International Adoption in the U.S. – How Does It Works?

By Babygest Staff
Last Update: 03/20/2019

Over the last few years, adoptions of children abroad have decreased dramatically worldwide due to legal and social changes in the countries of origin.

Even so, adopting abroad is not impossible and throughout this article we will give all the necessary information for intercountry adoption step by step.

Even if the number of international adoption is decreasing, it is still an option when you want to adopt.

About the Hague Convention

The Hague Convention on the Protection of Children and Co-operation in Respect of Intercountry Adoption (Convention) is an international accord to protect intercountry adoptions. Concluded on May 29, 1993 in The Hague, the Convention establishes international standards of practices for intercountry adoptions. The United States signed the Convention in 1994, and the Convention entered into force for the United States on April 1, 2008.

The Convention applies to all adoptions:

  • by U.S. citizens habitually resident in the United States
  • of children habitually resident in any country outside of the United States that is a party to the Convention (Convention countries).

Adopting a child from a Convention country looks like in many ways to adopting a child from a country not party to the Convention. However, there are some key differences. Indeed, people seeking to adopt may receive greater protections if they adopt from a Convention country.

Adopting from a Hague Convention country

When adopting from a Hague Convention country,

  • Prospective parents must use the services of a provider specifically approved.
  • They will need to identify the desired country before obtaining a home study.
  • Children adopted from Hague Convention countries must be determined to be adoptable by their country of origin and must meet the definition of a Hague Convention adoptee.
  • Before entering the United States, the child must obtain an immigrant visa.

Adopting from a Non-Hague Convention country

If adopting from a Non-Hague Convention country,

  • Parents adopting from a non-Hague country may obtain a home study before choosing the country from which they will adopt as long as the home study meets State and Federal requirements.
  • The adoption provider (agency) must also be licensed in their home State.
  • The child identified for adoption must meet the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) definition of orphan
  • The child will need to obtain a visa before being allowed to enter the United States.

Who Can Adopt?

To adopt a child from another country and bring that child in the United States, it is necessary to be eligible to adopt under U.S. federal and state law and the law of the country from which adopting.

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS)is the name of the federal agency that determines if a person is eligible to adopt. Some of the basic requirements are the following:

  • Be a U.S. Citizen.
  • If unmarried, be at least 25 years old.
  • If married, must jointly adopt the child (even if you are separated but not divorced)
  • Must meet certain requirements that will determine your suitability as a prospective adoptive parent, including criminal background checks, fingerprinting, and a home study.
Each country has its own requirements for adopting parents. So, it is necessary to find them and be sure that you meet them.

When adopting a child from abroad, it is important to be patient and determinate. Indeed, intercountry adoption process may be complex and unexpected complications may arise. Because the process may take years, finding emotional support during this time can be helpful.

Who May Be Adopted?

When considering Intercountry adoption, it is necessary to respect three different sets of laws:

  • the U.S. federal law
  • the laws of the prospective adoptive child's country of origin
  • the laws of your U.S. state of residence

In a Hague Convention Country

You have to file a Form I-800, Petition to Classify Convention Adoptee as an Immediate Relative, with USCIS for a child who habitually resides in a Convention country.

In addition to other applicable country-specific requirements, all of the following must be true for a child to be eligible for the Convention adoptee classification:

  • The child is under the age of 16 at the time Form I-800 is filed on his or her behalf;
  • The child 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, habitually resident in the United States, with Form I-800A approval.
  • The Central Authority of the child’s country of origin has determined that the child is eligible for intercountry adoption and has proposed an adoption placement which has been accepted, and the child has not yet been adopted or been placed in the custody of the prospective adoptive parents;

In a Non-Hague Convention Country

Children being adopted from non-Convention countries must meet the definition of orphan under the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) before they can immigrate to the United States.

To determine the child’s eligibility for classification as an orphan under U.S. immigration law, it is necessary to fill the Form I-600 petition and supporting documentation.

Child eligible for the orphan classification:

  • The child must be under the age of 16 at the time the Form I-600 petition is filed on his or her behalf;
  • The child must either have no parents because of the death or disappearance of, abandonment or desertion by, or separation or loss from, both parents; or have a sole or surviving parent who is incapable of providing proper care for the child. In this case, he has to consent by writing that he irrevocably released the child for emigration and adoption;

Intercountry Adoption Step by Step

Explore Adoption Options

When deciding to adopt abroad, there are different options to consider:

  • Choose the country and make sure you meet the different requirements
  • Age of the prospective adopted child
  • Travel requirement: nearly all countries require prospective adoptive parents to travel to the country in order to complete the adoption process.
  • Finding an Adoption Services Provider
  • The Cost may vary depending on the country

Understand the laws

When you decide the country and the adoption services provider, it is necessary to understand the laws.

The legal adoption process begins after you accept a referral for a specific child. In some cases, you will have to travel to the country to finalize the process, and sometimes the process will be finalized in U.S. courts to fulfill USCI requirements.

In a case of a child from a Convention country, it is important that you do not adopt or accept legal custody of a child until:

  • Form I-800 have been approved by USCIS
  • The U.S. Department of State and the country of origin's Central Authority have agreed about the adoption.

Sometimes, depending on the country, you may need to:

  • Give an annual postplacement follow-up
  • Readopt your child in a U.S.court and obtain a U.S. birth certificate, over all if the child is not from a Convention country.

Select an Adoption Services Provider

It is important to take time to research and carefully select your adoption services provider. As to do so, you can visit their websites because that can provide valuable information for your search.

An experienced, reputable adoption services provider should help you:

  • Prepare to become adoptive parents (thanks to educational classes on parenting and adoption issues)
  • Contact USCIS for you about immigration regulations and forms
  • Help you handle problems if they occur
  • Provide support after you bring your child home.
  • To choose a provider, you should attend information sessions and ask questions about the services provided. These initial sessions are usually free. You also should visit several different providers in order to find the one that best meets your needs. It is also possible to speak to other adoptive families who used the provider’s services.

Complete the home study

This step is required to ensure that you are fit to becomes parents. It consists in:

  • Providing State and Federal Criminal Backgrounds Checks
  • Producing financial Informations,
  • Giving medical informations;
  • Going through interviews,
  • Allowing Home Inspections.
Finger Printing (conducting FBI criminal background checks) USCIS charges $80 USD per person at the time of filing for this fingerprinting service.

Engage in the Placement Process

Once your home study is completed, the placement process (the time when a specific child is identified) begins. You may review information about your prospective child. Sometimes, it is possible to meet your child in his or her placement setting (foster home or orphanage). This changes greatly from country to country; some countries allow you to select a child in advance or while visiting the country, and other countries match children with parents.

Immigrant Visa Process

Children adopted from other countries must first obtain a U.S. visa before they can travel or move to the United States.

To begin the immigrant visa process, prospective adoptive parents submit forms and documents to USCIS. It is also necessary to pay the filing fee of $775 USD to USCIS. An additional fingerprint fee of $85 USD must be paid for each person residing in your household who is 18 years of age or older.

For a Hague Convention country adoption

  • Obtain a birth certificate and passport from the country of origin for your child (he/she will need a passport or travel document from the country of origin).
  • Ask for a visa interview at the Embassy or Consulate to complete the immigration process after you receive the final adoption order
  • Receive your child’s immigrant visa. If there are no problems, you will receive either an IH-3 or IH-4 category visa for your child as well as your child’s Hague Adoption Certificate.

There are two possible visas:

IH-3 visas
are generally for children who are adopted in a Convention country. Children who are under 18 generally acquire U.S. citizenship when they enter the United States on an IH-3 visa in order to reside in the legal and physical custody of their U.S. citizen parent(s).
IH-4 visas
are generally for children coming from a Convention country who will be adopted in the United States.

The Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) identifies ineligibilities, or reasons that disqualify a foreign national from receiving a visa. In some cases, a visa applicant may apply to USCIS for a waiver of ineligibility.

For a Non-Hague Convention country adoption

Children adopted in non-Convention countries receive IR-3 or IR-4 immigrant visas.

IR-3 visas
are issued after a full and final adoption is completed abroad by both adopting and birth parents and the country in which the child resides does not require re-adoption in the United States.
IR-4 visas
are issued to children for whom a full and final adoption will be completed in the United States. Orphans admitted to the United States on IR-4 visas become lawful permanent residents and are automatically processed to receive an Alien Registration Card ("green card").

FAQs from users

How many time is it necessary to adopt a child?

By Natalia Álvarez (project manager).

It varies by country, usually, the process from the application to bringing the child home takes 2-3 years. Depending on the country and the child, the process may be expedited in less than a year.

Is the home study necessary for all international adoptions?

By Natalia Álvarez (project manager).

Yes, home study is required for all international adoptions ans is valid for one year since the date it is approved.

Suggested for you

Are you interested in knowing the countries where it is currently possible to adopt? In this article you will find relevant information on the conditions and legislation for adopting according to the origin of the child: In which countries is it possible to carry out an intercountry adoption?

If you are interested by adopting in the U.S., you will find informations in this post: Domestic Adoption in U.S: – What Are the Requirements & Process.

Another option to become parents nowadays is surrogacy. If you want more information about this, you can access the following article: What Is Surrogacy & How Does It Work? – Everything You Should Know

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Adoption Laws State by State: [here]

About Intercountry Adoption on the website of US Department - Bureau of Consular Affairs

Statistics for Intercountry Adoption from the US Department - Bureau of Consular Affairs:[here]

About Adoption and Safe Families Act (ASFA) from Child Welfare Information Gateway (U.S. Department of Health & Human Services)

Adoption Guide by Adoptive Families: [here]

About adoption requirement and process on the Child Welfare Information Gateway: [here]

Adoption Options: Where Do I Start? by Child Welfare Information Gateway.

Who May Adopt, Be Adopted, or Place a Child for Adoption? by Child Welfare Information Gateway.

Intercountry Adoption Process by the U.S. Government [here]

Guide on adoption by Child Welfare Gateway: [here]

Guide on international adoption by Child Welfare Gateway: [here]

About the visa process by the U.S. Government.

FAQs from users: 'How many time is it necessary to adopt a child?' and 'Is the home study necessary for all international adoptions?'.

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