Adoption by Non-U.S. Citizens living in the U.S.

Incoming/Immigrant Adoption Cases

U.S. Lawful Permanent Residents

Each year our office learns of cases in which lawful permanent residents (LPRs) of the United States have legally adopted a child in another country and then found out that the child cannot join them in the United States. Generally an LPR wishing to adopt a child who is not a U.S. citizen or LPR will have more options to apply for an adopted child to join them in the U.S. if they first become a U.S. citizen through naturalization. An unmarried U.S. citizen over twenty-five years of age or a married U.S. citizen may, upon meeting certain conditions, file a Form I-600, Petition to Classify Orphan as an Immediate Relative, or, in some circumstances, a Form I-800, Petition to Classify Convention Adoptee as an Immediate Relative, on behalf of  an adopted child. The spouse of a married U.S. citizen need not be a U.S. citizen but he or she must agree to the adoption. Only U.S. citizens may file a Form I-600 or I-800 petition on behalf of a foreign-born adopted child.

Alternatively, an LPR may bring an adopted foreign-born child to the United States based on an approved Form I-130 immigrant visa petition in the immigrant category "F2A" if the adopted child meets the definition of "child" in Section 101(b)(1)(E) of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA). That section of law requires: 1) the child be adopted while under the age of 16, 2) that the child has been in the legal custody of at least one adoptive parent for at least two years, and 3) that the child has resided with the same adoptive parent(s) for at least two years. These requirements must be satisfied before the LPR adoptive parent(s) may file an immigrant visa petition for the child. This type of visa is known as a “family preference immigrant visa.”

Family preference immigrant visas are subject to numerical limitations, so even after the adoption and the two year physical and legal custody requirements have been met, there is likely to be an additional waiting period before a visa number becomes available.

Questions about this process should be directed to The Department of Homeland Security office of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), which is the federal agency responsible for the adjudication of all Form I-130 petitions, including those filed on behalf of adopted children.

U.S. Nonimmigrant Visa Holders

A foreign-born adopted child will generally not be entitled to U.S. derivative nonimmigrant visa status. In practice, this means that U.S. nonimmigrant visa holders cannot adopt overseas and immediately bring the child back to the United States on a nonimmigrant visa of the same classification as that of the adoptive parent(s). There is an exception for an unmarried son or daughter (which would include an adopted child) of a principal nonimmigrant alien entitled to "A" (diplomatic and other foreign government officials) or "G" (foreign government representative to international organization) nonimmigrant status.

Questions about an adopted child’s eligibility for U.S. derivative nonimmigrant visa status should be addressed to the Nonimmigrant Visa Unit of the U.S. Embassy or Consulate with jurisdiction over the child’s overseas place of residence

Domestic Adoptions in the United States

U.S. Lawful Permanent Residents

In most cases, U.S. lawful permanent residents (LPRs) who adopt children in the United States do so under domestic state adoption laws. The adopted children are generally U.S.-born, U.S. citizen children or U.S. LPRs who live in the United States. If you are a U.S. LPR and you wish to adopt a U.S. citizen child who is living in the United States, contact the State Adoption Manager in your state of residence. If you are a U.S. LPR or a U.S. citizen and you wish to adopt a child who is NOT U.S. citizen but who is physically present in the United States, please contact the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) Contact Center

If you have questions about anything in this entire section, please write to

Disclaimer: This information is intended as a general overview of the circumstances and requirements described. It is not a substitute for the actual Immigration and Nationality Act and its implementing regulations, nor is it a comprehensive summary of the individual provisions discussed. In the case of any inconsistencies between this document and U.S. immigration law and regulation, the law or regulation governs, as appropriate.

Last Updated: November 9, 2018