Adopting a Relative for Immigration to the United States

U.S. citizens wishing to adopt a child relative from abroad and then petition for that child to immigrate to the United States following the completion of the adoption must generally proceed in the same way as non-relative U.S. prospective adoptive parents. U.S. immigration law provides three different processes through which a child may immigrate to the U.S. on the basis of an intercountry adoption: the Convention process, the Non-Convention process, and the  immediate relative petition process. A relative child may immigrate under one of these provisions only if the adoption meets all the requirements of that specific process. You can learn more about the eligibility requirements by viewing our web page, Who can be Adopted.

The Convention Process:
A child adopted from a Convention country must qualify as a Convention adoptee under U.S. immigration law and the adopting parent(s) generally must follow the Convention process for intercountry adoptions. This process will involve filing a Form I-800A, Application for Determination of Suitability to Adopt a Child from a Convention Country, and a Form I-800, Petition to Classify Convention Adoptee as an Immediate Relative. In general, the Form I-800 must be filed before the child’s 16th birthday unless an exception applies. 

Please note that for adoptions involving a Convention country, the Convention and U.S. law and regulations implementing the Convention generally prohibit prior contact between prospective adoptive parents and the child’s parents or legal guardian. However, this prohibition does not apply if the child and the prospective adoptive parents are relatives.

The Non-Convention Process (“Orphan” Process):
A child adopted from a non-Convention country must qualify as an orphan under U.S. immigration law and the adopting parent(s) generally must follow the orphan process. This process will generally involve filing a Form I-600A, Application for Advance Processing of an Orphan Petition, and a Form I-600, Petition to Classify Orphan as an Immediate Relative. In general, the Form I-600 must be filed before the child’s 16th birthday unless an exception applies.

The Family-based Petition Process:
To be eligible to receive an immigrant visa through the family-based petition process, the child must have been adopted while under the age of 16 (or be the natural sibling of such a child, adopted by the same parent(s) as his or her sibling while under the age of 18). In addition, the Form I-130, Petition for Alien Relative, family-based petition process under INA 101(b)(1)(E) requires the child to have been in the legal and physical custody of, and resided with, the adoptive parent(s) for at least two years prior to filing the Form I-130 petition. If the child is or was habitually resident in a Hague Convention country prior to the adoption and the adoption occurred on or after April 1, 2008, the two-year legal custody and physical residency period generally must be satisfied outside the United States in order for the Form I-130 to be approvable. The rules for this immigration process are discussed in greater detail on the USCIS website here.     



Which process must a U.S. citizen follow in order to petition for a stepchild to immigrate to the United States?

A stepparent may file the Form I-130, Petition for Alien Relative for a stepchild (spouse’s child) to qualify for an immediate relative visa. U.S. citizen stepparents who wish to bring a stepchild to the United States are not required to follow the Convention or orphan adoption immigration procedures in cases where the U.S. citizen married the child’s parent before the child’s 18th birthday. Unlike a birth child or adopted child, however, a stepchild does not acquire citizenship under Section 320 of the Immigration and Nationality Act based on the relationship to the stepparent.  For more information, see the USCIS online brochure titled “I Am a U.S. Citizen . . .  How Do I Help My Relative Become a U.S. Permanent Resident?”

You may also refer to the I-130 Immigration Process for Adopted Children page for more information.


If I an adopting a relative, am I required to work with a primary provider?

Yes, you will need a primary provider. Prospective adoptive parents pursuing an intercountry adoption (a Convention or orphan adoption), including the adoption of a child relative, must work with an adoption service provider who is able to ensure that all adoption services have been provided. Under U.S. law, U.S. adoption service providers that are not public entities or otherwise an exempted provider must be accredited or approved in order to provide adoption services relating to intercountry adoptions. Prospective adoptive parents are required to identify a primary provider, the entity that has ensured all adoption services have been provided as required.

Please refer to the Adoption Service Providers page for more information. 

Last Updated: September 13, 2022