How To Bring Your Adopted Child To The United States
When you adopt a child from outside the United States you must participate in an intercountry adoption process in order for the child to immigrate to the U.S.
United States immigration law offers three avenues by which an adopted child may immigrate to the U.S.: the Hague adoption process, the orphan adoption process, and the family-based petition process.
Here, we discuss each.
The Hague Adoption Process
The Hague Convention on Protection of Children and Co-operation in Respect of Intercountry Adoption is a treaty that created international standards and practices for intercountry adoptions by providing safeguards to prevent the abduction, trafficking, or sale of children, and to protect their best interests, as well as those of birth parents and adoptive parents. It was enacted in the United States in April 2008.
Who Is Eligible To Adopt?
To adopt through the Hague adoption process, you must meet the eligibility criteria for 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 Immediate Relative. You must also be a U.S. citizen and habitually reside there. If you are unmarried, the minimum age to file Form I-800A is 24 years old, and you must be at least 25 years old when filing Form I-800.
Who Qualifies As An Adoptee Under The Hague Process?
For a child to qualify as an adoptee under the Hague process they must first be a habitual resident of a Hague country. They must also be eligible for an intercountry adoption per their country’s Central Authority with all requisite contents for adoption.
The child must be under 16 years old at the time Form I-800 is filed. If the sibling exception is applicable, then they must have been under 18 years old.
How To Apply Under The Hague Process
First, select a U.S. accredited adoption service provider (ASP) to help counsel you on adoption, provide an intercountry home study to screen your residence, and to follow-up with you regarding post-placement services.
It may also be in your best interest to enlist the help of an immigration attorney who can guide you through all of the complicated processes and the USCIS paperwork associated with an intercountry adoption.
Next, follow these steps:
- Before you adopt a child or accept placement, file Form I-800A for USCIS to review your eligibility to adopt
- After USCIS approves Form I-800A, work with your ASP to get a proposed adoptive placement with the Central Authority of the Hague Country
- File Form I-800 before adopting. This is a petition for USCIS to verify that the child is eligible for the proposed adoption-based immigration to the U.S.
- Obtain legal custody or adopt the child for immigration and adoption in the U.S., once your Form I-800 petition is provisionally approved by USCIS
What Visas Are Available For Hague Adoptees To Come To The U.S.?
Adoptive parents need to obtain immigration visas for their adoptees. Children adopted through the Hague adoption process enter the U.S. with either an IH-3 immigrant visa or through an IH-4 immigrant visa, if you’re finalizing the adoption in the U.S.
Adoptees acquire U.S. citizenship once they enter the U.S. on their IH-3 visa as lawful permanent residents who are under 18 years old and live with their U.S. citizen parents. USCIS will send a Certificate of Citizenship in the mail. (If your child is under 14 years old, there will be no new forms or fees needed).
Children with an IH-4 visa will not automatically gain citizenship upon entry into the U.S. They become lawful permanent residents until the day they are adopted, after which they’ll automatically gain citizenship if they’re adopted before they turn 18 years old.
The Orphan Adoption Process (Non-Hague Process)
The orphan adoption process is an alternative adoption option for parents looking to adopt a child that is not from a Hague country.
Who Is Eligible To File An Orphan Process Application?
You must be a U.S. citizen to adopt a child through the orphan process. Unmarried applicants must be no less than 25 years old when filing a Form I-600 petition. For married couples, your spouse also has to adopt the child and sign Form I-600, Petition to Classify Orphan as an Immediate Relative.
You must also establish that:
- The child is an orphan, as defined by U.S. immigration law
- You’ll provide appropriate parental care
- You and your spouse, for the married petitioners, adopted the child abroad and at least one of you observed the child before, or while, filing for adoption
- You’ll adopt the child once they arrive in the U.S. (with permission to bring the child from their home country to the U.S. to be adopted)
Who Qualifies As An Orphan?
A child must qualify as an orphan as described in U.S. immigration law, which defines an orphan as a foreign-born child who:
- Is without any parents due to their death, disappearance, desertion, abandonment, or separation; or who
- Has a sole parent, or a surviving parent, who is not able to care for them, and has released the child—in writing—to be emigrated and adopted
You will need to file an orphan petition prior to the child turning 16 years old.
How To Apply Under The Orphan Process
To apply under the orphan process, obtain a sustainability evaluation (home study) to determine your ability to provide appropriate parental care, and have USCIS review the child’s orphan status.
If you’ve already identified a child that you wish to adopt, you’ll need to submit:
- Form I-600, Petition to Classify an Orphan as an Immediate Relative
- Your home study, and any supplementary evidence or documentation that demonstrates you are a suitable adoptive parent
- Evidence that the minor is an orphan and you want to adopt them
What Visas Are Available For Orphan Adoptees To Come To The U.S.?
An orphan whose full adoption was finalized overseas, and who was physically seen and observed by at least one parent before or during the adoption, is issued an IR-3 visa.
If a child is traveling to the U.S. to be adopted, or was adopted overseas, or was not seen or observed by the adoptive parents before or during the adoption, they are issued an IR-4 visa.
Family-Based Petition Adoption Process
The family-based petition adoption process allows adopted individuals to be considered as children of their adoptive parents for immigration.
Who Is Eligible To File A Family-Based Petition?
Among other qualifying criteria to be eligible to file a family-based petition, you must:
- Be a lawful permanent resident or a U.S. citizen
- Adopt a child who is from a non-Hague country
- Show proof of a final adoption, which occurred before the child turned 16 years old, that satisfies the 2-year joint residence and custody requirements in order for the adopted child to be considered your child for immigration purposes
Who Qualifies As An Adopted Child?
Qualifications for an adopted child to be deemed the child of an adopting parent for immigration include:
- The adopting parent having adopted the child prior to their 16th birthday, and supplying evidence of a full adoption
- The adopting parent having legal custody (a grant of custody from a government authority) of the child and residing with them for a minimum of two years while the child was under 21
How To Apply Under The Family-Based Petition Process
In order to begin the immigration process, you must file Form I-130, Petition for Alien Relative, with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services and participate in the adjudication process. It would be in your best interest to reach out to an immigration attorney. A skilled attorney can help manage your case with USCIS.
What Visa Is Required For Family-Based Petition Adoptees To Come To The U.S.?
For family-based petitions, the IR-2 visa is granted to a child who:
- Was adopted before their 16th birthday
- Lived with their adoptive parent, who had legal custody of them, for a minimum of two years
Do You Need To Talk To An Immigration Attorney About Adopting A Child Abroad?
If you need to speak to an immigration attorney about adopting a child who lives abroad, we’re here to help. Call our office or contact us online today to schedule a free consultation with an immigration attorney who can give you the legal guidance you need.