Adopting children from all over the world has steadily increased in the past decade. Approximately 20,000 intercountry adoptions are taking place per year. In addition, there are more than 200,000 foreign-adopted children already living in the U.S.

Because there are two separate intercountry adoption processes, U.S. citizens who are interested in adopting a child from another country should first decide on a specific country from which to adopt. The Hague Adoption Convention entered into force in the United States on April 1, 2008, which created a new process for immigrating adoptive children who reside in outher countries which are party to the Hague Adoption Convention.

Similar to the existing Orphan process, which remains in effect for non-Hague countries, the Hague Adoption Convention process includes measures to determine the suitability of prospective adoptive parents, such as background and criminal checks, as well as a home study. Once a prospective adoptive parent’s eligiblity and suitability to adopt has been established, both the Orphan process and the Hague Adoption Convention process have specific procedures to determine whether the child is eligible for immigration to the United States.

Adoption of Orphans (Non-Hague)

Prospective adoptive parents are encouraged to familiarize themselves with the Orphan process before they begin filing applications for a particular child. A good place to start is with the booklet, The Immigration of Adopted and Prospective Adoptive Children (Form M-249), available here.

There are two legal ways to bring an adoptive child not habitually residing in a Hague Convention country into the United States. The differences are important to your successful adoption.

  • Immigration/Adoption of child based on 2-years residence through submitting Form I-130: If you adopt a child before the child turns 16 (or 18, as described below), and you live with the child for two years as the child’s primary caregiver, then you may file an I-130 petition for an alien relative. The petition may be filed after the 16th (or 18th if a sibling) birthday, and the two years may culminate after the 16th (or 18th) birthday. (Please note that, generally all qualifying criteria must be established before the child may enter the U.S.)
  • Immigration/Adoption of an orphan through submitting Form I-600: If you adopt or intend to adopt a child who meets the legal definition of an orphan, you may petition for that child at any time prior to the child’s 16th (or 18th, as described below) birthday, even if the adoption takes place subsequently (and in certain cases, the adoption does not occur until the child comes to the U.S.). This process usually commences with prospective parents filing Form I-600A, Application for Advance Processing of Orphan Petition.

If you are interested in adopting a child from a particular country, you should consult the Department of State Web site on country-specific adoption and important notices.

These materials alert prospective adoptive parents to conditions that may develop or already exist in foreign adoption cases. The adoption of a child habitually residing in a non-Hague Convention country is essentially a private legal matter between a private individual (or couple) who wishes to adopt, and a foreign court, which operates under that country’s laws and regulations. U.S. authorities cannot intervene on behalf of prospective parents with the courts in the country where the adoption takes place. The adoption of a foreign-born orphan does not automatically guarantee the child’s eligibility to immigrate to the United States. Also, the adoptive parent needs to be aware of U.S. immigration law and legal regulatory procedures. An orphan cannot legally immigrate to the United States without USCIS processing.

Adopting Older Children – “Aging Out” of eligibility to Immigrate Through Adoption

If you are considering adopting an older child, you should be aware of the age limits on eligibility for adoptions and immigration, regardless of whether or not your state laws permit the adoption of older children (or even adults).

U.S. law allows the adoption and immigration of children who are under 16 years of age, with two exceptions:

  • Biological siblings of a child adopted by the same parents may be adopted if under 18 years of age
  • Orphans over the age of 16 may be adopted, as long as the I-600 petition was filed on their behalf before their 16th birthday (or before their 18th birthday, in the case of an orphan who is the sibling of a child adopted or coming to be adopted by the same parents).

If you intend to adopt a child from a non-Hague Adoption Convention country, then you may submit Form I-600A to USCIS in order to determine your eligibility and suitability as a prospective adoptive parent. Form I-600 must be submitted to determine the eligibility of the child as an adoptee.

If you have already submitted Form I-600A or Form I-600 and you would like to obtain information on case status, please contact the USCIS Field Office currently processing your case.

Hague Adoption Convention

The Hague Adoption Convention entered into force for the United States on April 1, 2008. The Hague Adoption Convention is a multi-national treaty that provides uniform standards for intercountry adoptions and establishes international procedures and safe guards to protect the best interests of children, birth parents, and adoptive parents who are involved in intercountry adoptions.

The Hague Adoption Convention affected several aspects of the adoption and immigraiton process.

  • First, each country that has ratified the Hague Adoption Convention must have an officially designated “Central Authority” to ensure that the adoption process is safeguarded. In the U.S., the Central Authority is the U.S. Department of State.
  • Second, in a Hague Adoption Convention adoption, prospective adoptive parent(s) must use the services of an authorized “adoption service provider.”
  • Third, USCIS has introduced two new forms for this program: 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. Interested parties must submit Form I-800A to USCIS in order to establish their eligibility and suitability as prospective adoptive parents under the Hague Adoption Convention. If USCIS approves Form I-800A, then the prospective parents must submit Form I-800 to USCIS in order to determine the child’s eligibility as a Convention adoptee before adopting or obtaining legal custody of the child.

Source: U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services