Tuesday, December 3, 2013
LOA & other updates!
After 98 long days of waiting, we finally got our Letter of Approval (LOA) on November 6! I'm not sure I could have waited another day for the approval to come. The Lord allowed me to wait long enough that I finally got to the point of letting go and having peace with waiting. It seemed that the very moment I learned that lesson, our approval came.
Ever since we received LOA the subsequent steps have been fast and furious. We immediately filed our I-800 with the USCIS (immigration). We already had applied for permission to adopt a child from another country; this step was to tell them "this is the child we want to adopt". They make sure that Hannah's medical needs match our home study and that she meets the requirements of orphan status according to the Hague convention (a treaty related to international adoption). Fortunately the same officer that handled our previous immigration step also handled the I-800, and she proved to be quick, courteous and efficient once again. We received I-800 approval via email on 11/19, just eleven days after filing our application.
From there Hannah's paperwork was sent to the National Visa Center. They processed her file and assigned her case to the appropriate consulate, who will issue her US visa before she comes home. Her case is assigned to the US Consulate in Guangzhou, China. We waited one week to receive her consulate case #, or "GUZ #" and then waited another four days to receive an electronic approval letter showing that her case was processed and ready to go.
Next, our agency dropped off that letter along with some other immigration forms to the consulate in China. We now wait two weeks for them to issue a document called "Article 5". This should come on 12/16. Once our agency's rep in China has that letter in hand, it will be delivered back to the Chinese government where we apply for Travel Approval.
Typically, the CCCWA (Chinese adoption organization) takes 2-4 weeks to issue a Travel Approval (TA) which is essentially an invitation to travel to China to adopt your child. If we are on the short side of things, that TA could come as early as 12/30. If we are on the later side of things (and taking into account the New Year Holiday) it could come as late as 1/10.
Chinese New Year begins on January 30 and will essentially shut down adoption processes for a couple weeks because of all the celebrations and government closures. Because of this, we doubt that we will be able to get the necessary appointments in time to get Hannah in January. We could try to rush and be super stressed and crazy to make it happen- but the chances are still slim it will all work out. We have decided to aim for February travel for a multitude of reasons. At first I struggled with 'delaying' travel because of course I want to get our daughter out of that orphanage! But we have to consider the circumstances for our family as a whole--- Bryan's time off from work, coordinating care for both of the boys & our pets while we are away, being able to use our airmiles to book flights, etc. We are confident that leaving in a rushed state of chaos will not benefit our boys, so instead we will give ourselves several weeks to prepare and be organized.
I am hoping we will head to China in early February, shortly after Chinese New Year. If that happens, we would have Hannah's "Gotcha Day" in Zhengzhou on February 10 and hopefully be back in the US by February 21.
We are so ready to meet her and love her and have her join our family. I am ready to have a third little one in the house to care for, no matter how chaotic it might get. I am so ready to just take care of her - bathe her at night and put her in cute jammies and rock her to sleep, have her sitting with us at the dinner table in her high chair, see her sitting in a car seat in the van.
For now, I will focus all of my energy and excitement on enjoying the holidays with the boys, doing everything we can to prepare them emotionally for their new sister, and getting organized for our trip. If all goes well, we will have sweet Hannah Elizabeth Ping in our arms in just 69 days!