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Ultimate Guide to Bringing Your Internationally Adopted Child to the USA

Adopting children from overseas does not automatically grant them entry into the United States. To bring your adopted child into the U.S., you must adhere to specific immigration regulations. The exact requirements vary based on the country of origin and whether the child qualifies as an orphan under U.S. immigration law.

 

There are three general processes for adopting a child across international boundaries. The crucial factor is whether the child’s country of residence has signed on to the Hague Convention. Most intercountry adoptions are governed by Hague convention. Sometimes the process to choose also depends on the specific circumstances, such as the age of the child or the childs’ home country policies on adoption.

Regardless of the adoption process, the adoptive parents must work with a Primary Provider or an Adoption Service Provider in order to complete an intercountry adoption. You can find information on accredited adoption service providers (ASPs) in the ASP Directory, searching by country, needed service, or provider’s location.

An adoption agency can help arrange an adoption but cannot represent you before USCIS or provide legal advice on your child’s immigration. For legal representation, consider hiring an attorney.

 

Hague Process

If you are adopting a child residing in a country party to the Hague Adoption Convention, you should use the “Hague Process.” Each member nation has a designated central authority responsible for overseeing the process. The State Department is the central authority in the U.S. 

 

Eligibility Requirements:

 

You must be a U.S. citizen.

If unmarried, you must be at least 25 years old.

If married, you and your spouse must both participate in the adoption process.

 

Steps to Follow:

File Form I-800A: If you decide to adopt from a country which is a signatory to the Hague Convention, the first step is to submit the ‘Application for Determination of Suitability to Adopt a Child from a Convention Country’ to USCIS. This includes a filing fee, fingerprinting, and a home study by an authorized provider. 

 

File Form I-800: Once I-800A is approved, and you either choose a child or a child is matched with you by the Adoption Service Provider or the child’s Country of origin, file the ‘Petition to Classify Convention Adoptee as an Immediate Relative’ to USCIS. An important aspect to remember is that you have to file form I-800 before the adoption to determine the child’s eligibility to immigrate. No filing fee is required for the first child unless adopting multiple non-sibling children. 

 

Child’s Eligibility:

The child must reside in a Hague Convention country.

The child’s legal custodians must irrevocably consent to the adoption and the child’s emigration.

Form I-800 must be filed before the child’s 16th birthday, with certain protections for older children if Form I-800A was filed when the child was between 15 and 16.

 

Final Steps:

If Form I-800 is approved, USCIS will notify the U.S. embassy or consulate.

Complete the adoption or gain custody in anticipation of adoption in the U.S. The child can either immigrate to the U.S. immediately after the adoption or come to the U.S. to be adopted here.

The U.S. embassy or consulate will issue the child a visa, either IH3 or IH4, to enter the United States.

 

Non-Hague Process:

 

If you want to bring an adopted orphan from a country that did not sign onto the Hague Convention, you can still do so, so long as you meet certain qualifications and follow certain rules. Non-hague process is also known as orphan process. 

One interesting fact about this process is that, only this process allows you to adopt from a country or family that does not otherwise allow legal adoption or follows Sharia’ah law, due to the flexibility it offers. 

 

Eligibility Requirements:

 

The parent must be a U.S. citizen.

If unmarried, the parent must be at least 25 years old.

If married, both spouses must participate in the adoption process.

 

Steps to Follow:

 

File Form I-600A: If you have not chosen a child to adopt yet, submit the ‘Application for Advance Processing of Orphan Petition’ to USCIS. This includes a filing fee, fingerprinting, and a home study by a licensed agency.

File Form I-600: After I-600A approval, file the ‘Petition to Classify Orphan as an Immediate Relative’ once you identify a child. This form assesses the child’s eligibility as an orphan.

 

However, if you have already adopted a child or have picked a child you want to adopt, you can have USCIS simultaneously review your suitability as an adoptive parent and the child’s orphan status. In this situation, you file Form I-600 and include your home study and evidence of both the child’s orphan status and your suitability as an adoptive parent. This is called combination filing and no separate Form I-600A is needed.

Child’s Eligibility:

 

The child must either have no parents or have a sole/surviving parent unable to provide basic needs and who has irrevocably given up the child for adoption. Not all children in orphanages are adoptable. Often, in some countries, birth parents place children there temporarily due to hardships, with plans to bring them back home when they can. In these situations, parental rights are usually not relinquished, and consent for adoption is not given.

Before finalizing an adoption, prospective adoptive parents should confirm that the child qualifies as an orphan under U.S. immigration law. If the child doesn’t meet the criteria, they may face immigration issues. Consult immigration attorneys, adoption service providers, USCIS, and the Department of State for guidance on this important matter. 

 

Form I-600 must be filed before the child’s 16th birthday, with an extension to 18 if the child is a sibling of another child adopted by the same adoptive parents.

 

Final Steps:

 

Once Form I-600 is approved, USCIS will notify the U.S. embassy or consulate.

Complete the adoption either overseas or in the United States.

The child will receive an immigrant visa, either IR3 or IR4, to enter the United States.

 

Immediate Relative Process: 

If a child was adopted without going through the Orphan or Hague process, or if these processes are not suitable to the child they may still immigrate if the petitioner files Form I-130, Petition for Alien Relative, and meets these requirements:

 

  • The adoption was finalized before the child’s 16th birthday (or 18th if the petitioner also adopted a birth sibling).

  • The child has been in the legal custody of the petitioner for at least two years, either before or after the adoption.

  • The child has lived with the petitioner for at least two years, either before or after the adoption. 


U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents (LPRs) may file Form I-130 to petition for an adopted child. 

Generally, U.S. citizen parents cannot file Form I-130 for a child from a Hague Convention country unless:

  • The adoption happened before the country joined the Hague Convention;

  • They were not a U.S. citizen when the adoption was finalized;

  • They were not habitually residing in the U.S. during the adoption (for example, meeting 2-year joint residency and legal custody outside the U.S.);
  • The child is not habitually resident in the Hague Convention country of origin.

    Some important facts about family based petition process are:  

  • This is the only process through which LPRs can also bring their adopted children to the USA.

  • This process allows you to bring your adopted child anytime in the USA, regardless of their age, given all the other eligibility criteria remain intact. 

  • Unlike the other two processes, I-130 does not combine adoption and immigration of the child, rather it only helps you establish the relationship between you and your already adopted child. Therefore, the adoption must be completed before filing I-130, fulfilling all other necessary criteria.

Final Steps:

 

If you meet the requirements, you can file with USCIS a Form I-130, Petition for Alien Relative, to classify the adopted child as your “child” who is eligible for an immigrant visa. If the I-130 is approved, the U.S. embassy or consulate can issue an immigrant visa (IR2) to your adopted child. On the other hand, if your adopted child is inside the US, you can apply for I-130 and I-485 concurrently to get their green card.

 

 

Successfully bringing an internationally adopted child to the U.S. requires navigating complex immigration laws. Consult with an immigration attorney for legal advice and representation to ensure a smooth process. Their expertise is crucial in overcoming any hurdles and securing a bright future for your family.

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