Good news! Yesterday we received our I-797C Notice of Approval from the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS or just CIS). The USCIS is the division of the Department of Homeland Security that determines a family's suitability to adopt internationally. And we have been approved!
Sorry for the blurry photo, and for looking like death in this picture. Actually, this is how I always look I think. I might should do something about that. Anyway, this is me with the CIS approval.
Did I mention we are adopting internationally? From China, to be specific. More on that later.
Obtaining CIS approval is a pretty big milestone in the international adoption process, for it is necessary to have this approval in order to receive a visa for our child to enter the United States. It also required a lot of legwork on our part in order to send our I-800A application to the CIS in the first place. Before you can apply, you must have an approved home study to submit with the application.
We started our home study back in March, and it took approximately two months before we had the finalized, approved home study report in our hands. A lot went into getting to that point. You must gather every document under the sun on yourself and your spouse - birth certificates, marriage certificates, certificates of phyisical exams, doctor's letters on your children, police letters, financial statements, home budget, insurance copies, employment letters, pay stubs, tax returns, reference letters, child abuse clearances, home floor plan sketches, guardianship statements, and pictures of your home. Not to mention almost all of it has to be notarized and then sent to the Secretary of the State to be approved. I guess this is why they refer to this phase of adoption as "The Great Paper Chase." It's no joke. Then you have your meetings and interviews with the social worker, who is kind of the first big gatekeeper to adoption I guess you could say. It is the social worker who observes your family dynamic and ultimately writes a 14 (ish) page home study report for you, complete with her recommendation of your ability to adopt a child (or children if you wish).
Anyway, all of that is done and we are approved! Our adoption agency has all of the documents I mentioned above, and I will Fedex our CIS Approval to them today along with a few other items. They will send these off for certification and authentication, and then hopefully our dossier (pronounced doss-ee-ay for all you non-frenchies) will be overnighted to China on July 6th. That's the goal! Oh, and the dossier is just the term for the complete package of all the documents from above, our home study, and CIS approval. We need the dossier to get to China and be logged into their system before we can realistically pursue or be matched with a child. So, getting a log-in date (LID) will be the next big milestone.