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February 14, 2009

Immigrant Visa Processing at Juarez February 2009

Here is an email from Steven C. Thal, P.A., 10580 Wayzata Boulevard, Ste. 100, Minnetonka, Minnesota 55305, Tel. 952-541-1090 re a a current narrative from one of his clients who just returned from the immigrant visa process at Juarez. By way of background "Francisca" is an 18 year old adopted daughter (non-orphan). "Gabe" is the adoptive father. Francisa was adopted under age 16, but had been ewi coming into the U.S. She had been adopted in Texas. We made sure she returned to Mexico to get her Immigrant Visa before she had accrued 180 days of unlawful presence following her 18th birthday. Thus, she did not require a waiver for unlawful presence.
The client's narrative follows--Steve Thal

I thought I'd let you know that we made it home from Mexico early Sunday morning, and Francisca got her visa! We're so relieved and excited!

There were so many questions that we had before we left that we thought we'd pass some information on to you for those who come after us. We went to the medical clinic in Juarez called Servicios Medicos on Lopez Mateos Avenue.This is the clinic closest to the previous location of the Consulate.

Clinica Medica Internacional is the clinic down the street from the Holiday Inn and the current/new Consulate. We saw that both clinics had secure courtyards for those waiting in line and those waiting for people inside the clinics. We did not feel unsafe or in any way threatened while we waited.

The clinic was extremely crowded, and they did not allow us in the building with Francisca since she is not a minor. The security person inside the clinic actually grabbed her papers from me, handed them to her, and sent me back outside. We tried to argue since the outside security let me in with her, but he wouldn't budge. All in all, she spent 4 1/2 hours in the clinic.
The drew blood, did a chest x-ray, and gave her 4 vaccines, which she did * not* need. Anyone else who goes needs to know that they're going to have to stand their ground about the vaccines if they know they don't need vaccines.

I was planning to be with Francisca, and she was not prepared to talk with them about vaccines. I assumed that her medical records would speak for themselves. So, I wasn't too worried. According to Francisca, they didn't even discuss the vaccines with her. They looked over her records and then sent a nurse in to give her a bunch of shots. They gave her varicella vaccine, though she's already had chicken pox, and that we clearly stated on her vaccine record from the states. They also gave her a tetanus shot, though her records indicate that she was up to date. They gave her the HPV vaccine, which is not listed as a vaccine required by the Consulate. And they gave her pheumococcal vaccine, which I overlooked at home, and she may have actually needed that one. All in all, the clinic visit cost $500.

Fortunately the clinic takes American credit cards, as we were not prepared to spend all our cash our first day in Mexico. I have the feeling that the vaccines are one of the only real money-makers for the clinic, and people need to be prepared to stand their ground if they don't need them.

Our Consulate appointment was scheduled for 1:45pm Thursday. It appears that they don't take any appointments after that, as it takes them more than the rest of the day to finish the cases they have begun by then. On Thursday they fingerprinted Francisca, had her sign something about not getting married within a certain period of time, and took another picture of her.

That was it for the day, and they scheduled another appointment for 9:15am Friday for her interview. She was inside the Consulate for 2 1/2 hours on Thursday. They *did* allow Gabe to go in with her since she's only 18 and, I think, because it was a parent-child petition. The people at the Consulate were courteous, even friendly. Everything just took a long time. The security guard outside the Consulate told us that we should expect to wait 4-6 hours for her. We waited in the parking lot, which, right now, is about half a block down the street from the Consulate behind a construction site for a new mall.

Another thing people should know is that you really don't have to get to the Consulate more than half an hour before the appointment. Then, when they get there, they should walk right up to the security people and show their appointment papers. If you have an appointment scheduled in the next half hour, they'll let you into the building right away. If you are more than half an hour ahead of schedule they will send you to wait along a fence some distance away.

On Friday we went back to the Consulate, and it took about 1 1/2 hours to wait and get through the interview. The interviewer told Gabe that she doesn't really have the power to turn down visas unless a person doesn't have all their paperwork. I don't know if that's true or not, but she basically said she had to approve Francisca's visa as long as everything was in order. We talked to a number of people in Mexico before we went to the appointment, though, and other people told us that it seems more like you're at the mercy of your interviewer and they can decide whatever they want. I don't know what's true. The very first question she asked was how we met Francisca and why she needed to be adopted. Gabe said it appeared that this was the most important question she had, and this was the question that would send up "red flags" if there were any. It appeared to be a routine question in cases of adoption. Francisca said the majority of the interview was addressed to Gabe, except when she need to swear that all her documents were true and correct. The interviewer was warm and friendly, and even got teary-eyed while Gabe was talking about us adopting Francisca.

We thought we'd be done with everything once Francisca was done with her interview at the Consulate, but that was not the case. The Consulate then sends the visa packet over to a DHL (courier service) office back on Lopez Mateos Avenue, near Servicios Medicos and the old Consulate. They told us to call DHL every half hour between 4pm & 6pm to find out if the packet was there, and then we could pick it up. They also said if it didn't come on Friday, it would come Saturday. DHL told us that they don't receive packets from the Embassy on Saturdays. So, if it didn't come Friday it would come Monday, and we would have to stay in Mexico for the weekend. Francisca's packet came at 6pm Friday. So, we decided to cross back into El Paso Friday night. It only took half an hour to get to the border. (We heard lines could take as long as 3 hours.) However, once we got the border, the process of turning in the visa packet and getting her passport stamped took another THREE hours. At the border, we were sent inside the immigration building (not sure what it's actually called), and Francisca was fingerprinted again twice (both ink & digital), and they took her picture again. They had three people working in the office, and there were at least 100 people waiting with their visa packets. This was probably the worst wait of the whole trip, as we weren't expecting it and it seemed redundant of everything Francisca had already done at the Consulate. We also had the distinct feeling that if these were a bunch of American citizen waiting to cross the border, things would have moved a lot more quickly. Maybe that isn't true, either, but I cannot imagine most Americans putting up with such a ridiculous wait.

Once we were finally through with the border crossing, we began the long drive home. A few hours into the U.S. there's another checkpoint, and we had to show Francisca's visa again, but it was no big deal. She slept through it, and the guy just peeked in the window. 26 hours after we crossed the border we were home in MN.

Feel free to pass this info on to other people wondering about visiting the Consulate in Juarez. And if other people have questions, we'd be happy to talk/e-mail with them.

Thanks so much for all your help! We'll be in touch.

Steven C. Thal, P.A.

Posted by VisaLawyer at February 14, 2009 11:41 AM

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