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South KoreaOfficial Name: South Korea Last Updated: January 1, 2012
Alerts & Notices
Hague Adoption Convention Country? No
Hague Convention Information
The Republic of Korea (South Korea) is not party to the Hague Convention on Protection of Children and Co-operation in Respect of Intercountry Adoption (Hague Adoption Convention). Therefore, when the Hague Adoption Convention entered into force for the United States on April 1, 2008, intercountry adoption processing for South Korea did not change.
South Korea's law requires the use of an adoption agency for the overseas adoption of all Korean orphans, and requires that such agencies are authorized by The Ministry for Health, Welfare and Family Affairs. Please see the list of approved agencies in the "Contact Information" section of this website. More information is provided on each individual website regarding their counterpart agencies in the United States.
Please Note: U.S. citizens who are considering adoption in South Korea should be aware that the Korean government has expressed its intent to reduce the need for intercountry adoptions by encouraging domestic adoption of Korean orphans. In support of this policy, South Korea has established specific international adoption quotas that are currently being reduced each year. When an adoption agency reaches its quota, an agency is unable to submit emigration applications to the Korean government on behalf of a specific child. Prospective adoptive parents should consult carefully with their adoption service provider pertaining to quotas provided to each agency and current Korean adoption processing times. For important updates please visit U.S. Embassy Seoul's website.
Who Can Adopt
To bring an adopted child to United States from South Korea, you must be found eligible to adopt by the U.S. Government. The U.S. Government agency responsible for making this determination is the Department of Homeland Security, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). Read more on Who Can Adopt.
In addition to these U.S. requirements for adoptive parents, South Korea also has the following requirements for adoptive parents:
- RESIDENCY REQUIREMENTS: There are no residency requirements for South Korean intercountry adoptions. Please note in order to complete a full and final adoption in South Korea it is necessary for prospective adoptive parents to reside in Korea at the time of adoption. For prospective adoptive parents not resident in Korea it will be necessary to gain legal custody for the purpose of adoption and complete a full and final adoption in the United States. This process is explained below.
- AGE REQUIREMENTS: Prospective adoptive parents must be between 25 and 44 years old. Korean authorities usually require both prospective intercountry adoptive parents be younger than 45 years old. The age difference between the couple can be no more than 15 years. Some considerations in waiving the age requirements exist if at least one parent is under 45 years old, the prospective adoptive parents have previously adopted a Korean child, and are willing to adopt an orphan with serious medical problems.
- MARRIAGE REQUIREMENTS: Married couples must have been married at least three years. Single individuals are not eligible to adopt a child from South Korea.
- INCOME REQUIREMENTS: The prospective adoptive parents must have an income higher than the U.S. national average and be sufficient to support the adoptive child.
- OTHER REQUIREMENTS: The prospective adoptive parents cannot have more than five children, including the child(ren) to be adopted.
Who Can Be Adopted
South Korea has specific requirements that a child must meet in order to be eligible for adoption. Under Korean law the "Special Law for Adoption Facilitation and Procedure" (amended in Feb. 2008) determines if a child is eligible for intercountry adoption. You cannot adopt a child in South Korea unless he or she meets the requirements outlined below.
In addition to these requirements, a child must meet the definition of an orphan under U.S. law for you to bring him or her back to the United States. Find out more about Who Can Be Adopted and these U.S. requirements.
There is currently a 5 month wait period before the child is eligible for intercountry adoption to ensure that the child cannot be placed through domestic adoption.
How To Adopt
South Korean Adoption Authority
The Ministry for Health, Welfare and Family Affairs
The process for adopting a child from South Korea generally includes the following steps:
- Choose an Adoption Service Provider
- Apply to be Found Eligible to Adopt
- Be Matched with a Child
- Adopt the Child (or Gain Legal Custody) in South Korea
- Apply for the Child to be Found Eligible for Adoption
- Bring Your Child Home
Choose an Adoption Service Provider:
The first step in adopting a child from South Korea is usually to select a licensed agency in the United States that can help with your adoption. Adoption service providers must be licensed by the U.S. state in which they operate. Learn more about choosing the right adoption service provider here.
Prospective adoptive parents are required to work with an adoption agency approved by the South Korean Government. Approved agencies are listed in the "Contact Information" section and further information regarding their partner agencies in the U.S. can be found through contacting them directly.
Apply to be Found Eligible to Adopt:
To bring an adopted child from South Korea to the United States, you must apply to be found eligible to adopt (Form I-600A) by the U.S. Government, Department of Homeland Security, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). Read more about Eligibility Requirements.
In addition to meeting the U.S. requirements for adoptive parents, you need to meet the requirements of South Korea as described in the Who Can Adopt section.
Be Matched with a Child:
If you are eligible to adopt, and a child is available for intercountry adoption, the central adoption authority in South Korea will provide you with a referral to a child. Each family must decide for itself whether or not it will be able to meet the needs of a particular child and provide a permanent family placement for the referred child. The child must also meet the definition of an orphan under U.S. law. Learn more about this critical decision.
Adopt the Child (or Gain Legal Custody) in South Korea:
The process for finalizing the adoption (or gaining legal custody) in South Korea generally includes the following:
- ROLE OF THE ADOPTION AUTHORITY: The Ministry for Health, Welfare and Family Affairs authorizes the adoption agencies. They also establish the criteria for selecting adoptive parents. The criteria are administrative policy guidelines and not legal requirements.
- ROLE OF THE COURT: The South Korean courts grant legal custody to the prospective adoptive parents. Note: The prospective adoptive parents must complete various procedures (i.e., home visits, complete reports) before permission to adopt is granted. The adoption agency notifies the prospective adoptive parents when they can begin the adoption procedures in the United States.
A child who is abandoned right after birth should acquire his or her own Korean identification card through the court. If a child is born out of wedlock and been registered under one of his or her biological parents' family certificate in order to qualify for intercountry adoption, the adoption service provider will need to receive guardianship of the child through the court.
- ROLE OF ADOPTION AGENCIES: Prospective adoptive parents are required to work with an adoption agency approved by the South Korean Government. Approved agencies are listed in the "Contact Information" section.
The adoption agency facilitates the pre-adoption counseling, submission of application for adoption, home study, child assignment, application for child's overseas adoption to the Korean Government, applications for child's passport and visa, and flies to the adoptive parents.
- ADOPTION APPLICATION: The application for an intercountry adoption is filed with the Korean Government.
- TIME FRAME: The time from when prospective adoptive parents apply for a child in South Korea and when the child arrives in the United States is approximately one to four years. Healthy infant adoptions take approximately three years and children with special needs can take approximately one year.
- ADOPTION FEES: The cost for intercountry adoptions from South Korea is between $9,500 USD and $10,000 USD. This includes child care fees (including payment for foster mother), medical expenses, legal processing fees, administrative fees, social worker payment and counseling fees, and post adoption service fee.
- DOCUMENTS REQUIRED: Most documents required by the Korean Government will be prepared by the adoption agencies. Some of the documents required include:
- Home Study report
- Form I-864,
- Affidavit of Support
- Copy of prospective adoptive parent(s) birth certificate(s)
- Form I-797, Notice of Petition Approval
NOTE: Additional documents may be requested. If you are asked to provide proof that a document from the United States is authentic. Read more about Authenticating U.S. Documents.
Apply for the Child to be Found Eligible for Adoption:
After you finalize the adoption (or gain legal custody) in South Korea, the U.S Government, Department of Homeland Security, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) MUST determine whether the child is eligible under U.S. law to be adopted (Form I-600).
Bring Your Child Home Now that your adoption is complete (or you have obtained legal custody of the child) there are a few more steps to take before you can head home. Specifically, you need to apply for several documents for your child before he or she can travel to the United States:
- Birth Certificate: You or your adoption agency will first need to apply for a new birth certificate for your child, so that you can later apply for a passport.
- South Korean Passport: Your child is not yet a U.S. citizen, so he/she will need a travel document or Passport from South Korea.
U.S. Immigrant Visa
After you obtain the new birth certificate, passport, and I-600 approval for your child, you or your adoption agency also need to apply for an U.S. visa from the U.S. Embassy for your child. After the adoption (or custody for purpose of adoption) is granted, schedule an appointment at the U.S. Embassy to obtain a visa for the child. U.S. visa regulations require that each child be brought to the U.S. Embassy for a personal appearance. Several of the approved adoption service providers request the adopting parents to personally bring their child in to the Embassy to meet this personal appearance requirement. This immigrant visa allows your child to travel to the U.S. 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: The Child Citizenship Act of 2000 allows your new child to acquire American citizenship automatically when he or she enters the United States as lawful permanent residents.
For adoptions finalized in the United States: The Child Citizenship Act of 2000 allows your new child to acquire American citizenship automatically when the court in the United States issues the final adoption decree.
* 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. about the Child Citizenship Act.
Applying for Your U.S. Passport
A valid U.S. passport is required to enter and leave South Korea. Only the U.S. Department of State has the authority to grant, issue, or verify United States 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 Your Visa
In addition to a U.S. passport, a visa is required prior to entry when staying for more than 90 days or for any purpose other than tourism or business. A visa is an official document issued by a foreign country that formally allows you to visit. Where required, visas are attached to your passport and allow you to enter a foreign nation.
To find information about obtaining a visa for South Korea, see the Department of State's Country Specific Information.
Staying Safe on Your Trip
Before you travel, it's always a good practice to investigate the local conditions, laws, political landscape, and culture of the country. The State Department is a good place to start.
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 South Korea, 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).
What does South Korea require of the adoptive parents after the adoption?
The Government of South Korea has no post-adoption requirements; however, adoption agencies do provide after-adoption services.
Korean adoption agencies provide "after adoption services" for 6 months beginning immediately following the legal grant of custody in Korea. Every two months a social worker from a partner agency in the United States will provide a report to the Korean agency on the status of the child. The Korean adoption agency will continue to perform after-adoption services on a less frequent basis pending the child's attainment of U.S. citizenship based on a full and final adoption in the United States.
Please note: Depending on the Korean adoption agency, all adopted children will be able to gain access to his or her records stored in the Korean Adoption Database once they reach the age of 13/15/18 (please note that each Korean adoption agency has different age requirements).
What resources are available to assist families after the adoption?
Many adoptive parents find it important to find support after the adoption. Take advantage of all the resources available to your family -- whether it's another adoptive family, a support group, an advocacy organization, or your religious or community services.
Here are some good places to start your support group search:
- Adopted Korean Connection
- Adoption Services Support Groups for Adopting Persons
- Boston Korean Adoptees
- Korean Adoptees of Hawaii
- Korean American Adoptee Adoptive Family Network
- North American Council on Adoptable Children
Note: Inclusion of non-U.S. Government links does not imply endorsement of contents.
U.S. Embassy in South Korea
32 Sejongno, Jongno-gu
Mailing Address: U.S. Embassy
APO AP 96205-5550
South Korean Adoption Authority
The Family Support Department
The Ministry for Health, Welfare and Family Affairs
6 th floor Hyundai Bldg.
#75 Yulgong-ro Jongro-gu Seoul KOR
Embassy of South Korea
2450 Massachusetts Ave., NW
Washington, DC 20008
*South Korea also has consulates in Agana (Guam), Anchorage, Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, Cleveland, Denver, Detroit, Evanston (Illinois), Ft. Lauderdale, Honolulu, Houston, Kansas City (Kansas), Los Angeles, Minneapolis, Mobile, New Orleans, New York, Oklahoma City, Philadelphia, Phoenix, Portland (Oregon), San Francisco, San Juan, Seattle and St. Louis.
U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS)
For questions about immigration procedures, call the National Customer Service Center (NCSC)
1-800-375-5283 (TTY 1-800-767-1833)
Approved Adoption Agencies in South Korea
EASTERN SOCIAL WELFARE SOCIETY, INC.
493, Changchun-Dong, Sudaemun-Ku, Seoul
HOLT INTERNATIONAL CHILDREN'S SERVICES
382-14, Hapjong-Dong, Mapo-Ku, Seoul
Tel: 82-2-332-7501~4, 322-8102~3
Fax: 82-2-335-6319 or 334-5440
KOREA SOCIAL SERVICE
533-3, Ssangmun-Dong, Dobong-Ku, Seoul
SOCIAL WELFARE SOCIETY, INC.
718-35, Yuksam-Dong, Kangnam-Ku, Seoul
Central Post Office Box 24, Seoul, Korea
Tel: 82-2-552-1015~8, 552-6227