As mentioned previously under Adoption - General Information, intercountry adoption takes the governmental standards of both countries into account. In regards to the standards of the U.S., both state and federal laws must be adhered. This is particularly important for adoption from non-Hague countries since the process tends to have more state-level and less federal-level requirements than its Hague counterpart. Although there are currently 75 participating countries in the Hague Adoption Convention, that number still leaves a substantial portion of the world that is not a part of the international agreement. Notable areas that are not Hague Convention adopters include most of Africa and the Middle East in addition to small portions of South America and Southeast Asia.
The adoption process involved in non-Hague countries is almost identical to the Hague process, involving a total of six steps.
- Choose an Adoption Service
- Apply for the Parent(s) to be Eligible for Adoption
- Match with a Child
- Apply for the Child to be Eligible for Adoption
- Apply for the Child to be Eligible for Immigration
- Obtain a Visa for the Child
- Although it is possible to independently adopt without the assistance of a service provider, it is strongly recommended by authorities to select a licensed adoption service provider with a specialization in the state in which you live. These agencies must be authorized to provide their services in a particular state because each state’s adoption laws could be different. The amount of work that goes into the paper work and communication between governments is considered to be more than enough to warrant the cost of the services.
- The USCIS decides whether a parent is eligible to adopt under U.S. law, and until that decision is made, the adopted child cannot be brought into the country. Before any other steps are taken, a parent should file the I-600A form (Application for Advance Processing of Orphan Petition) with USCIS. In addition to that form, a “home study” will be required to evaluate detailed information on finances and family background. So in total, the I-600A, proof of citizenship, proof of marriage, proof of previous marriages, the “home study” and a filing fee of US$670 all should be submitted to USCIS. Fingerprints will also be required of every adult member of the household during this form submission.
- After your eligibility to adopt is confirmed by USCIS, parents can then match themselves with a child. It is important to note that the adopted child must meet intercountry adoption requirements for the country of origin; also, the child must be within the definition of “orphan” as deemed by U.S. law.
- This is the step where adoption can deviate from the standard process depending on your situation. Needless to say, different countries will have different adoption laws if they do not fall under the Hague Convention category. To provide some clarity, most countries require that a child be legally recognized as an orphan or lawfully released before adoption in the U.S. can take place. This foreign recognition supplements step III of the non-Hague adoption process. Simply because the country of origin will consider the adopted child an orphan does not necessarily mean that the U.S. will, and vice versa. Some countries may even require your physical appearance in foreign court to petition a child’s eligibility. It is crucial to know and thoroughly understand a country’s standards for adopted children and all related information. Additional information can be found Department of State Adoption Site.
- After the adoption eligibility of the child is confirmed, a separate step must be completed to determine the adopted child’s immigration eligibility. This is done through the I-600 form (Petition to Classify Orphan as an Immediate Relative) and can be handled through one of two different outlets.
- If the adopting parents are currently residing outside the U.S., they should file their I-600 with the consular officer at the U.S. embassy located in that country in which they reside.
- If the adopting parents are currently residing in the U.S., they can either file with the USCIS office with jurisdiction over the state of residence or the U.S. embassy with jurisdiction over the adopted child’s country of origin.
These parents are advised to seek advice in order to decide if they should file their I-600 form stateside or overseas. The processing period will inevitably vary and could be affected by travel between the two countries. One other important consideration that these offices take into account is whether the I-600A form has already been completed, which should not be an issue if you followed step II. During the completion of the I-600 form, the child’s birth certificate, final decree of adoption, proof of “orphan” status, proof of any other state requirements and proof of physically seeing the child during the adoption process will all be required for submission.
- Finally, once the eligibility for adoption has been confirmed, the child can then apply for an immigrant visa at the U.S. embassy. As with previous steps, this one is entirely separate from those above. A child’s intercountry adoption does not immediately guarantee the ability to immigrate to the U.S., and additional criteria must be taken into consideration, primarily age limits and medical reports. As soon as all the criteria are met, the adopted child can be issued a visa that is valid for six months. Depending on whether the adopting parents had physically seen the child during the intercountry adoption process, the child will be issued either an IR-3 (seen) or IR-4 (unseen) visa.
For more information on Intercountry Adoption, please visit the following links: