We just got back from the US consulate and we are very happy to announce that we are finally coming home! It’s hard to believe that we are 48 hours (plus the 11 hour time change) away from the end of this entire process! We now have all of the documents necessary for Anika to become at US citizen — all she has to do is land in the United States.
The whole consulate process was actually interesting. It turns out that the US consulate is on the 17th floor of a seventeen story office building that is otherwise non-descript (that is, it looks like all of the other high-rise buildings here in Almaty). Security to get into the building is just as draconian as it is for getting on a flight. Maybe a little more. You can only bring one small container of liquid (e.g., a sippy cup), and you can’t bring in any recording devices, cell phones, etc. We couldn’t bring in any bags whatsoever. You go through a magnetometer, and have to check in with your passport. You’re escorted by armed guard everywhere – to the elevator, from the elevator, down the hall. The door to the waiting room was like a bank vault door, with two guards at the entrance. All business is conducted through bulletproof glass windows and microphones, all under the pictures of the smirking Bush, the scowling Cheney, and the sinisterly squinting Condi Rice. Truth be told, I’d rather see another picture of Nazurbaev. But I digress.
Apparently all of the adoption interviews are conducted at the same time, so when we arrived, we saw about 6 other babies and their newly adoptive parents. I chatted briefly with a woman had just adopted a little girl from Kyrgyzistan but had to come to Almaty because we don’t have a consulate in that country.
The whole thing took under an hour. We filled in a one-page adoption survey where we were asked a number of “customer satisfaction” type questions, such as what agency we used, who our Almaty coordinator was, how much the process cost, how much travel cost, how much other expenses cost, did we have complaints or problems along the way, etc. Then we went to a window and paid our fee for the visa, and waited to be called for our interview.
The interview was very brief – and more of an informational session than anything. We were told that all of our paperwork was in order and that there weren’t any problems. We signed a handful of documents: the I-600 petition, a certificate saying that we’d vaccinate her on our arrival home, and her visa application. We were given Anika’s Kazakhstani passport with her US immigrant visa, her new Kazakhstani birth certificate, and a number of the original documents from her file. We were also given a large brown sealed envelope that is to be hand-carried to the immigration office at her point of entry to the US. We were congratulated by the consular officer and then sent on our way!
We made a stop at the KLM office on our way home and managed to change our flight to Friday morning, meaning that we’ll be back home by Friday evening! Anika is clearly delighted, as we are.
Tomorrow we’ll get wrapped up – some last minute shopping, packing, and early to bed. More soon!