I grabbed a snack, donned my rain boots, and bolted off to the bank. We notarized all of the other dossier documents along the way, so thankfully I only had to obtain one notary stamp and signature for the 797 before heading just south of town to the Davidson County Clerk’s Office for certification. I think the rain worked out in my favor, because the Clerk’s office probably would have otherwise been a nightmare. I breezed right in and was out of there in roughly 30 minutes flat. Basically, this step entailed the Clerk’s office printing fancy pieces of paper containing seals and signatures to verify each of the different notaries we used on our documents. Check!
Next stop was the TN Secretary of State’s office downtown. Here, each of the documents (that have now been notarized and country certified) were stapled into large sheets of thick blue paper and affixed with a gold seal and signature indicating the country certifications had been validated by the state. Double check!
Now off to FedEx to carefully make three copies of all the new pages. We were told by our agency not to remove staples or permanently fold back corners (which is tough given that most of the documents were multi page!) of the originals with their fancy signatures, seals, and stickers because China has been known to reject things for suspicion of tampering. One copy stays with us for travel, the second goes to Holt in Oregon, and the third gets mailed along with the originals for the next step in the process – authentication. Triple check!
With the copies made, the dossier was finally ready for authentication at the Federal level. Here’s where things get a tad sticky. There are five US Consulate offices and one Chinese Embassy in the USA. Each Consulate office and the Chinese Embassy has jurisdiction over a specific set of states. Since I was born in Michigan (my birth certificate), Kevin was born in and we were married in Alabama (his birth certificate and our marriage license), and we reside in Tennessee (the rest of the dossier documents) – you guessed it – we fall under the jurisdiction of three different entities – one in Houston, one in Chicago, and one in D.C. Hey, we’ll take the hit though because we’re lucky to live in the capital of Tennessee and thus could walk instead of mail our documents in for the previously mentioned state certification step. Got to stay positive people!
The Consulates and Embassy actually require that all documents first be approved by the US Department of State as well. Thankfully there is a US Department of State office in the same city as each Consulate/Embassy office. BUT, the documents must be physically walked into the US Department of State and Consulate/Embassy instead of mailed. Neither performs the authentication that same day though either. The procedure requires that you walk the documents in, get a pick-up date (usually 2-5 business days later), and come back in person to retrieve them. Then you turn around and do the same thing at the Consulate/Embassy office. Given that three plane tickets, each with a minimum 5 business day stay, would cost as much as the adoption itself, you are at the mercy of a courier service to do the dirty work for you. Luckily there are some great organizations run by adoptive parents whose sole function is to take care of adoption authentications, with love and care to boot since they’ve walked in our shoes. Soooo, after I finished making the copies and got our money orders for the various fees, I parceled out the originals and duplicates and sent them on their merry way to the various couriers in Houston, Chicago, and D.C. Quadruple check!
After a long day’s work, it’s time to go home, kick off my boots, and begin the waiting again…