This past week and a half has been insane to say the least. We are trying to laugh about the craziness, but at moments it is hard and infuriating. All the explanations are very detailed and boring and I won't be offended if you want to skip all the drama. I just wanted to record it for our family's story. Here goes...(btw, you might not follow this without a calendar next to you! LOL!)
Our I800 approval sat in the USCIS Records division for 6 days with no movement. The supervisor couldn't or wouldn't do anything to address the situation which was very frustrating. Meanwhile we decided to get our congressman's office involved. At one mention of our intentions, the wheels started turning in the USCIS office. Our congressman's office called and helped us out, although I think things started moving when I just mentioned calling our congressman. Still they lied to our congressman's assistant saying everything was mailed that day, when in fact it hadn't. Then, later it turns out they only sent 2 out of the three boxes of paperwork. Guess which department packages and ships the boxes? Yep, that's right. The Records Division...lovely.
Finally, on April 7th all three files were at the National Visa Center. BUT, there was the huge worry that the government was going to shut down Friday at midnight! So I called several times asking them to expedite our case. We were told that they were in the "scanning department" and were being sent to the Embassy Friday afternoon, but that night when I called, the new person (very cranky) said they weren't even in the "processing department" yet. ARG!! Every time I call this place I get a different person and a completely different answer. And, believe me I've called probably 15 times since last Friday!
Friday afternoon we had a phone call from Raul, our in-country rep. He briefed us on the process and gave us two pieces of really bummer news.
1. Our article 5 will probably be issued on April 20th- in the middle of the week that the Colombian government is closed down for Semana Santa- Holy Week. So really, it would probably not get to ICBF until the 27th or 28th. Another week lost...
2. ICBF is not going to allow us to travel for 3-4 weeks after we got our Article 5 letter from the US Embassy.They want to take that time to introduce the kids to our photos and dvd, counsel the kids and help them adjust to the changes they will go through. We were sooo disappointed. Another whole MONTH of waiting. We appreciate that they care about the kids so much, but frankly a month is a long time!
As the weekend wore on, we realized that this new timeline very likely will (if/when we have more delays) put our travel dates at the beginning of June. Our hearts sunk when we realized our paperwork for our immigration (I800A) expires the first week in July. Usually, families are only in Medellin for about a month, but that only leaves us a one week window if there are delays! In our kids' particular situation, delays are definitely within the realm of possibilities because of some of their history with their adoption process.
Here's what that means according to our program manager: We could travel to Colombia, meet the kids, go through the court proceedings, become the legal parents of the kids, travel to Bogota to get their visas and the US Government will not let them have the visas to come to the US because our paperwork is expired. BUT, we could not stay in Colombia because we have to reapply for an extension of our immigration approval, a 2-3 month process including a new homestudy with a homevisit! What would happen to the kids? ARE YOU KIDDING ME????
Now, we can start the process for updating our immigration approval, and that is probably what we will do if we can't get anything accomplished by this Friday. We just really hate to do this because it will cost over $2000 to do it. AND, we might not even need it if we don't get delayed in country. AND our homestudy worker is not known for her speed so it might not even get done before we'd have to travel. It's gonna be difficult to get fingerprinted when we're not in the country! So, we are really, really hoping to avoid this.
My mission for today, Monday, has been to PUSH, PUSH, PUSH to get our article 5 letter issued and to the ICBF office by Friday before they close for Semana Santa. (According to our agency they CAN do it that fast if there's some pressure.) That way our travel dates will be earlier and we don't have to worry about the whole immigration approval expiration date.
Today, I was able to speak to a supervisor at the NVC that agreed to expedite our case within the next hour. Just in case, though, I contacted our congressman's office again asking her to push things through once they left the NVC and arrived at the US Embassy. She agreed, and later forwarded me an email from the US Embassy saying they only had ONE of the children's visas. ARG! AGAIN! Why does this paperwork keep getting separated??? Again, I followed up with the NVC, and they were not super helpful. So I'm going to call again tonight (they're open 24 hours) and beg and plead with someone to send the last two visas to the embassy.
We are praying fervently that we can get our Article 5 letter issued by by the US Embassy by Wednesday, so Sylvia (Gladney staff) can then overnight the letter to ICBF by Friday when they can then set our travel date- for a month later (maybe 2nd week in May?), but still early enough for us to get home before our immigration approval expires.
Just so you understand....This is a complete impossibility to get all this done this fast. To gain favor with so many government workers and to have nothing fall through the cracks and do it by Wednesday is laughable.
Guys, seriously, we need MIRACLE! A real one.
So, we are asking our friends and family to please pray (and fast if you feel led) that God would provide in some way. I have NO IDEA how He is going to work this out, but God is big, and mighty, and He is in control over paperwork and timelines.