For any U.S. citizen looking to adopt a child under 16 from another country, this is a guide that can help explain the process, and the forms involved.
Who Can Adopt
The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) in the Department of Homeland Security determines someone’s eligibility to adopt a child from another country.
Certain requirements must be met, they include:
- Must be a U.S. citizen.
- If they are unmarried, they must be at least 25 years old.
- Married couples must adopt jointly (even if separated from spouse but not divorced). Both spouses must be U.S. citizens or have legal status in the U.S.
- Must verify that they are capable of raising a child by submitting themselves to
- Criminal backgrounds checks
- Home Study. (1)
Eligibility to Adopt
The first step is to fill out an application with USCIS that includes a home study, an application fee, and other supporting documents. The form will vary based on the country that the person is adopting from. For those interested in adopting from a Convention country (a country in the Hague Adoption Adoption Convention), will use Form I-800A, Application for Determination of Suitability to Adopt a Child from a Convention Country. Those interested in adopting a country not in the Hague Adoption Convention will use Form I-600A, Application for Advance Processing of Orphan Petition.
These forms allow prospective adoptive parents to showcase their eligibility to adopt and capability of caring for the child. Adoptive parents must provide proof of citizenship and marital status. If others are living in the home of the adoptive parents, additional information will have to be provided about them. (2)
The Hague Convention on Protection of Children and Co-operation in Respect of Intercountry Adoption (commonly known as the Hague Adoption Convention), is an international treaty. This convention is focused on protecting the best interests of children, birth parents, and adoptive parents involved in intercountry adoptions. (3)
Steps in the Process
- Choose a Hague Accredited Adoption Services Provider (ASP).
- Obtain a home study from someone authorized to to complete a Hague adoption home study through ASP.
- Apply to USCIS before adopting a child or accepting a placement to determine that one is suitable for a transnational adoption.
- Once the USCIS approves the application, work with the adoption service provider to obtain a proposed adoption placement.
- File a petition with the USCIS before adopting the child so that the child will be eligible to immigrate to the U.S.
- After the Form I-800A is completed, the parent may apply to the Central Authority (Convention’s officials in charge of safeguarding the process) of the country for an adoption placement. Once the Central authority proposes placing the child with the parent, the parent must file the Form I-800, Petition to Classify Convention Adoptee as an Immediate Relative on behalf of the child before they can actually be adopted. The child must also fit the following criteria to be considered for Hague Convention Adoptee:Must be under the age of 16 at the time Form I-800 is filed.
- Resides in a Convention Country.
- The Central Authority of their home country has determined that they are eligible for adoption and have obtained the necessary consents.
- Adopt or obtain custody of the child in order to adopt the child in the U.S.
- Obtain an immigrant visa for the child.
- Bring the child to the U.S. for admission with the visa. (3)
Who is an Orphan?
Under U.S. immigration law, an orphan is a foreign-born child whose parents have died or disappeared, have abandoned or deserted them, or have been separated from them. They may also have a single parent who is unable to care for the child, and their inability to care for the child is inconsistent with the local standard of their country. The parent must have in writing irrevocably released the child for emigration and adoption. (4)
Someone can immigrate an adopted child through the Orphan Process if they are a U.S. citizen. If they are married, their spouse must also sign Form I-600, Petition to Classify Orphan as an Immediate Relative, and adopt the child as well. If they are not married, they must be at least 25-years-old. They must prove they will provide proper parental care and that the child they plan to adopt is an “orphan” as defined by U.S. immigration law.
They must also establish either:
- the prospective parent or their spouse has adopted the child from another country, and one of them personally observed the child before or during the adoption process.
- OR that they can adopt the child after the child has arrived in the U.S., but they must have permission to remove the child from their home country first. (4)
The process of adopting a child through this process is similar to the Hague process, and involves six main main steps:
- Choose a licensed ASP.
- Apply to be found eligible to adopt.
- Fill out Form I-600A, Application of Advanced Processing of Orphan Petition.
- Proof of prospective parent’s citizenship.
- If the prospective parent is married, proof of marriage.
- Complete a home study.
- Pay the filing fee of $720.
- Get referred to a child.
- Adopt the child (or gain custody of the child, with the intent of emigration and adoption).
- Apply for the child to be found eligible for immigration to the U.S. They will need to present:
- Form I-600, Petition to Classify Orphan as an Immediate Relative.
- The child’s birth certificate.
- Final decree of adoption and immigration.
- Written proof of “orphan” status.
- Proof of adoption pre-adoption documents.
- Proof that the parent(s) have seen the child prior to or during the adoption process.
- Obtain an immigrant visa for the child. (7)
The home study is an observation of the individual or family that is planning to adopt. It must be done by someone authorized by the state government. This includes a public domestic authority, an accredited agency, an approved person, a supervised advisory, or an exempted provider. The authorized person will observe the living conditions and quality of life the child will have with the prospective parents.
The home study must be submitted to the USCIS within six months after it was completed. If it is completed after the six month period, it must include an update or an amendment that is less than six months old. If an update is submitted to the USCIS, a full copy of the original copy must be included, with all prior updates and amendments. An amendment or update is required when a significant change in the applicant’s household has occurred, such as a change in residence, marital status, criminal history, financial resources, or an addition of one or more children or dependents to the household.
There must be at least one interview conducted in-person by an authorized individual with the parent. There also must be at least one home visit of the prospective parents and at least one interview of each adult living in the household. The prospective parents must be able to provide all information on their social, economic, and medical background.
During the home study, each adult member of the household will be assessed on their mental, physical, and emotional health. The prospective parents’ financial situation, including income, financial resources, debts and expenses, will also be assessed. Additionally, they will be required to provide all documentation pertaining to criminal history. (5)
Before the Child Emigrates to the U.S.
Once the application is approved, the child will need a visa to enter the U.S. through the U.S. Department of State (DOS) at the embassy or consulate in the country the child resides in. For Hague Adoptions, the child will need a IH-3 visa or a IH-4 visa. The IH-3 visa is for children with full and final adoptions from the Hague Convention country, while the IH-3 visa is for children coming to the U.S. from a Hague Convention country to be adopted in the U.S.
For Orphans (or Non-Hague) adoptions, they may use a IR-3 visa, which is issued when full and final adoption is completed in another country. It requires the parent to physically see the child before the adoption proceedings. Or, they may use a IR-4 visa issued to a child that is coming to the U.S. to be adopted, was adopted abroad by one parent, or was not seen by the parent(s) prior to or during the adoption process. (6)
- U.S. Department of State. U.S. Department of State. Accessed June 25, 2020. https://travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/Intercountry-Adoption/Adoption-Process/before-you-adopt/who-can-adopt.html.
- U.S. Department of State. U.S. Department of State. Accessed June 25, 2020. https://travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/Intercountry-Adoption/Adoption-Process/before-you-adopt/eligibility-to-adopt.html.
- “Hague Process.” USCIS, September 9, 2009. https://www.uscis.gov/adoption/immigration-through-adoption/hague-process.
- “Orphan Process.” USCIS, September 3, 2009. https://www.uscis.gov/adoption/immigration-through-adoption/orphan-process.
- “Home Study Information.” USCIS, September 2, 2009. https://www.uscis.gov/adoption/home-study-information.
- “Before Your Child Immigrates to the United States.” USCIS, September 2, 2009. https://www.uscis.gov/adoption/your-child-immigrates-united-states.
- U.S. Department of State. U.S. Department of State. Accessed June 30, 2020. https://travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/Intercountry-Adoption/Adoption-Process/how-to-adopt/non-hague-adoption-process.html.