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GreeceOfficial Name: Greece Last Updated: May 5, 2017
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Hague Adoption Convention Country? Yes
Hague Convention Information
Greece is party to the Hague Convention on Protection of Children and Co-operation in Respect of Intercountry Adoption (Hague Adoption Convention). Intercountry adoption processing in Hague countries is done in accordance with the requirements of the Convention; the U.S. implementing legislation, the Intercountry Adoption Act of 2000 (IAA); and the IAA’s implementing regulations, as well as the implementing legislation and regulations of Greece.
Note: Greece is not generally considered a country of origin in intercountry adoption. There are few children eligible for adoption in Greece. U.S. prospective adoptive parents residing in Greece are cautioned that while Greek domestic adoption procedures may allow birth mothers to relinquish their parental rights to a child prior to giving birth, such consents are not consistent with the Hague Convention.
In addition, children born to mothers who relinquish their rights prior to birth may not acquire Greek citizenship, even if the child is born in Greece.
In limited circumstances, U.S. prospective adoptive parents may pursue a domestic adoption in Greece. They are encouraged to contact the U.S. Embassy in Athens or U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services for more information on the Form I-130 Petition for Alien Relative (immediate relative) process in Convention countries.
Special transition provisions apply to adoptions initiated before April 1, 2008. Learn more.
Who Can Adopt
In addition to the U.S. requirements, Greece requires prospective adoptive parents to meet the following requirements in order to adopt a child from Greece:
- Residency: You must be a resident of Greece to adopt a child from any of the governmental institutions and orphanages in Greece which care for orphaned or abandoned children. Exceptions for prospective adoptive parents who do not reside in Greece will be made only for children with health problems (as determined by the accredited public welfare service) living in Greek institutions.
- Age of Adopting Parents: You must be between the ages of 30 and 60 in order to adopt a child. At least one of the adoptive parents must be at least 18 years older, but not more than 50 years older, than the adopted child. Only minors can be adopted, except in the case of step-parent adoption. The legal process of adoption cannot be initiated before the child is three months old; however, biological parents give the child to prospective adoptive parents immediately after birth in almost all cases of independent adoptions.
- Marriage: Prospective adoptive parents may be married or single. At this time, Greek Family Law does not allow or recognize same-sex marriage.
- Income: Prospective adoptive parents must provide evidence of financial stability.
- Other: There is no requirement that a prospective adoptive parent be a member of a particular church or religion in order to adopt a child in Greece.
Who Can Be Adopted
Because Greece is party to the Hague Adoption Convention, children from Greece must meet the requirements of the Convention in order to be eligible for adoption. For example, the adoption may take place only if the competent authorities of Greece have determined that placement of the child within Greece has been given due consideration and that an intercountry adoption is in the child’s best interests. In addition to Greece’s requirements, a child must meet the definition of Convention adoptee to be eligible for an immigrant visa that will allow you to bring him or her to the United States.
- Relinquishment: Relinquishment requires the consent of both biological parents or legal guardians and a court decision.
- Abandonment: In the case of abandonment, the court process replaces the consent of biological parents and facilitates procedures between the adoptive parents and the interested party, providing a judicial guarantee
- Age of Adoptive Child: Only minors (children under 18 years of age) can be adopted, except in the case of step-parent adoption.
- Sibling Adoptions: The court takes into consideration the perspectives of the children of the adopting family.
- Special Needs or Medical Conditions: Medical reports are needed in addition to all other documents required by the court. The relevant Ministries and courts process applications of prospective adoptive parents in chronological order. However, they give priority to those willing to adopt a child with special physical or psychological needs, as determined by a public sector doctor.
- Waiting Period or Foster Care: Due to a limited number of children available for adoption and a large number of prospective adoptive parents, the waiting period to finalize an adoption is approximately five years for a child living in an institution. For children with health problems, the waiting period usually takes up to three years. An attorney is necessary in order to present the case in court and finalize the adoption. Court decisions concerning adoption cases usually take from one to six months before a final decision is made.
How To Adopt
WARNING: Greece is party to the Hague Adoption Convention. Do not adopt or obtain legal custody of a child in Greece before a U.S. consular officer issues an “Article 5 Letter” in the case. Read on for more information.
Although there are no private adoption agencies in Greece, children may be adopted with the involvement of an attorney or a notary who will act as a facilitator. Such private adoptions are for in-country, and not intercountry purposes. If you intend to move with your adopted child to the United States, or outside of Greece, you should not engage in a private adoption, but should follow the Convention process. Whether or not a child is adopted through one of the government-run institutions and orphanages, or privately, a lawyer is required.
Greece’s Adoption Authority
Ministry of Labor, Social Security and Welfare
Note: If any of the following occurred prior to April 1, 2008 (the date on which the Hague Adoption Convention entered into force with respect to the United States), the Hague Adoption Convention may not apply to your adoption: 1) you filed a Form I-600A identifying Greece as the country where you intended to adopt; 2) you filed a Form I-600; or, 3) the adoption was completed. Under these circumstances, your adopted child’s visa application could continue to be processed in accordance with the immigration regulations for non-Convention adoptions. For more information, read about Transition Cases. Similarly, if the Hague Adoption Convention entered into force in Greece after April 1, 2008, and you have an approved, unexpired Form I-600A or filed a Form I-600 before the entry into force date in Greece, your adoption may be considered a transition case. Please contact firstname.lastname@example.org with the details of the case if this situation applies to you.
Because Greece is party to The Hague Adoption Convention, adopting from Greece must follow a specific process designed to meet the Convention’s requirements. A brief summary of the Convention adoption process is given below. You must complete these steps in the following order so that your adoption meets all necessary legal requirements. Adoptions completed out of order may result in the child not being eligible for an immigrant visa to the United States.
1. Choose a U.S. accredited or approved adoption service provider
2. Apply to USCIS to be found eligible to adopt
3. Be matched with a child by authorities in Greece
4. Apply to USCIS for the child to be found eligible for immigration to the
United States and receive U.S. agreement to proceed with the adoption
5. Adopt (or Gain Legal Custody) of child in Greece
6. Obtain a U.S. immigrant visa for your child and bring your child home
1. Choose a U.S. Accredited or Approved Adoption Service Provider
The recommended first step in adopting a child from Greece is to select an adoption service provider in the United States that has been accredited or approved to provide services to U.S. citizens in Convention cases. Only accredited or approved adoption services providers may provide adoption services between the United States and Greece. The U.S. accredited or approved adoption service provider will act as the primary provider in your case. The primary adoption service provider is responsible for ensuring that all adoption services in the case are done in accordance with the Hague Adoption Convention and U.S. laws and regulations. Learn more about Agency Accreditation.
2. Apply to USCIS to be Found Eligible to Adopt
After you choose an accredited or approved adoption service provider, you must apply to be found eligible to adopt by the responsible U.S. government agency, the Department of Homeland Security, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), by submitting Form I-800A. Read more about Eligibility Requirements.
Once USCIS determines that you are “eligible” and “suited” to adopt by approving the Form I-800A, your adoption service provider will provide your approval notice, home study, and any other required information to the Ministry of Labor, Social Security and Welfare in Greece as part of your adoption dossier. Greece’s Ministry of Labor, Social Security and Welfare reviews your application to determine whether you are also eligible to adopt under Greek law.
3. Be Matched with a Child in Greece
If both the United States and Greece determine that you are eligible to adopt, and the central authority for adoptions has determined that a child is available for adoption and that intercountry adoption is in that child’s best interests, the Ministry of Labor, Social Security and Welfare in Greece may provide you with a referral for a child. The referral is a proposed match between you and a specific child based on a review of your dossier and the needs of a specific child in Greece. The Ministry of Labor, Social Security and Welfare in Greece will provide a background study and other information, if available, about the child to help you decide whether to accept the referral or not. Each family must decide for itself whether or not it will be able to meet the needs and provide a permanent home for a particular child. If you accept the referral, the adoption service provider communicates that to the Ministry of Labor, Social Security and Welfare in Greece. Learn more about this critical decision.
4. Apply to USCIS for the Child to be Found Eligible for
Immigration to the United States and Receive U.S. Agreement
to Proceed with the Adoption
After you accept a match with a child, you will apply to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) for provisional approval for the child to immigrate to the United States (Form I-800). USCIS will make a provisional determination as to whether the child meets the definition of a Convention Adoptee and will be eligible to enter the United States and reside permanently as an immigrant.
After provisional approval of Form I-800, your adoption service provider or you will submit a visa application to the Consular Section of the U.S. Embassy in Athens, Greece, is responsible for issuing immigrant visas to children from Greece. A consular officer will review the Form I-800 and the visa application for possible visa ineligibilities and advise you of options for the waiver of any noted ineligibilities.
WARNING: The consular officer will send a letter (referred to as an “Article 5 Letter”) to Greece’s Central Authority in any intercountry adoption involving U.S. citizen parents and a child from Greece where all Convention requirements are met and the consular officer determines that the child appears eligible to immigrate to the United States. This letter will inform Greece’s Central Authority that the parents are eligible and suited to adopt, that all indications are 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.
Do not attempt to adopt or obtain custody of a child in Greece before a U.S. consular officer issues the Article 5 Letter in any adoption case.
Remember: The consular officer will make a final decision about a child’s eligibility for an immigrant visa later in the adoption process.
5. Adopt (or Gain Legal Custody) of a Child in Greece
Remember: Before you adopt (or gain legal custody of) a child in Greece, 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 in Greece.
The process for finalizing adoption or gaining legal custody in Greece generally includes the following:
Role of Adoption Authority: According to Greek Law, 2447/1996, all petitions submitted to local orphanages by the prospective adoptive parents are followed by an extensive and thorough field investigation performed by local social services, which are supervised by the Greek Ministry of Labor, Social Security and Welfare. When the investigation is over, the case file is forwarded to the local institution’s committee.
The local institution’s committee approves or disapproves the petition of the prospective parents. This committee then matches prospective adoptive parents with children, taking into account the specific needs of specific children and the corresponding ability of prospective parents to meet those needs.
If the child is 12 years or older and has no emotional or mental condition impairing judgment, the court takes the child’s wishes into consideration. In addition, the court takes into consideration the perspectives of the children of the adopting family. Because of the relatively small number of adoptions in Greece, this matching process can be detailed and precise. Adoptive parents’ applications are processed by the local institutions strictly in chronological order; however, priority is given to persons willing to adopt a child with special physical or psychological needs.
If the petition is approved, the case file is forwarded to the appropriate court for endorsement.
For private adoptions within Greece, the social service arm of the respective prefecture (nomarchy) of the area where the parents reside can also initiate the process. In either case, the prefecture’s public welfare service or ISS will conduct the field investigation. The law requires that a home study be conducted by local social services, prior to the court hearing, so that the family and the social status of the adoptive parents can be determined.
There is a 15-20 day fostering period for children living in institutions.
Role of the Court: A court decision must be issued following the field investigation by the relevant social service. The majority of adoption mediators ensure that biological parents do not know the details of the adoptive parents, to exclude the possibility of blackmail attempt or other unlawful action.
The documents that comprise the legal file submitted to the court in order to issue a final decision for the adoption are:
- Field investigation report by the social service;
- Marriage certificate;
- Penal record;
- Family status certificate;
- Written consent of biological parent(s);
- Proof of financial stability of prospective adoptive parents;
- Proof of residence of adoptive parents;
- Medical examination of the adoptive parents (excluding those with chronic diseases).
In abandonment cases, a court process replaces the consent of biological parents and facilitates procedures between the adoptive parents and the interested party. Specifically, the consent of parents for adoption of their child is replaced with a court decision if:
- Parents are unknown or the child is abandoned;
- Both parents have been denied parental responsibility or are in a situation where they have been forbidden to exercise parental control regarding their ability to consent to adoption of the child;
- Parents’ residence is unknown;
- The child is protected by a recognized social organization, if he/she has been removed from the parent’s custody and the parents refuse to give consent; or the child is delivered with the consent of parents to a (foster) family for care and upbringing, with the intent to adopt, and the child has been integrated into that family for at least a year, and the parents later refuse to give consent.
- Role of Adoption Agencies: There are no private adoption agencies in Greece. Whether an individual adopts a child from one of the government-run institutions and orphanages, or privately, a lawyer is required.
- Time Frame: Due to the limited number of children available for adoption, and the large number of prospective adoptive parents, the waiting period to finalize an adoption is approximately five years for a child living in an institution. An attorney is required in order to present the case to court and finalize the adoption. Court decisions concerning adoption cases usually take from one to six months before a final decision is issued. For children with health problems, it usually takes up to three years. The timeframe for private adoptions varies.
- Adoption Application: An application signed by the adoptive parents is submitted to the institution.
Adoption Fees: In the adoption services contract that adoptive parents sign at the beginning of the adoption process, the parents’ accredited U.S. agency will itemize the fees and estimated expenses related to the adoption process.
Prospective adoptive parents must obtain a “revenue stamp” (Greek Government fee) before a child is released by a local institution. Court and attorney fees are approximately 1,000 Euros for adoption of children living in local institutions. Fees may change. Be aware that fees and expenses for private adoptions can be substantial.
In the adoption services contract that adoptive parents sign at the beginning of the adoption process, the agency will itemize the fees and estimated expenses related to the adoption process.
Documents Required: In the case of an intercountry adoption, the International Social Service in Athens or the local prefecture require the following documents from prospective adoptive parents in order to proceed with a field investigation:
- An application to show their interest to adopt a child, notarized by the Greek police if they are in Greece, or sent through their International Social Services office from the United States;
- Certified copies of birth certificates;
- Certified copy of their marriage certificate;
- Medical certificates concerning the general health condition, and separate certificates concerning the mental health of the adoptive parents;
- Evidence of the financial stability of the adoptive parents; and
- Penal records of both adoptive parents. A "penal record" is a document that Greek citizens can obtain from the appropriate area judicial authority regard to their "conviction free" background. It has been the Embassy's experience that U.S. citizens, whenever required, can submit to the Greek authorities an FBI record, which is considered to serve the same purpose.
Note: Additional documents may be requested.
- Authentication of Documents: The United States and Greece are parties to the Hague Apostille Convention. U.S. public documents may be authenticated with an Apostille by the appropriate U.S. Competent Authority.
6. Obtain an Immigrant Visa for your Child and Bring Your Child Home
Now that your adoption is complete (or you have obtained legal custody of the child for the purpose of adopting the child in the United States), there are a few more steps to take before you can head home. Specifically, you need to apply for three documents before your child can travel to the United States:
If you have finalized the adoption in Greece, you will first need to apply for a birth certificate for your child so that you can later apply for a passport.
Upon finalization of the adoption, the court will change the child’s surname to that of the adoptive parent. The court may also allow the adoptive parent, upon application, to add or change the given name that the child had before the adoption, and to change the place of birth, if this is in the interest of the child.
The court will issue a decision on any changes made on the name of the adopted child based on the primary birth certificate. This certificate is then presented to the Greek registry office (Lixiarhion). The new birth certificate will contain the name of the adoptive parent(s) as the parents, with no reference to the biological parents, and it will also reflect any name or place of birth changes approved by the court, with no reference to the court decision. This is done because of the strict privacy laws in Greece, which state that the adoption of minors must be kept secret. The adopted child only has the right to be informed by the adoptive parents and the Greek competent authorities on the particulars regarding his/her natural parents, once he/she has reached the age of 18. Before that time, the adoption cannot legally be divulged to the adopted child.
Your child is not yet a U.S. citizen, so he/she will need a travel document or passport from Greece.
Prospective adoptive parents can visit this website for information on obtaining a Greek passport for their child.
U.S. Immigrant Visa
After you obtain the new birth certificate and passport for your child, you also need to finalize your application for a U.S. visa for your child from the U.S. Embassy in Athens, Greece. After the adoption (or custody for purpose of adoption) is granted, visit the U.S. Embassy for final review of the case, issuance of a U.S. Hague Adoption Certificate or Hague Custody Certificate, final approval of Form I-800, and to obtain your child’s immigrant visa. This immigrant visa allows your child to travel home with you. 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.
Child Citizenship Act
For adoptions finalized abroad prior to the child’s entry into the United States: A child will acquire U.S. citizenship upon entry into the United States if the adoption was finalized prior to entry and the child otherwise meets the requirements of the Child Citizenship Act of 2000.
For adoptions finalized after the child’s entry into the United States: An adoption will need to be completed following your child’s entry into the United States for the child to acquire U.S. citizenship.
*Please be aware that if your child did not qualify to become a citizen upon entry to the United States, it is very important that you take the steps necessary so that your child does qualify as soon as possible. Failure to obtain citizenship for your child can impact many areas of his/her life including family travel, eligibility for education and education grants, and voting. Read more about the Child Citizenship Act of 2000.
POST-ADOPTION/POST-PLACEMENT REPORTING REQUIREMENTS
Greece requires at least one post-adoption report submitted yearly for a time period of three years following the adoption.
Applying for Your U.S. Passport
U.S. citizens are required by law to enter and depart the United States on a valid U.S. passport. Only the U.S. Department of State has the authority to grant, issue, or verify U.S. passports.
Getting or renewing a passport is easy. The Passport Application Wizard will help you determine which passport form you need, help you to complete the form online, estimate your payment, and generate the form for you to print—all in one place.
Obtaining a Visa to Travel to Greece
In addition to a U.S. passport, you may also need to obtain a visa. A visa is an official document issued by a foreign country that formally allows you to visit. Where required, visas are affixed to your passport and allow you to enter a foreign nation. To find information about obtaining a visa for Greece, see the Department of State’s Country Specific Information.
Staying Safe on Your Trip
Before you travel, it is always a good practice to investigate the local conditions, laws, political landscape, and culture of the country. The Department of State provides Country Specific Information for every country of the world about various issues, including the health conditions, crime, unusual currency or entry requirements, and any areas of instability.
Staying in Touch on Your Trip
When traveling during the adoption process, we encourage you to enroll with the Department of State. Enrollment makes it possible to contact you if necessary. Whether there is a family emergency in the United States or a crisis in Greece, enrollment assists the U.S. Embassy or Consulate in reaching you.
Enrollment is free and can be done online via the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP).
Many adoptive parents find it important to find support after the adoption. There are many public and private nonprofit post-adoption services available for children and their families. There are also numerous adoptive family support groups and adoptee organizations active in the United States that provide a network of options for adoptees who seek out other adoptees from the same country of origin. Take advantage of all the resources available to your family, whether it is another adoptive family, a support group, an advocacy organization, or your religious or community services.
Here are some places to start your support group search:
- Child Welfare Information Gateway
- North American Council on Adoptable Children
- Adoption Services Support Groups for adopting Persons
Note: Inclusion of non-U.S. government links does not imply endorsement of contents.
Greek Adoption Authority
Department of Adoptions, Fosterages, Central Authority for Inter-Country Adoptions
Directorate of Family Protection (D22)
General Directorate of Welfare
General Secretariat of Welfare
Ministry of Labour, Social Security and Social Solidarity
Postal Address: 29 Stadiou, Athens 101 10, Greece
Tel: 210-5281182-3, 210-5281273
Greece also has Consulates in Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, Houston, Los Angeles, New York, San Francisco and Tampa. For detailed contact information, please visit the Greek Ministry of Foreign Affairs website.
U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS)
For questions about immigration procedures:
National Customer Service Center (NCSC)
Tel: 1-800-375-5283 (TTY 1-800-767-1833)
For questions about filing a Form I-800A or I-800 petition:
National Benefits Center
Tel: 1-877-424-8374 (toll free); 1-816-251-2770 (local)