There is a reason that some people call a pending adoption a “paper pregnancy.” It is because by the time you have actually brought home your child, you will feel as though you are singularly responsible for decimating an entire forest just with the forms and paperwork you will have completed.
Some of this paperwork will be from your home study, some from your child’s country, and some from US immigration. Since each state’s home study requirements and each country’s dossier requirements will vary, I’m going to talk about the US immigration forms that everyone will need to complete to bring their child into the country.
1. I-800a (if you are adopting from a country that has signed the Hague Convention) or I-600a (if you are adopting from a non-signing country)
This form is issued by the USCIS and is for obtaining provisional approval to bring an orphan into the United States, via adoption. The application asks questions about the adopting parents, their citizenship, previous adoptions, previous marriages, who lives in your household, if anyone in the home has a police record, and so on. The application is to be filled out and mailed to the address given in the online instructions. Along with the application, you will also need to include copies of birth certificates for the parents who are applying, as well as marriage licenses, divorce decrees, any documents regarding expungement of police records, and a copy of your home study.
Along with the main application, many people will also need to include two supplements. Supplement 1 is if you have any adults living in your home besides the two parents listed on the application. For anyone with college-aged children, they would need to be added on Supplement 1, as would any full-time childcare providers. Supplement 2 gives USCIS permission to communicate with your adoption agencies regarding your case. If you run into problems, you will need this to be possible, so send in this supplement.
But wait, you’re not done yet! Along with the application, supplements, and additional supporting documents, you will need to send a check. A rather large check. The filing fee currently for the I800a is $775. To that you will need to add an additional $85 per adult in the household. This is the biometrics fee. Yes, even though you have already been fingerprinted for your home study, you will need to be fingerprinted again, at a different location, for a different agency, in order to gain your I800a approval.
Once you have sent in your stack of papers, you will wait. You will be sent a receipt saying your application has been received, as well as a notice of when and where to go for your fingerprinting appointment. Some sites allow you to walk in and be fingerprinted early, others insist that you wait until your appointed time. There is some discussion as to whether or not walking in early makes any difference to your approval. After you are fingerprinted, you wait, and sometimes wait and wait, for your approval notice.
This is the form number of the approval notice for both the I600a and the I800a. Some countries, such as China, require you to have a copy of this form notarized, certified, and authenticated, so that it becomes a part of your dossier. It is a very important form. I’ve always thought that for something which required so much effort to receive, that the approval form itself should look a bit fancier than it does.
3. I-800 (Hague countries or I-600 (non-Hague countries)
Because you had so much fun filling out the provisional approval to bring a child into the country, you get to do it all again. This time, these forms are for a specific child. Some of these forms will need to be completed by the adoption service provider, and other parts of the forms you will complete with information that is provided to you. By completing this form, you are formally requesting an immigration visa for your soon-to-be adopted child.
Now, listen to me very carefully. Do not, really, do NOT travel to another country to adopt a child without receiving the approval for the child’s immigrant visa. Without this approval, the US government will not allow you to bring your child home. If you do try it, you could end up being stuck in limbo with a child who is legally yours, but not allowed to immigrate. It’s happened more than a few times. So, get the approval before you buy the plane tickets. The reason for this is that the USCIS is charged with ensuring that a child has not been trafficked, that the child is an actual orphan and there has been no underhanded dealings. Does an approved I-800 guarantee your child was not trafficked? No. Does the process sometimes feel punitive? Yes, it can. But personally, I would rather have these safeguards in place, imperfect though they are, than have no one looking out for the welfare of vulnerable children.
You have received the wonderful news that the USCIS has approved your application to immigrate an orphan into the US. You might think you are done at this point, but you would be wrong. While the I-800/I-600 had a lot of information that had to be submitted, it wasn’t the application for THE visa which will go in your child’s passport. That’s what this application is. You can fill this out (it’s an online application and from this point forward, things are done electronically) once you have received email approval of your I800/I600, and have the GUZ number assigned to your child. This needs to be submitted with the DS-260 in order to start the visa processing. There is also a(nother) $230 fee that will need to be paid with this form. The visa will be physically issued when you are in country after the visa interview at the US embassy or consulate, depending on what country you are in.
While details for the process in each country will vary slightly, these four forms are all necessary to bring your child home. If your experience is like many others, you will become well-versed in the intricacies of these forms, and you will know the current timelines for approvals for each of them. The submissions and approvals of each mark the waiting period and help mark the progress of a paper pregnancy.