Bringing an internationally adopted child to the United States doesn't have to be a stressful process. Equip yourself with the information in this post to be best prepared for the journey ahead of you.
The Three Routes
- Hague Process
- Non-Hague Process
- Immediate Relative Process
The Hague Process should be used if the adopted child's country of origin is a signatory country (70+ countries that follow the same adoption procedures). A Consular Officer at a U.S Embassy or Consulate will determine if the child qualifies for the visa before you adopt or take custody of the child.
Eligibility: The adoptee must be under 16 years old at the time the application is submitted and be unmarried. Adoptive parents must normally reside in the U.S and must be married U.S citizens filling jointly, or be unmarried and at least 25 years old. The child's current parents or legal guardians must provide documentation that proves the end of their legal relationship with their child.
Process: Two forms are required for this method -- Form I-800A, Application for Determination of Suitability to Adopt a Child from a Convention Country, and Form I-800, Petition to Classify Convention Adoptee as an Immediate Relative. The children adopted from convention countries will receive an IH-3 visa (provides citizenship upon entry to the U.S) or an IH-4 visa (provides permanent resident status in the U.S until the adoption is completed).
The Non-Hague Process will be used if the adopted child's country of origin is not a signatory country. There six main steps to consider if you follow this process:
- Choose a Licensed Adoption Service Agency: This agency will help with your adoption. They will perform a home study for our state of residence, which significantly impacts your chance of being approved. Must be licensed in the U.S State in which they operate.
- Apply to be Found Eligible to Adopt: In order to adopt from a foreign country, you must be found eligible according to U.S Law. This will be determined by the USCIS (U.S Citizenship and Immigration Service). You will be unable to adopt if not found capable of providing a safe and secure home for your child. To apply, you must complete form I-600A (Application for Advance Processing of Orphan Petition) and file it with USCIS. This must also be submitted with the home study conducted via your service agency.The following documents must be submitted with this form: 1) Completed and signed I-600A 2) Proof of the prospective petitioner's U.S Citizenship 3) Proof of the marriage of the prospective petitioner and spouse (if applicable) 4) Home Study completed by the agency you worked with 5) $670 Fee
- Being Referred for a Child:If you are found eligible to adopt, you can be matched with a specific child. If the child meets the requirements for international adoption and meets the definition of an orphan under U.S immigration law than you can adopt in this way too.
- Adopting the Child: Procedures vary from country to country and most require that the child be legally recognized as an orphan. Many countries also require that full adoption must be completed in foreign court as well. Even though a child could be considered an orphan by their country's standards, there is no guarantee that they will meet the U.S definition. Anticipate traveling to the country of the child to appear before the courts.
- Applying for the Child to be Found Eligible for Immigration to the United States: Once you finalize the adoption in the foreign country the USCIS must determine if your child is eligible to immigrate to the U.S. The I-600 petition may be filed with either the USCIS office, Department of Homeland Security, or Consular Officer oversees, depending on the case.
- Obtaining an Immigrant Visa for the Child: Once the child is approved for adoption by the USCIS or consulate, you may apply for an immigrant visa at the Embassy. Be aware of the age limits on adoption: Siblings of a child adopted by the same parents may be adopted if under 18 years of age and orphans over the age 16 may be adopted as long as the I-600 petition was filed on their behalf before age 16. If the process goes smoothly the immigrant visa will be valid for 180 days from the date of issuance, which means that adopting children have that time to come to the U.S. In a Non-Hague case, orphans will be issued an IR-3 visa (full and final adoption overseas by both adopting parents, parents saw child physically) or an IR-4 visa (parents have legal custody and met all requirements, but not physically seen the child.)
If your child does not meet the Hague or Non-Hague situation, you still may be able to adopt via the Immediate Relative process by filling out Form I-130, Petition for Alien Relative, on the child's behalf. In this case the Parents must accrue two years of legal and physical custody and obtain a full, final adoption of the child to be eligible to file an I-130. The two years may be achieved in one stretch or over a long period, but must be achieved before you file form I-130. The adoption must be completed before your child turns 16 years old and, if found eligible, he/she will receive an IR-2 immigrant visa. To learn more about completing the I-130 and to find out if you qualify, complete LexSpot's immigration eligibility report.
Adopting a child is an exciting time! Be sure to do lots of research on the laws of the country that your child is in or consult an experience attorney to ensure that you meet every requirement. I hope this post helped and good luck!