Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Definitely a heart pounding moment.

This morning I called a local attorney to ask him some questions about immigration. He stated very confidently that you cannot by any means get a child into the country without having fostered them for 2 years in their own country. (!!!) I questioned him stating 'how do so many other families adopt without doing that?" he said "the agency provides your ticket out of that law". Then my heart skipped a beat. I don't believe we could adopt these children with an agency b/c they are not in an orphanage.  

Dean said "Janice you know that God can overrule this--don't be stressed about it". I called USCIS the immigration office and he explained everything and with a smile said 'no...what that law means is the child will be immigrated into the country no problem but they will not become a permanent resident of the US until we have had custody of them for 2 years" BIG difference!! So all is good. He recommended I file the I600 instead of the I600A since we have already identified the children that we wish to adopt.

If you read this-we hope that you will pray for our family on this journey. And pray for these precious children in Zambia.


1:30am

This is the time of day when I will have progress in this process. I'm so tired. BUT I did get to speak to the lawyer in Lusaka twice in 10 minutes! I don't know if I was at all coherent...

So now we need to pray for the next step.  The first step with her is to deposit $1000 into their account for their legal advice, at this time they will start the file.  She told me what she wants detailed in the email to her and she will work on it now but she will not send it to me until she has that $1000 to their office.  

Ok.  So here's where God comes in. Bigtime.  Though our process is much less expensive than adopting through an agency~every step right now seems to be about $1000.  

We are ready to move forward and are praying about when we can do this next step.


Monday, May 4, 2009

Email from attorney #1

I actually just received an email from the first attorney I spoke to last evening. Since adoption in Zambia seems to be so rare and going independently (without the use of an agency) I want to provide a step by step process (I have searched and searched online for someone else's detailed journey and have not found it) as a resource for others.

Here is the email:

Our Reference:  M/614/NCH/tkc

Reply to our Lusaka Office



28 April 2009




Janice Walker

 


Dear Madam


TERMS OF ENGAGEMENT FOR PROVISION OF LEGAL SERVICES


Thank you for your instructions.


We confirm that the firm will be pleased to act for you upon the terms set out in this letter and our terms of engagement enclosed herewith.


Our understanding of your requirement


We understand that you require us to prepare an opinion for you on the process and the necessary steps to facilitate your adoption of twin orphan Zambian boys. 


Conduct of the matter


Our aim is to provide you with legal services of the highest quality.  To achieve this, it is important that we share an understanding of the basis on which we shall provide services to you.


Our services to you will entail:


The rendering of an opinion to you setting out, among other things, the legal process for the adoption of children in Zambia and what will be required from you and the current care giver.





Fees


Our fees are governed by the Legal Practitioners Act (CAP 30 of the Laws of Zambia), the Legal Practitioners (Costs) Order 2001 and the Legal Practitioners (Conveyancing and non-contentious matters) (Costs) (Amendment) Order 2001.


We will require a deposit of US$1000 (before Value Added Tax and bank charges) which is our standard charge for a legal opinion/legal advice.  Should you require for us to proceed to take the necessary steps to effect the adoption, time will form the basis of all future charges.  We advise that the following hourly rates will form the basis of our charges to be applied in the conduct of litigation matters on your behalf; the firm will also charge for care and skill, VAT and disbursements in addition to the hourly rates listed:


Partners

US$ 150



Associates

US$100


We will then send you monthly bills for work done in the preceding month.  Please note that all bills must be settled within thirty days after delivery of the same and we would be obliged if this were adhered to, to enable us continue providing you with efficient and timely service.


Confidentiality


MNB is under a strict professional duty of confidentiality to you in respect of your matter.  The only exceptions to this are where you authorise us to disclose information; where we are required to make a disclosure under applicable regulations or legislation;  where the information is already within the public domain.



You agree that we are authorised to disclose that you are a client of the firm and that we have acted for you on any matter where information about that matter is in the public domain and on any other matter where you consent to such disclosure.


I would be happy to discuss with you any queries you may have on the contents of this letter.  If you agree with the contents I would be grateful if you would confirm agreement by signing and returning to me the enclosed copy.


Yours faithfully

MNB



Nchima Nchito

MANAGING PARTNER


I have read and understood the contents of this letter and agree to the terms contained herein.



Signed: ---------------------------------------------  Date:-------------------------------------------

Janice Walker













So excited!!!!

So I stayed up last night and called 4 Zambian lawyers! How exciting to actually talk to somebody in Africa! The first lawyer assured me he deals with adoptions but wouldn't give me any information over the phone just said he would email me. 

The next one I stayed up as late as I could because it was 8am in Lusaka and she said the lawyer was not in yet but to try in an hour. That would have been 1:45am or so and I tried to stay awake, but failed.  

I woke this morning and called back--now 4:30pm Lusaka time.  I got to speak with a gentleman that DEFINITELY knew about adoption!!! He asked me several questions like 'are you married'? 'working?' "US citizen?" etc.  Then he said he would email me a detailed list but was kind enough to give me some details:

-He said the entire process would be 3 mths TOPS! (so exciting!!!)
-He said yes the country does require a 3 mth foster period but that they have been known to waive it or let someone like our sister Tanis to foster them with provided proof of relationship to us.  He said that when adopting from an orphanage, the orphanage itself can act as the 'foster parent'.  
-He said entire cost would be about $5000 including lawyer and court fees etc. (homestudy fees and travel costs of course would be extra).
-He did stress having a letter written by the children's caregivers stating their wish to relinquish the children also stating that they have not been paid or coerced in any way.
-He said though doubtful the family has birth documents, he can access them through the department of health.

So now we'll be putting our homestudy process in high gear and then applying for the I600A document and hopefully we'll be well on our way.  If you think of us and our precious boys in Africa, please pray.  


Sunday, May 3, 2009

Getting serious.

I just got off the phone with Tanis. She was telling us her frustration with reaching attorneys that can help us find out what our process is. SOoooo while on Skype with her I googled Lusaka Zambia attorneys. Why I have never thought of that before tonight...I have no idea.  An entire list popped up that was very detailed even telling me who deals with adoptions!! So I'm waiting about an hour or so and it will be 8am in Lusaka, and I will try calling them. 

I also just got this from the Department of State's website re: Non Hague Adoption. If this looks overwhelming to you--welcome to my world. ahhhh


I'm excited to see what we find out tonight.  We are ready to get this process moving faster.  Praying the God who started this--guides us to a knowledgeable attorney that can help.


Non-Hague Adoption Process

The process for adopting a child from a non-Convention country differs in some key ways from adopting from a Convention country. To date, about 75 countries have joined the Hague Adoption Convention.  If you are adopting a child from one of the countries non-Convention country, the following general process applies to you.

Overview

The process from non-Hague countries generally involves six primary steps:

1.     Choosing a Licensed Adoption Service Provider

2.     Applying to be Found Eligible to Adopt

3.     Being Referred for a Child

4.     Adopting the Child

5.     Applying for the Child to be Found Eligible for Immigration to the United States

6.     Obtaining an Immigrant Visa for the Child


Non-Convention Process Steps

1.)  Choose an Adoption Service Provider:   

The first step in adopting a child from a non-Convention country is usually to select an agency or attorney in the United States that can help with your adoption.  At a minimum you will need the services of someone licensed or authorized to perform a homestudy for your state of residence.  
Choosing a qualified adoption service provider is a very important part of the adoption process.  Adoption service providers must be licensed by the U.S. state in which they operate.   Learn more about choosing a qualified  adoption service provider in theWorking with an Agency section of our website.


2.)  Apply to be Found Eligible to Adopt:   

To adopt a child from another country and bring that child to live in the United States, you must be found eligible to adopt under U.S. law.   The Federal agency that makes this determination is U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).   You will not be allowed to bring an adopted child (or a child for which you have gained legal custody for purpose of emigration and adoption) into the United States until USCIS determines that you are able to provide a suitable and stable home for that child.    

To apply, you may choose to complete an immigration form (called I-600A, Application for Advance Processing of Orphan Petition) and file it with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).  Along with this form, you will submit a home study to USCIS that includes in depth information about your health, finances, home, background, and more.  Form I-600A should be filed if you have not yet identified a child or intend to go abroad to locate a child for adoption.

If used, the I-600A Application for Advance Processing of Orphan Petition should be filed with the USCIS office having jurisdiction over the adopting parents’ place of residence. The following documents must be submitted with the I-600A:

  1. Completed and signed I-600A (Application for Advance Processing of Orphan Petition);
  2. Proof of the prospective petitioner’s United States citizenship;
  3. Proof of the marriage of the prospective petitioner and spouse, if applicable;
  4. Proof of termination of any prior marriages of the prospective petitioner and spouse or unmarried prospective petitioner, if applicable;
  5. A “home study” completed by the appropriate State organization with a favorable recommendation (USCIS regulations include very specific instructions on the issues to be addressed in the home study, authorized providers of home studies, and the recommendations regarding suitability); and
  6. Filing fee of $670.00.

In addition, you, your spouse (if married), and each additional adult member of your household must be fingerprinted as part of the I-600A application. For adopting parents in the United States, USCIS will provide information once the I-600A is filed on being fingerprinted at local USCIS offices. For adopting parents residing overseas, adopting parents should contact the U.S. embassy or consulate with jurisdiction over their place of residence to schedule fingerprinting prior to submitting the I-600A.

 

At the time of filing the I-600A, the petitioner should request that USCIS notify the U.S. embassy or consulate in the country where they plan to process the case as soon as the I-600A is approved.  Learn more under in theEligibility to Adopt and Home Study sections of this website.


3.)  Be Referred with a Child:  

If you are eligible to adopt, you can be matched with a specific child, in accordance with the laws and regulations of the child’s country of residence regarding intercountry adoption.  The child must meet the requirements of his or her country for determining if a child is eligible for intercountry adoption.  The child must also meet the definition of an orphan under U.S. immigration law.  



4.)  Adopt the Child (or Gain Legal Custody for Purpose of Emigration and Adoption)   

Although adoption procedures vary from country to country, most countries require that prior to any court action, a child placed for adoption be legally recognized as an orphan or, in the case where a parent is living, be legally and irrevocably released for adoption in a manner provided for under local law.  In addition, the adoption laws in most countries require the full adoption of the child in the foreign court after the child has been declared an orphan or released by the living parent to an appropriate foreign authority. Some countries do allow simple adoption, which means that the adopting parent(s) can be granted guardianship of the child by the foreign court. This may permit the child to leave the foreign country to be adopted in the United States. A few countries do allow adoptive parents to adopt through a third party without actually traveling to that country.

 

IMPORTANT: A foreign country's determination that the child is an orphan does not guarantee that the child will be considered an orphan under the U.S. Immigration and Nationality Act (INA), and eligible to come to the United States to live.  Foreign country may use different legal rules to determine if a child is an orphan. Questions that involve interpretation of specific foreign laws may be addressed to competent authorities in the COO or to a foreign attorney operating in the country where the adoption will take place.

 

Some countries will require your personal appearance before their court. Sometimes, countries require a period of residence by you or your spouse (if applicable). In these cases, you may find it necessary to spend an extended period in the foreign country awaiting the completion of the foreign adoption documents.  Additionally, several countries require a post-adoption follow-up conducted by the adoption agency or the foreign country's consul in the United States.

 

To learn about the specific requirements of the non-Convention country from which you are adopting, refer to the Country Information on our website. 

 

 

5.)  Apply for the Child to be Found Eligible for Immigration to the United States:  

After you finalize the adoption (or gain legal custody for the …) in a non-Convention country, the 
USCIS) mustdetermine whether the child is eligible to immigrate to the United States.

Adopting parents file the I-600 petition to determine if  a specific child meets the US   “orphan” classification in the INA.  Depending on the circumstances of the case, the I-600 may be filed with the USCIS office having jurisdiction over the parents’ place of residence, or with a Department of Homeland Security (DHS) or Consular Officer overseas:

  • Adopting parents currently residing overseas should file the I-600 with the overseas DHS or consular officer at the U.S. embassy or consulate with jurisdiction over their residence.
  • Adopting parents residing in the U.S. may file the I-600 with the USCIS office with jurisdiction over their place of residence, or may contact the U.S. embassy or consulate in the country in question for information on filing the I-600 overseas. Parents will be permitted to file the I-600s with DHS officers at U.S. embassies or consulates where Department of Homeland Security immigration officials are assigned. At Embassies and Consulates without DHS immigration officials, parents may generally file the I-600 only if notice of I-600A has previously been sent to the Embassy or Consulate, if the U.S. citizen petitioner is physically present before the Consular Officer, and if the petitioner does not already have an I-600 petition pending somewhere else for the same child. Parents are strongly encouraged to verify I-600 filing procedures at the U.S. Embassy or Consulate overseas prior to travel to the country in question.
  • Parents may wish to consult with adoption agencies, U.S. embassies or consulates overseas, and/or other adopting parents to determine whether they wish to file the I-600 overseas or in the United States. Processing times for I-600 petitions vary depending on where they are filed. Intent to travel to the child’s country may also affect U.S. resident parents’ decision on where to file the I-600.
  • Note that parents who have adopted abroad without first demonstrating suitability to adopt by filing an I-600A must file the I-600 petition (and accompanying suitability documents identified in Step 1) with the appropriate DHS/CIS office, not with a consular officer. Consular Officers can only accept I-600 petitions at a U.S. embassy or consulate abroad when they have been notified that an I-600A for a family has already been approved.

I-600 petitions should only be filed for children who fit the criteria, if any, identified in the parents’ I-600A approval (e.g. if adoptive parents have been approved to adopt one child, they should not file I-600s for two children).

The following documentation must be presented in order for an I-600 petition to be approved:

  1. Form I-600, Petition to Classify Orphan as an Immediate Relative;
  2. Child’s birth certificate;
  3. A final decree of adoption, if the orphan has been adopted abroad, or proof of legal custody for purposes of emigration and adoption;
  4. Proof of “orphan” status per definition above (ex. evidence of abandonment, written relinquishment, death certificates, etc. depending on the circumstances);
  5. Proof that the pre-adoption requirements, if any, of the state of the orphan’s proposed residence have been met, if the orphan is to be adopted in the United States; and
  6. Proof that adopting parents have seen the child prior to or during adoption proceedings.

If an I-600A has already been approved, the adopting parent may file an I-600 for one child without any additional fee. However, if parents are adopting two or more biologically unrelated children, there will be a $670.00 fee for the second child (this fee is waived for siblings).

Parents should note that documentary requirements for filing the I-600 petition are somewhat different, depending on whether the petition is filed with USCIS or the Consular Officer.  USCIS officers may generally initially accept an I-600 with only the child’s birth certificate, and, if not previously provided with the I-600A, proof of marriage of the petitioner (if applicable).  USCIS also permits a petitioner to submit copies of some documents in lieu of originals.  Form I-600 petitions filed with Consular Officers, however, must have all required documentation at the time of filing, and such documentation must be submitted as originals.

As part of the decision to approve an I-600 and immigrant visa, the DHS Officer or Consular Officer will carefully review information about the orphan and his or her personal situation. This review is documented by the DHS Officer or Consular Officer on an I-604 Orphan Investigation form. To protect adopting parents, the child, and biological parents, any indication or allegation of fraud, child buying or other inappropriate practices will be investigated as part of the I-604 review (or at any time that such concerns arise prior to visa issuance). While the I-604 review for most cases will consist of an analysis of available documents, some cases will require additional interviews, documentation or a field investigation, all of which may result in delayed processing on the case.



6.)  Obtain an Immigrant Visa for the Child:   

Once USCIS or the consulate has approved the eligibility of the child for adoption, apply for an immigrant visa at the U.S. Embassy. This immigrant visa allows your child to travel home with you.  As part of this process, the Consular Officer must review the Panel Physician’s medical report on the child.  

Be aware that the adoption of a foreign-born orphan does not automatically guarantee the child’s ability to immigrate to the United States.  An orphan cannot legally immigrate to the United States without USCIS processing.

Age Limits - There are age limits on eligibility for adoptions and immigration, regardless of whether or not your state laws permit the adoption of older children (or adults).  U.S. law allows the adoption and immigration of children who are under 16 years of age, with two exceptions:

  • Biological siblings of a child adopted by the same parents may be adopted if under 18 years of age; and
  • Orphans over the age of 16 may be adopted as long as the I-600 petition was filed on their behalf before their 16th birthday (or before their 18th birthday in the case of an orphan who is the sibling of a child adopted or coming to be adopted by the same parents).

If all the documentation for the orphan is in order and there are no legal bars to visa issuance, the orphan will be provided with an immigrant visa consisting of a packet of supporting documentation and either a cover sheet or visa placed in the child’s passport. Both should be hand-carried with the child (not packed in luggage) when they travel to the U.S. and should be presented to the immigration inspectors at the port of entry. Do not open the envelope of supporting documents.

The immigrant visa is valid for 180 days from the date of issuance, which means that adopting children have 180 days to use the immigrant visa to travel to the United States.

Orphans are issued IR-3 or IR-4 visas:

  • IR-3 visas are for orphans who had a full and final adoption overseas by both adopting parents, when both parents physically saw the child prior to or during local adoption proceedings and where the state where they reside does not require re-adoption in the U.S.
  • IR-4 visas are for orphans whose prospective adopting parents’ have legal custody for purposes of emigration and adoption and who have satisfied any applicable state pre-adoption requirements or for orphans who had a full and final adoption overseas, but whose parents did not see the child prior to or during the local adoption proceedings.