Adopting a Girl Baby From China

By Gary McIlvain

Editor’s note: My brother Gary McIlvain has adopted two baby girls at different times from China. Here is some good information about how to make a Chinese adoption work from my brother who has past experience dealing with both the Chinese and U.S. Governments. Gary returned from China in June 2002 with a new baby girl.

First let me give you a few facts and time frames. If anyone wants to adopt from China, they must first find an agency and do a pre-application (for a fee). If the agency accepts you then you do an agency application, which is a small book about you and why you want to do this. If this is accepted they then give you the long list of things to start getting together.Ê Things like Birth Certificates, Marriage license, divorce decree (if appropriate), employment verification letters, letters from your police agency stating you don’t have an arrest record, written references from three people, physical exams, etc. Each of these documents must be done in two or three originals and notarized. Then, they must be verified by the county clerks office where the notary is registered, plus then they must go to the secretary of state in your state and be exemplified (with the state seal). By the way, each item costs money.

Now, if you do all that, you can have a home study. This is done by a social worker who has been licensed and approved to do this sort of thing. It usually requires three inspection tours of your home and interviews both as a couple and separately. They then look at all of your stuff and sometimes interview your references. If they give you the thumbs up you can expect to have the written study in a few weeks of few months, after all some people are slow with their paperwork. (This also cost money aprox $1500).

OK, now you can apply to the INS with an I-600 application to request advance procession of an orphan petition for a visa. The INS gets a copy of all the stuff you have collected so far and they decide if you are qualified to adopt a foreign orphan. If you are approved you get an I-171 H approval which is sent to the consulate where you will apply for the visa (in China). It usually takes 2 to 4 months to get this approval. This is the document that expires in 18 months from date of approval if you have not shown up at the consulate to request the visa. The problem is if you show up at the consulate one day after the expiration date, you can’t get a visa to bring your already adopted child home to the US. Since you have absolutely no control over the schedule of events it puts you at the mercy of the system. If you think you may get caught in this time crunch, you must reapply and start 3 to 4 months before you think you might travel so you will have time for the INS to issue you another I-171 H.

Once the I 171 H is granted, the adoption agency must put the entire application together and send it to the local Chinese embassy for approval. After this, the application or dossier can go to the CCAA (China Commission of Adoption Affairs) in China. The date this goes to China is what is referred to as the DTC (dossier to China) date. Then the real wait starts. The response will be a referral of a child with a picture and other information. The usual wait for this referral is now 12 to 14 months. After you get the referral, you must formally accept it and then your agency must make appointments for you in China for all of the official process to take place after you arrive. Once the appointments are set, you can get your visa from the Chinese embassy and plane tickets and book a hotel etc. The time from referral to travel runs about 6 to 8 weeks or sometimes longer if there is a holiday etc.

Now if you add up all of the time frames after the I-171 H is issued it really cuts it close. Now it used to work better because the wait time for the referral was 9 months not the 12 to 14 as it is now. That is simply because of the current numbers of people submitting dossiers to China. My guess is it averages about 100 a week from the US. This is based upon the fact that the US INS issued almost 5000 visas last year.
a. Time from INS approval till dossier gets to China (2 to 3 months)
b. Wait time in China for a referral (12 to 14 months)
c. Time from referral to travel and appt at us Consulate (2 to 3 months)
TOTAL = 16 to 20 months

The INS approval is only good for 18 months so it now means many will have to re do the application at an expense of about $800 to $900

I just had another great thought! That doesn’t happen too often you know. About a year or two ago there was a new law that said if a foreign orphan is adopted by a US citizen, that the child is automatically a US citizen. When we adopted Morgan this was not the case and we had to apply to have her naturalized. Now it is automatic. Which means if the child is a US citizen at the time of adoption (which happens a day or two after you arrive in China and before you go to the US consulate for the visa) then why does this child who is now a citizen have to have a visa to travel to the US anyway. If my assumption is correct, then this whole INS approval process should be a mute point, right? That would be too easy of a solution to be true. It is worth asking the question. I will try to get my hands on the new citizenship law and forward it to Judd for posting on his Troubleshooter Site.

I hope this gives you a short view of the specifics of the issues. Some of the concerns I have heard are:
1. Getting to China and being stuck with an expired INS approval and having already adopted the child. You would have to get another I 171 H which takes 2 to 4 months. WOW!!! What an extended trip to China, and expensive too.
2. I heard on one couple already who was not given their referral because their INS expiration date was too close to their travel date. That means they had to start the process over again with the INS and loose out on the child they had been waiting for, for over a year.
3. Some have had to try and get the INS to act quickly on the re-application and after waiting weeks with no response have had to drive over 1000 miles to hand carry things to get the approval before their travel date which was in a day or two.
4. As we go forward each week, we will find a new group of about 100 families who will be experiencing this problem. Some have agencies who are on top of these issues and assist their clients, and others don’t even inform their clients until it is too late.

I hope this information that comes from my personal experience from adopting two Chinese babies will help families who want to adopt a Chinese baby or child.

Filed by Gary McIlvain, June 2002