I just finished a really good travellers guide about Ethiopia and recommend it to anybody going to pick up their sweethearts. It is from the Culture Smart series and written by Sarah Howard.
Here are just a few of the interesting facts and travel tips I have learned from this book:
* Half the estimated population of Ethiopia (77 million) is under 20 years old. * Remember to use the right hand to eat the injera and wot. The left is considered unclean. * Time follows the traditional Middle Eastern twelve hour clock. The hours start at dawn (6:00). So, twelve noon is 6:00 in Ethiopian time. Be sure to ask which time somebody is giving you for your major appointment or court date. * It is also a good idea to leave a small piece of food left on your plate. This shows the host that you are graciously full. * Buna bet or "coffee house" is not what you think. These are usually bars that might also have hotels and prostitutes. * Ethiopians often greet each other with an embrace, then a kiss on each cheek, and then again on the first cheek. * Children will walk up to nine miles a day to attend school. * Orthodox Ethiopians will fast on Wednesdays and Fridays and during the holidays. Fasting means only having one meal a day, usually after 3:00 and abstaining from dairy and meat products. As many as 250 days a year can be kept as fast days. * Swimming pools at the Hilton and Ghion hotels are heated by natural springs. * Public latrines are so public, they are called "en plein air." Bring your own toilet paper.
Ok, I have been asked this question a lot of times now. I got great help from other moms home with their kids who have done all this. I am going to put in the way we are doing it and why along with the links to the paper work files. 1. Apply for a temporary adoption tax ID number (ATIN link for info and form) for each child. This is a good option if you will not have time to get the validation and SS# done before tax time. This option is only valid if you have NOT done the validation yet. It takes 10 weeks so plan ahead.US adoption validation
2. Apply for the validation of foreign adoption (also called re-adopt or finalization). (El Paso County COLORADO forms if you are in another state just look up your county or state government page and look for forms or information, then look for the word adoptions and then under that validation of foreign adoptions, this should come up with info for you). On this form you can also change your child's name. In most cases the child will not come home with the name you would like for him or her to have, and in many cases will not even have your last name. In many states you can also change the child's birth date if needed. There are varying degrees of proof needed for this depending on your county and state. I would suggest doing this only if it is really needed. In Colorado, I added this to the form under the change of name. I also wrote a letter stating our reasons and attached the "proof" documents. It worked out just fine for us. If you do this first your child's name will be correct on all the rest of the official papers and you will not have to redo it. You have to do this before you can get the citizenship papers anyway. Get the fingerprint reports (FBI and state) and the child abuse record/clearance from your DHS from your adoption agency, ally need is the copies they have on file. Your window of time for them to remain valid is important. Get it done fast or you will need to renew them. That is ok and not too expensive, it just takes time. If you are waiting on age of child to change the birth date, you have time, do the fingerprints again and wait on them to come and your child's progress at the same time. The fee for this in CO is $168 per child if they are not biologically related, $168 if they are blood related and a $3 charge for each additional blood related child. After you validate the adoption your child will be a legal citizen however will still only have the green card. This process and paper does not prove your child's citizenship by parentage. So you have to file for the proof of citizenship.
**A few notes from our experience. *On the Report of Adoption put your child's name that you are changing it to, not their original name.
2b. *After your hearing you will walk the files over to the COURT records, not the county records, this is MOST likely in the same building you had your hearing in. We were actually told the county.... ha! *You can then buy some copies of the decree. They are $30-40 each. This will be filed and sealed and you will have to have a court motion to open it again and so you need the copies as you will not be able to access this again. *Then you wait for the letter in the mail from the state department that handles adoption birth certificates. For us that is in Denver. Then you send them the money and they send you the certificates. This gets you a state birth certificate, which is useful and highly necessary. However, it states right on it that it is not proof of citizenship. It also says that it is just a birth certificate certifying foreign birth.... which is about as good as it gets if you don't have any clue when that precious child of yours was actually born. There is a fee here. In CO it is about $38 per child. You can buy extra ones for a discount at this time. Sounds like a good idea. One for the lock box and one for use. Once you get the birthcertificates you can file for proof of citizenship.
3. Apply for your child's citizenship papers. (USCIS forms and info andfact sheet on citizenship) You will need to fill out the N-600 and pay the $420 per child. They DO NOT accept personal checks you will need a bank check or money order. Until you do this your child WILL NOT be able to prove the he or she is a citizen of the US. If you met your child in Ethiopia BEFORE the court date and AFTER the referral then you are under a different ruling and your child is automatically sent the Certificate Of Citizenship instead of the Green Card, they enter on an IR-3 visa. If not, like most of us, you will have to file the application and pay the fee. You will also be required to validate the adoption to make it valid in the US. This means your kids entered on an IR-4 visa (meaning the court procedure declaring the child officially yours happened before you met them in Ethiopia, this is standard). In addition my understanding of this is that you will not be able to do this until after you have filed for and received the validation of foreign adoption as the US does not consider the adoption full and final abroad for certain legalities that I do not understand. Even though it is, you still have to have this paper. You DO NOT have to apply for the green card, your child is a legal alien until the validation of foreign adoption at which time they become a citizen but can't prove it. If you come in to the States on IR-4 you will get the green card automatically. If you come in on IR 3 your child will be automatically a Naturalized Citizen. If your child comes in on IR 4 YOU MUST FILE FOR PROOF OF CITIZENSHIP, while your child is a citizen they can not prove it without this. This can get sticky after they turn 18. A passport should prove this, but there have been some issues with it for some.
Other notes on this process: From USCIS "The USCIS has re-engineered its processing in order to streamline the production of Certificates of Citizenship for certain children adopted abroad. Streamlined processes have been developed for newly entering IR-3 children who are automatically U.S. Citizens when they arrive. These newly entering IR-3 children will receive Certificates of Citizenship within 45 days of their arrival instead of receiving a Permanent Resident Card and then filing the N-600 for a Certificate. (Please see our Fact Sheet for additional information)" This is NOT for a child entering on IR4 visa. It later explains that you have to buy that proof if both parents did not meet the child before the foreign adoption.
4. SS#. (form and explanation of procedure) This is free!!!! Yippee!!! If you do this before the validation and or citizenship you will have to re do the name, if you are changing that. You can get a temporary # like a person on a work visa can get. You have to finalize it after the validation. Some offices will give you a hard time about it and will try to get you to have the cert. of cit. first and validation too. You don't have to do it this way, but we have opted to wait until last so that we have all the needed papers the first time through. We hope anyway. This also will not prove citizenship. If you go after validation but before Certificate of Citizenship or after *Certificate of Citizenship* this is what you need: US birth certificate > US passport or *Certificate of Citizenship* > my driver's license > a filled out SS card application
Notes on SS#: While some have been refused a SS# based on not yet having the COC, you should be able to legally do this with a passport.
* *Citizenship or immigration status: We can accept only certain documents as proof of U.S. citizenship. These include a U.S. birth certificate, U.S. consular report of birth, U.S. passport, Certificate of Naturalization or Certificate of Citizenship.
We can accept most documents that show you were born in the U.S. If you are a U.S. Citizen born outside the U.S., we need to see a document such as a:
- U.S. consular report of birth, - U.S. passport, - Certificate of Naturalization, or - Certificate of Citizenship.
5. Some families get a passport(link form and procedure) for their kids right away. :) We are not getting these until we plan to go abroad. Not anytime soon for us. See above note from SS administration. This SHOULD prove citizenship, but has been problematic for many. Therefore, we are not going this route.
Notes on Citizenship: *****:A word on Citizenship (Italics and bold mine. )
from the US gov. page "U.S. CITIZENSHIP FOR AN ADOPTED CHILD It’s very important that you make sure your adopted child becomes a U.S. citizen. The Child Citizenship Act of 2000 was designed to make the citizenship acquisition process easier and eliminate extra steps and costs. Under the Child Citizenship Act, children adopted abroad can automatically acquire U.S. citizenship if: 1. At least one parent of the child is a U.S. citizen; 2. The child is under the age of 18; 3. The child is admitted to the United States as an immigrant for lawful permanent residence; and 4. The adoption is final. (re-adopt or validation is complete)
Because of the Child Citizenship Act, many (IR3) parents are no longer required to make a separate application for their children to benaturalized. If your adoption doesn’t meet these requirements, however, acquiring citizenship for your child will require an additional process and additional fees. If you postpone or even forget to file for your child’s naturalization, your child may have difficulty getting college scholarships, working legally, voting, et cetera. In some cases, your child might actually be subject to possible deportation. Make plans right away to protect your child’s future." Page 31 | FROM A to Z
From the USCIS website: "Children with IR-4 and IH-4 visas: - do not acquire automatic citizenship upon entry to the U.S., but instead become permanent residents. - will automatically receive a permanent resident card (green card). - will automatically acquire citizenship on the date of their adoption in United States, if the adoption occurs before the child’s 18th birthday." USCIS site on this issue
"Permanent Residence (a "green card") grants the right to live in, leave and reenter, and work in the U.S. It does not grant, for instance, the right to vote in U.S. elections. Permanent Residence may be deemed abandoned if the U.S. government believes that the permanent resident has not maintained sufficient ties to the U.S. to demonstrate intent to keep it. It can also be revoked if, for instance, the permanent resident commits certain crimes.
Citizenship includes all those rights, plus the right to vote and certain other rights. Citizenship cannot be deemed abandoned even if the citizen resides aborad for long periods of time without strong ties to the U.S. It can be taken away, but normally only if the naturalized citizen can be proven to have misrepresented something during the naturalization process (or does something which could also cause removal of citizenship to a U.S.-born citizen, such as fighting with a foreign army against the U.S.)" http://www.reichimmigration.com/ImmigrationInfo/FAQs/PRvCitizenship.html
My personal opinion note on this: It has been the experience of several families and on the advice of several agencies involved with adoptions as well as adoption lawyers, that it is imperative that you get the COC for your child. The passport will not prove citizenship in an official way before you validate the adoption in the US, because they are permanent residents, not citizens. It is debatable if it proves citizenship after the validation/finalization/readopt. I realize that the documents are not 100% clear on this issue, there is debate on this subject. However, I make this statement on the experience of so many others who I have read about and met on line finding out the hard way that they needed the COC. For the passport you pay for it every few years and after they are 18 they have to keep doing it, or they bear the burden of having to go through all the naturalization stuff that you could have spared them, they can not just get the COC after they are 18. You pay for the COC once-before they are 18. In the end the cost of the renewal of a passport and the risk of it lapsing and the burden of maintaining it after 18 is a far greater cost and risk than paying the $420 for the COC one time and never having to consider it again. You KNOW you have done the best thing for your child the first time.
That is all!
I would strongly suggest starting on this while you are waiting for the embassy date. You can download most of the forms to your computer and fill out what you can and get the name off the adoption birth certificate, etc. when you receive it. You will need the court adoption forms from Ethiopia. You can have the validation papers ready to go when you get home with a few add in's and that will be great being as tired as you will be when you get home. Sometimes, for older kids you need to wait a bit to see if their given age is off or not. Mostly it is, but if it needs changed is entirely up to you.
Another word on birth date change. If you need to change it after the validation a mom on one of my groups had this experience (this is a segment of her note): 3) Obtained CO Birth Certificate (not evidence of citizenship) 4) Found out through dental examination and developmental assessments at International adoption clinic that our daughter was two years older then reported 5) Compiled documentation of evidence to change age and submitted to juvenile court via a general request to the court to petition for a order to CO Vital Records to change birth date (no charge for this, you do not need to re-finalize adoption a second time to change the BC) 6) Order approved by court so we sent a request for new BC and fees for new BC to CO Vital Records 7) Received new CO BC in which they literaly crossed off her old birth date and typed in the new one 8) Sent ALL documents of for US passport with a note emphazing that the birth date had been changed 9) Received passport with correct (new) DOB at which time I went in person to the SS office and they corrected the birth date and changed number to a US citizen number
Today was the first Monday since the New Year that I did not have a post scheduled for this blog. Looks like I have finally run out of things to say!
Since I am leaving next week to pick up our daughters and will probably be a bit busier than usual when I return, I think this is a good time to hand over the reins. It has been such a pleasure to work on it while in the "waiting" stages of this adoption but I think my time is done.
Is anyone interested in working on the IAN families blog, please? On some weeks I might spend a couple of hours getting posts together if there is something I'm truly interested in researching but usually I spend an hour a week. Of course, anyone who takes it over can operate it as they see fit. It was pretty much a blank slate when I started on it so I worked on it in the ways that were easiest to me. The next person (or persons) can make it their own.
Please let me know if you are interested and I can pass along the log-in info.
Hannah posted this on our group site. It is great info. I think a lot of it is scattered here and there on this blog, but this is more concise and therefore helpful. Thanks Hannah!
Here is the information we used when traveling (from KC and Jill K.) with notes added from us.
Get off the plane in Addis Ababa as quickly as possible and go right downstairs into the VISA line just to the right of the stairs. Have your passports and hotel/guest house address ready. Visas cost $20.00 each in American Dollars, exact change, crisp bills, and bills newer than 2003 is appreciated and helps move the process along. (Note: If the VISA office is notified of the correct number of passengers arriving they will have enough people there to move the line. In our case they were not and there were 3 people to process several families. Though 3 sounds like a lot it is not as all 3 work on 1 VISA at a time and everything is hand written. When they saw it was taking quite a while they were so sweet to get my daughter and I chairs for us to sit.) There is a bathroom under the stairs, bring your own toilet paper. (Note: Traveling with small children I would try to go on the plane before de-boarding! )Get in line for immigration with all of your documents as soon as you leave the visa line. Stay in the middle line. The line to the left is for Diplomats and to the right is for Ethiopians. (Note: There is a card to fill in for each person entering the country. We began to fill it out and then the lady at the window just finished it up for us. If you just go to the window maybe they will fill them out for you.)You can/should exchange money after you pass through the immigration station. The bank has windows inside and outside of the immigration area. You will need your passport number for this and any time you exchange money with a bank (Note: This was very relaxed and I think much better than trying to travel in country to exchange money. With 2 sick boys we were very glad we had exchanged our money here.)Keep your receipt (the bigger one that you sign) when you exchange money at the airport or you can't change birr back to US dollars when you leave or just leave money as a donation. Do not exchange money on the street. Collect your luggage and put it on a free cart. Decline help from the “porters” i.e. DO NOT let anyone bully you into taking your bags and loading them on a cart, unless you are interested in help and willing to tip them. (Note: Declining is not a one time, "No thank you.", to put it mildly. We would not have minded tipping but on our return trip we were actually charged and it was a hefty price, per bag, even for US standards. If traveling alone you will need to use their services, just be prepared to pay. I think I remembered paying about $10 US it was a fixed price. It is per bag something like $3 per bag--not worth it in my opinion--JK). You may have to show your luggage ‘receipts’ from the airline to airport workers before they let you leave the area with your bags. A customs agent (or someone) will ask you about declaring money before you leave the airport. Once outside the baggage area there will be a large number of people with signs to pick up guests. Find your driver (IAN staff should be picking you up to take you to your Guest House unless you have arranged otherwise. --JK) (Note: Our experience here was CRAZY, but unlikely to happen again, but next time we travel we will have our driver secured before travel.--H) Once you are at the hotel call the IAN staff to let them know. Confirm your return flights as soon as you arrive in Ethiopia or within a day or two. (You can do this at the Hilton Hotel--JK). Ask your hotel or guest home to help you do that.