As WACAP’s post placement staff share with families, the Certificate of Citizenship (CoC) is one of the most important documents parents can obtain to fully support their internationally adopted children’s future. It’s proof that their child is a U.S. citizen, and as such, is entitled to all benefits of citizenship.
Along with families asking if they need a Certificate of Citizenship for their adopted child, there’s a related series of questions many parents have when they call about this subject. “We adopted internationally years ago, but didn’t get a Certificate of Citizenship for our child,” a parent may explain. “But what’s the process like, getting a CoC now? Should we be concerned about it?”
Because underlying many families’ questions about the CoC is concern or uncertainty about what to expect, I feel that it’s relevant and timely to share a conversation I had with an adoptive parent earlier this year.
I hope that by giving voice to one adoptive parent who applied for and received his child’s CoC, those of you who need to secure this important document for your child feel more familiar with the process, and confident about the steps you need to take.
Please read on for this family’s experience:
We adopted internationally several years ago. We’d been told when we entered the U.S./once our plane landed in the U.S., our child was a U.S. citizen — this was due to the visa she was issued. This was true; our daughter was a U.S. citizen upon arrival to the United States. We also completed every step that we were instructed to do. We’d promptly applied for her U.S. passport. We re-adopted her in our home state and received her state-issued birth certificate. And we always kept her U.S. passport current.
We’d taken every step – except for the Certificate of Citizenship. We were told the CoC wasn’t necessary because she was a citizen and had her U.S. passport.
Years passed and we came to understand that it was truly necessary to apply for her Certificate of Citizenship. We knew that her U.S. passport was proof of citizenship; however we were recently informed (by some friends who adopted through WACAP) that the CoC was universally accepted as proof of citizenship.
Our daughter turns 15 this year and we had begun wondering if her state-issued birth certificate and passport would satisfy the requirement for her to get her driving learner’s permit or soon after, apply for financial aid for college. After learning more about the importance of the CoC for reasons like these, we applied to and paid USCIS for our daughter’s CoC. Still, we didn’t know what the timelines and communication would look like, especially since our daughter’s adoption was years ago.
When I needed to contact USCIS to ask some questions about the process, I spoke with a friendly and helpful representative at USCIS who answered all my questions. Yes, I spoke to a live person! She was extremely supportive, which helped me along, lessening the stress I might have carried otherwise as I started preparing the paperwork. (While going through this process, it reminded me of preparing our dossier many years ago, but in this case, our child had been home for years, and we were taking another step to safeguard her future.)
During that initial call with USCIS, I was told that the processing time for the CoC was running at about 5 – 6 months. It took about a week for me to compile the application packet to submit – and I was pleased to see that the instructions were very straight forward.
Once I submitted our packet, we were able to check the status throughout the process by logging onto the USCIS website. The months passed and we received a note from the U.S. postal service that there was a large envelope waiting that required signature: our daughter’s CoC, which we picked up the next day. After a quick review, we could see that the process for our family was in fact just under 6 months, which was right in line with the expectation that had been set.
Today, it’s good to know that the CoC never expires and we will keep this document safe for our daughter and use it when necessary. We have added peace of mind knowing that our daughter will receive all the benefits of her U.S. citizenship.
If you have questions about post placement and finalization, or about the certificate of citizenship for your child, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.