Adoption of Children from Countries in which Islamic Shari'a Law is Observed

The Department of State receives many inquiries from U.S. citizens who wish to adopt orphan children from countries in which Shari’a Law is observed. There is a vast variance in the implications and observance of Shari’a law from country to country. Generally, however, Islamic family law does not allow for adoption as is understood in the United States. Accordingly, it may not be possible for U.S. citizens to adopt a child who is orphaned overseas and to obtain an immigrant visa will allow the child to live in the United States. However, some countries in which Shari’a law is observed do allow custody of children to be transferred through guardianship.

The Immigration and Nationality Act does allow for the issuance of immigrant visas for orphans to be adopted in the United States. Prospective adoptive parents must first obtain legal guardianship or custody of the orphan for emigration and adoption in the United States, in accordance with the laws of the country in which the child resides. To show this standard has been met, the prospective adoptive parents must provide documentation to establish the child has been found eligible for emigration and adoption. This may take the form of a written consent from the Shari’a court or a competent authority, either included on the guardianship decree itself or as a separate document, or a provision of law from the country where the child resides indicating the guardianship decree implies permission for the child to emigrate and be adopted in another country.

Again, the issuance of the immigrant visa in these cases depends on demonstrating that the underlying Shari’a law or the Islamic courts in the country in question actually allows for the child to be adopted overseas. To this point, in many cases, when the I-600 petition and the guardianship decree are submitted by the prospective adoptive parents, the consular officer reviewing the case may contact the Islamic court that issued the decree or work with the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service of the Department of Homeland Security to ensure the guardianship decree meets all U.S. immigration law requirements. Because of this, the I-600 processing time period for these cases may be longer than with other orphan visa cases.

It is also important to note at the time the prospective adoptive parents submit the I-600 application and guardianship decree they will also have to show the consular officer they meet all pre-adoption requirements of the state in which they will be adopting the orphan once they return to the U.S. (through documentary evidence, etc.).

For further information on this issue, please contact the Department of State’s Office of Children’s Issues at

Last Updated: October 30, 2018