Non-Convention Visa Process

A separate process applies to children adopted from non-Hague Adoption Convention countries. Such children must qualify as orphans as defined by the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) before they can be considered for U.S. permanent residence or citizenship.

Key Points

  • For non-Convention adoptions, use U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) Forms I-600A (optional) and I-600. (Read on for descriptions of both forms.)
  • Adopt or obtain legal custody of the child in his or her country of residence before filing the immigrant visa petition (Form I-600) with USCIS.

U.S. Law and the Definition of Orphan

USCIS determines whether a child qualifies as an orphan according to U.S. law - not the law of a child's country of residence. The INA definition includes four key elements:

  • The child must have no parents, or a sole or surviving parent who is unable to care for the child and has, in writing, irrevocably released the child for emigration and adoption.
  • The child must be under the age of 16 at the time an I-600 petition is filed on his or her behalf with USCIS or a consular officer on his or her behalf. A child adopted at age 16 or 17 will also qualify, provided he or she is a birth sibling of a child adopted, or who will be adopted, under the age of 16 by the same adopting parents.
  • The adopting parents must have completed a full and final adoption of the child or must have legal custody of the child for purposes of emigration and adoption in the United States.
  • The child has been or will be adopted by a married U.S. citizen and spouse jointly, or by an unmarried U.S. citizen at least 25 years of age, with the intent of forming a bona fide parent/child relationship.

Visa Types for Non-Convention Adoptions

Children adopted in non-Convention countries receive IR-3 or IR-4 immigrant visas.

  • IR-3 visas are issued after a full and final adoption is completed abroad by both adopting parents; both parents physically see the child prior to or during local adoption proceedings; and the country in which the child resides does not require re-adoption in the United States. Children who are under 18 automatically acquire U.S. citizenship upon entry to the United States on IR-3 visas. In such cases, USCIS automatically sends Certificates of Citizenship without requiring additional forms or fees.
  • IR-4 visas are issued to children for whom a full and final adoption will be completed in the United States. This classification is used when a foreign country only permits prospective adoptive parents to obtain guardianship of a child, rather than allowing a full and final adoption; and/or the prospective adoptive parent(s) have not seen and observed the child prior to the adoption process. Orphans admitted to the United States on IR-4 visas become lawful permanent residents and are automatically processed to receive an Alien Registration Card ("green card"). See our web page on the Child Citizenship Act for more information.

Steps in the Non-Convention Adoption Process

Follow these steps in a non-Convention adoption case before applying for a child's visa (for more information, see our How to Adopt page and the USCIS pages on non-Convention cases):

  1. Optional Filing of Form I-600A with USCIS
    USCIS must determine your suitability as an adoptive parent; you may file Form I-600A ( Application of Advance Processing of Orphan Petition) to establish this. Form I-600A is not designed to evaluate a particular child's classification as an orphan. Filing it can help you get a head start on the intercountry adoption process. Together with Form I-600A, prospective adoptive parents submit a home study, their fingerprints, and other documents. See the USCIS website for special fingerprint instructions for Forms I-600A and I-600.

  2. Adopt or Obtain Legal Custody of the Child
    Adopt or obtain legal custody of the child in his or her country of residence.

  3. File Form I-600 with USCIS
    File Form I-600 ( Petition to Classify Orphan as an Immediate Relative) and supporting documents with USCIS to establish that the child qualifies as an orphan under the INA. If you file the I-600 with a USCIS office in the United States, you may submit proof of your suitability to adopt at that time instead of using Form I-600A. If you are residing abroad, file the I-600 with the USCIS office in that country. For countries with no USCIS presence, consular officers at U.S. Embassies and Consulates may accept I-600s under limited circumstances, including prior USCIS approval of an I-600A that remains valid.

    REQUIRED DOCUMENTS - You must present the following documents with Form I-600:

    • Child's original birth certificate or, if unavailable, a written explanation together with secondary evidence of identity and age (e.g. a re-issued birth certificate listing the adoptive parents);
    • Evidence that the child either has no parents or a sole/surviving parent unable to provide proper care who has irrevocably released the child for emigration and adoption;
    • Evidence of adoption or intent to adopt.

    NOTE: Any foreign language documents submitted with the I-600 petition must be accompanied by a full English translation, which the translator has certified as complete and correct, along with the translator's certification that he or she is competent to translate the foreign language into English. If you file Form I-600 at a U.S. Embassy or Consulate, you must submit originals of the required documents along with the petition. If filing in the United States, USCIS permits petitioners to submit copies of some documents; please refer to the I-600 instructions for rules regarding the submission of original documents.

  4. USCIS or Consular Officer in Child's Country of Residence Completes Form I-604
    The National Visa Center will notify you by letter when your case has been assigned to a U.S. Embassy or Consulate abroad. The Embassy or Consulate will provide instructions on the next steps. A USCIS or consular officer in the child's country of residence then completes Form I-604 ( Determination on Child for Adoption) to ensure the child has been properly classified as an orphan as defined by INA.

  5. Schedule Visa Interview and Submit Visa Application
    Once your Form I-600 has been approved, the Embassy or Consulate will schedule the child's visa interview. Submit the immigrant visa application (Form DS-260) at the interview. (Certain cases require the nonimmigrant visa application, Form DS-156, instead; check with your adoption service provider or the Embassy or Consulate.) The Embassy or Consulate will inform you of the documents needed for the interview, which include evidence of the adoption or grant of legal custody and the results of the child's medical exam.

    REQUIRED FEES - Pay visa processing fees at this time.

  6. Embassy or Consulate Issues the Visa
    If no ineligibilities are found, the consular officer issues your child the IR-3 or IR-4 visa.

    The INA identifies ineligibilities, or reasons that disqualify a foreign national from receiving a visa. In some cases, a visa applicant may apply to USCIS for a waiver of ineligibility. See the USCIS website for more information on waivers and filing Form I-601 ( Application for Waiver of Ground of Inadmissibility).

Last Updated: April 10, 2019