“Now serving ticket number H1 at counter 11.” “Now serving ticket number H2 at counter 11.”
Big Papa and I were tickets number H21 and H22 respectively as we sat in the waiting room at the Tukwila, Washington office of U.S. Office of Immigration. We’d received our appointments (Big Papa at 8:00 and me at 9:00) a couple weeks ago in response to our application to update our approval to adopt internationally. Approval expires in fifteen months time, so any family whose international adoption takes longer than that must reapply.
Because of this, and because regulations have changed recently for adoptions in Armenia, Big Papa and I have to update/redo the following, all of which will also need to be both notarized and then apostilled down in Olympia, Washington, our state’s capitol:
- Home study (which also involved a home visit) and home study agency license
- FBI clearance for each of us (including ink fingerprints at our local police station)
- Local/state police clearance for each of us
- State child abuse clearance for each of us
- Immigration fingerprints for each of us
- Physical by each of our doctors
- Letter from employer verifying employment
- Three (most recent) years of tax returns
We drove to Tukwila and parked at the (cash only) lot. Our appointment form and signs at immigration say “no cameras or cell phones,” so we left ours in the car. After putting our belongings on the conveyor belt and passing through security inspection we sat in the large waiting room with about thirty other folks. The sign at the front desk says, “Please turn all cell phones off.” I noticed that several people are either making or taking calls and the gal sitting next to us is busily texting away. Is there something about “off” that is not clear?
It occured to me that all the people here with cell phones also likely have cell phone cameras. Part of me wanted to simply get through this process though the other part of me was tempted to prove a point and go get my SLR from the car.
As each person’s number is called he or she stands up and goes to the line at the check in counter. Soon, most of the room is standing in line. After we’re each checked in, we are ushered into a second waiting room. This room does not have enough chairs for everyone to sit.
While we waited I noticed that the couple sitting next to us also had ‘I-797C’ forms in hand (the form from U.S. Immigration which is adoption-specific). I asked them if they are adopting, “Yes.” From where? “Ethiopia,” they told us. As it turns out they have a referral and plan to go pick up their daughter this coming June. Like us, they are redoing paperwork for the U.S. government that is soon to expire.
Finally we are called, individually, to have our fingerprints taken. Fingerprints for immigration are “inkless” which is pretty cool (and less messy). FBI still does ink prints, a process we completed a couple months ago down at our local police station.
Prints are taken of your thumb and each finger separately by rolling it over a screen. The information is captured via computer. Then all four fingers, sans thumb are printed and you’re ‘scot-free.’
As we’re leaving Big Papa says that the fingerprint gal asked him where we were adopting from and when he told her ‘Armenia,’ she questioned “Why?” When Big Papa filled in a few of the details around our choice, she asked if he knew about what was going o right now with Russia (suspension of all adoptions from the U.S. as a result of one woman “returning” her adopted son). “Yes, we know.” Big Papa replies. “Armenia is not Russia.”
Next stop is the police station in downtown Seattle where we request criminal background checks. They also only accept cash. What is up with that? So we hoof it over to the nearby bank to get some bills while the (very nice) gal behind the counter at the police station is processing our forms.
This year, criminal clearances alone set us back $133 including parking for immigration. We will also pay the cost for apostilling at $15 per document, the fee to have our home study updated and then the (rather large) chunk of change to have all of our documents translated once again into Armenian.
How is that two honest, law-abiding, conviction-free citizens spend so much time (and money) proving they are two honest, law abiding, conviction-free citizens?