Woudneh, WSA Ethiopia Director, visit’s Kentucky & Utah

21. November, 2011Uncategorized3 comments

The man who makes it all happen stepped away from his busy world to visit the homes of the Ethiopian children placed with their families in the U.S.  It was an honor for me and my family to spend this last week with Woudneh and West Sands’ adoptive families.  The warm hospitality of Kentucky families felt heavenly and the welcome back celebration in Utah was unforgettable.  There isn’t anything quite like spending time with adoptive families, and hearing their amazing adoption stories of faith and Divine intervention while drinking Ethiopian Coffee, eating homemade cookies, Kentucky Hot Browns and Chess pie (YUMMY!).  Thank you so much to those families who opened their hearts and their homes to us, Lesley with Lifeline Children’s Services who not only hosted us, but also guided and entertained us.  A sincere thank you to Susan Killeen with Hope Rising who is not only a dear friend to Woudneh and West Sands Adoptions, but made it possible for West Sands to know all of these Kentucky Families.

The Families who touched our lives:

Noah (Yameral) – The Scott Family



Yared – The Raley Family













Greer (Nathaneal) – The Sweeney family











Helen & Yared – The Stotts’ Family





Yonas & Yabsira – The Borders’ Family



Chernet, Mulunesh and Woubet – The Rowe Family





Yonas & Yoseph – The Monk Family


Woudneh learned to play the Wii.




McKay (Sude) & Addison (Lidet) – The Wells Family



  Our Kentucky Adventure began at Churchill Downs:




Utah Adventure ended at Zion National Park:





DOS – New Procedure for Processing Adoption Cases

18. November, 2011UncategorizedNo comments


November 16, 2011

Notice: Procedure for Processing Adoption Cases

This notice provides supplemental information to the adoption notice of October 7, 2011, adding additional details on the process applicable to orphan petitions filed with a U.S. Embassy Consular Section overseas.  While the description has been tailored to answer inquiries specific to Ethiopia, the steps described in this explanation apply to all non-Hague countries.  This notice only describes the process for Forms I-600 filed with U.S. Embassy Addis Ababa.  For processing information on cases filed domestically with USCIS through the National Benefits Center (NBC), please refer to the USCIS website at www.uscis.gov.

Once adoptive parents are in possession of the final adoption decree from the Federal First Instance Court, approval letters from the Ministry of Women, Children and Youth Affairs, the child’s birth certificate and Ethiopian passport, and all other required Form I-600 supporting documentation, they (or their authorized agent) may file Form I-600,Petition to Classify Orphan as an Immediate Relative, with the U.S. Embassy in Addis Ababa if they have met the physical presence requirements for filing a Form I-600 petition overseas.

Upon receipt of the Form I-600 and accompanying documentation, the U.S. Embassy begins the Form I-604, Determination on Child for Adoption, orphan status investigation – the process to determine if the child meets the definition of an orphan under U.S. immigration law.  The time frame for completion of the Form I-604 determination depends on the circumstances of each case, but can take up to several weeks or months.  During this time, additional information or documentation may be requested by the U.S. Embassy for cases with insufficient or deficient supporting evidence to determine orphan status.

In certain cases it may be necessary to interview the child’s Ethiopian birth parent(s) or guardian, or the individual who found an abandoned child, to resolve errors or discrepancies discovered in the case file.  The U.S. Embassy conducts such interviews for cases in which the consular officer deems interview(s) necessary to make a determination on the child’s orphan status.  Birth relative and other interviews are often an integral part of the Form I-604 determination.

The U.S. Embassy must then determine whether the case is clearly approvable.  If a case is clearly approvable, the U.S. Embassy approves the Form I-600 petition and issues an immigrant visa.  If there are questions regarding the child’s orphan status or the information is insufficient to make a determination, federal regulation requires that the U.S. Embassy forwards the case as “not clearly approvable” to the USCIS Field Office in Nairobi, Kenya, for further processing.  When this occurs, the U.S. Embassy sends out a transfer notice to the petitioners when the case is physically forwarded to USCIS Nairobi, and provides contact information for further questions.

Upon receipt of a petition identified as “not clearly approvable,” the USCIS Nairobi Field Office notifies the parent(s) that the case has been received and issues requests for additional evidence and other notices, if necessary.  Upon review of all available evidence including any response to a Request for Evidence or Notice of Intent to Deny, USCIS issues a decision and notify the petitioners.  For details of the USCIS process, please visit USCIS’ Ethiopia Q&A page.  If the case is approved, USCIS Nairobi returns the case to the U.S. Embassy for visa processing.

USCIS Report for Cases Marked “not clearly approvable”

16. November, 2011UncategorizedNo comments

A USCIS team of four officers arrived in Ethiopia and began working at Embassy Addis Ababa on November 7, 2011. As of the date of this notice, the team has received 63 “not clearly approvable” cases from Embassy Addis, and expects to receive at least 1 more case before they depart on Friday, November 18, 2011. The following provides a summary of the results of the team’s review of the cases as of November 15, 2011:

Approvals Issued: 36
Requests for Evidence Issued: 9
Notices of Intent to Deny Issued: 1
Under USCIS Team Review 9
Pending Birth Relative Interview 8
Pending Physical Transfer 1

During the team’s first days in Addis, they began reviewing the cases, and established procedures necessary for completing adjudication and issuing notices. Embassy Addis is providing the resources necessary for USCIS to be able to adjudicate the not clearly approvable cases. Although the team has encountered some technological challenges, the team has been issuing decisions and notices as soon as they are able.

All cases that the team is able to approve before they depart from Addis Ababa will stay with the Consular Section in Embassy Addis Ababa, for immediate scheduling of immigrant visa processing. Families that receive an approval notice will be contacted directly by the U.S. Embassy within three business days. We strongly recommend that families wait to be contacted regarding an immigrant visa interview before making travel arrangements. Cases that require a Request for Evidence or a Notice of Intent to Deny will be sent to the USCIS Rome District Office for further processing.

Each family that received a Request for Evidence or a Notice of Intent to Deny should carefully read the instructions regarding where to send additional evidence to avoid delays in processing that could be caused by sending the evidence to the incorrect USCIS Office. USCIS has decided to utilize additional resources at the Rome District Office in the ongoing processing of some of the affected cases in an effort to ensure that they are processed to completion as quickly as possible.

In the coming weeks, USCIS and DOS will schedule another stakeholder call to provide a briefing on the team’s work in Addis Ababa, and an update on how processing will proceed going forward for any new cases identified by Embassy Addis Ababa as not clearly approvable.

Kind Regards,

Office of Public Engagement
U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services

USCIS Teleconference Notes and Comments

8. November, 2011UncategorizedNo comments

On October 28th USCIS and the Department of State held a conference call regarding the nearly 60 I-600 cases submitted to the U.S. Embassy in Addis Ababa which were forwarded to the USCIS office in Nairobi. The main purpose of this conference was to explain to these families and other adoptive families what “not clearly approvable” means, as this has been the reason these cases were sent to the USCIS office in Nairobi. They stressed the fact that this does not mean that these cases were denied, rather that the Embassy does not have enough evidence to approve these cases with 100% certainty that the child is an orphan under U.S. Immigration law. USCIS explained further that the U.S. Embassy, which is a division of the U.S. State Department, does not have the full Jurisdiction when adjudicating cases and that they can only approve cases where they have 100% certainty that the child is an orphan under U.S. law. Situations in the past where the U.S. Embassy requested additional documents or amendments to documents submitted were not done within the Embassy’s jurisdiction and they will now longer be allowed to continue this type of process. This is the reason we are seeing so many cases forwarded to USICS in Nairobi, that are either easily resolvable or do not fall under 100% certainty. Prior to these 60 cases that were forwarded in about one weeks time, only 10 cases have ever been previously sent to USCIS. Because of this high increase of cases forwarded as “not clearly approvable” USCIS has sent a team of 4 investigators to the U.S. Embassy in Addis to review these cases at the Embassy. This team will Arrive on November 7th and stay until the Thanksgiving holiday.

USCIS officers have more authority than U.S. Embassy case workers when adjudicating I-600 applications. A USCIS officer only needs 51% certainty that the child is considered an orphan under U.S. Immigration law. For the cases that have been referred to USCIS, once an investigator reviews the case, they will either approve (60% statistic) or submit a “Request for Evidence” (RFE) (40% statistic). Less than 5% of all I-600 applications filed (for all countries) have been denied by USCIS. If the USCIS Investigator has enough evidence to review the child’s orphan status with 51% certainty, the child’s case will be approved while the team is in Addis, and we will be able schedule the adoptive families’ interview. If they need more evidence to review the case to find that 51% certainty they will submit a “RFE” (it will be mailed to the adoptive parent’s home). If that happens, the case will most likely not be resolved while the team is still in Addis. If a RFE is issued, the supporting evidence will need to be mailed to Nairobi. This is disappointing as we hoped to submit the supporting evidence to the team while they are still at the Embassy. The team of investigators from USCIS will arrive in Addis on November 7th and will remain their until the Thanksgiving holiday.

Adoptive parents should understand that this is not a situation of prevention on the Agency’s part. Our Agency has our own investigators and we research the history of each child prior to referring the child to a family. We have full certainty that all of the children we refer to our adoptive families are Orphan’s under Ethiopian and U.S. Immigration law. Because the facts of each case are so different, and the process of receiving evidence for each child varies depending upon the child’s history, the region the child is from and the information we are provided by the birth relative, there is no exact document that we can submit to the Embassy to provide them 100% certainty. This is an investigation based on the facts within the information provided on each child’s case. The Embassy’s lack of jurisdiction over investigating these cases does not imply the Agency’s lack of due diligence in providing such documents to the Embassy. We will continue to provide the U.S. Embassy and USCIS with any legally and ethically obtainable information they request for their investigation. We will not however, send our Ethiopian staff to the local police department or other Ethiopian Government agencies and imply what information needs to be in their reports, as USCIS has suggested. We will continue to work the Ethiopian police and Government staff in a respectful and ethical manner. We will not put our Ethiopian staff in unethical positions for the ease of the U.S. Embassy. Adoptive families should be prepared for more cases being sent to USCIS in Nairobi, since the U.S. Embassy does not have the full authority to review and approve many of these cases. West Sands Adoptions will stand behind our adoptive families and their child(ren) during their I-600 investigation.