CHICAGO -- When Candice Warltier landed in Katmandu almost three months ago, she expected to be there only a short time as she tied up loose ends to finish her adoption of a chubby-cheeked 1-year-old named Antara.
As it turned out, the Chicago woman stayed much longer, held up by an investigation by the U.S. State Department, which recently had changed its policy toward adoptions from Nepal.
But on Thursday, U.S. embassy officials in Katmandu gave Warltier the happy news. The investigation was done, and she and Antara could leave the country.
"My daughter and I are coming home," she said in an interview from her apartment in Katmandu.
By the time she arrived on Aug. 7, Warltier had spent a year and a half working through the bureaucratic requirements of the adoption.
But because of a change in U.S. immigration policy while Warltier was en route, Antara couldn't be granted a visa to leave the country without further U.S. investigation. Nepal's adoption system has been plagued by abuse -- kidnappings, fake documents -- and the U.S. government changed its procedures, hoping to make sure abandoned children really were abandoned before being adopted.
Warltier, who writes a blog on the Tribune's ChicagoNow network and whose story was the subject of a Tribune column last month, was sure that Antara had been abandoned. Her daughter had lived at an orphanage since she was days old and no one had visited her, the girl's caretakers had told her.
They lived in a hotel until the cumulative expenses got to be too much, then moved into an apartment with a woman from Boston and her 4-year-old daughter, who were in the same predicament, Warltier said.
Five other U.S. families remained in limbo over Nepal adoptions, including two other families from Illinois. Warltier's file was the first approved among their group.
A spokeswoman for the U.S. State Department's Bureau of Consular Affairs declined to comment on individual cases but said that officials from the State Department and U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services had been dispatched to Nepal to expedite the investigations needed for visas to be approved.
Warltier said the families have built a close bond with one another during their time in the Himalayan capital, learning together about their children's native land and culture. Warltier said her happiness was tempered, knowing that the other families' wait would continue.
"I don't know why mine was approved and others haven't (been)," she said. "They may see this as hope that more files will be approved."
Mother and daughter weren't home-free yet, however. Warltier won't receive her visa until next week, and she must wait for the girl's original birth certificate to be mailed back to her from the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services office in New Delhi.
She isn't certain how long the remaining steps will take, though at a meeting Thursday with embassy officials, Warltier gave them a deadline.
"I told them, 'I have a flight booked for Nov. 4. I really want to be on that flight.' "
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