Still Waiting

More delays require another trip to the Colombian Consulate

By Alan M. Murray

As we walked into the Colombian Consulate in Newark, N.J., it was obvious that this wasn’t our first visit. The woman at the security desk immediately recognized us. She smiled, her mouth wide open, and said, “You’re back again?”

I said in Spanish, “Yeah, we had some delays.” As we entered the lobby, several others were already seated waiting for their turn, surrounded by large canvas paintings by Colombian artists depicting scenes from the country’s history and literature.

We made our first appearance in April when we presented our passports and then paid for our visa applications which we had completed online before making the trip. Then we made a second trip on April 26 to pick up a color copy of our visas and make the final payment.

We were relieved to have one more thing checked off our extensive to-do list for getting ready to travel to Colombia. And since we knew our visas expired in 90 days, we were optimistic that we would easily make our trip and bring Alejandro home soon.

Since then we’ve had some delays:

  • Instead of approving our I-800 application, USCIS sent a letter printed on pink paper requesting additional information. Although, our social workers at Madison Adoption Associates reacted immediately, working with the liaison in Colombia to track down the information for this unexpected request, our approval letter didn’t come until May 25, right before Memorial Day.
  • We then waited the recommended 7-10 days for an email from the National Visa Center. When it didn’t come, we called them every day for 3 days until we finally got the information we needed for the next step. Our email from them finally came June 3.
  • Armed with this information obtained through our phone call with NVC, we applied for “Alejandro’s” U.S. visa on May 30.
  • With the I-800 approval, the email from NVC and the application for Alejandro’s visa, the liaison in Colombia requested an Article 5 from the U.S. Embassy in Colombia, the last document we need before travel. We’ve been told that the Embassy is having staffing issues and the Article 5, which normally takes 1-5 days to get, is now taking upwards of 3 weeks – it’s already been about a week.

With so many unexpected delays, we discovered that our visas will expire before we could possibly return home. We also learned that they can’t be extended – applying for a new one is the only option, and that costs about $400.

So last Friday we sat yet again in the consulate lobby, waiting our turn to do everything all over again. Yudy, the same woman who helped us on our first two visits, was very helpful. She worked with the Consul to find a solution that wouldn’t require us to keep having to drive back to Newark to complete the new visa application, and she did everything she could to give us the maximum amount of time before the new visas expire, helping us navigate through a nightmare of paperwork.

And as we stood waiting for the elevator, one of the consuls came to say hello, reassuring us that they would do whatever they could to help us. He also offered to send us some ideas of safe places where we could stay during our trip.

Now we patiently wait for the Article 5. In the meantime, we’re now allowed to Skype with Alejandro once every two weeks. He’s really excited to return and see his new grandparents, cousins, and friends, many of whom he met during his short visit last year. He’s also practicing English, including how to pronounce his new last name.