Yesterday, I mailed our dossier papers to Ukraine. That is a simple enough thing to say, but the process required to be able to say it is anything but simple.
After our first batch of papers went to Ukraine in November, it was time to start on the next batch. That first submission included more basic paperwork that had to be notarized at apostilled (international notarization that can only be performed at the Lt. Governor's office in the capitol building in Salt Lake City), but it was only a foretaste of what was to come.
Back in November, our goal was to get our papers submitted before the deadline of November 30th..the date they typically close their offices for an extensive holiday until sometime in January. If we didn't submit our paperwork and have our "review date" given to us before that winter closure, we would be put off until January setting us at least a month behind where we could be if we had made that November 30th deadline. Unfortunately, we were behind schedule. We had been fundraising like mad as well as working to meet the needs of our children during it all. We hesitated to submit paperwork until we knew we could pay for it, but the stalling was setting us behind.
A blessing occurred then...the closure of the offices in Ukraine for three weeks to change the ministry. That closing meant they would leave the offices open longer into December to make up for the closure! Our papers were accepted and we were given the review date of February 22nd.
February 22nd was then the time we were preparing for. On that day, they will sit down and scrutinize our dossier (paperwork) to determine if we are an acceptable family for Ruslan and Nastia.
The dossier includes bloodwork, a doctor's review of our mental and physical health, criminal history record (which requires fingerprinting), biometrics at the immigration office in SLC (digital fingerprinting/immigration history and approval...a 2 1/2 month process from start to finish), proof of residence form from authority, 1040 form from taxes, copies of our passports (had to get my passport first!), two copies of our marriage certificate that had to be apostilled in the state we were married, two copies of our homestudy, a photo "album" of our family and home, etc, etc. All (but the photo album) had to be signed and notarized, then taken to the capitol to be apostilled. Thirty documents in all.
Since the immigration process is so long, we started that in December. It required, first, the form and payment of almost $800 being sent to Texas, I think it was. We later received our date to go to the immigration office in SLC for biometrics. We were given an appointment, but our adoption coordinator said we could just go in any time. What a blessing that was! We took all the kids and went up to have that done (that is a story in and of itself) and got that ball rolling.
Meanwhile, we took care of all the other papers, appointments, histories and fingerprinting...notarizing anything we could as we went. Nothing can be incorrect. Nothing can be corrected. It all has to be done exactly right or it will be unacceptable to Ukrainian authorities, causing us to have to start the process all over again.
By last Monday, February 6th, I was still waiting for our immigration paper. I had called and talked to the officer assigned to us and explained our situation and she sounded like she would move the process along for us, but we were still in a crunch because the review date is right around the corner! So by last Monday, we couldn't notarize the document to be attached to the immigration paper until we knew the date that would be ON the paper and we were still trying to pull our tax info together. We had four documents we couldn't apostille, but everything else was ready. So, that day I took the kids back up to the Lt. Gov's office and we apostilled 26 documents. I knew I'd have to go back up when the immigration paper arrived, so I knew I'd be back up there picking them up later anyway. When you leave them at the office and give them a few days to get the apostilling done, they only cost $15 per document. If you want it the same day, it's $65 per document. It was worth taking up the bulk of them and paying less. Only four docs at $65 was better than all 30 at that expedited price!
Tuesday morning, the 7th, I got a call on my phone. The caller ID read "816". I knew it had to be my immigration officer. No one but the government would have a caller ID like that! I answered and the voice on the other end said, "Mrs. Morford? This is Officer McCarl at the USCIS office. Your paper is in the mail today." I squealed very unprofessionally, thanked her and wished her a VERY happy day! She kind of giggled (which isn't in immigration officer character) and wished me good luck. At this point, I knew we were going to be okay. We were going to make the goal of February 22nd.
Our contact in Ukraine, Sasha, already had digital copies of all of our paperwork and was translating them in preparation for our review date. I had painstakingly scanned and emailed every single page of every single copy of every single document. It had already been sent to Sasha through our adoption coordinator, David Avilla, and I was grateful to know that that ball was rolling without it all having to be there physically.
I had hoped that immigration paper would be here by Thursday the 9th, but that would have been miraculous. Now, no other time in my life have I seen so many miracles but I didn't feel that this would happen...it wasn't necessary enough. We had a little window of time. I have learned to expect miracles, though, so I wouldn't have put it past the Lord! It arrived instead on Friday. I knew it would be there and it was. As soon as it was in my hand, we were in the car heading up to the Lt. Governor's office. All the other paperwork was ready and because we knew our immigration paper was in the mail, we could notarize the attachment with a correct date...and did that just the night before.
We met up with Becky Radzinsky (another adopting mom) at the capitol as we were both waiting for apostilling. She is so much fun and I loved having those moments with her. As soon as I had the papers, I hopped into the car and headed for the Provo FedEx store. I was so thrilled that I was going to make my goal of getting it all in the mail on the date I needed to!
By the time I was at FedEx, it was 10 minutes to 4. I decided I should copy the apostilles because I had copies of everything else and I really wanted to make sure I covered every single base before sending it off into oblivion. I learned how to use the self-serve copy machine and went to put the first document in when I saw it. I couldn't believe it, but there it was staring right at me. The name of our notary was mispelled. Her name is Allison...it was spelled Alison...on the apostilling. And not one of them, but 18 of them. And I was an hour away from the capitol building...during rush hour.
I almost cried, then I got mad. Then I tried to remember that the Lord is in charge of everything. I knew I couldn't get there and back in time for FedEx's last shipment at 5:45, so I went home and decided I would go back up on Monday (yesterday) and finish this whole thing.
After picking up the fixed documents, I left the office to inspect them. I didn't want to make the lady feel bad that she'd made that mistake, so I went out and checked every single one of them...twice...on my knees. Then it was off to FedEx...just down the road from the capitol. None of this hour-away stuff this time!
I filled out the mailing information and handed it all to the guy helping me. He said, "Great! You're good to go! Have a great day." I sheepishly said, "If you don't mind, I'm going to watch you put that mailing label ON the package."
Next step...clean out the basement while awaiting our invitation to travel to Ukraine! After our review on the 22nd, we will have about 10 days wherein we can receive that invitation. Once received, we have about 3-4 weeks to head over.
That, my friends, is the update. :)