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Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Red Letters Campaign- Thank You Goverment Employee Lady

When I called the USCIS national customer service hotline earlier last month after having fought with Info Pass unsuccessfully(the USCIS online processing service) I was trying to find out how to go about getting our fingerprints updated for our form I-171h and whether or not there would be a fee associated with that. The people on the hotline didn't have any answers for me and couldn't direct me to someone who could answer my questions. They basically told me we can't help you..... so good luck. (oh, but hey said it in a kind way so that should make it better, right?)

Imagine my surprise when I got a phone call out of the blue today. A really friendly and uber helpful woman from USCIS called in response to an email I mailed off into cyberspace over two weeks ago to a general Q/A email address fo my local USCIS/DHS branch. She is the adoption coordinator at DHS/USCIS and she gave me the best, most thorough customer service ever. She was cheerful and downright delightful. I tell you I believe she was nothing short of a miracle sent my way, for I have NEVER come into contact with a government employee like her. God bless you Government Employee Lady! ( I know her name I am just not sure whether I should post it on my blog)

So here's the real scoop from someone who's on the inside and who told me directly. I pronounce this the post to end all the rumors on I-171h extensions and re-fingerprinting. Tah-dah! This is so exciting. (you just have to know that in this stage of the adoption I am SO thankful for any news that makes the paper chasing easier and so I am excited to share any tidbit I can with other families in process)

There is an adoption coordinator for every state. The hard part for any of you others out there reading this is that most people within the agency won't know who that person is. So you'd have to start with your local DHS/USCIS branch first. My lady told me that she doesn't even have a list of the those in her postition in other states so that tells me it's disorganized. Just know that a person is out there who's job is to help you with your forms. Begin there.

You are entitled to receive ONE FREE re-fingerprinting for your I-171h form. If you are mailing your forms in to USCIS without having a contact person be sure to include in your cover letter that you already have an I-171h form(include the a copy of the form) and that you are requesting your free re-fingerprinting. DO NOT SEND A CHECK or they will cash it. They don't do any investigating into your status to determine if it should be free. When they receive the letters with checks they just cash them like robots so it's your job to tell them that you want a free re-fingerprint. So, in our case, I had sent a check being unsure whether or not the really offer one free re-fingerprinting. Lovely Government Employee Lady is making a note to tell them to reject our application and return our check so that we won't have to mess with trying to get a refund out of them.

I am told that in AZ it takes about 3 weeks from the time that you have your fingerprints taken for her to issue the updated I-171h form.

You are also entitled to ONE FREE extension of your I-600a form. So if your I-171h is about to expire this is what you need to do: fill out a new I-600a form and send a copy of your expiring I-171h form. She did mention that an updated home Study (HS) would be required. She didn't know if that would come at a cost to the adoptive family or not. I haven't asked AWAA so I don't know what that would entail. She, again, advised that included in the cover letter should be the request of the free extension.

If you need to extend your I-600a application you cannot to do it any earlier than 90 days before it expires. Again, Lovely Government Employee Lady tells me that it takes roughly 2-3 weeks for turn around on that processing once it's received.

Our gal on the inside gave me her email address and phone number so that I can contact her a little later to schedule our appointment for re-fingerprinting. If you live in AZ and need that info leave a comment w/ you email address and I will get it to you.

Oh the joys! This lady made my day. Hope it helps you too.


Rob & Candy said...

Jen, I am so glad your got the scoop and received great customer service! How awesome is that?
Enjoy your vacation.

Karen said...

Wow, what great info. I keep forgetting what expires when. Between a HS needing an update, fingerprints expiring (that I know expires in January for me) and I-171 expiring, I can't keep up with what I do and don't need to update. Thanks for the info about free stuff!!