Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Proof of Citizenship

Apparently, there was no need whatsoever for concern about our appointment with USCIS yesterday, but thanks anyway for your prayers! I'll have to give some background here on why I was worried in the first place...

When an adopted child enters the US on an IR-4 visa (meaning the adoptive parents did not meet the child before the adoption became final in the foreign country) that child becomes a permanent resident, but not a citizen, so the parents need to re-adopt the child in order to gain citizenship. Every state, and actually every county, has different requirements on re-adoption, so it can get a little confusing. The state of Ohio requires that the child must live with you for a minimum of 6 months before the re-adoption takes place, and our county requires an attorney and a court procedure. We took care of that part of it in December, received an Ohio birth certificate in February, and then tried to apply for a Social Security number using his new birth certificate and the official court documents. I knew that eventually we would need to apply for a Certificate of Citizenship (COC), because you cannot get a US passport using only the Ohio birth certificate, as it is a shortened version. However, at that point, we were mainly concerned with getting our taxes done so that we could collect the rather hefty adoption tax credit, and I had heard from other adoptive parents that dealing with USCIS to obtain a COC could be quite a lengthy process. One family applied for their COC last July, and in mid-February, they were told that hopefully their application would be looked at within that next month - a little longer than we wanted to wait!

We were told three different times by three different Social Security agents that we had everything necessary and that we should receive the number within 2 weeks. After waiting for 3 weeks and hearing nothing, I called the SS office to check on it. Sure enough, I was told that they had been "planning to call me" because their computer system wouldn't take Yikealo's information without a COC, so we would have to get that document first. AAARRRGGGHHHH!!!! At that point, it was past the middle of March, so taxes were due in less than a month. We filed with the IRS for a tax ID number for Yikealo and also filed for an extension on our taxes. In a funny side-note, the tax ID # supposedly takes 4-8 weeks to obtain, but ours came after 3 and 1/2 weeks...on April 16th. We barely needed that extension!

In the meantime,  I got serious about the COC nonsense and downloaded the form from the USCIS website. The 7 page form has 8 pages of instructions, and you have to send copies of every document ever produced about yourselves in with it: birth certificates, marriage license, proof of residence, court documents, Ethiopian documents and translations, green card, passport photos, etc. Oh yeah, and a check for $420. In addition, we sent copies of the referral documents that showed the two different birthdates for Yikealo, as well as a letter stating why we had made the decision to change his birthdate. Before I sent the packet in, I called USCIS to find out if I needed anything additional to explain why his Ethiopian and Ohio birth certificates had two different dates. The woman that I spoke with said, "Oh my, I have no idea how you should handle that. Let me check with my superior." I waited on the phone, and when she came back, she informed me that USCIS would undoubtedly reject my application unless I wrote to the US consulate in Ethiopia and asked them to please have the Ethiopian government to issue a new birth certificate with the new birthdate. WHAT???? In a slightly panicked voice, I told her that was impossible, and then I got a little sarcastic, "So you're telling me, that even though he became a US citizen in DECEMBER, has an OHIO BIRTH CERTIFICATE, and a UNITED STATES JUDGE signed court documents stating his new birthdate, that you still need another meaningless birth certificate from ETHIOPIA? It's not like the current Ethiopian birth certificate is original in any way - it has our last name on it, for crying out loud!  Don't you think that the Ethiopian government has more important things to do than make up documents for citizens of another country?" She stated again that I could try to send in what I had, but that it probably would be rejected.

I called our adoption agency and spoke to the post-adoption coordinator, who told me that she had never heard of such a thing, and they'd had several families who had successfully changed a child's age. I went ahead and sent the application and supporting documents to our local USCIS office in Cleveland, and then prepared to wait for months before hearing anything further. To my surprise, we received the interview summons within 3 weeks. It didn't say anything about why an interview was required, but it did say in bold letters that we needed to bring the original documents for every single copy that we had sent in. Needless to say, I was a little worried, although David kept telling me that everything would be fine.

So, yesterday we went to Cleveland for our appointment...and it was great! We were essentially there for a ceremony welcoming Yikealo as a US citizen. The lady that we spoke to was very friendly and she kept commenting on how cute Yikealo was. The only "original document" that she asked for was his green card - which she kept, because he no longer needs it. We had to verify his name, our address, and his birthdate, and then sign several documents in his name. Finally, David had to stand, raise his right hand and take an oath of citizenship on behalf of Yikealo. Y thought that this was great fun and raised his right hand too, trying to repeat everything that the lady said. Finally, we received the coveted Certificate of Citizenship, along with a letter from President Obama congratulating Yikealo, and Yikealo received a little American flag. It was actually a sweet little moment, and even better....we're DONE! All that remains is to get that Social Security number...


  1. I know that different USCIS offices run differently but CLEVELAND AND COLUMBUS???? ODD! We never appeared. All paperwork. I wouldn't want the stress of the "HEARING" that you had but I would have liked the memorable ceremony! AND, I double checked my blog. Samuel was adopted in January, home in February and readopoted in MARCH! Our county didn't make us wait 6 months. Must have been a county thing for you and not STATE. CRAZIER AND CRAZIER!

  2. Congrats!!! Sounds like a MAJOR pain but it's behind you now!!!

  3. Yeah! Congrats on the citizenship. One last thing and you will be easy to start again:)

  4. Okay..I am so jealous...we went to USCIS Tuesday (2.5 hour trip) and Ab's paperwork has not even been looked at for coc!!! Apparently they only have 2 workers..and have had turnover. Never mind the fact that they have had it since 7/2009! She told us to wait 3 to 6 months and come back and try again! Grrr! we can't call or check online..have to drive back down! Good grief!