On October 28th, USCIS and the Department of State held a conference call regarding an increased number of I-600 cases that have been forwarded to the USCIS office in Nairobi. The purpose of the conference call was to explain what “not clearly approvable” means. In the last several months, nearly 60 adoption cases that were submitted to the US Embassy in Addis Ababa were given this status. Prior to these 60 cases (that were forwarded in about one weeks’ time), only 10 cases had ever been previously sent to USCIS.
When the US Embassy deems a case “not clearly approvable”, it does not mean that these cases are denied. Instead, it means the Embassy does not have enough evidence to approve these cases with 100 percent certainty that the child in question is an orphan under US immigration law.
Previously, when the Embassy did not have 100 percent certainty about a child’s orphan status, they requested additional documentation or amendments to documents submitted to obtain the evidence they needed. This was not done within the Embassy’s jurisdiction, and they will no longer continue this process.
USCIS, a division of the US State Department, has more authority than the Embassy when adjudicating I-600 applications. For the cases that have been referred to the USCIS office in Nairobi, officers will either approve the application (which happens 60 percent of the time) or submit a Request for Evidence. Less than five percent of all I-600 applications submitted (for all countries) have ever been denied by USCIS. If the USCIS investigator has enough evidence to prove the child’s orphan status with certainty, the child’s case will be approved.
Because of the high number of “not clearly approvable” cases lately, USCIS recently sent a team of four investigators to the US Embassy in Addis to review these cases. This team will stay until the Thanksgiving holiday to expedite the mounting cases.
This information provides insight into the slowdown in Embassy approvals recently. However, it is unclear how future I-600 applications will be affected, particularly if it is true that the Embassy can no longer request more information before forwarding cases to USCIS. Additionally, no information has been posted regarding USCIS’s plans for the potential long-term need of more investigators in Nairobi, beyond the Thanksgiving holiday.
It does appear that more agencies and orphanages are being asked to provide additional evidence to support a child’s orphan status. While frustrating for many waiting families, this does suggest more is being done to further ensure ethical adoptions from Ethiopia.