Musings on Immigration

Our Globally Recognized Team of Immigration Lawyers Sharing Knowledge and Providing Counsel on Immigration Issues that Affect You, Your Business and Your Family

Immigration and Adoption- Part I

Many couples choose to adopt from outside of the United States because of the excessive time and expense involved with domestic adoptions. Other factors such as the availability of infants and the health and/ or functionality of domestic birth mothers also play a significant role.

Here are the answers to the most common questions asked by those about to embark on an international adoption.

Do I have a better chance of adopting a young baby if I adopt internationally?

Yes. It is easier to find an infant to adopt. Unless you are lucky enough to be picked by a birth mother in the United States, infants are more readily available in other countries. In a number of countries, it is possible to be matched with or locate an infant shortly after birth and to bring that child home to the United States before he or she reaches one year old. This of course reduces the risk of Reactive Attachment Disorder and intellectual delays caused by malnutrition in infancy. Older children are also more readily available in other countries.

Are the laws more or less stringent for international adoptions?

The laws are more stringent. If you cannot adopt in the United States due to criminal history, lack of financial resources, medical issues- you will not be able to adopt internationally.

Is international adoption more or less expensive than domestic adoption?

International adoptions tend to be less expensive than domestic adoptions. This of course depends on the country you wish to adopt from, whether or not you choose to use an adoption agency etc.

Do I need to hire an immigration attorney?

Yes- unless you plan to adopt from a country which processes a lot of adoptions for example China or Guatemala and you use an adoption agency, you need to hire an immigration attorney.

Which country should I adopt from?

The country which you decide to adopt from will be influenced by many factors. First, what kind of child do you feel most able to parent? Are you willing to consider a child who is of a different race? Secondly, does the country you wish to adopt from allow foreigners to adopt their children and remove them from that country? A competent immigration attorney can advise you on this issue. Additionally, you should consider whether or not your country of choice has enforced the Hague Convention. The immigration process for children from these countries tends to take longer.

What to Expect at an Embassy Visa Interview

Visa applicants are advised to arrive at the embassy no more than 15 minutes before the scheduled interview; however the queue will start to form outside the embassy gates about an hour before hand. Most embassies have a kiosk at the embassy gates where you will be asked your name and appointment time. The guards have a list of those attending their interviews that day. You are not permitted to bring cell phones or bags into the embassy building and will be asked to leave these in the kiosk while you go into the actual embassy.
Once inside, you will be directed to take a seat or a number. Embassy appointment offices look similar to (run-down) banks with (unhappy) bank-tellers. There will be a number of officers working at different windows. When your number or name is called you will speak to an officer, hand in your documents and make any necessary payments. The officer will check to make sure that you have the right kind of passport photos, a copy of your approval notice, completed application forms, a mailing or courier envelope etc. A list of the items you need can be found on the US embassy website for your country. As exchange rates change daily, it’s a good idea to bring extra money into the embassy in case the fees have gone up slightly. Embassy staff do not always have change available so bring small denominations or you may end up overpaying significantly. This officer will also take your fingerprints and photograph. You should expect to spend less than 5 minutes at the first window.
Once you hand in your documents and pay, you will be told to sit and wait while your visa application and passport are reviewed. Interviews take place in public so you will be able to watch and listen to other interviews while you wait. This will either help calm your nerves or terrify you depending on your disposition and the immigration history of those being interviewed. You will eventually be called to a second window to be interviewed. Officers generally do not make eye contact, smile or make small talk. A typical visa applicant can expect to be asked about their immigration history and what they intend to do in the United States. The Officer is trying to determine whether or not you have previously breached your immigration status; whether you’re eligible for the visa that you are applying for and whether or not it is your intention to comply with the terms of that visa. This generally takes less than 5 minutes.
If the Officer makes a favorable determination, he or she will advise you that he will courier or mail your passport to you within 3 business days. Embassies no longer issue same day visas because they have to wait for your background checks to clear. In the event that your travel plans do not allow you to wait a week to have your passport returned to you at home, you can usually make arrangements with the officer to come back to the embassy to pick up your passport three business days later. If the Officer does not make a favorable determination, you should ask for a decision in writing and contact a qualified immigration attorney.

Let Us Be the Voice for Family Unification for Immigration

The reunification of families is the foundation of our immigration system, and more importantly, the foundation of our society. Virtually every immigration law in place today is either designed to encourage families to reunite in the United States or to stay together as they immigrate. There are laws to reunite refugee families, keep the families of employment-based immigrants together, and, of course, enable a variety of close family members to immigrate to the United States if their relatives are U.S. citizens (USCs) or lawful permanent residents (LPRs). Congress has clearly and consistently emphasized the importance of families as the foundation of our overall immigration strategy. Or, at least it says it has.

Current System Not Family-Friendly

Unfortunately, the reality of this nation’s family-based immigration system is that it is woefully inadequate in reuniting families in any reasonable timeframe. Congress’s failure to include family members in the legalization programs of the past—such as that in the Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986—have caused two decades of delays in reuniting families. U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service’s (USCIS) failure to timely adjudicate applications to reunite the families of asylees has caused serious harm to individuals. Inadequate numbers of available family-based immigrant visas have caused up to an estimated 40-year wait for siblings of USCs from Mexico. That is not a “line”; that is a mockery.

These “laws” also have clearly and directly contributed to undocumented immigration to the United States. How many know of legal immigrants who were joined in the United States by their spouses and children, who came without documents, simply to be reunited? We can no longer ignore the impact that this broken family-based immigration system has on the entire debate surrounding “illegal” immigration.

Legal Conundrum

These problems arise from the laws already in place. What about the problems caused to those families with children over the age of 21 and who cannot mentally or physically care for themselves as they immigrate to the United States? Or immigrants of the same gender who seek to be together permanently in the United States? The same problems arise for those who immigrate as parents of USCs, but who have to leave their minor children behind because of a bizarre quirk in our immigration laws. The reality is that we have a long way to go before these laws reflect U.S. values—family unity, equal access to the immigration system to all USCs and LPRs, and reasonable “lines” for immigrating to the United States.

Fight for Change

For those who are concerned about immigration—regardless of which side of the isle your political views fall—we must focus our efforts on positive change to our immigration system. This change is one that can positively impact America—and immigrants—for the next generation. As citizens we are responsible for asking for positive change. Without the voice of citizens united for positive immigration reform, change will not come fast enough to satisfy the demands of this now-broken immigration system. Let us be the voice for these families.