So it's 10:34pm, and I just walked in the door. I left home around 9:15pm to make photocopies, after spending around 45 minutes to an hour preparing paperwork for our final step-- authentication by the Chinese Consular General in Los Angeles.
Our agency, CCAI, now offers a dossier certification/authentication service. Basically, you send them all the paperwork once you've gathered it and they notarize it, get it certified by the County Clerk and the Secretary of State, then get it authenticated by the Chinese Consulate. I don't know if it includes "rush" or "walk-in" service (though I imagine it does just because of the volume of clients they have). It's $1200, and though they claimed they don't recoup any cost, I was skeptical. Well, I am a skeptic no more. When all is said and done, all the notarizing, certifying, and authenticating-- not to mention shipment costs-- will have cost us somewhere in the neighborhood of $1,000 anyway. And that means we saved around $200 doing it ourselves. You have to ask yourself if the time you spend collecting signatures is worth $200. I know, for me, it probably wasn't. Just the number of hours I spent-- around 4 or 5-- collecting the signatures and making copies probably wasn't worth $200 in the end. But, of course, how could I have known that? Plus, this allowed me to retain control over the process, something I would have had to let go of had I let CCAI take care of the documentation for me. Long story short, it's probably worth the $1200 in the end.
Oddly, although I now have sent all our documents off to a courier that specializes in getting documents authenticated, I feel more anxious instead of less worried. Last time, I mailed it all to the Consulate myself, and it took about a month to get it all back. This time, I'm keeping my fingers crossed that it can be taken care of in a week by using Red Tape Solution (the courier). But the thought of turning over all that personal information to someone to walk it through the consulate makes me awfully nervous. Of course, that's what the big agencies do with it-- they send it to a courier, too. But still. It's birth certificates and passport photos and financial information and criminal clearances-- all the makings for stealing a person's identity. And now that I've thought that through a bit more, I have to stop writing about this because it makes me even more anxious. . .
Anyway, the FedEx package is scheduled for pick up at 4:30pm and guaranteed arrival in its destination (a mere hour and a half away by car, mind you) by 10:00am the next morning.
So please keep your fingers crossed and send your good vibes our way that the courier will get the package, deliver it to the Los Angeles P.R. China Consulate, get the stuff back authenticated, and return it to us without a hitch. And without borrowing our personal information . . .