At long last, we had finally managed to get Karen the Social Worker all the last minute required paperwork, and a $10 check for notarization, and a Fed Ex #; so if she could just get 10 minutes she could print & sign our Home Study, have it Notarized, and Fed Ex it so we could journey to the INS. She was supposed to Fed Ex it Monday. Didn't happen. So we called Tuesday, whined a little, and explained that we were hoping to go to LA on Thursday. She came through, and the Home Study arrived yesterday!
This meant that the time had now come to fill out the rather confusing I600-A form, which is the Advance Processing of Orphan Petition. I had identified the problem questions months ago when I downloaded the form from the INS website, and had even had the forethought to ask Hemlata our Agency Director the answers to these questions. Unfortunately, I had asked these questions via e-mail at work and last week my computer made some hideous noises, and began belching smoke- my hardrive is toast. So, I had to call Hemlata and ask them again...then I had to confess that, no, I hadn't backed up the info and I had also misplaced the portion of the information packet telling us where to go. I was chastized, and promised to keep better track of the child when we get her.
So, we got up at crack of dawn to make the drive to downtown LA with the rest of Southern California. The INS website says that they're only open from 6am to 12pm on Thursdays, but we couldn't decide if that was all departments, or just immigration; so we settled on an 8:30ish arrival. We knew we had found the correct building when we spotted the line of Mexicans that came out the door and down the sidewalk. Thankfully, we didn't have to wait in that line. We cleared security and were directed to room 2050 on the 2nd floor, which was odd since the lobby directory said 2050 was "Advance Parole". Hmmm. We wandered the governmental building labrynth until we found the room, where we first had to check in with an armed guard who looked like he would not hesitate to plug anyone who breathed out of turn. We walked in, the guard looked us up & down, and said "International adoption, right?" Stunned, we asked if it was that obvious, to which he replied, "Um, yeah. Check in at window 10 & have a seat." Apparently, my soccer mom outfit had worked! We signed the clip board at window 10, and when we turned around to find seats, we realized why the guard knew the purpose of our visit. 1) We were the only Caucasion people in the room. 2) We were the only people speaking entirely in English in the room. 3) Several people had lawyers and/or interpreters with them. 4) Most people looked like members of the Manson Family. Fortunately, our names were called before our butts hit a chair. The nice, if unenthusiastic, girl took our paperwork checked it over, and sent us to the 8th floor to pay $665 to file this paperwork and be fingerprinted for the FBI. We trotted up to 8, paid our fees, and then trotted back down to 2 to give her the reciept and get our fingerprinting forms. Done, over with, and outa there in 35min!
The bonus about this set of fingerprints is that they're done on a walk in basis, so we didn't have to get an appointment. The INS assistace office is right near the Mall, so we drove home, and went directly there. My prints went without a hitch...Jeff had to be done twice. Again. The great thing was that there was no waiting and we were in and out in 15 min.
Now we wait. The girl at the INS said that fingerprints are getting to them in 5-10 days, but it can take the INS between 1-8 weeks to approve our application, and send us our I171-H which is Notice of Favorable Determination Concerning Application for Advance Processing of Orphan Petition- it's what will allow us to get our daughter's visa to enter the US. In the meantime, we'll write our Financial Statement tonight, so we can Fed Ex 90% of our Dossier information to US Asian Affairs to begin translation, notarization, and authentication for its submission to China.
If the INS approves our I600-A, it means that the government of the United States says we are fit to be parents, and the first half of the paperchase is complete. Keep your fingers crossed.