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***GREEK-BORN ADOPTEES: REQUESTING YOUR COMPLETE IMMIGRATION FILE FROM USCIS - PAPER REQUEST FORM VS. ONLINE. WHICH ONE WILL REALLY GIVE YOU ALL OF YOUR DOCUMENTS?
by Linda Carol Forrest Trotter
See page below to download Form G-639
While we Greek-born adoptees are able to request our complete immigration files (Alien Files) from USCIS through the FOIA (Freedom of Information Act), which method is really best for requesting those records? For over two years, we've provided Form G-639 USCIS, with the instructions and a sample completed form, to many Greek-born adoptees to facilitate their requests to USCIS. It has been our experience in the past that completing the G-639 USCIS on paper and mailing it to the National Records Center via Priority Mail with a tracking number seemed to provide the best results.
Today, I decided to download the latest version of paper form G-639 to update what we provide to Greek-born adoptees. It is almost impossible to find online now (I did find it, finally), as the government is trying to force everyone to apply for their immigration files online. They still accept the paper request forms, as they explain on the website that if you sent your request by mail, email or fax, you can still ask to receive your file in digital form. But there is nowhere that I can find on the website to download the paper form, although you can download the instructions for the form. So far, it has been a mixed bag as to what adoptees receive when they request their files online. Some are told they don't have a file, some are given only a few pages, while it seems that only a few are lucky enough to receive their complete file. So, today, I decided to request my immigration file online (even though I already received mine on a CD over three years ago), just to go through the process to see the difference in requesting the file online, with respect to the time it takes and how many pages of documents I actually end up receiving. When I requested my documents the first time, it took almost 6 months and I received 79 pages, two of which had been redacted. It will be interesting to compare what I receive from the online application compared to the paper application the first time around.
What I did notice as I worked my way through the online application is that there is virtually no place to explain any discrepancies or unusual circumstances. For example, under "Other Information", there are spaces to input various identifiers to help the government find your file: I-94 Arrival - Departure Record, Passport or Travel Document Number, Alien Registration Number (A-Number, USCIS Online Account Number (if any), Application, Petition or Request Receipt Number. Most of these are not applicable to we Greek-born adoptees, with the exception of the A-Number and perhaps the Passport or Travel Document Number. I am not certain that there is anywhere that they kept track of our Greek passport numbers, because nowhere in the file I received three years ago was there a reference to my Greek passport. If you don't have your Alien Registration Number (or A-number), by far the best identifier for your immigration file, there are is no place to enter your naturalization certificate number or your naturalization petition number, if you happen to have those. And you must choose "Alien File" when it asks for the records you are seeking. And when you choose "Alien File", it then does not allow you to request any other files, i.e., birth certificate, naturalization certificate, etc. Because, in theory, the Alien File SHOULD contain both a copy of your birth certificate and your naturalization certificate. But in practice, sadly, that is not the case - we've had multiple adoptees who have found neither of these documents in their Alien File. In our next Greek Adoptee Conversations: The Search for Roots and Reunion, coming up on Saturday, January 15, 2022, we'll discuss Form G-639 and other tools that are useful in the search for biological family. We'll also hear from adoptees who have found family and those who are still searching, and the impact it has had upon their lives. Mark your calendars and join us for what promises to be an enlightening conversation.