We're officially in-process for the kids' US citizenship! I was so excited to get these emails:
Citizenship for Earth through the N600 process
An Update on Earth's Green Card and Citizenship Process:
Earth's I-130 and I-485 were accepted for review in April of 2018. In late May, we received an appointment notice to bring Earth in for fingerprinting. We were able to do that in Tucson and the process went smoothly. After that, we didn't hear anything until a large packet arrived in February of 2019. In it were two RFEs- requests for evidence to support our green card request.
Just two months later, a slim envelope showed up in our mailbox. I opened it on the street because it seemed innocuous and unimportant. Silly me.
USCIS rejected both our I-130 application and our I-485 application and in addition, they were threatening to deport our son. Unsurprisingly, I freaked out. D was calmer about the whole thing but still frightened that they could take our son. We thought for sure that there had been a mistake- weren't Marshallese citizens allowed to come and go from the US under the Compact of Free Association? Weren't they allowed to live in the US while they applied for a change of status from the visa waiver program to a green card? The answer is yes but none of that applies to Earth. We found out from the RMI Embassy in Washington, DC that we were caught in a loophole created by the 2003 amendments to the CoFA that are intended to prevent illegal adoptions:
While I fully support ethics in adoption and have spoken out against unethical practices both in the US and in the Marshall Islands on this blog, I couldn't believe that no allowances had been made for legitimate situations like ours. The Embassy put me in touch with the lawyer who helped draft this section of the amendments and while he sympathized with what we were going through, he was also amazed by it and said that he never imagined a situation like this.
After a lot of phone calls with our lawyers, the embassy in Majuro, and USCIS, it became clear to D and I that the only solution was for Earth and I to return to the Marshall Islands. While we hated having to split up the family, that would allow Earth to avoid having deportation proceedings started against him (which would prevent any future citizenship) and let us apply directly for naturalization through the N600k process.
After discovering the wonderful news that you can now file for naturalization through the N600k process online I raced to get started on it. Unfortunately, power went out to the whole island just as I sat down that the computer. It was out all night but I was able to finish and submit Earth's application on my lunch break today.
Besides being able to file online, you can now request an appointment date when you file. I entered December 1, 2019 so, theoretically, if we have Earth's interview on that day and he is approved for citizenship, we could be home by Christmas. I'm trying not to get my hopes up but can't stop myself from imagining how wonderful that would be.
December 5, 2019
The last time we went through this process, the kids' cases were transferred in November as well and we had interviews by early February. Of course, that was five years ago and there's no guarantee that things will be the same this time but as always, I'm hopeful.
January 9, 2020
March 3, 2020
Things have been quiet here because there just hasn't been anything to report. I checked Earth's case status today and while there was a date change, there was no new information.
I also checked the USCIS average processing time page and saw that the processing time for Earth's case has gotten longer again.
As always, we'll keep you posted
We received our interview appointment in late December and there was just no way we could make all of the arrangements we would have needed to make to travel in a month so we reached out to our senator's office for help in rescheduling our appointment. They were able to help us connect with the right person at the Honolulu office to get the appointment changed to July 16.
We made our travel arrangements and held our breath that nothing would get in the way of the trip. July came and Earth and I traveled to Honolulu. I was just ready for everything to be over and while Earth was excited to be on a plane again, he hated being away from D and his brothers and sister. The day of the appointment finally came and both Earth and I were up early. It was wild to finally be doing what we had waited so long for. The waiting room was the same and the wait was the same as when we visiting for Sky and Fire's citizenship I really hoped that the interview would be the same too, just a few questions and then back out again but it didn't turn out that way. I don't know why I thought that they wouldn't have the paperwork from my failed attempt to get Earth a green card but of course they did. His file was two inches thick! The interviewer asked me a lot of questions about how Earth joined our family and our relationship with his birth family, I suppose trying to clarify things from the earlier case. Eventually she turned to Earth and asked him some questions. When she asked him who I was he said, "Ms Amber" and I just about died! I had to scramble to clarify that since I work at the Library, that's what all his preschool friends call me when they come for story time. It thought for sure we were going to be in trouble, that she would accuse us of faking our case but she accepted my answers and moved on. D's address was still listed as Tucson and she did ask about that but I was able to show her his employment contract and orders for Kwajalein and to confirm that we had sold the house and she accepted that. I think the whole process took about an hour and half.
Once we were done with the interview, she asked us to return to the waiting room without saying whether or not Earth had passed. We waited 40 minutes with no answer and I was just starting to convince myself of all the bad things when a young woman walked out with his certificate. She apologized for the wait and explained that they've just recently switched to digitally printing the photos and were having trouble with the system. We took our picture and then were free to go. Earth and I stopped in a bathroom before leaving so he could change into his citizen shirt and and walk out showing everyone that he was a new American.
Since we were still technically in quarantine (we had special permission to leave the hotel for the interview) we celebrated with all the screen time Earth wanted and ordering McDonalds for dinner. I'm beyond thankful that we've completed the process and that Earth is an American. Now, we can always be together as a family and no one can question if we belong together. I'm looking forward to putting all this behind us and moving on with whatever life holds for us.
My dear friends, thank you for traveling on this journey with us! What a long and twisting road it's been since we started on this path seven years ago. Now that our youngest child has received his American citizenship, I won't be updating this page any more but please feel free to leave your comments and questions here and I'll do my best to answer them.