Government Advice: International Adoption
Government Advice: International Adoption
Government Advice: International Adoption
Editor’s note: The information below was compiled from reports posted by the U.S. Department of State at www.travel.state.gov/ family as of March 2007. Some material has been condensed and edited for publication in book format. Readers should consult www.travel.state.gov/family for additional information, updates, and revisions.
American citizens are seeking to adopt children in ever increasing numbers. With the reduction in children available for adoption in the United States, more and more U.S. citizens have adopted children from other countries. This year, thousands of children came to the United States from foreign countries, either adopted abroad by U.S. citizens or as potential adoptees. This brochure provides both information and guidance to U.S. citizens seeking information about international adoptions.
International adoption is essentially a private legal matter between a private individual (or couple) who wishes to adopt, and a foreign court, which operates under that country’s laws and regulations. U.S. authorities cannot intervene on behalf of prospective parents with the courts in the country where the adoption takes place.
However, the Department of State does provide extensive information about the adoption processes in various countries and the U.S. legal requirements to bring a child adopted abroad to the United States. The Office of Children’s Issues in the Bureau of Consular Affairs provides brochures describing the adoption process in numerous countries.
Adoption information is also available on our automated facsimile system and Internet (see appendix C). In addition, we provide recorded information on international adoption for several countries on a twenty-four hour basis through our recorded telephone messages at 1-888-407-4747 and at our Internet site at http://travel.state.gov.
If you have questions, please call us at 202-736-9130. You may also fax us at 202-736-9080, or write us at:
Office of Children’s Issues
Department of State
2201 C Street, NW
Washington, DC 20520-2818
The Role of the State Department
The State Department CAN:
- Provide information about international adoption in foreign countries
- Provide general information about U.S. visa requirements for international adoption
- Make inquiries of the U.S. consular section abroad regarding the status of a specific adoption case and clarify documentation or other requirements
- Ensure that U.S. citizens are not discriminated against by foreign authorities or courts
The State Department CANNOT:
- Locate a child or children available for adoption
- Become directly involved in the adoption process in another country
- Act as an attorney or represent adoptive parents in court
- Order that an adoption take place or that a visa be issued
Other Sources of Information
The Office of Children’s Issues frequently receives requests for general information about international adoption. Questions range from how to begin the adoption process to how to find an agency, or what countries to consider. The public library and local telephone yellow pages (see “Adoption Services”) are good sources of general information, including adoption agencies and attorneys who specialize in adoption, support groups and books and magazines related to adoption (See Appendices A and B). Additionally, a number of umbrella organizations provide extensive general information that can be very helpful both before and after the adoption. Several of these organizations publish articles and lists of adoption agencies. For specific information about agencies operating in your area, call your state social services agency or the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) office. Adoption opportunities, regulations, and even the social climate may change at any time, making it impossible to categorically state in which country adoptions will proceed smoothly. For example, social and religious restrictions in Africa and the Middle East make adoption difficult in those regions. However, the Department of State does maintain statistics indicating the number of visas (IR-3 and IR-4) for adoption issued yearly by country. Appendix C, Section III (page 19) directs you the Consular Affairs’ Internet site so that you can view the most recent list of the top 20 countries. Since countries do change their adoption regulations, it is necessary for you to thoroughly investigate a country before initiating an adoption.
To complete an international adoption and bring a child to the United States, prospective adoptive parent(s) must fulfill the requirements set by the United States U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services in the Department of Homeland Security (USCIS), the foreign country in which the child resides and sometimes the state of residence of the adoptive parent(s). Although procedures and documentary requirements may seem repetitive, you should procure several copies of each document in the event they are needed to meet the requirements of USCIS, the foreign country and your home state. The process is designed to protect the child, the adoptive parent(s) and the birth parent(s).
The U.S. Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) is the U.S. immigration law regarding the issuance of visas to nationals of other countries, including children adopted abroad or coming to the United States for adoption. The basic statutory provision concerning adopted children is in INA Section 101(b)(1)(E). Which provides immigrant classification for “a child adopted while under the age of sixteen years if the child has been in the legal custody of, and has resided with, the adopting parent or parents for at least two years.” This so-called “two-year provision” is for individuals who are temporarily residing abroad and wish to adopt a child in accordance with the laws of the foreign state where they reside. Most adoptive parents, however, are not able to spend two years abroad living with the child. Therefore, they seek benefits under another provision of the INA, Section 101(b)(1)(F), which grants immigrant classification to orphans who have been adopted or will be adopted by U.S. citizens. Under this section of the law, both the child and the adoptive parents must satisfy a number of requirements established by the INA and the related regulations, but the two-year residency requirement is eliminated.
Only after it is demonstrated that both the parents and the child qualify, can the child be issued a visa to travel to the United States.
For specific information about USCIS requirements, see the U.S. Department of Justice, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services in the Department of Homeland Security, brochure M-249Y, The Immigration of Adopted and Prospective Adoptive Children. The USCIS also has a toll-free information number, from which you can obtain form M-249 booklets and the telephone numbers of local USCIS offices in the United States. The toll-free number is 1-800-375-5283 or ins.usdoj.gov.
Your adoption agency or attorney will require specific documents, as will your state of residence. These requirements may appear daunting. The chart, in Appendix C, Section IV, serves as a checklist for many of the documents that you will be expected to provide. In general, all agencies, whether state or private, require proof of citizenship, marriage (if a married couple), health, financial stability and information about arrests or certification of a clean criminal record. In addition, the home study (a report on the family prepared by a licensed social worker or other person licensed to perform home studies) normally is required by both the foreign government and the USCIS. The local government of the country from which you wish to adopt, your chosen adoption agency, or attorney may request additional documents.
U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services in the Department of Homeland Security Approval
Adoptive and prospective adoptive parent(s) must comply with U.S. immigration procedures, initiated through the USCIS in the United States in order to bring an adoptive child to the U.S. Simply locating a child in a foreign country and going to the U.S. Embassy to obtain a visa for the child will not meet these requirements. An orphan cannot be brought to the United States without a visa, which is based upon an USCIS approved petition (form I-600). To facilitate the process, we suggest that you contact the USCIS office that has jurisdiction over your place of residence in the United States for information, early in the pre-adoption process.
The Orphan Petition form has two parts: I-600 and I-600A. The I-600 is used when the adoptive parents have identified a specific child. The I-600 is filed with the appropriate office of the USCIS in the United States. The USCIS adjudicates all aspects of the I-600 petition - including the suitability of the adoptive parent(s), compliance with any state pre-adoption requirements (if the child is to be adopted after entry into the United States), and the qualifications of the child as an orphan within the meaning of section 101(b)(1)(F) of the Immigration and Nationality Act (See USCIS brochure M-249Y). When the petition has been approved, the USCIS notifies the U.S. embassy or consulate that processes visas for residents of the child’s country. At the same time, the approved I-600 petition and supporting documents are sent to the National Visa Center in New Hampshire, where the petition is assigned a computer tracking code and then mailed to the appropriate U.S. consular office abroad.
The I-600A form should be filed if the prospective adoptive parent(s) have not yet identified a child or intend to go abroad to locate a child for adoption. Like the I-600, this application is filed at the local USCIS office in the United States with jurisdiction over the place of residence of the adoptive parent(s). USCIS evaluates the suitability of the prospective adoptive parent(s). When the application is approved, notification is sent to the adoptive parents and to the appropriate U.S. mission in the country where the parents have indicated they would like to adopt. Once the parents have located a specific child, they must file an I-600 Petition. The parents may file the I-600 petition either with their local USCIS office in the United States or with the USCIS or U.S. consular office overseas. Although only one parent must be physically present to file the I-600 petition overseas, that parent must be a U.S. citizen. A third party may not file the petition on the parents’ behalf, even with a valid Power of Attorney. In addition, if only one of the two parents travels, the petition must nevertheless be properly executed (signed) by both parents after it has been completely filled out. This means one parent cannot sign for the other parent and neither parent may sign the petition until all the details about the child have been entered on the form. The traveling parent can, however, use express mail service to obtain the other parent’s signature.
The Foreign Adoption Process
Although adoption procedures vary from country to country, most countries require that prior to any court action, a child placed for adoption be legally recognized as an orphan or, in the case where a parent is living, be legally and irrevocably released for adoption in a manner provided for under local foreign law. In addition, the adoption laws in most countries require the full adoption of the child in the foreign court after the child has been declared an orphan or released by the living parent to an appropriate foreign authority. Some countries do allow simple adoption, which means that the adopting parent(s) can be granted guardianship of the child by the foreign court. This will permit the child to leave the foreign country to be adopted in the country of the adopting parent(s). A few countries do allow adoptive parents to adopt through a third party without actually traveling to that country. It is important to note that a foreign country’s determination that the child is an orphan does not guarantee that the child will be considered an orphan under the U.S. Immigration and Nationality Act, since the foreign country may use different standards. Questions, which involve interpretation of specific foreign laws, should be addressed to a foreign attorney operating in the country where the adoption will take place.
Some countries accept the properly authenticated home study of the prospective adoptive parent(s) at face value, while other countries also require a personal appearance by the adoptive parent(s) before the foreign court. Sometimes, countries require a period of residence by one or both adoptive parents. In these cases, prospective adoptive parents may find it necessary to spend an extended period in the foreign country awaiting the completion of the foreign adoption documents. Additionally, several countries require a post-adoption follow-up conducted by the adoption agency or the foreign country’s consul in the United States.
When the foreign adoption (or guardianship process in those countries that allow guardianship) is completed, the adoptive parent(s) can apply for an immigrant visa (IR-3 for a child adopted abroad or IR-4 for a child to be adopted in the United States) at the appropriate U.S. consular office abroad. In addition to the notification of the approved I-600 or I-600A petition from the USCIS, the consular officer also requires specific documentation to conduct a visa interview and to approve visa issuance. Some of these requirements are discussed below. However, we strongly suggest that adoptive parents contact the consular section conducting the visa interview prior to the actual scheduling of the interview. Remember, a visa is not permission to enter the United States. Final authority to enter the U.S. rests with the USCIS at the port of entry.
Meeting with the consular officer prior to the interview allows parents to obtain a list of the visa requirements and necessary forms and provides an opportunity to discuss any questions or concerns. In addition, if time permits, an early meeting may allow the consular officer to see the child for whom the visa is necessary. “Visual inspection” of the child is a requirement. It may be more convenient for all parties involved for the prospective adoptive parents not to be distracted with the child(ren) during the final visa interview. Some consular sections schedule special times to handle orphan petitions, facilitating the workflow and ensuring availability of consular staff and facilities for the adoptive parents and children.
Another visa requirement is the medical examination of the child by a designated physician. The U.S. embassy or consulate must approve the physician conducting the examination. The medical examination focuses primarily on detecting certain serious contagious diseases or disabilities that may be a basis for visa ineligibility. If the child is found to have any of these illnesses or disabilities, the child may still be issued a visa after the illness has been treated and is no longer contagious, or after a waiver of the visa eligibility is approved by the USCIS. If the physician or the consular official notes that the child has a serious disease or disability, the parents will be notified and asked if they wish to proceed with the child’s immigration. Prospective adoptive parents should not rely on this medical examination to detect all possible disabilities or illnesses. You may wish to arrange an additional private medical examination if there are concerns about the child’s health. The fee for an immigrant visa is $260 for the application and $65 for the visa, which must be paid either in local currency or U.S. dollars in cash, money order, cashier’s check or certified check. Neither personal checks nor credit cards are accepted.
The Visa Interview
The consular section will schedule the final visa interview once all the required documents have been provided and the file is complete.
This documentation includes:
- notification by the USCIS of the I-600 or I-600A approval
- final adoption decree or proof of custody from the foreign government
- the child’s birth certificate
- the child’s passport (from the country of the child’s nationality)
- the completed and signed medical examination report
- necessary photographs of the child
- the visa application (Form OF 230)
- completed I-600 petition (if it was not previously approved by USCIS)
Although the final visa interview appears to involve a single action which may be completed quickly, the consular officer must perform several different steps required by law and regulation. The officer must review the I-600 petition, verify the child’s status as an orphan, establish that the prospective parent(s) have legal custody, survey the child’s medical condition and confirm that the child has the required travel documentation.
Questions concerning legal custody or proper documentation for the child must be resolved in accordance with the law of the country of the child’s nationality or residence. Since requirements vary from country to country, the consular section can be helpful in explaining requirements in their local area. Nevertheless, the adoptive parent(s) or the adoption agent is responsible for meeting these requirements. As explained earlier, the child’s ability to qualify for an immigrant visa as an orphan is determined by U.S. law. An adoption by a court decree or comparable order by a competent authority does not automatically qualify a child for an immigrant visa for entry into the United States.
The Orphan Definition
The consular officer must verify 1) the identity of the child and 2) the child’s status as an “orphan” as defined by the INA. Webster’s Dictionary defines an orphan as “a child whose parents are dead” and a child who meets that definition will indeed be considered an orphan according to U.S. immigration law. The INA, however, also defines an orphan as a child who has no parents due to several other circumstances. Prospective adoptive parents should be aware that U.S. law, and not a foreign court, determines if a particular child qualifies for an orphan visa. As a rule, most children who are in orphanages will qualify as “orphans” whereas children whose parents legally relinquished them to an adoption agency or adoptive parent will not. If there are doubts about a particular child’s eligibility as an orphan, the consular officer cannot approve the petition and must forward the case to USCIS.
Filing a Petition
The adoptive parents should file the I-600 Petition to Classify an Orphan as an Immediate Relative with the USCIS office having jurisdiction over their place of residence. If the adopting parent(s) have submitted an I-600A Application for Advance Processing to the USCIS and the approval notice has been forwarded to the U.S. Embassy or Consulate in the child’s home country, the parent(s) may file the I-600 in person at that Embassy or Consulate. If there is no USCIS office in that country, a consular officer has the authority to approve the I-600, relying upon the approved I-600A as demonstration of the suitability of the prospective adoptive parent(s) and their compliance with any applicable state pre-adoption requirements.
Adopted or To-Be-Adopted
U.S. law distinguishes between orphans adopted overseas and orphans coming to the United States for adoption. An orphan fully adopted overseas may receive an IR-3 visa. To qualify for an IR-3, the child must also have been seen by both parents prior to or during the adoption proceedings. An orphan who has not been fully adopted, or whose adoptive parents did not see him/her prior to the adoption’s finalization, may receive an IR-4 visa. Any child who enters the U.S. on an IR-4 immigrant visa must be re-adopted after he/she enters the United States, in accordance with applicable laws of the state in which the family resides. Thus, before an IR-4 visa can be issued, the consular officer must be sure that pre-adoption requirements by the child’s future state of residence have been met. Adoptive parent(s) should determine in advance the requirements of their own particular state of residence. This information is available through the state social services agency or many adoption practitioners.
The Medical Examination
Every immigrant visa applicant must undergo a physical examination by a physician who has been certified by the U.S. Government (the Centers for Disease Control) for that purpose. The U.S. Embassy or Consulate can provide a list of such physicians within the foreign country. The medical examination focuses primarily on detecting certain serious infectious or contagious diseases or medical disabilities that may be a basis for visa ineligibility. If the child is found to have any of these illnesses or disabilities, the child may still be issued a visa after the illness has been successfully treated, or after a waiver of the visa eligibility is approved by the USCIS. If the physician or the consular official notes that the child has a serious disease or disability, the parents will be notified and asked if they wish to proceed with the child’s immigration. Prospective adoptive parents should not rely on this medical examination to detect all possible medical conditions and may wish to arrange an additional private medical examination if they have concerns about the child’s health.
While the physician conducts the medical examination, the consular officer must complete the I-604 Report on Overseas Orphan Investigation. This report consists of a review of the facts and documents to verify that the child qualifies as an orphan. In addition, the consular officer ensures that the adoptive parents are aware of any medical problems that the medical examination may have uncovered. Only when this report is completed can the consular officer finally approve the I-600 petition and/or immigrant visa.
Cases Referred to USCIS
The authority to approve petitions rests with USCIS. This authority has been delegated to consular officers only in limited circumstances and then only when the case is “clearly approvable.” Occasionally, the I-604 Report does not confirm that the child is an orphan as defined by the INA. In such a case, the consular officer will provide the adoptive parents or their agent with an opportunity to submit additional information. If the outstanding questions can be answered, the case can be completed. If an issue cannot be resolved, however, the consular officer cannot approve the petition and must refer the petition to the appropriate USCIS office for adjudication.
When a petition has been referred to USCIS, questions about the status of the case must be addressed to the appropriate office of that agency. Since different USCIS offices can have jurisdiction, it is important to understand to which USCIS office the petition has been referred. Several scenarios may occur:
1) USCIS reviews the documentation and approves (or re-affirms) the petition. The USCIS will then notify the Embassy or Consulate and the consular officer will continue processing of the visa application.
2) USCIS reviews the documents and requests that the consular officer conduct a field investigation to ensure that no fraud or illegal activity was involved. The embassy or consulate conducts the investigation and reports its findings to the USCIS for a final decision.
3) USCIS can deny the petition. If USCIS denies the petition, the adoptive parents can appeal the denial to the USCIS Associate Commissioner for Examinations, Administrative Appeals Office for a legal ruling. Alternatively, adoptive parents can discuss other options with the USCIS office having jurisdiction over their case.
In rare and exceptional circumstances, children deemed ineligible for admission to the United States may qualify for “humanitarian parole” and gain entry. Only USCIS has the authority to grant humanitarian parole.
International adoptions have become a lucrative business because of the huge demand for adoptable children. The combination of people motivated by personal gain and parents desperate to adopt a child under any circumstances, creates the potential for fraudulent adoptions. Take care to avoid these adoption scams.
You can avoid the heartache of losing a potentially adoptable child by using only reputable agencies, attorneys, and facilitators. If the answers to your questions appear to be contradictory, vague, or unrealistic, be wary. The consular section in the U.S. Embassy or Consulate in the country of planned adoption can provide accurate information concerning local legal practices. If you have problems with agencies or intermediaries in the United States, you should report these concerns immediately to the appropriate state authorities, i.e., your state social services office, District Attorney, Better Business Bureau, or state Attorney General’s office. The USCIS should be notified of these concerns as well.
The lack of state regulatory requirements for international adoption agencies in some states has permitted some individuals, inexperienced in the area of foreign adoptions, to set up businesses. Some prospective adoptive parents are charged exorbitant fees. Two common abuses are 1) knowingly offering a supposedly healthy child for adoption who is later found to be seriously ill, and 2) obtaining prepayment for adoption of a nonexistent or ineligible child. In some countries, it is advisable to have the child examined by a physician before completing adoption procedures. This examination is separate from the routine medical examination required after completion of the adoption for visa purposes. Some states have moved to revoke licenses or prosecute the individuals connected with these fraudulent activities after receiving complaints. However, it should be noted that most adoption practitioners in the United States are legitimate professionals with experience in domestic and international adoptions. In the international area, the Department of State consistently takes a strong stand against fraudulent adoption procedures. This policy flows from our general obligation to respect host country laws, to discourage any illegal activities and to avoid the possibility that a country may prohibit international adoptions entirely. The Department of State has unfailingly expressed its support for measures taken by foreign states to reduce adoption abuses.
In most cases, the formal adoption of a child in a foreign court is legally acceptable in the United States. A U.S. state court, however, is not required to automatically recognize a foreign adoption decree. This does not suggest that the United States does not respect foreign procedures or recognize the authority of the foreign country in relation to the child. Nonetheless, the status of the involved child may be subject to challenge in state court unless an adoption decree is entered in a state in the United States. Many adoption practitioners recommend that the child adopted abroad be re-adopted in a court of his/her state of residence in the United States as a precautionary measure. Following a re-adoption in the state court, parents can request that a state birth certificate be issued. This should be recognized in all other U.S. states. In some instances, re-adoption of the child in the United States is required. This often occurs if the adoptive parent (or only one of a married couple) did not see the child prior to or during the adoption proceedings abroad. The child must be re-adopted in the U.S. in such circumstances, even if a full final adoption decree has been issued in the foreign country.
How is this possible?
On February 27, 2001, the Child Citizenship Act of 2000 became effective. The aim of this law, which, among other things, amends Section 320 of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA), is to facilitate the automatic acquisition of U.S. citizenship for both biological and adopted children of U.S. citizens who are born abroad and who do not acquire U.S. citizenship at birth.
What are the requirements?
The following are the Act’s requirements:
- At least one parent of the child must be a U.S. citizen, either by birth or naturalization.
- The child must be under the age of 18.
- In the case of an adopted child, the adoption must be final.
Q: Will a child who has met the requirements of the Child Citizenship Act of 2000 need to apply for a passport from the State Department or a Certificate of Citizenship from the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services in the Department of Homeland Security (USCIS) in order to become a citizen?
A: No. As soon as the law’s requirements have been met, the child acquires U.S. citizenship automatically without the need to apply for either a passport or a Certificate of Citizenship.
Q: What documents are required to obtain a passport for a child who became a U.S. citizen under the Child Citizenship Act of 2000?
A: (1) Evidence of the child’s relationship to a U.S. citizen parent (a certified copy of the final adoption decree); (2) the child’s foreign passport with USCIS’s I-551 stamp or the child’s resident alien card; and (3) the parent’s valid identification.
Q: How does a child demonstrate adoption in order to obtain a passport and/or Certificate of Citizenship?
A: By presenting a certified copy of a final adoption decree.
Q: What if I live abroad and have no address in the United States? Can my adopted child become a U.S. citizen?
A: Yes. Adoptive parents who wish to naturalize their children but who will continue to reside abroad may enter their adoptive children with a B-2 visa and complete the expeditious naturalization process. This requires that they coordinate with the USCIS office which has jurisdiction over their case and which will set an appointment for the procedure. To obtain a B-2 visa, adoptive parents must demonstrate that the child qualifies either under the two-year physical/legal custody rule or present an approved I-600. When applying for a nonimmigrant visa, the adoptive parents must also prove that they have made all the necessary arrangements with the USCIS office and that they intend to depart the U.S. to continue their residence abroad. Adoptive parents can show proof of arrangements made with the USCIS by presenting an USCIS General Call-in Letter (Form G-56). Note that parents who qualify under the two-year legal/physical custody rule and who will continue to reside abroad can avoid the cost and paperwork of both the I-130 and the I-600 by using this procedure. Expeditious naturalization in all cases must be complete before the child turns 18.
Q: Where do I obtain information on adopting abroad?
A: The Office of Children’s Issues maintains a file of country-specific adoption information sheets. In addition, adoption agencies, parent support groups, adoption magazines and newsletters can provide a wealth of information. Talking with families who have adopted children and specialists in adoption issues can be a helpful measure to prepare for the issues involved with an international adoption.
Q: How can I check the credentials of an adoption provider?
A: There are several ways to investigate the credentials of an adoption provider before engaging its services. It is helpful to talk with other families or individuals in your adoptive support group who have had prior experience with the agency, attorney or individual you are planning to select. The Better Business Bureau may be able to advise you if there has been a negative report about a business but would not necessarily have information concerning individuals claiming to be adoption experts. The adoption section of the state social services office and the state Attorney General’s office can usually be of assistance. Finally, ask for references and check them thoroughly.
Q: How should I prepare to travel abroad?
A: What you should take when traveling abroad will depend on the country (climate and season), the length of your stay, and the particulars of the child you will adopt (age, health, etc.). In countries with limited resources, it is advisable to bring supplies from the United States. In most countries, disposable diapers and disposable bottles are unavailable or very expensive. A good travel agent should be able to provide information about the availability of products and services in a country. Alternatively, you might request information from the foreign embassy or consulate of the country to which you plan to travel. The foreign country’s holidays can also affect court dates, office workdays, and the country’s embassy or consulate can also provide you with this information.
Q: Is it safe to travel to… ?
A: The U.S. Department of State, Office of American Citizens Services and Crisis Management (ACS) issues Public Announcements and Travel Warnings for particular countries and Consular Information Sheets for all countries. (See Appendix C, Section I) For assistance from ACS, call 202-647-5225. You may also wish to register with the U.S. embassy or consulate in the foreign country where you plan to adopt.
Q: How should I approach the adoption process abroad?
A: Adoption can be an emotionally stressful process, particularly while facing the additional challenges of adjusting to another culture. Gathering information on the culture of the country prior to travel and even setting aside time for sightseeing can reduce stress and make the experience more positive. It will also provide invaluable information and experiences to relate to your child in later years. If you become ill, the U.S. embassy or consulate can provide you with a list of local attorneys and hospitals to assist if necessary.
Q: How should I obtain multiple copies of foreign documents?
A: Before you depart the country with your child, you should be sure to obtain several duplicate certified/authenticated copies of your child’s foreign birth certificate, adoption decree and any other relevant documents. Often these documents are necessary at home, and it can be difficult to obtain copies from the foreign government later.
Q: How can I obtain information concerning attorneys, interpreters or translators in a foreign country?
A: U.S. embassies and consulates maintain lists of English-speaking foreign attorneys and have information about interpreters and translators and can refer you to other sources. Copies of lists of attorneys are also available from the U.S. Department of State’s Office of American Citizens Services and Crisis Management or on the web at: adopt.html.
The information provided below is designed to provide a sampling of the many organizations involved in adoption. The agencies listed are not placement agencies. The Department of State does not endorse or recommend any particular organization.
National Adoption Organizations and Parent Support Groups
*National Adoption Information Clearinghouse (NAIC)
P.O. Box 1182
Washington, DC 20013-1182
Internet address: http://www.calib.com/naic
Internet e-mail: [email protected]
*This organization was established by Congress to provide the general public with easily accessible information on all aspects of adoption. NAIC publishes a variety of fact sheets on adoption issues, directories of adoption-related services, and a catalog of audiovisual materials on adoptions. NAIC does not place children for adoption or provide counseling. It does, however, make referrals for such services.
Adoptive Families Magazine
P.O. Box 5159
Brentwood, TN 37024
Internet address: http://www.adoptivefamiliesmagazine.com
Committee for Single Adoptive Parents, Inc.
P.O. Box 15084
Chevy Chase, MD 20825
FACE (Families Adopting Children Everywhere) Face Inc.
P.O. Box 28058
Baltimore, MD 21239
Tel: 410-488-2656 (Help-line)
Internet address: http://www.face2000.org
International Concerns Committee for Children
911 Cypress Drive
Boulder, CO 80303
Internet address: http://www.iccadopt.org
Joint Council on International Children’s Services
1320 19th St., NW, Suite 200
Washington, DC 20036
Internet address: http://www.jcics.org
*This organization can provide a list of parent support groups in a specific region of the United States.
National Council for Adoption
225 N. Washington Street
Alexandria, VA 22314
Internet address: http://www.adoptioncouncil.org
Adoptive Families (formerly OURS magazine); 1-800-372-3300; Complimentary copy available by calling the above number.
ODS News; Open Door Society of Massachusetts; 1-800-93A-DOPT.
Single Parents With Adopted Kids; 4108 Washington Rd. 101; Kenosha, WI 53144.
Adamec, Christine and Pierce, William L. The Encyclopedia of Adoption. Facts on File, Inc.: June 1991.
Adamec, Christine. There Are Babies To Adopt. Windsor Publishing Corporation: 1991.
Alexander-Roberts, Colleen. The Essential Adoption Handbook. Taylor Publishing Co.: 1993.
Erichsen, Heino and Nelson-Erichsen, Jean. How To Adopt Internationally: A Guide for Agency-Directed & Independent Adoption. Los Ninos International Adoption & Information Center: 1993.
Gilman, Lois. The Adoption Resource Book: All the Things You Need to Know & Ought to Know about Creating an Adoptive Family. Harper Collins Publishers, Inc.: 1987.
Independent Adoption Manual. Advocate Press: June 1993.
Knoll, Jean and Murphy, Mary-Kate. International Adoption: Sensitive Advice for Prospective Parents. Chicago Review Press: 1994.
Hicks, Randall B. ADOPTING IN AMERICA: How to Adopt Within One Year (revised 1996-97 edition). Word-Slinger Press: 1995.
Hicks, Randall B. Adoption Stories for Young Children. WordSlinger Press: 1995.
Wirth, Eileen and Worden, Joan. How to Adopt a Child from Another Country. Abingdon Press: 1993.
Adoption of Older Children
Jewett, Claudia. Adopting the Older Child. Harvard Common Press: 1978.
Kadushin, Alfred. Adopting Older Children. Columbia University Press: 1970.
Mansfield, Gianforte and Waldmann. Don’t Touch My Heart—Healing the Pain of an Unattached Child. Pinon Press: 1994.
Bloom, Suzanne. A Family for Jamie: An Adoption Story. Crown Books for Young Readers: 1991.
Krementz, Jill. How It Feels to Be Adopted. Alfred A. Knopf, Inc.: 1988.
Cultural and Racial Differences
Erichsen, Heino R. and Nelson, Erichsen, Jean. Butterflies in the Wind: Spanish-Indian Children with White Parents. Los Ninos International Adoption & Information Center: 1992.
Single Parent Adoption
Marindin, Hope, ed. Handbook for Single Adoptive Parents. Committee for Single Adoptive Parents: 1992.
Parenting and Adjustment
Bartels-Rabb, Lisa and Van Gulden, Holly. Real Parents, Real Children: Parenting The Adopted Child. Crossroad Publishing Co.: 1993.
Brodzinsky, David; Schechter, Marshall; and Henig, Robin. Being Adopted: The Lifelong Search for Self. Doubleday & Company, Inc.: 1993.
Register, Cheri. Are Those Kids Yours?: American Families with Children Adopted from Other Countries. Free Press: 1990.
Internet: General information on international adoption and specific information on adoption in a number of foreign countries and on foreign travel is also available via Internet at adopt.html.
Mail In Requests: All of the flyers available on the automated fax service are also available in printed form. The order form, section two of Appendix C, can be used to obtain these flyers. Simply circle the flyer(s) that you wish and send the order form to:
Office of Children’s Issues
U.S. Department of State
2201 C Street, NW
Washington, DC 20520-2818
Fax: (202) 312-9743
Please enclose a large stamped, self-addressed envelope.
The adoption agency, attorney, U.S. embassy, USCIS or the state may require some or all of the following items.
- Birth Certificate
- Child Abuse Clearance
- Divorce/Death Certificate
- Financial Statement
- Foreign Adoption/Custody Decree
- Foreign Birth Certificate for the Child
- Foreign Passport for the Child
- Home Study
- Letters of Recommendation
- “Orphan” Status Document
- Photographs of the Family
- Photographs of the Child
- Physician’s Report
- Physician’s Report of the Child
- Police Certificate
- Power of Attorney
- Verification of Employment
- 1040–Front Two Pages
Some countries require legalization of documents. This process is called authentication. Generally, U.S. civil records, such as birth, death, and marriage certificates must bear the seal of the issuing office, state capitol, then by the U.S. Department of State Authentication’s Office. The U.S. Department of State Authentication’s Office is located at 518 23rd Street, NW, State Annex 1, Washington, DC 20520, Tel: 202-647-5002.
Walk-in service is available 7:30 a.m. to 11 a.m., Monday-Friday, except holidays. The Department charges $5.00 per document for this service, payable in the form of a check drawn on a U.S. bank or money order made payable to the U.S. Department of State.
Q. If my child is born abroad, is the child a U.S. Citizen?
A. Your child may be a U.S. Citizen if you meet the requirements of the immigration and nationality act to transmit citizenship.
Q. What are those requirements?
A. If you and your spouse are both U.S. Citizens, and one of you resided in the United States or an outlying possession prior to the child’s birth, and the child was born in wedlock, your child born abroad acquires U.S. Citizenship under section 301(c) if your spouse is an alien, you must have lived in the United States for a specific period of time before the child was born to transmit citizenship. For children born on or after November 14, 1986, the U.S. Citizen parent must have lived in the United States or an outlying possession for 5 years, 2 after the age of 14, prior to the birth of the child. See our information regarding acquisition of U.S. Citizenship and physical presence requirements.
Q. What if I haven’t lived in the United States for the required period of time, how can my child become a U.S. Citizen?
A. Section 322 of the immigration and nationality technical correction act of 1994 became effective April 1, 1995. It enables you to apply for the expeditious naturalization of your child.
Q. How does this work?
There are two options, and the one you choose may depend on where you are residing.
1. If you and your child are living in the United States and the child entered the United States with a U.S. Immigrant visa as a permanent resident, apply at the USCIS district office with jurisdiction over your place of residence in the United States. To find out where those offices are located, contact the USCIS information service line at 1-800-755-0777 or see the USCIS website for a list of USCIS field offices.
2. If you and the child are residing abroad, the child may be eligible for expeditious naturalization if your parent, the child’s U.S. Citizen grandparent, was physically present in the United States for a period totaling 5 years, 2 after the age of 14. The grandparent can be living or deceased at the time of the application. If deceased, the grandparent must have been a citizen prior to the child’s birth and at the time of the grandparent’s death.
Q. I will be living abroad with my family for some time. How do I apply for expeditious naturalization for my child using the “grandparent” procedure?
A. Complete and file USCIS forms n-600 - application for certificate of citizenship and n-600/n-643 supplement a -application for transmission of citizenship through a grandparent. Send form n-600, n-600/n-643 supplement a, supporting documents and the required fee to one of the 51 USCIS field offices in the United States. For information about how to obtain USCIS forms click here or call 1-800-870-3676.
USCIS will determine whether your child is eligible and approve the application, then forward you a letter and naturalization appointment date. You present the USCIS approval and appointment letter to the U.S. Embassy or consulate. The U.S. Embassy or consulate will issue the child a b-2 visa. This procedure allows parents to make a one stop visit to the United States for the purposes of naturalizing their child as a U.S. Citizen.
Q. Can I use my parents’ (the child’s U.S. Citizen grandparents’) physical presence in the United States to just apply for a U.S. Passport and foreign service report of birth of the U.S. Citizen abroad and avoid the visa and naturalization process?
A. No. The technical correction act of 1994 did not amend section 301(g) of the immigration and nationality act regarding acquisition of U.S. Citizenship of children born abroad. Section 322 created a procedure for expeditious naturalization of an alien child born to a U.S. Citizen parent.
Q. Are there any time limits for the application?
For the naturalization benefit to be granted, the application must be filed, adjudicated and approved by USCIS, with the oath of allegiance administered before the child’s 18th birthday.
Q. How can I find out more about this process?
If you have any questions on the application process or need additional application forms, please contact the branch chief, customer service, USCIS headquarters benefits, 425 I Street N.W., room 3214, Washington, D.C. 20536; tel: (202) 307-3587 or see the USCIS website at http://www.uscis.gov/graphics/index.htm.
How Can Adopted Children Come to the United States?
Prospective adopting parents are strongly encouraged to consult the Department of Homeland Security’s Citizenship and Immigration Services (DHS/CIS) publication M-249, The Immigration of Adopted and Prospective Adopting Children, as well as the Department of State publication, International Adoptions. The CIS publication is available at the U.S. CIS Web site at http://uscis.gov. The Department of State publication International Adoptions can be found on the Bureau of Consular Affairs Web site, http://travel.state.gov, under “International Adoptions.”
A child adopted by a U.S. citizen and who will reside in the US must obtain an immigrant visa before he or she can enter the U.S. Issuance of visas is governed by the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA), which currently provides for two categories of adopted children to immigrate to the United States. The first category, as provided in INA 101(b)(1)(E), allows a child adopted by an American citizen before they reached the age of 16 who has already resided with the adoptive parent in their legal custody for two years, to immigrate to the United States.
The second category, as provided in INA 101(b)(1)(F), allows an “orphan,” as defined by U.S. law and regulations, to immigrate. Since most parents adopting overseas do not meet the custody and residence requirements of 101(b)(1)(E), the focus of this information sheet is on 101(b)(1)(F) orphans. Parents who believe that their situation may fall into the first category should contact their nearest CIS office or Embassy or Consulate for additional information. The Department of State strongly advises U.S. citizens to verify that a particular child will fit into one of these two categories per U.S. immigration law and regulations before proceeding with an adoption. A consular officer cannot issue a visa to an adopted child if he or she does not meet the legal definitions of 101(b)(1)(E) or 101(b)(1)(F).
What is an Orphan?
If an adopted child has not resided with and been in the legal custody of the adopting parent for at least two years (or if the child has not yet even been adopted) the child must qualify as an orphan under section 101(b)(1)(F) of the U.S. Immigration and Nationality Act in order to apply for an immigrant visa. The main requirements of this section are as follows:
- The child must be under the age of 16* at the time an I-600 Petition is filed with the CIS or a consular officer on his or her behalf;
- The child meets the U.S. immigration law definition of “orphan” because:
• The child has no parents due to the death or disappearance of, abandonment or desertion by, or separation from or loss of both parents; or
• The sole or surviving parent is incapable of providing proper care and has, in writing, irrevocably released the child for emigration and adoption**;
- The adopting parents must have completed a full and final adoption of the child or must have legal custody of the child for purposes of emigration and adoption in the U.S.; and
- The child has been or will be adopted by a married U.S. citizen and spouse jointly, or by an unmarried U.S. citizen at least 25 years of age, with the intent of forming a bona fide parent/child relationship.
*A child adopted at age 16 or 17 will also qualify, provided he or she is a natural sibling of a child adopted, or who will be adopted, under the age of 16 by the same adopting parents.
**Prospective adopting parents should note that the terms “disappearance,” “abandonment,” “desertion,” “separation,” “loss,” and “sole” and “surviving” parent all have specific legal meanings, as defined in section 204.3(b) of Title 8 of the U.S. Code of Federal Regulations. Whether a child qualifies as an orphan is determined by reference to the U.S. regulatory definitions and not by any local (foreign) law designations that may be used to identify a child as orphaned. In some countries it is possible to adopt a child who is not an “orphan” as defined by U.S. immigration law.
Parents are urged to seek advice about the possibility that an adopted child would not be considered an orphan and therefore would not be able to accompany his or her adopting parents to the United States. Immigration attorneys, reputable adoption agencies involved in international adoption, DHS/CIS and the Department of State officials all have information that will assist you in addressing this serious concern.
U.S. Immigration Procedures for Orphans
Adjudicating an orphan case requires the following steps:
- Adopting parents establish their suitability for an international adoption, usually through an approved I-600A filed with CIS;
- Adopting parents establish that a particular child may be classified as an orphan, as demonstrated by an approved I-600 petition and confirmed through a review of the orphan determination (I-604) – paperwork may be completed by a CIS or consular officer at a U.S. Embassy or Consulate overseas;
- A visa application is filed on behalf of the child, providing all necessary documentation for production of the visa and demonstrating that no legal impediments to visa issuance apply – a consular officer will review the application at a U.S. Embassy or Consulate overseas;
- If approvable, the visa is issued, and the child travels to the U.S. and obtains citizenship, either upon entry or upon completion of a full and final adoption in the U.S.
Additional details on this process are provided below.
Step 1 - Demonstrating eligibility/suitability for an international adoption (I-600A): In order to bring an orphan to the U.S. with an immigrant visa, adopting parents must demonstrate to CIS that they can and will provide proper care to the child if admitted to the United States. The I-600A application allows adopting parents to demonstrate that they are financially, logistically and otherwise prepared to adopt a child internationally. The I-600A also identifies any U.S. state requirements that must be met prior to or after the adoption.
Adopting parents are often encouraged to begin the overseas adoption process early by filing the I-600A before identifying a particular child to adopt. Parents who already have identified or even adopted a child may demonstrate their suitability to adopt by filing the same documentation with the I-600 petition (described below), but parents choosing this route should be aware that it may take longer and that they must file such I-600 petitions with a CIS office (not the consular officer at a U.S. Embassy or Consulate.) If used, the I-600A Application for Advance Processing of Orphan Petition should be filed with the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (CIS) office having jurisdiction over the adopting parents’ place of residence. The following documents must be submitted with the I-600A:
- Completed and signed I-600A (Application for Advance Processing of Orphan Petition);
- Proof of the prospective petitioner’s United States citizenship;
- Proof of the marriage of the prospective petitioner and spouse, if applicable;
- Proof of termination of any prior marriages of the prospective petitioner and spouse or unmarried prospective petitioner, if applicable;
- A “home study” completed by the appropriate State organization with a favorable recommendation (CIS regulations include very specific instructions on the issues to be addressed in the home study, authorized providers of home studies, and the recommendations regarding suitability - for additional information see the CIS website, or 8 CFR 204.3(e).); and
- Filing fee of $525.00.
In addition, the petitioner, spouse (if married) and each additional adult member of the adopting parent(s)’ household must also be fingerprinted as part of the I-600A application. For adopting parents in the United States, CIS will provide information once the I-600A is filed on being fingerprinted at local CIS offices. For adopting parents residing overseas, adopting parents should contact the U.S. Embassy or Consulate with jurisdiction over their place of residence to schedule fingerprinting prior to submitting the I-600A.
At the time they file the I-600A, the petitioner should request that CIS notify the U.S. Embassy in the country where they plan to process the case as soon as the I-600A is approved.
CIS approval notices of the I-600A often identify the type of child the prospective parents are authorized to adopt overseas. Approved I-600As are valid for 18 months. Adopting parents must file an I-600 petition for a child fitting the I-600A criteria (if any) during this validity period; if the I-600A approval has expired, parents will need to refile the I-600A and obtain approval prior to filing the I-600. Adopting parents should also note that fingerprint clearances obtained during the I-600A process are only valid for 15 months. If the I-600 is not filed and approved during this fingerprint validity period, adopting parents should consult with the office where their fingerprints were originally taken for instructions on obtaining updated fingerprint clearances, prior to any planned travel overseas. If parents arrive overseas intending to file the I-600 petition and their fingerprint clearances are not valid, parents will be charged an additional fee for re-fingerprinting and will be required to wait several days for fingerprint clearances before their I-600 can be approved.
Step 2 –Demonstrating that a child is an orphan (I-600): Adopting parents file the I-600 petition to document a specific child’s ability to match the “orphan” classification in INA 101(b)(1)(F). Depending on the circumstances of the case, the I-600 may be filed with the CIS office having jurisdiction over the parents’ place of residence, or with a DHS or consular officer overseas:
- Adopting parents currently residing overseas should file the I-600 with the overseas DHS or consular officer at the Embassy or Consulate with jurisdiction over their residence (see notes in next point on conditions for filing with a consular officer).
- Adopting parents residing in the U.S. may file the I-600 with the CIS office with jurisdiction over their place of residence, or may contact the Embassy or Consulate in the country in question for information on filing the I-600 overseas. Parents will be permitted to file the I-600s with DHS officers at U.S. Embassies or Consulates where Department of Homeland Security immigration officials are assigned. At Embassies and Consulates without DHS immigration officials, parents may generally file the I-600 only if notice of I-600A has previously been sent to the Embassy or Consulate, if the U.S. citizen petitioner is physically present before the consular officer, and if the petitioner does not already have an I-600 petition pending somewhere else for the same child. Parents are strongly encouraged to verify I-600 filing procedures at the U.S. Embassy or Consulate overseas prior to travel to the country in question.
- Parents may wish to consult with adoption agencies, Embassies or Consulates overseas, and/or other adopting parents to determine whether they wish to file the I-600 overseas or in the United States. Processing times for I-600 petitions vary depending on where they are filed. Intent to travel to the child’s country may also affect U.S. resident parents’ decision on where to file the I-600.
Note that parents who have adopted abroad without first demonstrating suitability to adopt by filing an I-600A must file the I-600 petition (and accompanying suitability documents identified in Step 1) with the appropriate DHS/CIS office, not with a consular officer. Consular officers can only accept I-600 petitions at a U.S. Embassy or Consulate abroad when they have been notified that an I-600A for a family has already been approved.
I-600 petitions should only be filed for children who fit the criteria, if any, identified in the parents’ I-600A approval (e.g. if adoptive parents have been approved to adopt one child, they should not file I-600s for two children).
The following documentation must be presented in order for an I-600 petition to be approved:
- Form I-600, Petition to Classify Orphan as an Immediate Relative;
- Child’s birth certificate;
- A final decree of adoption, if the orphan has been adopted abroad, or proof of legal custody for purposes of emigration and adoption;
- Proof of “orphan” status per definition above (ex. evidence of abandonment, written relinquishment, death certificates, etc. depending on the circumstances);
- Proof that the pre-adoption requirements, if any, of the state of the orphan’s proposed residence have been met, if the orphan is to be adopted in the United States;
- Proof that adopting parents have seen the child prior to or during adoption proceedings.
If an I-600A has already been approved, the adopting parent may file an I-600 for one child without any additional fee. However, if parents are adopting two or more biologically unrelated children, there will be a $525.00 fee for the second child (this fee is waived for siblings). Parents should note that documentary requirements for filing the I-600 petition are somewhat different, depending on whether the petition is filed with DHS/CIS or the consular officer. DHS/CIS officers may generally initially accept an I-600 with only the child’s birth certificate, and, if not previously provided with the I-600A, proof of marriage of the petitioner (if applicable). DHS/CIS also permits a petitioner to submit copies of some documents in lieu of originals. I-600 petitions filed with consular officers, however, must have all required documentation at the time of filing, and such documentation must be submitted as originals.
As part of the DHS/CIS or consular officer’s decision to approve an I-600 and immigrant visa, they will carefully review information about the orphan and his or her personal situation. This review is documented by the DHS/CIS or consular officer on an I-604 Orphan Investigation form. To protect adopting parents, the child, and biological parents, any indication or allegation of fraud, child buying or other inappropriate practices will be investigated as part of the I-604 review (or at any time that such concerns arise prior to visa issuance). While the I-604 review for most cases will consist of an analysis of available documents, some cases will require additional interviews, documentation or a field investigation, all of which may result in delayed processing on the case.
Step 3 – Visa application: Once the I-600 petition for a particular orphan has been approved, the U.S. Embassy or Consulate’s consular section will review the child’s application for a visa. The purpose of this review is to ensure that all documentation required to produce the visa and demonstrate orphan status is present, and to ensure that there are no legal impediments to visa issuance. The U.S.
Embassy or Consulate can provide specific information on specific application procedures, but the visa application generally includes:
1. Proof of an approved I-600 petition and evidence of orphan status;
2. Completed Immigrant Visa application, form DS-230, Parts I and II, signed by the parent or guardian on behalf of the child in the presence of a consular officer. Information on the form should pertain to the child, not the adopting parents. These forms can be downloaded from our website at http://www.travel.state.gov;
3. Child’s birth certificate and passport (or other valid travel document);
4. Evidence of adoption or legal custody for purposes of emigration and adoption, as well as evidence of whether the adopting parents saw the child prior to or during adoption proceedings (if applicable);
5. Three (3) frontal photographs of the child;
6. Medical exams from the Embassy’s panel physician (please note that this exam is largely to ensure that children with communicable diseases do not enter the U.S.; parents should consult with other professionals for complete physical or mental evaluations of the orphan’s health). If significant health problems are uncovered, parents may be asked to sign an affidavit acknowledging their desire to continue with the case given the medical condition of the child. In addition, in some cases parents may be requested to sign an affidavit regarding their intent to obtain necessary vaccinations for the child upon entry to the United States;
7. For children not yet adopted, not seen by both adopting parents, or who will reside in states requiring re-adoption, the I-864 Affidavit of Support with accompanying documentation (job letter, tax returns, etc.); for children with a full and final adoption overseas where both adopting parents see the child prior to or during the adoption and where no state re-adoption requirements must be met, the I-864 is not required. Parents may wish to submit additional financial information on their ability to support the child, but will generally not be required to do so;
8. (Rare) For children over the age of 16 at the time the visa application (not the I-600A or I-600) is submitted, police, military or prison records may be required – consult with the Embassy or Consulate regarding such children.
If not previously paid, an immigrant visa processing fee of $335.00 (separate from I-600A or I-600 fees) must be paid at the time of visa application.
Parents should consult with the Embassy or Consulate regarding requirements that the child be present at the time of visa application – in many cases, the consular officer will need to see the child prior to approval of the visa. Consular officers do not generally require that adopting parents be present at the time of visa application, but parents may be required by local government authorities to be present for the adoption, to escort the child out of the country, or to provide documentation to escorts that will bring the child to the United States. Please note that some documents submitted to the Embassy must be included in the immigrant visa packet and will not be returned. Therefore, adopting parents should obtain extra originals or certified copies of the adoption decree and the child’s new birth certificate for their personal use in the future, including for application for a U.S. passport and Social Security number.
Step 4 – Visa issued, orphan admitted to the United States: If all the documentation for the orphan is in order and there are no legal bars to visa issuance, the orphan will be provided with an immigrant visa consisting of a packet of supporting documentation and either a cover sheet or visa placed in the child’s passport. Both should be hand-carried with the child (not packed in luggage) when they travel to the U.S. and should be presented to the immigration inspectors at the port of entry. Do not open the envelope of supporting documents.
The immigrant visa is valid for 180 days from the date of issuance, which means that adopting children have 180 days to use the immigrant visa to travel to the United States.
Orphans are issued IR-3 or IR-4 visas. IR-3 visas are for orphans who had a full and final adoption overseas by both adopting parents, when both parents physically saw the child prior to or during local adoption proceedings and where the state where they reside does not require re-adoption in the U.S. IR-4 visas are for orphans whose prospective adopting parents’ have legal custody for purposes of emigration and adoption and who have satisfied any applicable state pre-adoption requirements.
Naturalization: Orphans under the age of 18 and admitted to the U.S. based on a properly issued IR-3 visa automatically acquire U.S. citizenship as of the date of admission to the United States. The CIS Buffalo office reviews IR-3 packets and automatically sends Certificates of Citizenship to eligible children without requiring any additional forms or fees.
Orphans admitted to the U.S. based on a properly issued IR-4 visa become legal permanent residents and will automatically be processed to receive an Alien Registration Card (“green card”). They will automatically acquire U.S. citizenship (assuming they’re under age 18) as of the date of their full and final adoption in the United States. To obtain proof of their citizenship once the adoption is complete, beneficiaries must file the N-600 form and any necessary fees with a CIS office
Additional Information: Specific questions about adoption in a particular country may be addressed to the U.S. Embassy in that country. General questions regarding international adoption may be addressed to the Office of Children’s Issues, U.S. Department of State, CA/OCS/CI, SA-29, 4th Floor, 2201 C Street, NW, Washington, D.C. 20520-2818, toll-free Tel: 1-888-404-4747.
Telephone: For information on international adoption of children and international parental child abduction, call Overseas Citizens Services at 1-888-407-4747. This number is available from 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. Eastern Standard Time, Monday through Friday (except U.S. federal holidays). Callers who are unable to use toll-free numbers, such as those calling from overseas, may obtain information and assistance during these hours by calling 1-317-472-2328.
U.S. Department of State Visa Office—recorded information concerning immigrant visas for adopting children, (202) 663-1225.
DHS Citizenship and Immigration Services—recorded information for requesting immigrant visa application forms, 1-800-870-FORM (3676).
Internet: Adoption Information Flyers: the Consular Affairs web site, at: http://travel.state.gov/ contains international country adoption information flyers and the International Adoptions brochure.
Consular Information Sheets: The State Department has general information about hiring a foreign attorney and authenticating documents that may supplement the country-specific information provided in this flier. In addition, the State Department publishes Consular Information Sheets (CIS) for every country in the world, providing information such as location of the U.S. Embassy, health conditions, political situations, and crime reports.
If the situation in a country poses a specific threat to the safety and security of American citizens that is not addressed in the CIS for that country, the State Department may issue a Public Announcement alerting U.S. citizens to local security situations.
If conditions in a country are sufficiently serious, the State Department may issue a Travel Warning recommending that U.S. citizens avoid traveling to that country. These documents are available on the Internet at http://travel.state.gov or by calling the State Department’s Office of Overseas Citizen Services at 1-888-407-4747 CIS web site—http://uscis.gov/.
CIS District Offices: http://uscis.gov/graphics/fieldoffices/index.htm.
The information contained in this section is intended as an introduction to the basic elements of Islamic family law. It is not intended as a legal reference. It is designed to make clear the basic rights and restrictions resulting from marriages sanctioned by Islamic law between Muslim and non-Muslim partners. For Americans, the most troubling of these restrictions have been:
- the inability of wives to leave an Islamic country without permission of their husbands; the wives″ inability to take their children from these countries without such permission;
- and the fact that fathers have ultimate custody of children.
Questions involving interpretation of specific foreign laws should be addressed to foreign counsel.
In Islam, the act of marriage occurs with the conclusion of the marriage contract. The marriage contract itself is completed by an offer and acceptance, both of which must be made on the same occasion by two qualified parties. If a marriage has been contracted by competent persons in the presence of two witnesses and has been adequately publicized, it is complete and binding. It requires no religious or other rites and ceremonies because in Islamic law formalities have no value insofar as contracts are concerned. Such marriages are conducted only if both parties are willing.
With few exceptions, a Christian or Jew who marries a Muslim and resides in an Islamic country will be subject to provisions of Islamic family law in that country. In these circumstances:
- Any children born to the wife will be considered Muslim. They will usually also be considered citizens of the father’s country.
- The husband’s permission is always needed for the children to leave an Islamic country despite the fact that the children will also have, for example, American citizenship. Foreign immigration authorities can be expected to enforce these regulations. The ability of U.S. consular officers to aid an American woman who wishes to leave the country with her children is very limited.
- The wife may be divorced by her husband at any time with little difficulty and without a court hearing.
- At a certain point in age, the children will come under the custody of the father or his family.
- In Islamic countries, the wife will need the permission of her husband to leave the country.
There are three types of guardianship which are fixed for a child from the time of its birth:
- The first is guardianship of upbringing, which is over-seen by women during the age of dependence. The age at which this period of dependence terminates varies: anywhere from 7 years for a son and 9 for a daughter to 9 and 11, respectively. In the case of divorced parents, it is permissible for a daughter to remain with her mother if the parents agree. But such an agreement cannot be made for a son.
- The second is the child’s spiritual guardianship. The spiritual guardian may be the father or a full-blooded male relative of the father.
- The third is guardianship over the child’s property which usually is carried out by the father.
Adoption of Children from Countries in which Islamic Shari’a law is observed
The Department of State has received many inquiries from American citizens who wish to adopt orphans from countries in which Shari’a Law is observed. There is a vast variance in the implications and observance of Shari’a law from country to country. Generally, however, Islamic family law does not allow for adoption as that concept is understood in the United States.
Accordingly, it may not be possible for American citizens to adopt an orphan overseas and to obtain an immigrant visa that will allow that orphan to live in the United States. However, some countries in which Shari’a law is observed do allow custody of children to be transferred through guardianship. Prospective parent/guardians frequently have inquired as to whether immigrant visas might be obtained for an orphan through Shari’a recognized guardianship.
The Immigration and Nationality Act does allow for the issuance of immigrant visas for orphans to be adopted in the United States. Prospective adoptive parents must first obtain guardianship or custody of the orphan for emigration and adoption in the United States, in accordance with the laws of the sending country. To show this standard has been met, the prospective adoptive parents must provide documentation to establish that the child has been irrevocably released for emigration and adoption.
This may take the form of a written release from the Shari’a court or a competent authority, either included on the guardianship decree itself or as a separate document, or a provision of law from the sending country indicating that the guardianship decree implies permission for the child to emigrate and be adopted in another country.
Again, the issuance of the immigrant visa in these cases depends on a showing that the underlying Shari’a law or the Islamic courts in the country in question actually allows for the child to be adopted overseas. To this point, in many cases, when the I-600 petition and the guardianship decree are submitted by the prospective adoptive parents, the consular officer reviewing the case might have to contact the Islamic court that issued the decree or work with the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration
Service of the Department of Homeland Security to ensure that the guardianship decree meets all U.S. immigration law requirements. Because of this, the I-600 processing time period for these cases may be longer than in other orphan visa cases. It is also important to note that at the time the prospective adoptive parents submit the I-600 application and guardianship decree they will also have to show the consular officer that they have met all the pre-adoption requirements of the state in which they will be adopting the orphan once they return to the U.S. (through documentary evidence, etc.).
For further information on this issue, please refer to the specific flyer for the Shari’a law country in question or contact the Department of State’s Office of Children’s Issues at (202) 736-9099.