Friday, December 8, 2017

Becoming an American Citizen - Sophia's and Olivia's Final Leg of the Journey

Last year in the Families with Children from China Facebook group there was a lot of discussion about the importance of getting the Certificate of Citizenship for children who were adopted.

The political climate and some of the decisions that were being made about immigrants were rather frightening - particularly for parents of children who were born in another country, adopted, and were legal U.S. citizens.

The consensus was that every parent should do the paperwork and ensure that her/his child has the Certificate of Citizenship (CoC) so there would never be any question about their status as a legal, U.S. citizen.

For several weeks during November and December 2016, I compiled all the documents needed for both Sophia and Olivia. It was a rather thick packet of paperwork that eventually was sent to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services before the deadline when prices would double from $550 per child to over $1,000 per child.

In January 2017, we received a letter in the mail telling us that the paperwork had been received. It wasn't until September 2017 that we received another letter telling us that Olivia had an appointment with the U.S. CIS to get her CoC.

So, on September 21st, we went to downtown Minneapolis to the U.S. CIS office. Once we went through security and had our bags and shoes checked (just like going through security at an airport), we went to the desk to present the letter.

We received a number and waited. As a side note, the U.S. CIS doesn't go in numerical order when calling numbers. It's a random thing. The number order would be like 20, 21, 25, 19, 28, 32, 24...and so forth. It was one of the most peculiar things we have ever experienced with a number system like this.

Anyway, sometimes the waiting area was relatively empty and other times it filled up with people. There were a variety of clothes worn, languages spoken, and levels of excitement as people got ready to do either paperwork or participate in an oath ceremony.

Some people took pictures by the U.S. CIS document the special day.

We watched the monitor and answered questions about citizenship and government. These were the test questions that people had to learn when they applied to be a U.S. citizen. This wasn't the case with the girls. They didn't have to take a test - only do the oath ceremony.

Over an hour later, we were called into a room where Olivia took an oath.

After the oath ceremony, we went to the lobby and took a picture with Olivia's CoC by the image of the Statue of Liberty. It was such a relief to have Olivia's CoC.

The next step was to figure out why there was a delay with the review of Sophia's paperwork and assignment of a oath ceremony.

After contacting Senator Amy Klobuchar's office and having them contact the U.S. CIS office in Arizona where Sophia's paperwork was being reviewed, we were told that the next day that they were assigning times was on October 26th. They weren't clear whether that meant that Sophia would be going in on that or that they would assign her a time later in the year.

A couple weeks before October 26th, we received a letter in the mail letting us know that Sophia's oath ceremony would be on the 26th.

That day, we drove to the U.S. CIS office in Minneapolis again. We took a picture of Sophia by the sign while we waited.

This time there was an oath ceremony going on for people from Wisconsin. There were packets with American flags, books, and citizenship information for those going through the ceremony. They gave one to Sophia even though she was going through her own personal oath ceremony (rather than a group ceremony). We asked if Olivia could get a packet too since she didn't received one in September. So, she got one too.

Sophia's oath ceremony was at a desk off the lobby area rather than in an office.

When it came time to review the CoC, we noticed that a letter had been left off her name. So, we were able to take the certificate and have her take a photo by the Statute of Liberty.

Olivia brought her CoC, so we were able to take a photo of both of the girls together with their CoCs and American flags.

We went back to the desk and they took Sophia's CoC so they could correct it. A couple weeks later, we received it. It wasn't signed - so it wasn't yet a valid CoC. So, it had to be sent back so it could be signed by the director.

A couple weeks after that, Sophia finally received her signed, official CoC. Now both girls have their certificates which is a huge relief! I am so happy that we went through this process - especially now that they are older and can remember this special day.

The last step of this process is to contact the Social Security Administration and ensure that the are correctly listed as American citizens. It's a detail that we want to address so that they don't have any challenges down the line. It's easier for us to take care of this now than later.

1 comment:

Rita said...

Wow! I'm glad they both have all their ducks in a row now. The current government can be rather scary about citizenship. Congrats!

Not sure why I suddenly get an email with several of your blog posts at once. That happens with two other people, too, so it's not just yours. Glad I got them, regardless. :)