A family of missionaries are visiting relatives in the US with their Albanian-born son thanks to help from Congressman Daniel Webster (R-Fl-11). The boy’s aunt Sanda Bassett, who along with her husband Allen own and operate Air Source Cooling and Heating in Brooksville, reached out to Webster after the COVID pandemic stalled the family’s nonimmigrant visa application for the boy.
Ten-year-old Elison’s journey to the US began when his adoptive parents Steve and Rachael Beiler discovered him living in an orphanage in Albania. The Beilers have been missionaries in Albania for the last 20 years.
“They found him in the street sifting through garbage when he was 21/2 and became his caretakers,” Steve Beiler said. “We adopted him two years ago.”
The plan was to have Elison accompany the Beilers on a trip to the US in 2020, but the COVID pandemic temporarily brought visa processing activities at the US Embassy to an abrupt halt.
“They come to the US every two years and 2020 was the year,” Bassett said. “The adoption of Elison was final, but they did not have a visa for him to come to the US, “ Bassett recalls. “He was supposed to have an appointment to get a visa, but he never got that appointment.”
The appointment never took place because thanks to COVID-19, all routine nonimmigrant visa services had been suspended, according to Webster Spokesperson Jaryn Emhof.
When the Embassy did reopen, it was swamped with both new and old paperwork.
“The people at the embassy were wonderful,” Steve Beiler recalled, “but our paperwork ended up at the bottom of the pile.”
By then, the Beilers had already planned to visit family in the US in June 2021. But when they finally did get an appointment for Elison’s nonimmigrant visa interview, it was scheduled for March 2022.
So this past March Rachael’s aunt, Sanda Bassett, suggested that the family ask Webster to help expedite the visa process.
Webster agreed and reached out directly to the US Embassy in Albania requesting an expedited appointment on the family’s behalf. That initial request was denied.
The office reached out to the Embassy again asking that the family be allowed to appeal the previous decision.
“This resulted in the Embassy manually applying an earlier appointment date of May 2021,” Emhof said.
Finally the visa was granted in June, and just two weeks ago the Bassetts met their new nephew here in Florida for the very first time.
“It’s such a blessing,” Sanda Bassett said.
In addition to meeting his Florida family, Elison has traveled to Pennsylvania to meet his paternal grandparents, to Ohio to meet his mother’s grandparents and to Nebraska to meet his maternal grandparents.
Along the way, the Beiler’s are sharing their experiences in Albania with audiences at churches in all those places.
Meanwhile, Elison is enjoying being a kid in the US this summer.
“When we landed at JFK Elison was just beaming,” Steve Beiler recalled. “We really are blessed.”
The next step is to make Elison’s US citizenship official. Because he was adopted by American citizens, Elison became a US citizen as soon as he arrived here, but his citizenship must still be officially processed.
“We’ve already started the paperwork to do that,” Beiler said.