Thursday, April 23, 2009

Don't make the mistake of filing....

...your I-600 at your local USCIS office. Instead file your I-600 at the USCIS in Haiti.

We would think that since the USCIS office is a federal government office, after all, the name is "United States Citizenship and Immigration Services", that all USCIS officers and their administrative law judges (appeals level) all work for the U.S. Federal Government, and as such know their own rules. Correct? --- NO, WRONG!

When it comes to your Haiti adoption, do not count on the fact that your local USCIS office personnel knows its own rules. The sad part is that even some of their administrative appeals judges do not know the USCIS rules when it comes to Haitian adoptions!

Issue No. 1:

In all Haitian adoptions, the birth parent, if he/she or they can be located, has/have to appear in Haitian court to verbally consent to the adoption by the specific adoptive parents. This is recorded in the "minute de greffe". Also, by Haitian law, birth parents are not permitted to unconditionally or irrevocably relinquish their rights.

This is a formality and a couple of years ago, the U.S. Department of State and USCIS resolved the issue because according to U.S. immigration law, only children who have been irrevocably and unconditionally relinquished by their birth parent(s) can meet the necessary orphan definition.

Also, it was resolved by the U.S. Department of State and USCIS that the requirement of Haitian birth parent(s) attendance in court was a formality and did not negate the fact that the children had been abandoned to an orphanage.

Unfortunately, it appears that not all USCIS offices have been informed of this decision. As a result, local USCIS offices may (and at least one has already) denied an adoptive family's I-600 petition based on the Haitian court's wording and concluded that the birth parents "only" conditionally relinquished their children. Thus according to these local USCIS offices, the children are not abandoned and do not meet the definition of "orphan".

Had these families filed their I-600 at the Port-au-Prince USCIS office, they would not have run into this problem.

Issue No. 2

In approximately 99% of all adoptions where international parents adopt a Haitian child, the adoptive parents are represented by proxy (meaning the adoptive parents do not attend the court hearing where the adoption takes place but are represented by a Haitian lawyer).

Again, in this case a USCIS appeals judge made the decision that because the adoptive parents did not attend the adoption hearing, their adoption is invalid.

That would make 99% of all Haitian adoptions, 297 of the approximately 300 adopted children who entered the U.S. last year's adoptions invalid!

I am posting this so that adoptive parents are advised of the risk they are taking when they file their I-600 with their local USCIS office instead of filing their I-600s at the Port-au-Prince USCIS office.

I know that there is an inconvenience of travel and Haiti has the U.S. State Dept.'s travel warnings, HOWEVER, what choice do adoptive parents have when their local USCIS offices do not know their own internal rules and regulations?!

Please pray for the families who have to go through appeals and spend a lot of money on attorneys to get USCIS to do their job correctly. Please pray for their children who needlessly have to continue lingering in orphanages because of the incompetence of some USCIS offices.


Anonymous said...

Hey Vera!
Thank you for your wonderful blog!!!
Do you know if MOI wil releas only 1 time per month files for pasport writing?
Thank you

3 for 3 said...

This is 100% correct. We made the mistake of filing our original I-600 in Chicago. They lost the paperwork, and then told us our file expired. Not even our congressman could make them budge. To make a long story short, we refilled this month in Haiti. Thank you for this very helpful and accurate post. The folks at the embassy in Haiti, were extremely helpful...

Anonymous said...

We already filed at our local USCIS close to 2 years ago and were approved long ago through them. We're now finally about to leave MOI. Is there anything we should do to avoid the problems you wrote about?

Anonymous said...

Hi Vera
Thanks for providing regular updates it keeps us adoptive parents sane and those contemplating the wonderful journey of adopting from Haiti something to think about and make educated decisions. SO.... on that I was wondering could you summarize the Haitian adoption process (with estimated time periods)if it wouldn't be to much trouble and place it on your site as a side link.

The information on blog site
is good but seems abit outdated now.

Thanks and again know you are appreciated.


michael said...

Our i-600 was filed in Haiti. However, the original dossier paperwork wasn't filed with it until it was received with the passport. Our I-600A approval expired around that time. I had requested the extension, but am being told that the extension is not necessary if the i-600 was filed for. How do I know who is correct?