As the sun was rising this morning over Denver, we at IAN were indulging in a conference call concerning the PAIR process with USCIS and the department of State. Many of you have had questions arise during this process and here we will try to provide some answers.
In doing some of our own research, we have found that there are approximately 25 Hague accredited agencies in the U.S. who are licensed to work in Ethiopia. Since September when this new process began, USCIS has received 293 PAIR packets. As of February 10, 2014, 77 cases have been approved. To date, IAN has submitted a total of 32 PAIR packets to USCIS and received 11 PAIR letters . USCIS shared that of the 293 packets they received by February 10 th , 69 cases were sent straight to US Embassy after review, 61 cases had requests for more information and currently 85 cases are in cue to be reviewed. USICS also shared that currently they have an 83% return rate for requesting more information. So don’t be alarmed if you receive an RFE (request for evidence), it seems to be the norm, albeit not desirable. If you do the math, with 77 PAIR letters and 25 agencies, that is an average of 3 letters per agency. We feel quite proud to reiterate that we have received 11 to date!
Initially USCIS and the US Embassy quoted that the PAIR process would take approximately three months to complete. As of this morning, they have shared that an average case takes 125 days to review, with almost 7 months being the longest. How can this happen? Well, USCIS has only 5, that’s right 5, officers to review PAIR cases. When asked if additional staff members would be hired, USCIS reported that they felt they were fully staffed at this time.
Many of you have asked how cases are assigned and handled once they reach USCIS. We have now been told that it takes at least one week for USCIS to receive the packet from their lockbox. From there the cases enter a cue and are often times not assigned to an officer for 30 days. Before the officer even begins to look at the case, another data entry person enters the case into the system. All cases are kept in the order that they are received and are then assigned in a first come first serve manner. Basically, the next available officer gets the first packet. USCIS also informed us that they will not give an officer a new case if that said officer has not completed the numerous cases already on his or her desk, hence the high wait times for assignment. It’s probably fair to note that some of the agencies also on the call reported it is taking even longer than the 30 days to get an officer assigned.
Another question many of you have been asking is, “what kind of communication should I expect during this process.” For most of you, we have learned to have you complete a privacy waiver so that embassy and USCIS will communicate with us as well as with you, the family. USCIS will only communicate with you to request information (the lovely pink RFE letter you receive) and to send you your PAIR letter. US Embassy will communicate with you via email once they receive your PAIR packet and begin their review. They will send you an email saying “your I-604 investigation has begun.” The I604 investigation is the official investigation to ensure that the child you are adopting is an adoptable orphan. Embassy can also request more information and undoubtedly, will request a birth parent/relative interview or finder interview, during this process. The next communication with Embassy will be another email informing you “congratulations, we have completed the I-604 investigation. Your packet will now be returned to USCIS for completion of review for the PAIR process.” Once you receive this email, USCIS will either be issuing your PAIR letter or they can once again request more information.
This brings us to the topic of Embassy requests for interviews. As I stated above, Embassy WILL request an interview with the individual relinquishing their rights to the child, or an interview with the person who found an abandoned child. Today USCIS informed us that there is a backup at Embassy and interviews are not able to be scheduled so quickly. USCIS shared that the reason behind this back up is the volume of interviews being scheduled, limited staff to complete all said interviews as well as space available to hold the interviews. We are noticing that even when the requested interviewee is available, the interviews are being scheduled about three to four weeks out.
While none of this information is incredibly delightful and promising on timeframes, we wanted to provide you with this updated information. We believe that the more information we can give you about this process, the better prepared you will be during your wait. As always, don’t hesitate to call your coordinator with any questions.