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Switzerland

Official Name: Switzerland

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Hague Adoption Convention Country? Yes

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  • Hague Convention Information

    Switzerland is party to the Hague Convention on Protection of Children and Co-operation in Respect of Intercountry Adoption ( Hague Adoption Convention ). Therefore, all adoptions between Switzerland and the United States must meet the requirements of the Convention and the U.S. law implements the Convention.

    Switzerland is not considered a country of origin in intercountry adoption. Few Swiss born children are eligible for adoption. Additionally, the demand for adopted children among Swiss citizens is typically high with a long waiting list of Swiss prospective adoptive parents. Most intercountry adoptions in Switzerland are by legal residents of Switzerland who adopt in third countries. The majority of adoptions pursued successfully by American citizens through the Swiss government involve U.S. nationals residing legally in Switzerland who choose to adopt from a third country.

    While legally possible, intercountry adoption of a Swiss orphan by foreigners is unlikely. No Swiss orphans have received U.S. immigrant visas in the past five fiscal years. The information provided is intended primarily to assist in rare adoption cases from Switzerland, including adoptions of Swiss children by relatives in the United States, as well as adoptions from third countries by Americans living in Switzerland.

    NOTE: For Americans living in Switzerland who plan to adopt from third countries, it is advisable to adopt a child from a country that is party to the Hague Adoption Convention. Non-Hague Convention adoptions are not recognized by the Swiss Government. If the adoption does originate in a country which is not party to the Hague Convention, the child will arrive in Switzerland as a "Pflegekind" (foster child), not as an officially adopted family member. After one year, the official adoption procedure of the "Pflegekind" foster child can begin according to Swiss law. Prospective adoptive parents should contact legal counsel or the CCA to get proper information before they start an adoption procedure.

  • Who Can Adopt

    Adoption between the United States and Switzerland is governed by the Hague Adoption Convention. In order for an American applicant to adopt a child from Switzerland, within the framework of the Hague Adoption Convention, a determination of eligibility must first be made 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 prospective adoptive parents, Switzerland also has the following requirements for prospective adoptive parents:

    • RESIDENCY REQUIREMENTS: Parents seeking to adopt are required to have their habitual residence in Switzerland. The Swiss government requires prospective adoptive parents to be fully integrated into the Swiss way of life, Swiss culture and social norms. Prospective parents will be asked to attend a pre-adoption interview with the Cantonal Central Authority (CCA) where the adoption procedure and criteria will be discussed. The home study also will be organized by the CCA with the CCA's appointed social worker.
    • AGE AND MARRIAGE REQUIREMENTS: Both spouses must be at least 35 years of age or older. If a couple does not meet the age requirement, they have to have been married for at least 5 years. Single parent adoptions may only be granted to persons who are 35 years of age or older.
    • INCOME REQUIREMENTS: There are no set income requirements in Switzerland. Every case is decided upon individually. However, the couple or individual seeking to adopt must show that they have the financial means to support a child.
    • OTHER REQUIRMENTS: The medical status of the applicants is considered by the relevant Swiss adoption authorities. There is no set list of disqualifying medical conditions; cases are decided on an individual basis. Switzerland does not, for example, disqualify prospective adoptive parents who are HIV positive. Prospective adopters must undergo an obligatory medical examination. The results of the medical examination will be considered along with other factors in the pre-adoption home study report.
  • Who Can Be Adopted

    Because Switzerland is party to the Hague Adoption Convention, children from Switzerland must meet the requirements of the Convention in order to be considered eligible for adoption. For example; the Convention requires that Switzerland attempt to place a child with a family in Switzerland before determining that a child is eligible for intercountry adoption. In addition to Switzerland's requirements, a child must meet the definition of a Convention adoptee for a prospective adopter to bring him or her back to the United States.

  • How To Adopt

    WARNING: Iceland is party to the Hague Adoption Convention. Do not adopt or obtain legal custody of a child in Iceland before a U.S. consular officer issues an “Article 5 Letter.” Read on for more information.

    Switzerland's Adoption Authority

    The Government office responsible for adoptions in Switzerland is the Municipality (Gemeinde/Commune/Comuni) and/or the local Guardianship Board. The physical location of a prospective adopter directly affects which local governing authority will process their application. Each of the 26 Cantons in Switzerland now has a Central Authority. In order to determine which authority is most relevant, the prospective adopting parents or individual should contact the Cantonal Central Authority (CCA). A list of approved agencies is available from the Embassy or on the Internet at www.bj.admin.ch.

    The Process

    As Switzerland is party to the Hague Adoption Convention, Switzerland must follow a specific process designed to meet the Convention's requirements. A brief summary of the Convention adoption process is given below. The requirements outlined in the Treaty must be followed to successfully prosecute an adoption from within Switzerland.

    NOTE: The information provided is intended primarily to assist in rare adoption cases from Switzerland, including adoptions of Swiss children by relatives in the United States, as well as adoptions from third countries by Americans living in Switzerland.

    1. Choose an Accredited Adoption Service Provider
    2. Apply to be found eligible to adopt
    3. Be matched with a child
    4. Apply for the child to be found eligible for Immigration to the United States
    5. Adopt the child in Switzerland
    6. Bring your child Home
    1. Choose an Accredited Adoption Service Provider:

      The first step in adopting a child from Switzerland is to select an accredited adoption service provider in the United States. Only these agencies and attorneys can provide adoption services between the United States and Switzerland. Learn more.
    2. Apply to be Found Eligible to Adopt:

      After you choose an accredited adoption service provider, a potential adopter must be found eligible to adopt (Form I-600A) by the U.S. Government, Department of Homeland Security, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). Eligibility Requirements.

      Once the U.S. government determines that a couple or individual is "eligible" and "suitable" to adopt, the applicant or accredited adoption agency must forward your information to the adoption authority in Switzerland. Switzerland's adoption authority will review the application to determine if the prospective adopters are eligible to adopt under Swiss law.
    3. Be Matched with a Child:

      If determination of eligibility are issued by both governments to adopt, and a child is available for intercountry adoption, the central adoption authority in Switzerland may provide you with a referral for a child. Each family must decide for itself whether or not it will be able to meet the needs of the particular child and provide a permanent family placement for the referred child.

    4. Apply for the Child to be Found Eligible for Adoption:

      After the applicant accepts a match with a child, you will apply to the U.S. Government, Department of Homeland Security, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) for provisional approval to adopt that particular child (Form I-800). USCIS will determine whether the child is eligible under U.S. law to be adopted and enter the United States.

      After this, the adoption service provider or the applicant must submit a visa application to a Consular Officer at the U.S. Embassy. The Consular Officer will review the child's information and evaluate the child for possible visa ineligibilities. If the Consular Office determines that the child appears eligible to immigrate to the United States, he/she will notify Switzerland's adoption authority (Article 5 letter). For Convention Country adoptions, prospective adoptive parent(s) may not proceed with the adoption or obtain custody for the purpose of adoption until this takes place.

      Remember: The Consular Officer will make a final decision about the immigrant visa later in the adoption process.

    5. Adopt the Child (or Gain Legal Custody) in Switzerland:

      Remember: Before the applicants adopt (or gain legal custody of) a child in Switzerland, they 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 Switzerland.

      The process for finalizing the adoption (or gaining legal custody) in Switzerland generally includes the following:

      • ROLE OF THE ADOPTION AUTHORITY, AND ADOPTION APPLICATION:
        1. Prospective adoptive parents go to the Cantonal Authority to begin the adoption procedure, and;
        2. Attend a session on adoption protocol, organized by the Cantonal Central Authority (CCA). The concept of the adoption procedure in general is to convey to the prospective adoptive parents the intricacy involved in an adoption procedure. Information is given on the various countries of origin of the child or children legal formalities (in Switzerland), costs involved, home study information, and a chance for the prospective adoptive parents to ask questions about the adoption procedure.
        3. Thereafter, if the adoptive parents still wish to adopt a child, they must submit a formal application to the Cantonal Central Authority. If the application is accepted by the CCA, the Cantonal Authority will issue a formal decision that the adoption procedure may go ahead.
      • DOCUMENTS REQUIRED FOR ADOPTION IN SWITZERLAND:
        1. Home Study Report carried out by a social worker, in accordance with the CCA;
        2. Certificate that the applicants are qualified to adopt and that the child to be adopted is permitted to enter Switzerland (i.e., the adoption has to be authorized by the Canton).
        3. Salary statement, proving a regular income;
        4. Tax report;
        5. Criminal record;
        6. Marriage certificate (for a couple).

        If an American citizen living in Switzerland is attempting to adopt a child from a third country, the documentary requirements of the child's country of origin have to be taken into consideration, possibly including psychological analysis, a medical report that may need to include certain tests such as HIV, sterility tests, and any other medical tests required by the country of origin.

        NOTE: Additional documents may be requested. You may be asked to provide proof that a document from the United States is authentic. Read more on Traveling Abroad to learn about Authenticating U.S. Documents.

      • ROLE OF THE COURT: The Court does not have any competence over adoption procedures. The only role a Court may play would occur if the prospective adoptive parents have been turned down by the Cantonal Central Authority and have not been granted the necessary permission to adopt a child. If the prospective parents do not accept the decision of the Cantonal Central Authority they have the right under Swiss law to appeal the decision in Court.
      • ROLE OF ADOPTION AGENCIES: All adoption agencies have to be fully accredited by the Federal Central Authority. The duties of the adoption agencies are strictly regulated by Swiss law. The adoption agencies are responsible for handling paperwork and assisting the prospective adoptive parents with the formalities of the adoption procedure.
      • TIME FRAME: Adoption procedures take a minimum of two months to complete. Prospective adoptive parents are expected to remain in Switzerland the entire time. In Switzerland, a social inquiry can take up to two years to complete, although two years is generally the maximum amount of time required.

        In the case of an intercountry adoption by Americans from a third country, the time frame depends very much upon the country of origin of the adoptive child.

      • ADOPTION FEES: Fees vary from Canton to Canton. One can expect to pay an average of 1,000-2,500 Swiss Francs (or approximately USD 830-2,060 according to the exchange rate). There are also private agency fees to be taken into consideration.
    6. Bring Your Child Home Once an 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, an applicant has to apply for three documents for the child before he or she can travel to the United States:

      • Birth Certificate
        If the adoption took place in the U.S. or in a country that is a party to the Hague Adoption Convention, the adoptive parents will receive a "Certificate of Conformity of Intercountry Adoption - According to Art. 23 of the Hague Convention of 29 July 1993. The Registry office (Zivilstandsamt/Service de l'etat civil/Servizio dello stato civile ) of the municipality where the parents and adoptive child are registered is the authority responsible for the issuance of the Swiss birth certificate.

        An adoption from a non-Hague country is more complicated. The adoptive parents will have a waiting period of one year as the child will have entered Switzerland as a foster child with a passport and the original papers from the country of origin. After one year the adoption procedure can be processed and finalized under Swiss law.

        It is advisable to communicate with the Swiss Registry office to seek advice.

      • Swiss Passport

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

        The first step is to go to the population office in the municipality where one resides and is registered. In Switzerland everyone is registered at the population office in the municipality where they live. Swiss law stipulates that anyone who wishes to obtain an identity document must appear in person (including children and infants) at the commune of residence/population office in Switzerland. It would be advisable to contact this office first to ascertain which documents must be presented. The second step is for parents or the individual to go with the adoptive child to the Cantonal passport office. There is a passport office in each of the 26 Cantons of Switzerland. After January 1, 2003 only new passports will be issued. Each applicant will receive his or her own travel document. Children can no longer be included in the parents' passports. There is a link of all the coordinates of the passport offices which can be found on the following website: www.schweizerpass.admin.ch

        After you obtain the new birth certificate and passport for your child, you also need to apply for a U.S. visa from the United States Embassy for your child. After the adoption (or custody for purpose of adoption) is granted, visit the U.S. Embassy for final review and approval of the child's I-600 petition and to obtain a visa for the child. 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 : The Child Citizenship Act of 2000 allows your child to acquire American citizenship when he or she enters the United States as a lawful permanent resident.

    For adoptions to be finalized in the United States : The Child Citizenship Act of 2000 allows your child to typically acquire American citizenship when the U.S. state court issues the final adoption decree. We urge your family to finalize the adoption in a U.S. State court as quickly as possible.

    *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

    A valid U.S. passport is required to enter and leave Switzerland. 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 Your Visa

    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 attached to your passport and allow you to enter a foreign nation.

    To find information about obtaining a visa for Switzerland, 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 register your trip with the Department of State. Travel registration makes it possible to contact you if necessary. Whether there's a family emergency in the United States, or a crisis in Switzerland, registration assists the U.S. Embassy or Consulate in reaching you.

    Registration is free and can be done online.

  • After Adoption

    What does Switzerland require of the adoptive parents after the adoption?

    There are no post-adoption reporting requirements in Switzerland.

    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:

    Note: Inclusion of non-U.S. Government links does not imply endorsement of contacts.

  • Contact Information

    U.S. Embassy in Switzerland
    Sulgeneckstrasse 19
    3007 Bern
    Internet: https://ch.usembassy.gov/embassy/bern/

    The Swiss Adoption Authority
    Contact the appropriate Cantonal Central Authority (CCA).
    A list of approved agencies is available from the Embassy or on the Internet at www.bj.admin.ch.

    Embassy of Switzerland
    2900 Cathedral Avenue, N.W.
    Washington, D.C. 20008
    Tel: (202) 745-7900
    Fax: (202) 387-2564
    Internet: www.Swissemb.org

    Switzerland also has consulates in Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles, New York and San Francisco.

    Office of Children's Issues
    U.S. Department of State  
    CA/OCS/CI  
    SA-17, 9th Floor  
    Washington, DC 20522-1709
    Tel:1-888-407-4747
    E-mail: AskCI@state.gov
    http://adoption.state.gov

    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)