Travel Issues for Adoption from Guatemala
Special Note: Currently the U.S. is Not Processing Guatemalan Adoptions
While it is possible to adopt a child from Guatemala with only one visit, most adoption professionals recommend at least two visits.
What Type of Travel is Involved?
Adopting families have the opportunity to travel multiple times to Guatemala during their adoption process. Once a family has accepted a referral, and prior to the adoption being finalized, the adopting family is permitted to travel to Guatemala to see the child whose referral they have accepted. While this earlier trip/s is not required it is strongly recommended so that you can meet the child before the adoption takes place. If an adoptive family does not travel to see their adopted child before their adoption is finalized the US government requires that the child be readopted when the family returns to the United States after finalization of the adoption in Guatemala. The length of this trip/s is up to the adoptive family, but most families plan their trips to be 3-5 days long. After the adoption has been finalized, the new parents are advised of the dates when they can travel to pick their child up. This trip will generally be 3-5 days in length. While this final trip is not required, as Guatemala allows children to be escorted home by an agency representative without being seen by the adoptive parents, in order to help protect the family and the child, many experts recommend that the adopting person(s) not allow the child(ren) to be escorted back to the United States. Having a child escorted can take very little extra time, or can add several weeks to the process, depending mostly on how fast your INS office processes your application.
In Guatemala, your agency representative should help you through every step of your adoption. These are the general procedures followed if you travel to pick up your child:
1) The child's Guatemalan passport is issued and pictures are taken for the U.S. visa. All of the paperwork and approved documents including the passport, your dossier, the Family Court findings, the adoption decree, the DNA results, all translations, and the visa photos, and requests approval for an orphan visa to enter the US. are taken to the U.S. embassy for approval. The Embassy then authorizes the visa. This approval is called the "pink slip". It is usually issued a day or two after submission of the documents. An exit physical is performed by and Embassy-approved doctor.
2) You are told your case is complete and you travel to Guatemala. Many people travel sooner but this is the "official" time when travel is recommended.
3) The lawyer completes required INS and State Department forms for visa issuance and includes them in the document package along with the results from the exit physical. You meet your child, and they stay with you from this point forward. You, with the help of the Guatemalan adoption attorney or agency representative, bring your child and all the papers back to the Embassy at a time predetermined by the embassy, you undergo an interview with the consular official, your case is approved, you pay the visa fees, present the I-600 and I-864 forms, show your tax returns for the past 3 years (including W-2s and 1099s and all other schedules, plus current notarized letters of employment) to prove you can support the child. You come back the next day for your visa and sealed packet of documents. Do not open the sealed packet or you will cause yourself much delay and suffering when you are not admitted to the United States at our borders.
4) Then you can go home. On arrival you must to submit the sealed packet to INS at your first point of entry into the US. If both parents (or the sole parent for a single parent adoption) have visited the child prior to finalization of the adoption and issuance of the adoption decree, then the child will enter the US on an "IR3" visa and automatically be a citizen upon entry (but not before). However, if the parents are a married couple and both of them did not see the child prior to finalization of the adoption, the child comes in on an "IR4" visa, and is not a citizen until you re-finalize your adoption ("readopt") under the laws of your state.
A special note regarding re-adoption. "Re-adoption" is a legal procedure which ranges from a full legal adoption to a less formal "recognition of foreign adoption". This will depend on the laws of your state of residence. If a family is issued the IR4 visa mentioned above, it is required. In every case it is recommended that you re-adopt the child if your state allows it (see Adoption laws). Make sure to check with an attorney licensed in your state of residence regarding re-adoption. You will find that having an "original" of each document very helpful. If you can not get an original, which in many cases you will not be able to, try to get on that has been notarized, certified, or somehow stamped as an original.