Adopting a child from a Hague Adoption Convention (Convention) country differs in key ways from adopting from a non-Convention country. To date, 90 countries have joined the Convention, including the United States. If you are a U.S. citizen adopting a child from one of the 89 partner countries, the following process applies to you.
Generally, the Convention adoption process involves six central steps. You must complete these steps in the following order to meet U.S. legal requirements for Convention adoptions.
The first step in adopting a child from a Convention country is to select an accredited or approved ASP in the United States. You must also ensure that the authorities of your desired country of origin have authorized your chosen ASP to provide services in that country.
Accredited ASPs are non-profit organizations (agencies) while approved ASPs are individuals (such as attorneys) or for-profit organizations. Only these ASPs can provide adoption services between the United States and other Convention countries. In order to be accredited or approved, ASPs must be in substantial compliance with the standards established by federal accreditation regulations (22 CFR Part 96).
The Department of State has designated the Council on Accreditation (COA) as its sole accrediting entity. The Department of State monitors the accrediting entity to ensure that it performs its functions in compliance with the IAA and the accreditation regulations.
As outlined in the IAA, accredited and approved ASPs are responsible for providing U.S. prospective adoptive parents with six adoption services:
The accredited or approved ASP that is responsible for ensuring that all six adoption services are provided in a Convention case is called the primary provider. Primary providers may use other agents, facilitators, attorneys, or organizations working in the United States or in a Convention country to provide one of the adoption services, but that other entity must generally operate under the supervision of the primary provider. These entities are called supervised providers.
Your primary provider will develop and implement a service plan providing you all six adoption services. Learn more about accreditation in the Convention section of this website.
The accredited or approved ASP that you choose to act as your primary provider will help you apply to be found suitable and eligible to adopt by the U.S. government. In order to adopt a child from another country and bring that child to live in the United States, you must first be found suitable and eligible to adopt under U.S. law by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). You will not be allowed to bring an adopted child (or a child of whom you have gained legal custody) into the United States using the Convention process unless USCIS first determines that you are eligible and suitable to provide proper care for that child.
To apply, you must file Form I-800A, Application for Determination of Suitability to Adopt a Child from a Convention Country, with USCIS. Along with this form, you will submit a home study that includes in-depth information about your health, finances, home, background, and more. It must also address any country of origin criteria for prospective adoptive parents. You must choose the Convention country from which you wish to adopt prior to completing your home study and submitting the Form I-800A to USCIS.
If USCIS finds you suitable and eligible to adopt, your ASP will send your Form I-800A approval notice and home study to the central adoption authority of the child’s country of origin. This notifies the other Convention country that you have been found suitable and eligible to adopt by the U.S. government and that you are seeking a match with a child. The central adoption authority or a competent authority will determine whether you are also eligible to adopt under that country's laws.
If the country determines that you are eligible to adopt under its laws and if a child for whom you would be a suitable match is eligible for intercountry adoption, the central adoption authority will send you or your ASP an official report on the child, which is required under Article 16 of the Convention and is called an Article 16 report. This report will include information about the child's psychological, social, and medical history. It also specifies the child's name, date of birth, and the reasons for making the adoption placement. You should have at least two weeks to review the Article 16 report and consider the medical and social needs of the child and your ability to meet those needs. After the requisite time period, you will either accept or deny the referral.
The Article 16 report also establishes that the competent authorities have, as required under Article 4 of the Convention:
The format of this report will vary; however, your ASP will provide you with an English language translation of the report. Additionally, it will be accompanied by:
After you accept a proposed referral, you will apply to USCIS for provisional approval to continue with the adoption and immigration process for that particular child (Form I-800, Petition to Classify Convention Adoptee as an Immediate Relative). USCIS will determine, based on the information available to them, if the child meets the definition of a Convention adoptee and appears eligible under U.S. law to enter the United States and reside permanently as an immigrant. USCIS will provisionally approve the Form I-800 if the child qualifies for classification as a Convention adoptee and the proposed adoption or grant of custody will meet Convention requirements. If the child appears to meet the definition of a Convention adoptee, and the proposed adoption or grant of custody will meet Convention requirements, USCIS will provisionally approve the Form I-800 petition. (Alternatively, if the child does not qualify as a Convention adoptee or there are other grounds which require a denial of the Form I-800, USCIS will deny the Form I-800.) USCIS will notify you, your ASP, and the U.S. embassy or consulate in the Convention country of the provisional approval.
After you have been notified that your Form I-800 has been provisionally approved, you or your ASP will submit a visa application to a Consular Officer at the appropriate U.S. embassy or consulate in the Convention country. The Consular Officer will review the Form I-800 and the visa application for possible visa ineligibilities and will advise you if there are options to waive any noted grounds of inadmissibility. If the medical examination of the child has been completed, then the required medical exam will be considered at this provisional approval stage of the visa review. If the Consular Officer determines that the child appears eligible to immigrate to the United States and that the information provided indicates that the adoption process thus far has complied with the Convention and IAA, he or she will notify the Convention country's central authority by issuing an Article 5/17 letter. The Article 5/17 letter will inform the foreign central authority that U.S. competent authorities have determined the prospective adoptive parents are eligible and suited to adopt, that the child may enter and reside permanently in the United States, and that the U.S. Central Authority agrees that the adoption may proceed.
In Convention adoptions, prospective adoptive parent(s) may not proceed with an intercountry adoption or obtain custody of a child until the Department of State has issued the Article 5/17 letter.
REMEMBER: An initial analysis of the child's eligibility for the Convention adoptee classification will take place at the provisional approval adjudication stage. However, the Consular Officer will make a final decision about the immigrant visa later in the adoption process.
Before you adopt or gain legal custody of a child for the purpose of emigration and adoption in a Convention country, you 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.
The process for adopting or gaining legal custody of a child varies from country to country. To learn about the specific requirements of the Convention country from which you are adopting, refer to the Country Information section of our website.
After your Convention adoption is complete (or you have obtained legal custody of the child for the purpose of emigration and adoption), there are a few more steps to take before your child may immigrate to the United States. Specifically, you need to apply for several documents for your child:
Please see the visa section of our website for more information about the U.S. immigrant visa process.
The Convention entered into force for the United States on April 1, 2008. The Convention generally governs all adoptions between the United States and other countries party to the Convention as of the date the Convention enters into force for both countries. If a prospective adoptive parent began his or her adoption from a Convention country before the Convention was in force in both countries, but the adoption and immigration process has not been completed, the case may be considered as a transition case under certain circumstances. Read more about transition cases here. For information on the parameters of transition cases in a particular Convention country, refer to our Country Information or the USCIS website.