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Marshall Islands

Official Name: Marshall Islands Last Updated: September 14, 2015

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Hague Adoption Convention Country? No

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  • Hague Convention Information

    Marshall Islands is not a party to the Hague Convention on Protection of Children and Co-operation in Respect of Intercountry Adoption (Hague Adoption Convention).  Intercountry adoptions of children from non-Hague countries are processed in accordance with 8 Code of Federal Regulations, Section  204.3 as it relates to orphans as defined under the Immigration and Nationality Act, Section 101(b)(1)(F).  Under the Intercountry Adoption Universal Accreditation Act (UAA), which became effective on July 14, 2014, the accreditation requirement and standards, which previously only applied in Convention cases, now also apply in non-Convention or “orphan” cases.  The UAA requires that an accredited or approved adoption service provider acts as a primary provider in every case, and that adoption service providers providing adoption services on behalf of prospective adoptive parents be accredited or approved, or be a supervised or exempted provider.  Adoption service providers and prospective adoptive parents should review the State Department’s Universal Accreditation Act of 2012 webpage for further information.  Intercountry adoptions of children from non-Convention countries continue to be processed under the Orphan Process with the filing of the Forms I-600A and I-600.  However, adoption service providers should be aware of the information on the USCIS website on the impact on Form I-600A and Form I-600 adjudications under the UAA, including the requirement that all home studies, including home study updates and amendments, comply with the Convention home study requirements, which differ from the orphan home study requirements that were in effect before July 14, 2014.

    Although the “Compact of Free Association” between the Marshall Islands and the United States permits Marshallese citizens to travel to and live in the United States without a U.S. visa, this provision is not applicable to adopted children who will reside permanently with U.S. families in the United States.  Prospective adoptive parents of Marshallese children must go through the appropriate Marshallese adoption procedures as well as the relevant U.S. immigration procedures related to adopted foreign orphans.  Adopted Marshallese children who enter the United States without a visa may later have difficulties adjusting their U.S. immigration status and, eventually, acquiring U.S. citizenship.

    Prospective adoptive parents should either plan to remain in the Marshall Islands for approximately four to five weeks before returning to the United States with the child or plan to make two separate trips, the first to complete the local adoption process and file the child’s Form I-600 petition and DS-230 immigrant visa application and the second to receive the approved immigrant visa for the child and bring him or her home.  The U.S. Embassy in Manila, Philippines adjudicates and issues immigrant visas for children adopted in the Marshall Islands and delivers them to the U.S. Embassy in Majuro.  Prospective adoptive parents should not make non-refundable travel plans prior to receiving all necessary documentation and immigrant visa(s) for the adopted child(ren).  For more information, please see the ‘U.S. Immigrant Visa’ section below.

  • U.S. Immigration Requirements For Intercountry Adoptions

    To bring an adopted child to the United States from the Marshall Islands, you must meet eligibility and suitability requirements.  The U.S. Department of Homeland Security, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) determine who can adopt under U.S. immigration law.

    Additionally, a child must meet the definition of orphan under U.S. immigration law in order to be eligible to immigrate to the United States on an IR-3 or IR-4 immigrant visa.

  • Who Can Adopt

    In addition to U.S. immigration requirements, you must also meet the following requirements in order to adopt a child from Marshall Islands:

    • Residency:  The Government of the Marshall Islands has no specific requirement or policy regarding the citizenship or residency of foreign prospective adoptive parents.
    • Age of Adopting Parents:  Any person 18 or older can petition to adopt a child; however, the petitioner must be at least 15 years older than the child to be adopted.
    • Marriage:  Under Marshallese law, both married couples and single individuals may adopt Marshallese children.  Marshallese law does not permit same-sex couples or individuals in same-sex relationships to adopt.
    • Income:  There is no minimum income requirement for adoptive parents. 
    • Other:  Prospective adoptive parents must have a home study completed by a U.S. state licensed adoption agency.  This can be the home study that U.S. prospective adoptive parents submit to USCIS as part of their Form I-600A filing.  The home study must include the following:
      • educational background and future educational plans;
      • employment history, current status and any changes in the foreseeable future;
      • income history and future projections, if available;
      • history of prior marriages, if any, including the basis for divorce, the age and gender of each child, and the history of child support for and current relationship with those children;
      • history of current marriage, age and gender of each child already in the home, and detailed report of any prior adoption experiences;
      • participation in any civic or religious activity of prospective adoptive parents;
      • nationwide criminal background search in the prospective adoptive parent’(s) country of residence or country of citizenship; and
      • original child abuse records search.

  • Who Can Be Adopted

    In addition to U.S. immigration requirements, Marshall Islands has specific requirements that a child must meet in order to be eligible for adoption:

    • Relinquishment:  The Central Adoption Authority (“CAA”), a governmental office in the Ministry of Internal Affairs, oversees the adoption process.  The CAA oversees the execution of an “Affidavit of Relinquishment of Parental Rights and Consent to Adoption and Emigration” by the birth parent(s).  No final adoption hearing can occur until at least 30 days have elapsed since the signing of the Affidavit of Relinquishment.

      In most relinquishments, birth mothers do not identify the father and no male has claimed paternity of the child.
    • Abandonment:  Under Marshallese law, “abandonment” means the failure to provide financial support for the child; or knowingly failing to provide a normal parent-child relationship with the child for a period of six or more months and deliberately failing to arrange for the provision of care and supervision of a child by another adult or adults who are willing and able to care for the child.
    •  Age of Adoptive Child:  No child 16 years of age or older may be adopted.  The Court will consider the objection of a child 12 years of age or older to be controlling and the adoption will not proceed.  A child under 12 years of age may object, however, the child’s objection is not controlling.  The Court will determine whether the adoption is in the child’s best interest.
    • Sibling Adoptions:  There are no specific eligibility requirements.
    • Special Needs or Medical Conditions:  There are no specific eligibility requirements.
    • Waiting Period or Foster Care:  In relinquishment cases, the High Court hearing to petition for adoption may not occur before 30 days have passed since the birth parent(s) signed the Affidavit of Relinquishment.

  • How To Adopt

    Marshall Islands’ Adoption Authority
    Central Adoption Authority (“CAA”)

    The Process

    The process for adopting a child from Marshall Islands generally includes the following steps:

    1.  Choose a U.S. Accredited or Approved Adoption Service Provider

    2.  Apply to be found eligible to adopt

    3.  Be matched with a child

    4.  Adopt or gain custody of the child in Marshall Islands

    5.  Apply for the child to be found eligible for orphan status

    6.  Bring your child home

    Marshall Islands also requires post-adoption reports.  See the “After Adoption” section of this Country Information Sheet for more details.

    1.   Choose a U.S. Accredited or Approved Adoption Service Provider

    The recommended first step in adopting a child from Marshall Islands is to decide whether or not to use a licensed adoption service provider in the United States that can help you with your adoption.  Adoption service providers must be licensed by the U.S. state in which they operate.  The Department of State provides information on selecting an adoption service provider on its website.

    2.  Apply to be Found Eligible to Adopt

    In order to adopt a child from Marshall Islands, you will need to meet the requirements of the Government of Marshall Islands and U.S. immigration law.  You must submit an application to be found eligible to adopt with the CAA.

    To meet U.S. immigration requirements, you may also file an I-600A, Application for Advance Processing of an Orphan Petition with U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services to be found eligible and suitable to adopt.  As of July 14, 2014, unless an exception applies, the home study must comply with the requirements in 8 CFR 204.311 and 22 CFR Part 96.47.

    3.  Be Matched with a Child

    If you are found eligible to adopt, and a child is available for intercountry adoption, the CAA in the Marshall Islands will provide you with a referral.  Each family must decide for itself whether or not it will be able to meet the needs of and provide a permanent home for a particular child.

    The child must be eligible to be adopted according to Marshall Islands’ requirements, as described in the Who Can Be Adopted section.  The child must also meet the definition of orphan under U.S. immigration law.

    4.  Adopt or Gain Legal Custody of Child in Marshall Islands

    The process for finalizing the adoption in Marshall Islands generally includes the following:

    • Role of Adoption Authority:  The CAA was established through the Adoptions Act of 2002.  The CAA is in the Ministry of Internal Affairs and is responsible for the supervision of all adoption proceedings in the Marshall Islands.  The duties of the CAA include:
      • Serving as a central receiving point for all referrals of children to be adopted;
      • Conducting background investigations of the birth parents.
      • Providing case management services to birth parents and children, including:
        • Birth parent counseling on options for effective parenting, including the possibility of traditional or intercountry adoption;
        • Pre-natal nutrition and medical referral services to the birth mother in cooperation with other government agencies, departments, or ministries, as appropriate;
        • Coordinating with licensed agencies to monitor the quality of applications, and providing a recommendation to the Court on individual applications;
      • For children whose consent to adoption is required, providing counseling to the child and providing a recommendation to the Court regarding  the child’s wishes regarding adoption;
      • Monitoring post-adoption progress in coordination with the foreign agencies; and
      • Providing a resource to adoptive parents for post-adoption consultation on issues related to the adoption.
                 
    • Role of the Court:  The High Court determines the eligibility of prospective adoptive parents based on submitted evidence required by the Adoptions Act of 2002 and issues the decree of final adoption.  Prospective adoptive parents must petition the High Court for adoption.  There is a hearing at which the prospective adoptive parent(s) must appear in person.  If a husband and wife are adopting, both must appear.
    • Role of Adoption Agencies:  Adoption agencies interact with the CAA to match children with prospective adoptive parent(s).  Adoption agencies must be licensed by a state or government licensing board and must be represented by a locally licensed lawyer to appear before the Court.
    • Adoption Application:  Prospective adoptive parents must petition the Court for adoption through referral from CAA.
    • Time Frame:  The U.S. Embassy in Majuro has indicated that Marshallese adoptions generally take four to five weeks to complete, from the parents’ arrival on the island to receipt of the child’s immigrant visa.
    • Adoption Fees:  Court costs are approximately $500.  Certified copies of court documents are $5 and certified copies of birth certificates are $1.  Expedited passport issuance costs $85.  U.S. adoption service provider and local attorney fees vary.

      The U.S. Embassy in Majuro discourages the payment of any fees that are not properly receipted, including “donations” or “expediting” fees requested from prospective adoptive parents or their agents.  Such fees may have the appearance of “buying” a baby and put all future adoptions in Marshall Islands at risk.  Similarly, prospective adoptive parents and their agents should be mindful of whether any official, required fee has been exempted, and if so, who exempted the fees, and for what reason.  Further, the UAA and the Intercountry Adoption Act (IAA) make it unlawful to improperly influence relinquishment of parental rights, parental consent relating to adoption of a child, or a decision by an entity performing Central Authority functions.

    • Documents Required:  The High Court requires the following in order to determine the eligibility and suitability of prospective adoptive parent(s) and issue a final adoption decree:
      • In cases where birth parent(s) can be located, their Affidavit of Relinquishment;
      • Certified copy of petitioner’s marriage certificate;
      • Certified copy of birth certificate of each petitioner;
      • Photocopy of each petitioner’s passport;
      • Doctor’s statement attesting to the physical and mental capability of the petitioners to adopt.

    Note:  Additional documents may be requested.

     Authentication of Documents:  The United States and the Marshall Islands are parties to the Hague Apostille Convention.  U.S. public documents may be authenticated with apostilles by the appropriate U.S. Competent Authority.

    5.  Apply for the Child to be Found Eligible for Orphan Status

    After you finalize the adoption (or gain legal custody) in Marshall Islands, the Department of Homeland Security, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services must determine whether the child meets the definition of orphan under U.S. immigration law.  You will need to file a Form I-600, Petition to Classify Orphan as an Immediate Relative.  At the time you file your Form I-600 petition, the adjudicating officer will determine whether the UAA applies or if your case is UAA grandfathered.  For more information on UAA grandfathering and transition cases, please see Universal Accreditation Act of 2012.  Unless an exception applies, you must identify a primary provider in your case and the adjudicating officer may ask for the name and contact information of the primary provider if not provided in your Form I-600 petition.  This information is required and, without it, your Form I-600 petition cannot be approved. 

    6.  Bring Your Child Home

    Once your adoption is complete (or you have obtained legal custody of the child), you need to apply for several documents for your child before you can apply for a U.S. immigrant visa to bring your child home to the United States:

    Birth Certificate

    If you have finalized the adoption in Marshall Islands, you will first need to apply for a new birth certificate for your child.  Your name will be added to the new birth certificate.

    The adoptive parents take a copy of the adoption decree to the Marshall Islands vital records office at the Ministry of Internal Affairs, where the staff produces a new birth certificate within one business day.

    Marshall Islands Passport

    Your child is not yet a U.S. citizen, so he/she will need a travel document or passport from Marshall Islands.

    After the adoptive family receives a new birth certificate listing them as adoptive parents, the adoptive family applies for a Marshall Islands passport for the child at the Attorney General’s office, located in the Republic of the Marshall Islands Capitol building.  New passports are usually produced within one business day.

    U.S. Immigrant Visa

    After you obtain the new birth certificate and passport for your child and you have filed Form I-600, Petition to Classify Orphan as an Immediate Relative, you then need to apply for a U.S. immigrant visa for your child.  This immigrant visa allows your child to travel home with you.

    The U.S. Embassy in Majuro does not issue immigrant visas.  The closest U.S. Embassy to the Marshall Islands that processes immigrant visas is in Manila, Philippines.  The U.S. Embassy in Majuro can accept and review all required paperwork and forward it to the U.S. Embassy in Manila.  As part of this process, the panel physician must complete the medical report and forward it to the U.S. Embassy in Majuro and the consular officer must see the child in person before the immigrant visa is issued.

    Note:  The adoptive parents and children do not have to travel to Manila to complete the U.S. immigrant visa application for the child.

    Adoptive or prospective adoptive parents of Marshallese children should contact the U.S. Embassy in Majuro once they have completed all of the Marshall Islands’ required adoption procedures in order to process the necessary immigrant visa paperwork.  The U.S. Embassy in Majuro will mail all necessary documentation to Manila for final visa adjudication.  Please note that processing times for immigrant visas can take two to three weeks due to mailing times.  Families need not travel to Manila directly, as petitioners may present all documents to the U.S. Embassy in Majuro, and the consular officer in Majuro may conduct their interviews in Majuro.  Adoptive families should take this into account and thus not make non-refundable travel plans to return to the United States.

    You can find instructions for applying for an immigrant visa on the U.S. Embassy in Manila’s website.

    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.  Although the “Compact of Free Association” between Marshall Islands and the United States permits Marshallese citizens to travel to and live in the United States without a U.S. visa, this provision is NOT applicable to adopted children who will reside permanently with U.S. families in the United States.

    *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.

     

  • Traveling Abroad

    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 Marshall Islands

    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.

    Citizens and nationals of the United States must have a passport valid for at least six months from the date of entry to the Marshall Islands.  A visa is not required for U.S. citizens visiting Marshall Islands for one year or less, provided the visitor otherwise complies with applicable regulations, for example, on employment.  For more information about entry requirements to Marshall Islands, travelers may consult with the Embassy of The Republic of the Marshall Islands.  To find information about obtaining a visa for Marshall Islands, 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 Marshall Islands, 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).

  • After Adoption

    Sections 827 and 828 of the Marshall Islands’ Adoptions Act of 2002 address post-adoption reporting.  The adoptive parents must arrange for a post-adoption home visit during the first six months after the adoption and must file a Post Adoption Report with the CAA at the conclusion of the six month period.

    The Post Adoption Report must contain a description of how the child and family are adjusting, whether bonding and attachment between the child and family are sufficient, whether the child’s health and emotional needs are being met, what the family is doing to encourage the child’s cultural heritage, and any other pertinent data sufficient to inform the birth family of the status of the child.

    We strongly urge you to comply with Marshall Islands’ post-adoption requirements in a timely manner.  Your adoption agency may be able to help you with this process.  Your cooperation will contribute to that country’s positive experiences with U.S. citizen parents.

    Post-Adoption Resources

    Many adoptive parents find support services very helpful after completing an adoption.  There are many public and private nonprofit post-adoption services available in the United States 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:

    Note:  Inclusion of non-U.S. government links does not imply endorsement of contents.

  • Contact Information

    The U.S. Embassy in Marshall Islands is located in Majuro.  The U.S. Embassy in Majuro does not issue immigrant visas.  The closest U.S. Embassy to the Republic of the Marshall Islands that processes immigrant visas is in Manila, Philippines. 

    U.S. Embassy in Majuro

    P.O. Box 1379
    Majuro, MH 96960
    Marshall Islands
    Tel:  (692) 247-4011
    Fax:  (692) 247-4012
    Email:  MajConsular@state.gov
    Internet:  https://mh.usembassy.gov/embassy/majuro/

    U.S. Embassy in Manila
    1201 Roxas Blvd.
    Ermita, Metro Manila – 1000
    Philippines
    Tel:  (632) 528-6300
    Email:  IVManilaReplies@state.gov
    Internet:  https://ph.usembassy.gov/embassy/manila/

    Central Adoption Authority of the Marshall Islands
    P.O. Box 18
    Majuro, MH 96960
    Tel:  +692 625-8240
    Fax:  +692 625-5353

    Embassy of the Republic of the Marshall Islands
    2433 Massachusetts Ave N.W.
    Washington, D.C.  20008      
    Tel:  (202) 234-5414
    Fax:  (202) 232-3236
    Email:  info@rmiembassyus.org
    Internet:  rmiembassyus.org

    Office of Children’s Issues
    U.S. Department of State
    2201 C Street, N.W. (SA-29)
    Washington, D.C.  20520
    Tel:  1-888-407-4747
    Email:  Adoption@state.gov
    Internet:  adoption.state.gov

    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)
    Internet:  uscis.gov

    For questions about filing a Form I-600A or I-600 petition:
    National Benefits Center
    Tel: 1-877-424-8374 (toll free); 1-816-251-2770 (local)
    Email:  NBC.Adoptions@DHS.gov