Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Certificate of Citizenship, Social Security and Other Necessary Evils

BORING WARNING:  If you aren't an international adoptive parent, this post will likely be the most boring thing you have read since the health care bill.  What?  You mean to tell me you haven't read the health care bill?  For shame.  Even if you are an international adoptive family, this is still really really boring, so feel free to just use me for my links.

Maybe you've just got your sweet little one home, you take a deep relaxing breath (and if you just got home, maybe a sleeping pill) and think "wow, I'm glad all of that paperwork is behind us."  Then some major party pooper comes along and asks "oh, have you got his social security number yet, because tax time will be here before you know it" or "what about his certificate of citizenship?"  For a minute or two you may lay prostrate on the floor, kicking and screaming "I'm done with paperwork, I'm done with paperwork." Eventually though, you decide to put on your big girl panties and just get it over with.  Below are some links that might help:

Certificate of Citizenship
If your child entered the US on an IR-4 visa (pre-2 trip rule), like mine did, you will need to apply for a COC.  Be prepared to bend over as, once again, as the US government socks it to you ($550).  I am attaching links to the necessary forms and instructions for the forms.  You will have to get passport photos for the child to accompany your n-600 application, and photocopies of important documents (such as adoption decrees, etc) are sufficient.  If you traveled twice, and both parents met the child before court (IR-3), upon entering the US your child will automatically be granted citizenship status and your COC should be mailed within 45 days.
N-600 Form (aka application for COC)
Instructions on how to fill out the form
A good read for why a COC is necessary

Social Security Card
Obtaining a Social Security Number, what you will need
Application form for SS Card
For a SS card, your adoption decree (even if finalized in your home state) is NOT proof of citizenship nor is a US birth certificate.  I believe your child's Permanent Resident Card you received in the mail from DHS should work to prove immigration status even though we were originally told it wouldn't.  (For more information on this issue, go here and here)

A word to the wise... the folks you deal with in your local SS office (and passport office for that matter) don't handle these types of applications very often, and so they are not very knowledgeable about what documents you do/don't need.  It is very likely you will know more about this stuff than they do.  If you want to save yourself major frustration, time and gasoline, I recommend printing the required document list (see link above), highlighting them and taking all this with you when you go to the SS office.  This way, if the lady behind the counter says you don't have everything you need, you can ask to see her supervisor or show her the information straight from their website.  This would have been good to know before my dear hubby made several trips.

Application for US Passport
We actually found that applying for the passport was the easiest of all these paperwork hurdles.  Both parents must apply in person at a local passport office (click here to find the one nearest you).  The person accepting our application wasn't exactly sure of all the paperwork requirements, nor were we.  They actually called a week or two later from the National Passport Office requesting Joseph's Ethiopian Passport (that had his US Entry Visa stamp) which wasn't on the list.  But hey, they are the government, and I guess they can do what they want.  I was a little nervous about sending that in the mail (that's not something that we could ever get again should it be lost), but everything was returned unscathed.
Unfortunately, we don't have any exotic international family vacations planned.  The reason we applied right away for Joseph's US passport was because someone at the SS office told us that was the quickest way to prove citizenship (the COC takes forever).  Unlike for a SS application, for a US Passport, your state's certified birth certificate (which you should receive after your adoption is finalized in your state) IS sufficient proof of US citizenship.  But, for a SS application, a US Passport IS sufficient proof of US citizenship.  Is your head spinning yet?

As it turns out, I believe we had all the paperwork we needed for the SS card the first time (the permanent resident card should have provided sufficient immigration status), and thus all the extra time/expense of applying for a US passport was probably unnecessary.  But we are now ready should anyone want to give us a Caribbean cruise for Christmas.

Raise your hand if you fell asleep while reading this.  I'm pretty sure I nodded off at least twice while writing it.  Huge props to my husband who pretty much took care of all the above, thus saving me approximately 152 car seat buckles/unbuckles.  I should probably also give the disclaimer that I hope I remember all this correctly because he really was the one who dealt with it all.


  1. This is terrifying. and yes, I realize this was probably the easiest paperwork out of all of it, but still terrifying! :)

  2. Thanks for the links! The China process is different, though, and we automatically received Sophie's COC about 6 weeks after coming home. But, I still need to get her SS card so I appreciate that link!

  3. This is terrifying. and yes, I realize this was probably the easiest paperwork out of all of it, but still terrifying! :)