CERTIFICATE OF CITIZENSHIP!
After "only" having been home 55 days, we FINALLY received Zoya's official certificate of citizenship! Zoya was automatically a citizen when we landed in the Philly airport on April 22nd. However, we needed this certificate to prove it....and to get her social security number...which is needed for MANY things. This certificate is supposed to come automatically within 45 days of returning to the U.S. When we reached about the 40 day mark and still got nothing we started to worry a bit. One reason we were worried was that families who returned home after us had already received theirs, AND because we dealt with dumb and dumber at the Philly airport during our secondary inspection process.
For those of you who haven't gone through an international adoption, when you get to the first stateside airport you get a red folder at the customs booth and then you have to go to another room called "secondary inspections." Let me also add that when you go to the embassy in the foreign country, they give you a big fat "do not open" envelope with many VERY IMPORTANT IRREPLACEABLE documents that you are supposed to guard with your life, which we did. When we landed in Philly, we went to secondary inspections....this scary room where it was mostly non-Americans who were being questioned for their entrance into or exit from the U.S. and a bunch of very young guys on power trips yelling at these poor foreigners who didn't understand most of what they were saying. When it was FINALLY our turn, they called us up and opened our very important "do not open guard this with your life" packet. They debated weather or not they should fingerprint her and then decided they don't have to fingerprint babies. When I asked when she would receive her certificate they told me she would be receiving a green card. I knew this wasn't right and so I questioned some more at which point one guy agreed that yes, as soon as she landed she became a citizen and then they clapped and cheered, and then he changed his mind and agreed with green card guy and said she wasn't a citizen. I wasn't about to argue but I knew she was a citizen, still though, these two geniuses had me a bit worried to say the least.
So when we inquired with USCIS (which by the way is like trying to contact a dead uncle--nearly impossible) as to why we hadn't received Zoya's Certificate of Citizenship (C.O.C.), we were annoyed to find out that her visa number WASN'T EVEN IN THE SYSTEM!! WHAT? How does THAT happen? Her visa had a stamp showing her entry into the U.S. and here she wasn't even in the system showing she had ever entered! We immediately panicked thinking once again that something went wrong and we were going to have to jump through more hoops...which we did. We were assured by our very kind USCIS caseworker in the Buffalo office that Zoya is still a citizen but that something went wrong in the process. He also thought it necessary (or funny) to tell me that this only happens to less than a dozen children of the 80 THOUSAND adopted into the U.S. each year! Yah thanks, coulda lived not knowing that! Upon further investigation they found out that the U.S. Embassy in Ukraine never put her into the system and to make matters worse her very important "do not open guard with your life" packet sat in Philly for a whole month because they didn't know what to do with it and should have inquired when they couldn't find her in the system. It was last located being sent out of Philly to Texas on May 22 (when it should have NEVER been sent there...should have been sent to our local office) and since arriving in Texas it cannot be found. Yes, the very important "do not open guard with your life" packet that THEY lost!
So what happens when the irreplaceable packet of documents gets lost? You have to locate a million documents (some of those irreplaceable documents) and scan them all into your computer, label them each separately, and then attach them one by one in emails to the USCIS caseworker. Oh and you have to write a letter with a million different pieces of information including a "short" description of what happened at the "port of entry" (don't worry, I wrote that description and it wasn't short!) Oh and you also have to go and have new passport sized photos taken (if you notice the picture on her C.O.C. above is a very recent picture--not the one that was taken in Ukraine like it should have been).
And that folks, is how you get a certificate of citizenship after you've already put in 8 months of blood, sweat, and tears into trying to get your precious cargo home!