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Bill waives visa fees for stalled adoptions

ASHEVILLE, N.C. (BP) — Steven and Alyssa Sieb have been waiting three years to adopt a child. While doing humanitarian work overseas, the couple met a little girl at an orphanage in Ethiopia. She was abandoned at birth, and the Siebs wanted to give her a home. But it’s unlikely she will ever come to America because the Ethiopian government has said it will not approve adoptions from the region in which the orphanage is located.

The Siebs now hope to adopt another child. They expect to wait another 14 months to get a referral and continue the process.

For couples like the Siebs, waiting can be expensive. On July 14, the Senate approved legislation to alleviate some of that financial burden.

The Adoptive Families Relief Act would allow the U.S. State Department to waive visa renewal fees for children who have been adopted by American families but whose entry into the United States is delayed because of factors beyond their control. Without relief from the new legislation, families must renew their U.S. visas every six months, a process that can cost up to $550 each time.

“Families who step up to provide a safe, stable and loving home for children struggling overseas are a source of inspiration and hope, here and abroad,” Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, said. “Unfortunately, too often, these families encounter challenges beyond their control when bringing their child home.”

Lawmakers agreed they need to do their part to make sure families are supported along the adoption journey. The bipartisan bill moved out of the Senate with unanimous support and now awaits a vote in the House.

Just a few months ago, the Siebs missed renewing their immigration papers by two days and had to complete all the paperwork again. It cost them $1,200 in extra fees. So far the adoption has cost them about $25,000, and they still have as much as $15,000 left to pay.

“This bill would save us a lot of money in a very expensive process,” Alyssa Sieb said. “Most families have to leave their children in the country and fly home without them until the visa process is ready. It’s heart-wrenching.”

As she and her husband enter the third year of waiting to adopt, Sieb said it feels “like a big punishment from the Ethiopian and U.S. governments for wanting to open your home to a child.” She said this is an important issue because, “while we as a country have no control over Ethiopia, we do have control over our processes.”