You've decided on an international adoption and now it's time to begin the actual adoption process. It may seem like a lot of "hurry up and wait," but if you have a good start on things, you may feel a bit more in control of the international adoption journey. Know that you will have to complete the requirements for not only the country you have chosen, but for the United States government, your state, and the adoption agency.
Each agency and country is different so you won't be doing these things in this order with each adoption, but you will have to complete each step eventually. If you have chosen a country that is a part of the Hague Convention on Intercountry Adoption you will need to follow those international adoption procedures. The Hague Convention of Intercountry Adoption applies to approximately 75 countries. If you are choosing to complete an international adoption from a country that is not apart of the Hague, please see the following international adoption process steps.
- Decide on an adoption agency or attorney to work with on your international adoption. Your chosen adoption service provider must be licensed in your state and have the necessary credentials to complete an adoption home study. Fill out and submit the adoption application.
- Get your passports.
- Begin work on your dossier, or set of legal documents. Ask the agency for a list of needed paperwork for the country you have chosen. Be sure to ask for two or three copies of your marriage license, birth certificates, and other legal documents. You will also need them for your adoption home study. Don't count on being able to use the same marriage license for your dossier that you use for your adoption home study. Some countries will want original documents only. If you plan on adopting more than one child, some countries require a dossier for each child. So, plan on erring on the side of caution and get more than one copy. You never know when you might need them. You will also need copies of any divorce decrees, if applicable. You may also need:
Financial statements such as a W-2 or a 1040.
Letters of reference. Choose people who have known you for some time and have seen you interact with children.
Police/FBI clearances for child abuse and other violent crimes.
- Proof of your U.S. citizenship
- Proof of current marriage, if applicable
- Filing Fees
- Begin the adoption home study. Again, be sure to check with the agency on the needs of your selected country. Some countries want very specific information in the home study. Be sure that the person or agency you chose to complete your home study will be in compliance with these needs.
- Complete the forms needed for the USCIS. It is suggested that a form I-600A or Application for Advance Processing of Orphan Petition, is filed to get a head start on the international adoption process. This form begins the process of you being found eligible to adopt. The adoption home study, fingerprints and other documents will need to accompany the form. Payment will vary by office so call ahead and find out what is acceptable. It is important to realize that there are special instructions regarding fingerprinting. Ask that the USCIS notify the U.S. embassy or consulate of your chosen country as soon as the I-600A is approved.
- Once you are found eligible to adopt, you will be matched with a child. Be sure to fully evaluate the medical information contained in the adoption referral. Then make a decision on whether you are ready to commit to adopting the child. The child must meet the criteria for both the country of origin as eligible for adoption as well as the U.S.'s definition of an orphan.
- Next, adopt the child or gain custody of the child for purpose of emigration and adoption. The adoption procedures vary from country to country. Keep in mind that just because the foreign country determines that the child is an orphan does not mean that the child will meet the requirements under U.S. law and be allowed entrance into the United States.
Some countries will require that the adoptive parents appear in court, while other countries require a period of residency. Many countries require post-adoption follow-up to be conducted by the adoption agency or the foreign country's consul in the United States.
- The next step is to apply for your child to be found eligible for immigration to the United States. Adoptive parents need to file the I-600 form, Petition to Classify Orphan as an Immediate Relative. See form for details on where to file.
- Once the USCIS or the consulate has approved the child's eligibility to be adopted, it's time to apply for a visa. This visa allows your child to travel home with you to the United States. Please know that just because you have completed an adoption does not mean that the child will be allowed to travel back with you to the U.S. The child must be processed by the USCIS.
Once processed keep the documents handy and not packed away in luggage. Hand-carry the packet of supporting documents along with the child's passport while traveling to the U.S. and be prepared to present the packet to the Immigration inspectors at the port of entry. Do not open the envelope of supporting documents.
Adoptees from Non-Hague Convention countries receive either an IR-3 or IR-4 visa. The immigrant visa is good for 180 days from the date it was issued.