So, what are the next steps needed to get Kathryn home?
First we have to sign and notarize the referral acceptance papers. Some will be e-mailed to us and others will be sent by regular mail. Then we have to send then to our agency, Holt, in Oregon to be approved. If all is well, they will then forward the necessary forms to our agency, Holt, in Korea. After Korea receives that paperwork, then they start things moving on their side. Holt in Korea will begin to get the Korean government's permission for Kathryn to leave Korea to be adopted by a family overseas.
To get this permission, Holt applies to the Ministry of Health and Welfare for an Emigration Permit (EP). Holt sends them the acceptance papers, a summary of our home study, and Kathryn's family register (which is explained below), and a document signed by the birth mother - the Korean government wants proof that there is no one in Korea to parent the child.
Our agency may take several week to several months to apply for EP. This is because the Korean government limits the number of EPs per year per agency and it limits the amount that each agency can apply for at one time. The Ministry of Healthy and Welfare meets about the EPs. They can approve (usually happens), deny (never heard of), or ask for more information (very rare). The whole process takes time and is not quick or automatic.
After Holt gets the EP, they then apply to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs for her Travel Certificate (TC). The TC is like a passport, but it is only good one way and expires when the child arrives in the U.S. The time from EP to TC is usually about 3-5 days.
On the US side, we first need to get Kathryn's legals. This should take anywhere from 2-5 weeks after Korea gets our papers. Legals consist of four parts. One is the Affirmations and Oath Certificate. This certifies that the other legal documents and translations are correct. There is also the Certificate of the Guardian. This establishes Holt Korea as the legal guardian of Kathryn.
Then there is the Family Register. This documents Kathryn's lineage in Korea. Since she is an orphan, she will be the Family Chief. If she was not an orphan, it would document her family lineage, but since she is classified as an orphan, it will have no identifying information about her birth parents or their families. Her Family Register will just be proof that she was born. The last thing is the Statement of Guardianship. In this document Kathryn's legal guardian, Holt-Korea, agrees to her emigration to the U.S.
Once our agency receives Kathryn's legals from Korea, they will forward them to us. Then we have to submit them along with an I-600 form to USCIS (United States Citizenship and Immigration Services). The I-600 is the Orphan Visa petition. Last July, we submitted the I-600a forms. This was for advance processing of the visa petition. We received approval in October, the I-171H. The I-171H basically cleared our side of the petition, so now we just have to have Kathryn's side approved. This step makes the I-600 approval faster.
Again, more waiting. When our I-600 has been approved we will receive a letter. This approval document is the I-171. It basically states that we are allowed to bring her into the U.S. Once your I600 is approved USCIS will also send everything to the National Visa Center (NVC) where it is logged in (about 1 week later), approved, and then logged out (2-3 days after log in). After it's logged in they will give us a case number so that we can follow the paperwork trail.
Once the paper work is logged out, everything is forwarded to the Embassy in Seoul. When the Embassy receives this, they then send packet 3 (P3) out to Holt in Korea. Holt completes the paperwork in the packet and then sends it back to the Embassy in Seoul. After Holt has the TC and Kathryn has had a a physical by Holt and also by one appointed by the US Embassy, Holt Korea can apply for Kathryn's visa. The visa physical is good for 6 months and can happen any time after referral. With our agency, it usually happens about two months after referral.
The Visa Interview (VI) is not really an interview, just an appointment to drop off Kathryn's visa paperwork. The agency sends the TC, the visa physical information, and the actual visa application. The Embassy approves us to adopt based on the I-864 (Affidavit of Support), and out tax forms, and they also check with USCIS to make sure the visa was approved on the US side. Getting the visa usually takes about 1-5 days. The next thing to come will be the travel call!
Confused yet? This process can take anywhere from 3-6 months. I have seen travel in about 2 1/2 months a few times! This would be the best case scenario. I don't want to have my expectations set too high, so I am shooting for her to be home before Christmas!