helps for them to have a positive image of their country of birth and adoption. One of our jobs as adoptive parents is to help our children understand that there were people in their birth country and in the United States who cared about them and wanted the best for them. They were not unwanted discards being rescued by noble Americans; their country of birth wanted to find good homes for them and went to great pains to do so. The paperwork that you are preparing now is tangible evidence of this concern by both countries.

Also, think of it from the standpoint of the governmental officials in your child's birth country. It has to be difficult for them to read in their newspapers about a horrible incident involving one of their children adopted abroad. This is bad for them and bad for international adoption in general. All the paper chasing, all the notarizing, all the apostilling, and all the standing on your head and holding your breath is to ensure that the good guys in your child's home country can sleep at night. It's the least we can do for the gift they are giving us. Okay, the sermon is now over; please open your hymnals and get ready to sing "Bringing in the Sheets (of paper)."

International adoption is complicated because so many governmental fingers are in the pie. Prospective adoptive parents must comply with the adoption laws of the foreign country, the immigration laws of that country, the immigration laws of the United States, and the adoption laws of their state. A little-known law of physics (or would this be mathematics?) has established that paperwork and headaches increase exponentially with the number of bureaucrats involved. Although at first glance the requirements seem complex, as an adoptive parent here's all you really need to know.

A Boring (but Blessedly Brief) Legal Overview of U.S. Requirements

Your child-to-be is a citizen of another country. To enter the United States legally, all foreign citizens, including your child, must be processed as an immigrant. The keeper at the immigration gate is the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS), which in the past was the INS before it was swallowed by the Department of Homeland Security. (For the trivia or acronym lovers among you, it was also known as the BCIS for a short time during the transition.) To further complicate the matter, the U.S. Department of State is also involved in international adoption, but not from the immigration and paperwork side of things, so I'll leave them out of the discussion.

The USCIS must issue a visa for immigrants to enter the United States, but fortunately they have a policy to expedite the processing of orphans. Don't get too excited about the use of the word expedite. When used by a governmental agency it does not necessarily mean fast, but in fact your child will be avoiding the usual long wait for a U.S. Visa. In order to approve a visa for your child, the USCIS must do two things. First, they must make a determination that the prospective adoptive parents are capable of parenting; and second, they must decide that the child is eligible to be adopted. Both of these tasks take time, but determining your parenting capability can be done before a child has been referred to you for adoption, thus speeding up the process once you find your child.

You will submit your forms to the USCIS office with jurisdiction over your area. To find the correct office, look up field offices at www.uscis.gov. The forms are also available at this Web site. You can fill out the forms directly online and print them off for submission. There is surprising van a ti on in exactly what each USCIS field office requires. For example, some offices require that the home study specifically name the guardians selected by the parents, but other offices require only that the home study state that guardians have been selected. Some offices require that the child-abuse check be attached to the home study, while others require only that the home study state that the check was clear. There is also a great deal of variation in how fast each office will process the forms. Your home-study preparer should know the nuances of your particular USCIS office.



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