The I-600A Woes

January 12, 2008 at 12:47 pm 13 comments

The I-600A form is one that all families adopting internationally are familiar with. If you aren’t, then be prepared to be acquainted with a hefty fee, finger printing, and updating frustrations.

What is this little form? I pulled some helpful explanations from the following sites: Application for Advance Processing of Orphan Petition Info from this About.Com site, USCIS Resources, and Little Magnolia.

  • The I-600A Form– is the first form you will fill out with the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). This form is completed before an orphan is located or has been identified for an adoption by you. It is the initial application sent to the local CIS office (Baltimore) to receive approval from the United States government to adopt internationally.
  • I-171-H Form or I-797C Form– This form is the approval notice issued by the CIS for families to adopt internationally. It is the result of the I-600A application, state and FBI fingerprinting, and a completed Home Study. Some states use the I-171H form and some states use the I-797C form. Both forms are valid, contain the same information and approve you to adopt internationally.

As you may have gathered, a few items are needed before you are able to fill out this form:

  1. A completed Home Study which is a report written by a social worker hired by your adoption agency. This involves meeting with a social worker 3-4 times to see if you are worthy of parenthood and awaiting his or her report to be written, signed, notarized, and apostilled.
  2. Then there is the FBI fingerprinting which, in our case, was done at the same time we filled out our first I-6ooA form in August of 2006. I have to admit, this was an interesting as it was done on a very powerful scanner. Both being tech geeks, Doug and I enjoyed the process.
  3. Finally there is the form itself which must be filled out, signed, and dated by both perspective parents. This form may be mailed in or presented at your local CIS office. I prefer to deliver it personally to minimize any chance of it being lost in the mail. It has also been beneficial to hand deliver it as our renewal process has not gone smoothly and speaking with an agent, face to face, has been somewhat helpful in clarifying this process.

Our struggles with this?

We first experienced this process in August of 2006 when completing our dossier requirements for China. It took a little more than a month for our approval, in the form of the 171-H, to come in, which is good until February 21, 2008.

When we changed our country of adoption to Kazakhstan we needed to have this approval updated to reflect the country that we were adopting from. Makes sense, right? Well, what seemed to be an easy task turned out to be a frustrating one.

Our fingerprint approvals ran out in August of 2007. This needed to be redone (another $70+ fee) in order to file a new I-600A form and could be done at the same time the form was filed. However, it was unclear as to whether we should file a new I-600A form or an I-824 form (the latter of which is a change of country form). My question on this process was that, if we are going to have to renew our form completely by February 2008, wouldn’t it be better to do it now, in August, so it could be done ahead of time? Also, how much would it cost because couples adopting from abroad now get one free renewal of their I-600A form ($670).

Our adoption agency wasn’t clear on how we should proceed and getting a straight answer from a government agency isn’t always easy, either. After a lot of phone calls to both organizations and two visits to the South Portland Homeland Security/Immigration Office, it was determined that we fill out the form to transfer from one country to another and to do the I-600A form as we get closer to our expiration date. I made an appointment, Doug and I traveled to our local office, passed in the new form, and was THEN told that we both didn’t need to come in to drop off the form, that it was fine for just one of us to bring it in.

Attempt #2– I was told to fill out the I-600A form around mid-November, bring it into our local Homeland Security/Immigration Office, and be done. So, I made an appointment, filled out the form, and headed there just before Thanksgiving to hopefully get one more item for adopting checked off our list. Wrong– you cannot renew your I-600A form unless it is within two months of your expiration date so I was sent away. (At least, this was what I was told. As you’ll read below, this was incorrect information.)

Don’t you think that is something I should have been notified about? By someone? Very frustrating…but I was fine and ready to come back in December.

Attempt #3– I filled out a new I-600A form with more current dates, got Doug’s signature, made an appointment for December 21st, exactly two months before our 171-H approval ran out, and headed to the HS/I office in South Portland. Once arriving and speaking to an officer I was told that: 1. I needed a letter signed by both my husband and I requesting that we are not charged the $670 fee to renew our I-600A form (first I heard of this) AND that we also needed an updated home study report (definitely the first I’ve heard of this).

We had JUST had our home study updated late summer/early fall. Although this was on record with the HS office, according to the office, was not acceptable. It needed to be updated again so that it corresponded to the time frame the new application was sent in.

Result– once again I was unable to submit my I-600A form!

This crushed me and I was incredibly upset. I foolishly assumed that if something like this was required or necessary, I would have been told by my adoption agency. You know what they say about people who assume! I guess I fell right in. This ridiculous chase might seem minor but we’re expected to go to Kazakhstan in mid to late February. Our 171-H approval runs out on February 21st and we are now waiting for our updated home study to be approved by the adoption agency’s director, signed by the social worker, notarized by a staff member and then given to me so that I can, once again, try to turn this damn thing in! (Note the frustration!) This round should be completed by Monday, January 13th…almost a month before our other documentation runs out. I’ll give my agency credit: they’re really hustling to get this done and ready for me. I just feel like I never should have been in this situation to begin with. (My fault? Maybe.)

What happens if we need to go to Kazakhstan before our new approval is through? There’s a big question that I’ve been assured will get worked out. But…hmmm…I’m a little skeptical.

What have I learned from this and want others to know:

  • Read all of the related documentation for paperwork yourself and don’t rely on the people who are “suppose to know” to give you information. Here is the link to the official I-600A page where you can download the pdf instructions yourself.
  • Officially, you can reapply for your I-600A update 90 days prior to the date of expiration, not 60. (I read this in the official pdf on the subject. The HS officer was wrong.)
  • Yes, you DO need an updated home study AND a letter requesting that you don’t have to pay for the second round. Quote: “The written request must explicitly request a one-time, no charge extension to the current I-600A approval. You must submit an amended/updated home study and any other supporting documentation of any changes in the household.”

This official documentation was published on July 30, 2007. You would think that the government officials and adoption staff that need to know this information would have read it. You would think that…but don’t! I just hope that my 171-H approval comes before I go. It probably will, but with the money that people have to pay to adopt internationally, no one should have to go through this roller coaster. Our advisers need to be “in the know”, aware of changes, and how they impact the lives of their clients. The adoption process is incredibly hard work and takes an emotional toll. Sometimes it seems as though, no matter how much you try to stay on top of things, a heart break is just around the corner. Like all challenges and lessons in life, this one will only make my husband and I stronger.

Best of luck to all who are on this path! We know our frustrations will eventually be paid with great rewards and all of the bumps in this road will eventually disappear and be forgotten. To the future!


Entry filed under: Kazakhstan Adoption. Tags: , , , .

Happy Holidays- At Last! Dylan’s Sweater

13 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Suzanne  |  January 12, 2008 at 3:27 pm

    Wow this is quite a story! I’m sorry that you have had to go through all this. We also changed from China, we did it after the fingerprint appointment but before we got the document, so there was no trouble or cost. I can’t believe they put you through all that. Unbelieveable. I have another blog on Resources for adopting from Kaz. Cant I copy it onto the blog or link to your story somehow? I’d of course credit you. Suz

  • 2. Kim  |  January 12, 2008 at 6:03 pm

    This step in the process seems to be the one people have the most trouble with. It took us 4 months to get our approval because the USCIS office lost our paperwork TWICE. We finally had to get our congressman to step in and he made sure they received our paperwork (he had it couriered himself) and told them he wanted out approval to us in one week. Ten days later (not quite the week he asked for but close enough) we got our I171H!

  • 3. ellen  |  January 22, 2008 at 10:54 pm

    Sheeeesh!!! How frustrating! BUT, it’ll all be worth it ! Good Luck.

    See ya at house meetings next week!!

  • 4. Jennifer  |  February 2, 2008 at 3:45 pm

    Sorry about your frustrations with the update. I may be running into the same problem next summer. My dossier is on the slow boat to Kaz. Are you in Maine? I’m on Lake Winnipesaukee. Just found your blog. Can’t wait to hear when you are getting to travel. It will be so exciting!!!

  • 5. Lori  |  February 8, 2008 at 3:23 am

    Thanks for giving all the detail you did. We are in a very similar situation and neither our social worker or agency seem confident about how to proceed. You may have saved us a whole bunch of stress.

  • 6. Lori  |  February 13, 2008 at 8:26 pm

    Thanks for your info. We’re in the process of adopting from China and are now going through the same issues. We need our approval extended and just sent my I600A form in for the third time…and each time I was told I needed something different- updated homestudy that is dated within the last 6 months, copies of birth certificates, copies of marriage certificates, etc.

    We have just started another adoption through Ethiopia, b/c the wait time with China is so long, and I am thinking about transfering my immigration approval…but I am afraid of the downstream issues that may arise.

    I need to research further…
    Good luck to you…

    Lori in NH

    • 7. Elsa  |  December 1, 2010 at 11:18 pm

      how is the adoption from Ethiopia going for you??

  • 8. bychance  |  February 18, 2008 at 2:21 am

    Hi Lori,
    Good luck with everything and keep in touch!

  • 9. tntc  |  February 26, 2008 at 3:03 am

    Just getting our I-600A through once is proving hard enough. I can’t imagine having to do it again. Ours was sent certified mail on 10/30. On 1/30 we got the acknowledgment of receipt of our application, “filed on 1/17″!! We get our fingerprints done this week. And we’re hoping only two more months until they’re done for a 6 month total.

    I like your hand delivery idea. If we’d only known…

    Good luck,

  • 10. Jackie  |  March 24, 2009 at 5:38 pm

    It has been 5 months since we sent our I-600A application and twice we have had to submit additional documentations. I’m praying this last time is ALL that is needed. This process has been the hardest thus far.

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