Each year, thousands of U.S. citizens adopt children from overseas. This is known as an intercountry adoption.
Adopting a child from another country is often a complicated journey, and the information on this site is designed to help you as you move forward.
USCIS is Responsible For:
- Determining the eligibility and suitability of the Prospective Adoptive Parents (individuals) looking to adopt.
- Determining the eligibility of the child to immigrate to the United States.
Which Process is For You?
There are three processes for adopting a child internationally.
Two separate processes apply only to children adopted by U.S. citizens. Depending on what country you choose to adopt from will determine which process you will adopt by.
Another process applies to a U.S. citizen or permanent resident who may petition for his/her adoptive child through an Immediate Relative Petition.
The Hague Convention on Protection of Children and Co-operation in Respect of Intercountry Adoption (Hague Adoption Convention) is an international treaty that provides important safeguards to protect the best interests of children, birth parents, and adoptive parents who are involved in intercountry adoptions.
The Hague Adoption Convention entered into force in the United States on April 1, 2008. All cases filed on or after April 1, 2008, seeking to adopt a child who habitually resides in any country outside of the United States that is a party to the Convention must follow the Hague process.
If You Filed Before April 1, 2008
About the Process
A country that is a party to the Convention must have an officially designated Central Authority to ensure that the adoption process is safeguarded. The U.S. Central Authority is the Department of State (DOS)
Adoption Service Providers (ASP)
An Adoption Service Provider(ASP) must be accredited or otherwise authorized to provide adoption services in connection with a Hague adoption in order for the provider to assist the prospective adoptive parent(s) with a Hague adoption. Be sure to ask any adoption service provider whether the adoption service provider is authorized to work on Hague adoption cases before hiring or paying any money to the provider.
An adoption service provider cannot provide legal advice or legal services to the prospective adoptive parent(s) or represent the prospective adoptive parent(s) before USCIS.
Steps of the Process
- Choose a Hague Accredited ASP (and perhaps also an immigration attorney).
- Obtain a home study from someone authorized to complete a Hague adoption home study.
- Apply to USCIS before adopting a child or accepting a placement for a determination that one is suitable for intercountry adoption.
- Once USCIS approves the application, work with the adoption service provider to obtain a proposed adoption placement.
- File a “petition” with USCIS, before adopting the child, to have the child to be found eligible to immigrate to the United States based on the proposed adoption.
- Adopt the child, or obtain custody of the child in order to adopt the child in the United States.
- Obtain an immigrant visa for the child.
- Bring the child to the United States for admission with the visa.
Prospective adoptive parents must submit Form I-800A to USCIS in order to establish their eligibility and suitability.
If USCIS approves your Form I-800A, then you must submit Form I-800 to determine the child's eligibility as a Convention Adoptee, before adopting or obtaining legal custody of the child.
Waiver of Ground of Inadmissibility
Eligibility to Adopt
Once you have obtained a favorable home study, file Form I-800A with USCIS. To be eligible to file Form I-800A, you must meet the following requirements:
- Be a U.S. citizen
- Habitually reside in the United States
- If you are married, your spouse must also sign your Form I-800A and must also intend to adopt any child whom you adopt
- If you are not married, you must be at least 24 years of age when you file your Form I-800A, and you must be 25 years of age when you file your Form I-800
Petitioning for Your Child
After we have approved your Form I-800A, you may apply to the Central Authority of the other country for a specific adoption placement. Once the Central Authority has proposed placing a child with you for adoption, but before you actually adopt the child, you must file Form I-800 on behalf of the child to be adopted. For a child to be classified as a Hague Convention Adoptee, the child must meet the following criteria:
- Be under the age of 16 at the time of filing Form I-800
- Habitually reside in a Convention Country
- Determined to be eligible for intercountry adoption by the Central Authority of that country and have obtained all necessary consents for adoption
- If you are married, your spouse must also sign the Form I-800 and adopt the child
- If you are not married, you must be at least 25 when you file the Form I-800
After we provisionally approve your Form I-800, you may apply for a visa for the child and may complete the adoption of the child (or obtain custody to bring the child to the United States for adoption), once the Department of State advises you to do so.
NOTE: The adoption MUST NOT take place prior to filing Form I-800A/I-800, doing so contradicts the Hague Convention agreement.
Instructions for a Hague Convention Birth Siblings between Age 16 and 18
The International Adoption Simplification Act of 2010, Public Law 111-287, amended section 101(b)(1)(G) of the Immigration and Nationality Act to allow the birth sibling of an adopted child to qualify as a Hague Convention adoptee after the birth sibling’s 16th birthday, but prior to the birth sibling’s 18th birthday. After November 30, 2010, a Form I-800 may be filed, in accordance with form filing instructions, if;
- The child is from a country Party to the Hague Convention on Protection of Children and Cooperation with Respect to Intercountry Adoption
- The child is the birth sibling of another foreign national child who has immigrated or will immigrate based on adoption by the same adoptive parents
- The Form I-800 is filed before the expiration of the notice of approval or extension of the I-800A, Application for Determination of Suitability to Adopt a Child from a Convention Country, and before the child’s 18th birthday
No additional filing fee for a Form I-800 is required when filing for children who are birth siblings.
You must have an approved, valid Form I-800A before filing a Form I-800
- If you already have an approved, valid Form I-800A, please see Form I-800A instructions "Home Study Updates and Amendments" under the "Home Study Requirements" section to see if an update or amendment of your home study is required before filing Form I-800
- If the approval of the Form I-800A (including any extensions) has expired or you never filed a Form I-800A, you will need to file a Form I-800A, with fee, in accordance with the Form I-800A instructions.
You May Immigrate an Adopted Child Through the Orphan Process if:
- You Are a U.S. citizen.
- You establish that you will provide proper parental care to the child
- You establish that the child whom you have adopted or plan to adopt is an “orphan” as defined in U.S. immigration law
- You establish that either:
- You (and your spouse, if married) have adopted the child abroad, and that at least 1 of you personally saw and observed the child before or during the adoption proceedings
- You will adopt the child in the United States after the child arrives in the United States (you must have permission to bring the child out of his or her own country and to the United States for adoption)
Who is an Orphan?
Under U.S. immigration law, an orphan is a foreign-born child who:
- does not have any parents because of the death or disappearance of, abandonment or desertion by, or separation or loss from, both parents
- has a sole or surviving parent who is unable to care for the child, consistent with the local standards of the foreign sending country, and who has, in writing, irrevocably released the child for emigration and adoption
You must file an orphan petition before the child’s 16th birthday, or before the child’s 18th birthday if the child is a birth sibling of another child whom you have also adopted and who immigrated (or will immigrate) as:
- an orphan based on a Form I-600 petition filed before the sibling’s 16th birthday
- an “adopted child” as defined in Section 101(b)(1)(F) of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) provided the actual adoption took place before that sibling’s 16th birthday
As part of the processing of your case, USCIS (or, in some cases, the Department of State) will conduct an investigation overseas to verify that the child is an orphan. The purpose of the investigation is to:
- Confirm that the child is an orphan as defined in the U.S. immigration law
- Verify that you have obtained a valid adoption or grant of custody
- The child does not have an illness or disability that is not described in the orphan petition
- Determine whether the child has any special needs that were not fully addressed in your home study
- Determine whether there are any facts showing that the child does not qualify for immigration as your adopted child
Hague Adoption Convention Cases
If the child you seek to adopt habitually resides in a country that is a party to the Hague Adoption Convention, you probably will not be able to use the Orphan process. Instead you must follow the Hague Adoption Process to adopt the child and bring the child to the United States.
You may be able to use the Orphan process if you adopted the child before April 1, 2008, or if your case is “grandfathered” because you filed a Form I-600A or Form I-600 before April 1, 2008.
Home Study: Establishing Proper Parental Care
To establish your ability to provide proper parental care, you must submit a home study completed by someone authorized to complete an adoption home study in your home State (or anywhere in the United States, if you adopt the child while residing abroad).
The home study preparer must complete the home study according to the standards established in DHS regulations.
Filing a Petition for Your Child
You can have USCIS review both your suitability as an adoptive parent and the child’s status as an orphan at the same time. If you have already identified a child you want to adopt (or you have already adopted the child), you may file Form I-600, Petition to Classify an Orphan as an Immediate Relative.
Submit your home study with your Form I-600 and any other relevant evidence that you are suitable as an adoptive parent. Submit evidence that the child is an orphan and that you have adopted or intend to adopt the child.
You may also begin the orphan process before you identify a particular child for adoption. You do so by filing FormI-600A, Application for Advance Processing of Orphan Petition
. Submit the home study with the Form I-600A. If USCIS approves your Form I-600A, the finding that you are suitable as an adoptive parent will make it unnecessary to address this issue again when you file a Form I-600 for a particular child. Once a particular child has been identified, you would then file a Form I-600 for that child.
If you do not file Form I-600A, then you must complete all requirements of the I-600A when filing Form I-600.
Advanced Processing If You Have Not Selected a Country
You may apply for Advance Processing of an Orphan Petition without knowing the country of prospective adoption. However, if your Form I-600A is approved, you may not adopt a child from a Hague Convention Country if your Form I-600A was filed after April 1, 2008. .
Before Traveling Abroad
- Verify that your Approval Notice is valid
- Verify that your fingerprints are still valid
- Contact the appropriate USCIS overseas office or U.S. embassy or consulate for details on processing times
After the Orphan Petition is Approved
Apply to a U.S. embassy or consulate for a visa for your child. The Department of State officer who decides the visa application must determine whether your child is “inadmissible” under any provision in section 212(a) of the Immigration and Nationality Act. For children, the most common ground of inadmissibility is medical inadmissibility due to certain diseases, lack of required vaccinations, or other medical issues. If your child is inadmissible, you may be able to obtain a waiver of inadmissibility by filing Form I-601, Application for Waiver of Ground of Inadmissibility.