Authentication

So that’s how you get documents authenticated.

Since one of the reasons I started this blog was to assist others on a similar journey, let’s discuss the process of authentication.  This seems to be one of the most frustrating and drawn out parts of teaching abroad. So let me try to make it as understandable as possible.

Although I am preparing to work in Qatar, it seems a lot of the authentication process overlaps across the Middle East.

Your most recent college degree needs to be authenticated.  You can use a copy, attach your transcript to it and notarize together.  For Qatar, you also have to obtain a letter from the school on letterhead stating that the majority of your classes were taken in person instead of online.  I attached this letter too.  Then this needs to be attested at the state level, federal level and Embassy of the country you will be working.  Get this done right away. Oddly, I did not have to get my teaching certification attested but I did have to present it.

You will need to obtain your State criminal history clearance.  In PA, you can request this online at

https://epatch.state.pa.us/Home.jsp

but if you want it to come to you already notarized you can print the form, complete it, and mail it in with a $13.00 money order, like I did.  It comes back pretty quickly too.  Once you receive it notarized or get it notarized, then you will need to get it attested at the state level, federal level and Embassy of the country you will be working.

You will also need FBI clearances.  Some people use a Channeler to get it done quicker; there is a list on the website.  I would recommend to just go thru the FBI directly this way you know it’s correct and will be accepted.

https://www.fbi.gov/about-us/cjis/identity-history-summary-checks

The processing time directly through the FBI is long, approximately 12-14 weeks but once you get it, it doesn’t need to be notarized (at least mine did not) or attested by the state since it is not from the state.  However, it will need to be authenticated at the federal level and at the Embassy of the country you will be working.  Start this process right away

If you are married, your husband will also need state and FBI clearances authenticated. If you have children from a previous relationship, you may need additional information to sponsor them.  For ADEC, you need a letter from the father stating that he is okay with you sponsoring them.  For Qatar, a letter from my ex-husband did not suffice since we had a custody order.  If you are in a similar situation, pay close attention to this part because this part was the most exasperating.  You must get your custody order modified in court.  For me this meant paying a fee, requesting a court date, talking to my ex-husband, waiting for the court date, going to court and getting a copy of the order signed by a judge.  Then you have to get the Clerk of Common Pleas to certify, stamp and sign it.  For Philadelphia, this was a separate court than family court and a separate fee, and I had to physically go to City Hall to get help on this matter.  Once that is done, you have to get it attested at the state level, then federal and finally the Embassy of the country you will be working.

To obtain an Apostille or Certification at the state level in PA, it needs to be done through the PA Department of State, Bureau of Commissions, Elections and Legislation in Harrisburg.  There is a $15.00 per document fee.  You can mail it to Harrisburg or walk in and have it taken care of right away.  They are pretty efficient. Here is what the first attestation looks like:

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The U.S. Department of State Office of Authentications accepts requests via mail in, walk in and appointments.  They are located in Washington, D.C.  The fee is $8.00 per document.  Appointments are only for emergencies and walk ins can leave documents and pick them back up completed approximately 3 days later. Here is what it looks like at this level:

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The last factor in the authentication process is at the Embassy of the country you will be working. Qatar has three Embassies in the USA, one in NY, Washington and Texas.  Which embassy you will need to send your documents for authentication depends on where your documents originated. For instance, my degree, state criminal clearance and custody modification order would go to the Qatar Embassy in NY but my federal clearances would got to the one in Washington.

I completed my state Apostilles on my own, since Harrisburg is a short 2 hour drive away and they completed them on the spot, except for that one time I mailed my custody modification but it wasn’t right so they sent it right back.  Once it was corrected I took it up there myself.  For the U.S. Dept. of State and Qatar Embassy authentications, I used a company to take care of it for me.  This way I didn’t have to drive all over the east coast.  Many people opt to DIY to save money but not me.  I would have spent money on gas, tolls, food, probably hotel stay.  I also avoided a lot of added stress by paying the company to do this for me.  The company I used was PROEX.

http://www.goproex.com/

Cindy is very helpful.  It wasn’t cheap but necessary.  Both times I sent documents to PROEX, I sent three each and it cost me roughly $300 both times.

So that’s how you get documents authenticated. The weird thing about authentications is, it doesn’t prove that the document is really from a certain place or is even legit.  It seems to just confirm the notary before.  I hope this post helps.

 

The Never Ending Story

…I feel like this paperwork is a never ending story with twist and turns and that I will never accomplish my goal.

I love the movie, The Never Ending Story.  I remember my mother took me to the movies to see it when I was a little girl.  I was fascinated by the thought of one’s life being read by someone else in a story.  I used to believe that people, somewhere, were reading about me and my life.  I guess that is kind of how a blog is.  Anyway, in the movie, Atreyu, the Native American Warrior, was trying to save Fantasia but he kept hitting brick walls, in a sense. Every turn he made, he had to overcome another obstacle, in order to stop the ‘nothing’ from engulfing his world.  When he finally arrived at the empress, he thinks he failed his quest but in reality the whole journey was necessary.  Right now, I feel like this paperwork is a never ending story with twist and turns and that I will never accomplish my goal.

Where do I start?

The last time I posted about all the paperwork, I was in the process of requesting our FBI clearances.  Well, on a day in which Darryl was working from home and I was off, we went to the Philadelphia State Police to get fingerprinted, only to find out that they no longer do fingerprinting for employment abroad.  We left there feeling disappointed but not discouraged.  I called around and found out that the Abington Police still do the fingerprinting for a $20 fee each.  So that’s where we went.  Afterward I called the FBI, just to confirm our applications were complete before sending them off. I was informed that there is a 13-15 week processing time. (Can you see me with my mouth open?) So I sent off the applications, fingerprints and $18.00 money orders.

All of our new passport have arrived.  I was worried that we wouldn’t be able to take our trip to Canada but the passports came in, that same week thankfully.  Darryl’s state criminal clearance finally came in the mail.  The boys old school never responded to my emails so I searched and found their report cards and scanned them to QA Doha and QA Sidra schools.  My ex-husband signed the sponsorship letter and I had both the letter and and divorce degrees translated as requested.  I used ABS Translation Interpreting Services, Inc.. Aram was very quick with the turn around of these documents and super nice.  I definitely recommend this company.  I paid $98.00 for the translation of these documents, only to be told that my divorce decree was not sufficient for sponsorship of my sons because it didn’t mention a custody order.  So getting that translated was a waste of time and money.

Everyone got their blood work and medical forms completed.  I found out I have high cholesterol.  So now I take a pill a day for that. While seeing my GYN she discovered a lump in my right breast.  I had to go get a mammogram and ultrasound just to be on the safe side.  Took care of that and got a clean bill of health.  Thank God.  Even went to see the Dermatologist. So I’ve been poked and prodded by everybody.  But I’m happy to say, I’m in pretty good health.

I located my custody order that was agreed upon in mediation, but it was hand written. That didn’t go over well.  I spent a day down town at Family Court getting a copy of the official custody order, and requested a modification of the custody order (at the request of my Qatar hiring manager due to the weekend visitations).  The copy and hearing request cost me approximately $45.00.  I was told I would get a court date in the mail probably for some time in July and in order to request an expedited court date, I would still have to wait until I receive the official court date.  At that time, I could return to Family Court, pay a fee, and prove reason for expedited service or enter a custody stipulation with required paperwork (for a fee, I’m sure).   A custody stipulation is an agreement between my ex-husband and I, signed and submitted to court to modify the current order and then signed by the judge without a court hearing.  I have spoken to my ex-husband and he is being really supportive and agreeable.

As of now, the only things I am still waiting for are: FBI clearances, a Court Date for modification of custody and a Judges signature on my custody stipulation.  In the meantime, I am beginning the authentication process.  My degree, transcipt and state criminal clearance as well as Darryl’s have been notarized.  Tomorrow I will be driving to Harrisburg to get these documents authenticated at the state level. Then I will be sending them to a company to finish the authentication process. Sure I could just send them to the company to complete the whole process, but this way I save myself a few dollars.

And in this story there is some light:

“Dear parent of Zarien G,

Thank you for applying to Qatar Academy Doha!

It is a pleasure to inform you that your child Zarien has been offered a space in Grade 8 الصف الثامن for the academic year 2016-2017.”

My youngest son has been accepted.  The Admin at Doha along with the Admin at my son’s current school arranged for him to take the admissions test at his current school and he did well, I assume.  My son said he thought he did well and well this email proves it.  I am so proud of him.  One less thing to worry about.  My oldest son will complete his test tomorrow.  I truly hope that Doha is a good fit for my boys.  I have heard mixed opinions about the school but the campus is beautiful and I like the programs I’ve read about there.

So as you follow along in my Never Ending Story, I ask that you root for me, like Sebastian did for Atreyu. This journey is necessary!  Only 4 months to go until the new chapter begins.

Mind’s well get used to it

…the most frustrating thing is the lack of clear communication.

Last night my sister came over to see me.  We had great conversations.  She asked me how preparations were going.  And I had to sigh… It’s a lot.  I had to admit, and the most frustrating thing is the lack of clear communication.  Once I accepted my offer, I was emailed a list of documents I had to start organizing.  But I knew the list was incomplete from my experience with Abu Dhabi.  I knew there was more paperwork I had to obtain and send prior to obtaining a visa for my family.  About a week ago I scanned a copy of Darryl and my FBI clearances to my H.R. rep  in Qatar.  He told me that the FBI clearance that I obtained was not correct and that I had to redo it.  Originally I was just told to obtain both state and FBI clearances for he and I, no details were given about where I had to obtain them or how.  So after going back and forth with the H.R. rep, he finally sent me a link to how I should get them.  WHY DIDN’T YOU DO THAT FROM THE GET GO? I spent $25.75 for each of our clearances and waited for them to come back.  Now come to find out, the correct ones cost $18.00.  (Just in case, you are going through the same thing, this is the link to where and how to obtain your FBI clearances.  By the way, I’m going straight through the FBI, not a ‘channeler’ because I only want to have to do this one more time. fbi clearance  Pray that this time it’s right)

I told my sister this story and then said, “Well, I mind’s well get used to it.”  They do things differently over there.  Communication is not always clear.  We, Americans are spoiled.  When we are offered a job, we are often given a list of things to organize and where to get them or the job does it for us.  But Qatar is not America.  She said, but that was a waste of money.  I know, it was, but I have wasted more on less important things, like eating out, or that outfit, I wore only once.  I could go on and on… It’s been a lot, but no point of stressing over it.  This is what I want to do and I have to keep an open mind. Things will not go as planned all the time.  There will be bumps in the road.  But if this were easy, more people would do it, right?

There have been other hiccups with the paperwork but for now I digress…It will all be worth it in the end and I hope my blog is helping someone avoid the bumps I’m hitting. When this is all over, I will post a completed list of all things I had to obtain and where I got them.

Added note: My husband has corrected me and said the actual saying is “might as well” not “minds well”. Well he is from St. Louis and I am from Philly and we pronounce it “minds well”. So there you have it. Anyway it’s fitting because my “mind better get used to change”.