LINO LAKES, Minn. (KMSP) - For 15 years, a Lino Lakes, Minn. family thought everything was in order. Then, nearly a year ago, began a bureaucratic nightmare of proving their adopted children are United States citizens.
It has been a difficult 10 months, which has its roots in Russia 15 years ago when Nancy and Rick Lee adopted a son and a daughter.
“We were told that they were automatically citizens because their parents are American citizens,” Nancy said.
The couple figured everything was fine; U.S. law did consider their children U.S. citizens upon their adoption.
Then last fall, 16-year-old Bethany went to get her learner's permit only then to learn the documents they had -- Russian birth certificates and U.S. social security cards -- were not enough.
“I was really confused at that moment,” Bethany said.
They needed to apply for a certificate of citizenship for each of their children them, which they had not realized. So, they did. But now, ten months later, the family is still waiting.
And in the meantime, 16-year-old Bethany cannot get her driver’s license and 18-year-old Nathan, who has not wanted his license, cannot vote.
“I would love to vote and I would like to experience it for the first time, but it's just all these obstacles,” Nathan said.
Rick and Nancy say they cannot get answers as to the hold up.
“It's frustrating for me as a parent and it's frustrating for them as my kids,” Nancy said. “They're American citizens, they should have those rights.”
A spokesman for the Minnesota Office of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services told me today that nine to 10 months has been the average to process this lately. They also consider that to be too long, but say it is due in large part to short-staffing. They have hired 10 people in the last two months and hope to get things sped up.
In the meantime, the office recommends that any adoptive parents apply for certificate of citizenship as soon as possible.
UPDATE - After this story aired of Fox 9, United States Citizenship and Immigration Services sent the Lee family a notice for a citizenship oath ceremony.