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Non-Hague Adoption Process
The process for adopting a child from a non-Convention country differs in some key ways from adopting from a Convention country. To date, about 75 countries have joined the Hague Adoption Convention. If you are adopting a child from one of the countries non-Convention country, the following general process applies to you.
The process from non-Hague countries generally involves six primary steps:
- Choosing a Licensed Adoption Service Provider
- Applying to be Found Eligible to Adopt
- Being Referred for a Child
- Adopting the Child
- Applying for the Child to be Found Eligible for Immigration to the United States
- Obtaining an Immigrant Visa for the Child
Non-Convention Process Steps
1. Choose an Adoption Service Provider:
The first step in adopting a child from a non-Convention country is usually to select an agency or attorney in the United States that can help with your adoption. At a minimum you will need the services of someone licensed or authorized to perform a homestudy for your state of residence. Choosing a qualified adoption service provider is a very important part of the adoption process. Adoption service providers must be licensed by the U.S. state in which they operate. Learn more about choosing a qualified adoption service provider in the Working with an Adoption Service section of our website.
2. Apply to be Found Eligible to Adopt:
To adopt a child from another country and bring that child to live in the United States, you must be found eligible to adopt under U.S. law. The Federal agency that makes this determination is U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). You will not be allowed to bring an adopted child (or a child for which you have gained legal custody for purpose of emigration and adoption) into the United States until USCIS determines that you are able to provide a suitable and stable home for that child.
To apply, you may choose to complete an immigration form (called I-600A, Application for Advance Processing of Orphan Petition) and file it with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). Along with this form, you will submit a home study to USCIS that includes in depth information about your health, finances, home, background, and more. Form I-600A should be filed if you have not yet identified a child or intend to go abroad to locate a child for adoption.
If used, the I-600A Application for Advance Processing of Orphan Petition should be filed for initial processing at the USCIS Texas lockbox address listed on the form. The following documents must be submitted with the I-600A:
- Completed and signed I-600A (Application for Advance Processing of Orphan Petition);
- Proof of the prospective petitioner's United States citizenship;
- Proof of the marriage of the prospective petitioner and spouse, if applicable;
- Proof of termination of any prior marriages of the prospective petitioner and spouse or unmarried prospective petitioner, if applicable;
- A "home study" completed by the appropriate State organization with a favorable recommendation (USCIS regulations include very specific instructions on the issues to be addressed in the home study, authorized providers of home studies, and the recommendations regarding suitability); and
- Filing fee of $720.00.
In addition, you, your spouse (if married), and each additional adult member of your household must be fingerprinted as part of the I-600A application. For adopting parents in the United States, USCIS will provide information once the I-600A is filed on being fingerprinted at local USCIS offices. For adopting parents residing overseas, adopting parents should contact the U.S. embassy or consulate with jurisdiction over their place of residence to schedule fingerprinting prior to submitting the I-600A.
At the time of filing the I-600A, the petitioner should request that USCIS notify the U.S. embassy or consulate in the country where they plan to process the case as soon as the I-600A is approved. Learn more under in the Eligibility to Adopt and Home Study sections of this website.
3. Be Referred with a Child:
If you are eligible to adopt, you can be matched with a specific child, in accordance with the laws and regulations of the child's country of residence regarding intercountry adoption. The child must meet the requirements of his or her country for determining if a child is eligible for intercountry adoption. The child must also meet the definition of an orphan under U.S. immigration law.
4. Adopt the Child (or Gain Legal Custody for Purpose of Emigration and Adoption)
Although adoption procedures vary from country to country, most countries require that prior to any court action, a child placed for adoption be legally recognized as an orphan or, in the case where a parent is living, be legally and irrevocably released for adoption in a manner provided for under local law. In addition, the adoption laws in most countries require the full adoption of the child in the foreign court after the child has been declared an orphan or released by the living parent to an appropriate foreign authority. Some countries do allow simple adoption, which means that the adopting parent(s) can be granted guardianship of the child by the foreign court. This may permit the child to leave the foreign country to be adopted in the United States. A few countries do allow adoptive parents to adopt through a third party without actually traveling to that country.
IMPORTANT: A foreign country's determination that the child is an orphan does not guarantee that the child will be considered an orphan under the U.S. Immigration and Nationality Act (INA), and eligible to come to the United States to live. Foreign country may use different legal rules to determine if a child is an orphan. Questions that involve interpretation of specific foreign laws may be addressed to competent authorities in the COO or to a foreign attorney operating in the country where the adoption will take place.
Some countries will require your personal appearance before their court. Sometimes, countries require a period of residence by you or your spouse (if applicable). In these cases, you may find it necessary to spend an extended period in the foreign country awaiting the completion of the foreign adoption documents. Additionally, several countries require a post-adoption follow-up conducted by the adoption agency or the foreign country's consul in the United States.
To learn about the specific requirements of the non-Convention country from which you are adopting, refer to the Country Information on our website.
5. Apply for the Child to be Found Eligible for Immigration to the United States:
After you finalize the adoption (or gain legal custody for the …) in a non-Convention country, the USCIS) must determine whether the child is eligible to immigrate to the United States.
Adopting parents file the I-600 petition to determine if a specific child meets the US "orphan" classification in the INA. Depending on the circumstances of the case, the I-600 may be filed with the USCIS office having jurisdiction over the parents' place of residence, or with a Department of Homeland Security (DHS) or Consular Officer overseas:
- Adopting parents currently residing overseas should file the I-600 with the overseas DHS or consular officer at the U.S. embassy or consulate with jurisdiction over their residence.
- Adopting parents residing in the U.S. may file the I-600 with the USCIS office with jurisdiction over their place of residence, or may contact the U.S. embassy or consulate in the country in question for information on filing the I-600 overseas. Parents will be permitted to file the I-600s with DHS officers at U.S. embassies or consulates where Department of Homeland Security immigration officials are assigned. At Embassies and Consulates without DHS immigration officials, parents may generally file the I-600 only if notice of I-600A has previously been sent to the Embassy or Consulate, if the U.S. citizen petitioner is physically present before the Consular Officer, and if the petitioner does not already have an I-600 petition pending somewhere else for the same child. Parents are strongly encouraged to verify I-600 filing procedures at the U.S. Embassy or Consulate overseas prior to travel to the country in question.
- Parents may wish to consult with adoption agencies, U.S. embassies or consulates overseas, and/or other adopting parents to determine whether they wish to file the I-600 overseas or in the United States. Processing times for I-600 petitions vary depending on where they are filed. Intent to travel to the child's country may also affect U.S. resident parents' decision on where to file the I-600.
- Note that parents who have adopted abroad without first demonstrating suitability to adopt by filing an I-600A must file the I-600 petition (and accompanying suitability documents identified in Step 1) with the appropriate DHS/CIS office, not with a consular officer. Consular Officers can only accept I-600 petitions at a U.S. embassy or consulate abroad when they have been notified that an I-600A for a family has already been approved.
I-600 petitions should only be filed for children who fit the criteria, if any, identified in the parents' I-600A approval (e.g. if adoptive parents have been approved to adopt one child, they should not file I-600s for two children).
The following documentation must be presented in order for an I-600 petition to be approved:
- Form I-600, Petition to Classify Orphan as an Immediate Relative;
- Child's birth certificate;
- A final decree of adoption, if the orphan has been adopted abroad, or proof of legal custody for purposes of emigration and adoption;
- Proof of "orphan" status per definition above (ex. evidence of abandonment, written relinquishment, death certificates, etc. depending on the circumstances);
- Proof that the pre-adoption requirements, if any, of the state of the orphan's proposed residence have been met, if the orphan is to be adopted in the United States; and
- Proof that adopting parents have seen the child prior to or during adoption proceedings.
If an I-600A has already been approved, the adopting parent may file an I-600 for one child without any additional fee. However, if parents are adopting two or more biologically unrelated children, there will be a $720.00 fee for the second child (this fee is waived for siblings).
Parents should note that documentary requirements for filing the I-600 petition are somewhat different, depending on whether the petition is filed with USCIS or the Consular Officer. USCIS officers may generally initially accept an I-600 with only the child's birth certificate, and, if not previously provided with the I-600A, proof of marriage of the petitioner (if applicable). USCIS also permits a petitioner to submit copies of some documents in lieu of originals. Form I-600 petitions filed with Consular Officers, however, must have all required documentation at the time of filing, and such documentation must be submitted as originals.
As part of the decision to approve an I-600 and immigrant visa, the DHS Officer or Consular Officer will carefully review information about the orphan and his or her personal situation. This review is documented by the DHS Officer or Consular Officer on an I-604 Orphan Investigation form. To protect adopting parents, the child, and biological parents, any indication or allegation of fraud, child buying or other inappropriate practices will be investigated as part of the I-604 review (or at any time that such concerns arise prior to visa issuance). While the I-604 review for most cases will consist of an analysis of available documents, some cases will require additional interviews, documentation or a field investigation, all of which may result in delayed processing on the case.
6. Obtain an Immigrant Visa for the Child:
Once USCIS or the consulate has approved the eligibility of the child for adoption, apply for an immigrant visa at the U.S. Embassy. This immigrant visa allows your child to travel home with you. As part of this process, the Consular Officer must review the Panel Physician's medical report on the child.
Be aware that the adoption of a foreign-born orphan does not automatically guarantee the child's ability to immigrate to the United States. An orphan cannot legally immigrate to the United States without USCIS processing.
Age Limits - There are age limits on eligibility for adoptions and immigration, regardless of whether or not your state laws permit the adoption of older children (or 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; and
- 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 all the documentation for the orphan is in order and there are no legal bars to visa issuance, the orphan will be provided with an immigrant visa consisting of a packet of supporting documentation and either a cover sheet or visa placed in the child's passport. Both should be hand-carried with the child (not packed in luggage) when they travel to the U.S. and should be presented to the immigration inspectors at the port of entry. Do not open the envelope of supporting documents.
The immigrant visa is valid for 180 days from the date of issuance, which means that adopting children have 180 days to use the immigrant visa to travel to the United States.
Orphans are issued IR-3 or IR-4 visas:
- IR-3 visas are for orphans who had a full and final adoption overseas by both adopting parents, when both parents physically saw the child prior to or during local adoption proceedings and where the state where they reside does not require re-adoption in the U.S.
- IR-4 visas are for orphans whose prospective adopting parents' have legal custody for purposes of emigration and adoption and who have satisfied any applicable state pre-adoption requirements or for orphans who had a full and final adoption overseas, but whose parents did not see the child prior to or during the local adoption proceedings.
Please see the Visa section of our website for more information.