Ethiopia PAIR Filing Guidance for Prospective Adoptive Parents
How to Begin the PAIR Process
To help prospective parents comply with Ethiopia’s new requirement, USCIS issued a policy memorandum, effective May 31, 2013, which allows prospective adoptive parents to begin the PAIR process and file a Form I-600, Petition to Classify Orphan as an Immediate Relative. This process allows USCIS to assess the child’s eligibility for U.S. immigration benefits and make a preliminary determination before Ethiopian courts finalize the adoption ruling.
To begin the PAIR process, petitioners adopting children from Ethiopia should file the Form I-600 petition and supporting documents through the appropriate lockbox before filing an adoption case with the Ethiopian courts. Please see Filing Instructions for Form I-600 for specific filing locations.
USCIS offices overseas and the U.S. Embassy in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, will continue to accept Form I-600 petitions. While prospective adoptive parents can file the Form I-600 petition abroad, there will be no benefit to doing so. Effective May 31, 2013, the U.S. government will forward petitions filed overseas to the USCIS National Benefits Center (NBC), located in Lee’s Summit, Missouri, for PAIR review. The NBC conducts the PAIR review for all Form I-600 petitions filed on behalf of a child from Ethiopia.
After USCIS issues a preliminary determination of the child’s immigration eligibility (PAIR letter), prospective adoptive parents, through their Adoption Service Providers (ASPs), must include the PAIR letter when filing a case with the FFIC.
What to Include in a Form I-600 Ethiopian Adoption Petition
Prospective adoptive parents should include all available required documentation when filing a Form I-600 petition except the adoption decree or grant of legal custody, according to the Form I-600 instructions.
The following documentation must be submitted to USCIS under the PAIR process when the child’s country of origin is Ethiopia:
In addition to the documents described above, the filing must include civil documents to support the eligibility of prospective adoptive parents, including civil documents of birth, marriage and divorce if applicable, as well as all available evidence regarding the child's orphan status.
You can also review the U.S. Embassy’s list of suggested documents for other information that can be helpful to establishing the child’s orphan status.
How to Complete Form I-600 without the Final Adoption Decree
If your final adoption decree or custody order is not yet available when you are filing your Form I-600 for PAIR review, question 11 regarding the child’s present name will generally be the same as the child’s name at birth. After the adoption decree has been entered, the office issuing final approval of the Form I-600 may annotate question 11 to reflect any changes to the child’s name. Similarly, question 18 regarding the adoption of the orphan beneficiary can be left blank and annotated by the approving office at the time of final approval of the Form I-600.
How Parents Can Avoid Delays
Parents should read the Form I-600 petition instructions carefully and submit all required documentation with their filing, except for the adoption decree. The instructions are available on the Forms section of the USCIS.gov website. One of the most common reasons USCIS issues a Request for Evidence (RFE), which can cause delays, is that a Form I-600 filing does not include U.S. civil documents such as proof of U.S. citizenship, marriage or divorce. By ensuring that all appropriate civil documents and other supporting documentation are included in the initial filings, you can reduce the likelihood of delays in processing.
Limits on Submitting DVDs or Other Media in Support of Form I-600
All evidence in support of a Form I-600 petition and all responses to RFEs or Notices of Intent to Deny must be submitted to the NBC, since the NBC will be conducting the PAIR review. The NBC will electronically send relevant evidence to Embassy Addis for conducting the I-604 investigation. The ability of the NBC to receive DVDs or tapes through the lockbox and to play such media is limited.
If you have a DVD or other form of media which you would like to submit as evidence of a child’s eligibility, you may submit a transcript of the video or audio recording with your Form I-600 petition and note that the DVD or audio tape is available upon request. The Embassy may reach out to the in-country ASP to request a copy if they decide they need to review the original material during the Form I-604 investigation.
Responding to Requests for Evidence
As an applicant or petitioner, you may be represented by an attorney before USCIS; however, you are not required to retain a lawyer to respond to a RFE. USCIS anticipates that in a majority of these Ethiopian cases, the issues cited in the RFE can be corrected:
In most cases, your orphanage representatives or your ASP in Ethiopia and in the United States should be able to help you to resolve these issues.
USCIS Cannot Submit the PAIR Letter Directly to Department of State for Authentication
Unfortunately, USCIS is unable to request authentication of the PAIR letter on behalf of prospective adoptive parents. Authentication requires submission of the appropriate form and fee as detailed on the Office of Authentications website. The Department of State cannot proceed with authentication without these items.
The PAIR letter does not need to be authenticated at the state level; as a result, authentication should not take as long as it does for documents generated by local and state authorities.
USCIS Will Only Use USPS to Mail PAIR Letters
At this time, the USCIS National Benefits Center (NBC) will only mail PAIR letters or the results of a PAIR review via U.S. Postal Service (USPS) to prospective adoptive parents or adoption service providers (with the appropriate Privacy Act Waivers in place). The NBC follows strict protocols to ensure the individual’s privacy is protected, and email is not a secure way for us to transmit your personal or private information.