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Hague Adoption Process
Adopting a child from a Hague Adoption Convention (Convention) country differs in key ways from adopting from a non-Convention country. To date, 90 countries have joined the Convention, including the United States. If you are a U.S. citizen adopting a child from one of the 89 partner countries, the following process applies to you.
Generally, the Convention adoption process involves six central steps. You must complete these steps in the following order to meet U.S. legal requirements for Convention adoptions.
- Choose a U.S. accredited or approved adoption service provider
- Apply to USCIS to be found suitable and eligible to adopt a child from a Convention country
- Be matched with a child by authorities in the child’s country of origin
- Apply to USCIS for the child to be found eligible for immigration to the United States and receive U.S. provisional approval to proceed with the adoption
- Adopt or gain legal custody of the child in the child’s country of origin
- Obtain a U.S. immigrant visa for the child and bring your child home
Keys to the Hague Process
- The Convention process provides additional protections to children, prospective adoptive parents, and birth parents. The primary principles of the Convention are to ensure that each adoption is in the best interest of the child and to prevent the abduction, sale, and trafficking of children. The United States strongly supports these principles. The Intercountry Adoption Act (IAA) and the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) implement those principles for the United States.
- Adoption service providers (ASPs) must be accredited or approved by the Department of State’s designated accrediting entity in order to provide adoption services in Convention cases. Accreditation and approval ensures that ASPs meet comprehensive federal standards designed to ensure that they operate using sound professional and ethical adoption practices.
- U.S. Convention adoption procedures are intended to avoid potential problems that could prevent children from entering the United States. The process is structured in a way that allows problems to be identified before U.S. citizen prospective adoptive parents adopt the child in the child’s country of origin. This helps ensure that every child who is adopted overseas (or brought to the United States for the purpose of adoption) by U.S. citizen adoptive parents will be able to enter and reside permanently in the United States.
Convention Process Steps
1. Choose a U.S. Accredited or Approved Adoption Service Provider
The first step in adopting a child from a Convention country is to select an accredited or approved ASP in the United States. You must also ensure that the authorities of your desired country of origin have authorized your chosen ASP to provide services in that country.
Accredited ASPs are non-profit organizations (agencies) while approved ASPs are individuals (such as attorneys) or for-profit organizations. Only these ASPs can provide adoption services between the United States and other Convention countries. In order to be accredited or approved, ASPs must be in substantial compliance with the standards established by federal accreditation regulations (22 CFR Part 96).
The Department of State has designated the Council on Accreditation (COA) as its sole accrediting entity. The Department of State monitors the accrediting entity to ensure that it performs its functions in compliance with the IAA and the accreditation regulations.
As outlined in the IAA, accredited and approved ASPs are responsible for providing U.S. prospective adoptive parents with six adoption services:
- Identifying a child for adoption and arranging an adoption
- Securing the necessary consent to termination of parental rights and to adoption;
- Performing a background study on a child or a home study on prospective adoptive parent(s), and reporting on such a study;
- Making non-judicial determinations of the best interests of a child and the appropriateness of an adoptive placement for the child;
- Monitoring a case after a child has been placed with prospective adoptive parents until final adoption; and
- When necessary because of a disruption before final adoption, assuming custody of a child and providing or facilitating the provision of childcare or any other social service pending an alternative placement.
The accredited or approved ASP that is responsible for ensuring that all six adoption services are provided in a Convention case is called the primary provider. Primary providers may use other agents, facilitators, attorneys, or organizations working in the United States or in a Convention country to provide one of the adoption services, but that other entity must generally operate under the supervision of the primary provider. These entities are called supervised providers.
Your primary provider will develop and implement a service plan providing you all six adoption services. Learn more about accreditation in the Convention section of this website.
2. Apply to be Found Eligible to Adopt:
The accredited or approved ASP that you choose to act as your primary provider will help you apply to be found suitable and eligible to adopt by the U.S. government. In order to adopt a child from another country and bring that child to live in the United States, you must first be found suitable and eligible to adopt under U.S. law by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). You will not be allowed to bring an adopted child (or a child of whom you have gained legal custody) into the United States using the Convention process unless USCIS first determines that you are eligible and suitable to provide proper care for that child.
To apply, you must file Form I-800A, Application for Determination of Suitability to Adopt a Child from a Convention Country, with USCIS. Along with this form, you will submit a home study that includes in-depth information about your health, finances, home, background, and more. It must also address any country of origin criteria for prospective adoptive parents. You must choose the Convention country from which you wish to adopt prior to completing your home study and submitting the Form I-800A to USCIS.
3. Be Referred to a Child:
If USCIS finds you suitable and eligible to adopt, your ASP will send your Form I-800A approval notice and home study to the central adoption authority of the child’s country of origin. This notifies the other Convention country that you have been found suitable and eligible to adopt by the U.S. government and that you are seeking a match with a child. The central adoption authority or a competent authority will determine whether you are also eligible to adopt under that country's laws.
If the country determines that you are eligible to adopt under its laws and if a child for whom you would be a suitable match is eligible for intercountry adoption, the central adoption authority will send you or your ASP an official report on the child, which is required under Article 16 of the Convention and is called an Article 16 report. This report will include information about the child's psychological, social, and medical history. It also specifies the child's name, date of birth, and the reasons for making the adoption placement. You should have at least two weeks to review the Article 16 report and consider the medical and social needs of the child and your ability to meet those needs. After the requisite time period, you will either accept or deny the referral.
The Article 16 report also establishes that the competent authorities have, as required under Article 4 of the Convention:
- Established that the child is eligible for adoption;
- Determined, after having given due consideration to the possibility of placing the child for adoption within the Convention country, that intercountry adoption is in the child's best interests;
- Ensured that the legal custodian, after having been counseled as required concerning the effect of the child's adoption on the legal custodian's relationship to the child and on the child's legal relationship to his or her family of origin, has freely consented in writing to the child's adoption, in the required legal form;
- Ensured that if any individual or entity other than the legal custodian must consent to the child's adoption, this individual or entity, after having been counseled as required concerning the effect of the child's adoption, has freely consented in writing, in the required legal form, to the child's adoption;
- Ensured that the child, after having been counseled as appropriate concerning the effects of the adoption, has freely consented in writing, in the required legal form, to the adoption, if the child is of an age that, under the law of the country of the child's habitual residence, makes the child's consent necessary, and that consideration was given to the child's wishes and opinions; and
- Ensured that no payment or inducement of any kind has been given to obtain the consents necessary for the adoption to be completed.
The format of this report will vary; however, your ASP will provide you with an English language translation of the report. Additionally, it will be accompanied by:
- A copy of the child's birth certificate, or secondary evidence of the child's age;
- A copy of the irrevocable consent(s) signed by the legal custodian(s) and any other individual or entity who must consent to the child's adoption unless, as permitted under Article 16 of the Convention, the law of the country of the child's habitual residence provides that their identities may not be disclosed, so long as the Central Authority of the country of the child's habitual residence certifies in its report that the required documents exist and that they establish the child's age and availability for adoption;
- A statement, signed under penalty of perjury by the primary provider (or an authorized representative if the primary provider is an agency or other juridical person), certifying that the report is a true, correct, and complete copy of the report obtained from the Central Authority of the Convention country; and
- A summary of the information provided to the petitioner under 22 CFR 96.49(d) and (f) concerning the child's medical and social history. This summary, or a separate document, must include:
- A statement concerning whether, from any examination as described under 22 CFR 96.49(e) or for any other reason, there is reason to believe that the child has any medical condition that makes the child inadmissible under Section 212(a)(1) of the INA;
- If both of the child's birth parents were the child's legal custodians and signed the irrevocable consent, the factual basis for determining that they are incapable of providing proper care for the child, as defined in 8 CFR 204.301;
- Information about the circumstances of the other birth parent's death, if applicable, supported by a copy of the death certificate;
- If a sole birth parent was the legal custodian, the circumstances leading to the determination that the other parent abandoned or deserted the child, or disappeared from the child's life; and
- If the legal custodian was the child's prior adoptive parent(s) or any individual or entity other than the child's birth parent(s), the circumstances leading to the custodian's acquisition of custody of the child and the legal basis of that custody.
4. Apply for the Child to be Found Eligible to Immigrate to the United States:
After you accept a proposed referral, you will apply to USCIS for provisional approval to continue with the adoption and immigration process for that particular child (Form I-800, Petition to Classify Convention Adoptee as an Immediate Relative). USCIS will determine, based on the information available to them, if the child meets the definition of a Convention adoptee and appears eligible under U.S. law to enter the United States and reside permanently as an immigrant. USCIS will provisionally approve the Form I-800 if the child qualifies for classification as a Convention adoptee and the proposed adoption or grant of custody will meet Convention requirements. If the child appears to meet the definition of a Convention adoptee, and the proposed adoption or grant of custody will meet Convention requirements, USCIS will provisionally approve the Form I-800 petition. (Alternatively, if the child does not qualify as a Convention adoptee or there are other grounds which require a denial of the Form I-800, USCIS will deny the Form I-800.) USCIS will notify you, your ASP, and the U.S. embassy or consulate in the Convention country of the provisional approval.
After you have been notified that your Form I-800 has been provisionally approved, you or your ASP will submit a visa application to a Consular Officer at the appropriate U.S. embassy or consulate in the Convention country. The Consular Officer will review the Form I-800 and the visa application for possible visa ineligibilities and will advise you if there are options to waive any noted grounds of inadmissibility. If the medical examination of the child has been completed, then the required medical exam will be considered at this provisional approval stage of the visa review. If the Consular Officer determines that the child appears eligible to immigrate to the United States and that the information provided indicates that the adoption process thus far has complied with the Convention and IAA, he or she will notify the Convention country's central authority by issuing an Article 5/17 letter. The Article 5/17 letter will inform the foreign central authority that U.S. competent authorities have determined the prospective adoptive parents are eligible and suited to adopt, that the child may enter and reside permanently in the United States, and that the U.S. Central Authority agrees that the adoption may proceed.
In Convention adoptions, prospective adoptive parent(s) may not proceed with an intercountry adoption or obtain custody of a child until the Department of State has issued the Article 5/17 letter.
REMEMBER: An initial analysis of the child's eligibility for the Convention adoptee classification will take place at the provisional approval adjudication stage. However, the Consular Officer will make a final decision about the immigrant visa later in the adoption process.
5. Adopt or Gain Legal Custody of the Child
Before you adopt or gain legal custody of a child for the purpose of emigration and adoption in a Convention country, you must have completed the above four steps. Only after completing these steps can you proceed to finalize the adoption or grant of custody for the purposes of adoption.
The process for adopting or gaining legal custody of a child varies from country to country. To learn about the specific requirements of the Convention country from which you are adopting, refer to the Country Information section of our website.
6. Obtain an Immigrant Visa for the Child:
After your Convention adoption is complete (or you have obtained legal custody of the child for the purpose of emigration and adoption), there are a few more steps to take before your child may immigrate to the United States. Specifically, you need to apply for several documents for your child:
- Birth Certificate (if applicable)
You will first need to apply for a new birth certificate for your child, so that you can later apply for a passport from the country of your child's citizenship. In most countries, your name may be added to the new birth certificate. Refer to our Country Information to learn how to obtain a new birth certificate for a child in his or her country of birth.
- The Child's Passport
Your child is not yet a U.S. citizen, so he or she will need a passport from the country of his or her citizenship. Refer to our Country Information to learn how to obtain a passport for a child in his or her country of citizenship.
- U.S. Immigrant Visa
After you obtain the new birth certificate and passport for your child, you also need to obtain a U.S. visa from the U.S. embassy or consulate that issues immigrant visas for citizens of the Convention country. After the adoption (or custody for purpose of adoption) has been granted, visit the U.S embassy or consulate for final review of the case, issuance of a Hague Adoption Certificate or Hague Custody Certificate, final approval of the Form I-800 petition, and to obtain your child’s immigrant visa. The immigrant visa allows your child to travel to the United States. As part of this process, the Consular Officer must be provided the “Panel Physician's” medical report on the child if it was not provided during the provisional approval stage. Read more about the Medical Examination.
Please see the visa section of our website for more information about the U.S. immigrant visa process.
NOTE: Transition Cases:
The Convention entered into force for the United States on April 1, 2008. The Convention generally governs all adoptions between the United States and other countries party to the Convention as of the date the Convention enters into force for both countries. If a prospective adoptive parent began his or her adoption from a Convention country before the Convention was in force in both countries, but the adoption and immigration process has not been completed, the case may be considered as a transition case under certain circumstances. Read more about transition cases here. For information on the parameters of transition cases in a particular Convention country, refer to our Country Information or the USCIS website.