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WARNING: Bulgaria is party to the Hague Adoption Convention. Do not adopt or obtain legal custody of a child in Bulgaria before a U.S. consular officer issues an “Article 5 Letter.” See the “How to Adopt” section for more information.
Bulgaria is party to the Hague Convention on Protection of Children and Co-operation in Respect of Intercountry Adoption (Hague Adoption Convention). Therefore, all adoptions between Bulgaria and the United States must meet the requirements of the Convention; the U.S. implementing legislation, the Intercountry Act of 2000 (IAA), and the IAA implementing regulations.
To bring an adopted child to the United States from Bulgaria, you must meet certain suitability and eligibility requirements. USCIS determines who is suitable and eligible to adopt a child from another country and bring that child to live in the United States under U.S. immigration law.
Additionally, a child must meet the definition of a Convention adoptee under U.S. immigration law in order to be eligible to immigrate to the United States with an IH-3 or IH-4 immigrant visa.
Adoption between the United States and Bulgaria is governed by the Hague Adoption Convention. Therefore to adopt from Bulgaria, you must first be found eligible to adopt by the U.S. government. The U.S. government agency responsible for making this determination is the Department of Homeland Security, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).
In addition to these U.S. requirements for prospective adoptive parents, Bulgaria also has the following requirements for prospective adoptive parents:
Children are listed on the registry for domestic adoption if they are officially relinquished or abandoned by the parents. If no Bulgarian family adopts a child from the domestic registry within six months of listing, the child is entered into the registry for international adoptions, maintained by the Ministry of Justice. Biological parents may reinstate their custody even after they have officially relinquished or abandoned their child and the child has been entered into the registry for domestic or international adoptions. However, this happens very rarely and only after careful review by the Bulgarian social services.
Because Bulgaria is party to the Hague Adoption Convention, children from Bulgaria must meet the requirements of the Convention in order to be eligible for adoption. For example, the adoption may take place only if the competent authorities of Bulgaria have determined that placement of the child within Bulgaria has been given due consideration and that an intercountry adoption is in the child’s best interests. In addition to Bulgarian requirements, a child must meet the definition of a Convention adoptee for you to bring him or her back to the United States.
WARNING: Bulgaria is party to the Hague Adoption Convention. Do not adopt or obtain legal custody of a child in Bulgaria before a U.S. consular officer issues an “Article 5 Letter.” Read on for more information.
Bulgaria’s Adoption Authority
Department of International Legal Child Protection and Intercountry Adoptions
Ministry of Justice
Because Bulgaria is party to the Hague Adoption Convention, adopting from Bulgaria must follow a specific process designed to meet the Convention’s requirements. A brief summary of the Convention adoption process is given below. You must complete these steps in the following order so that your adoption meets all necessary legal requirements.
NOTE: If you filed your I-600A with Bulgaria before April 1, 2008, the Hague Adoption Convention may not apply to your adoption. Your adoption could continue to be processed in accordance with the immigration regulations for non-Convention adoptions. For more information, read about Transition Cases.
1. Choose an Accredited ASP
2. Apply to be Found Eligible to Adopt
3. Be Matched with a Child
4. Apply for the Child to be Found Eligible for Immigration to the United States
5. Adopt the Child in Bulgaria
6. Bring your Child Home
The recommended first step in adopting a child from Bulgaria is to select an accredited ASP in the United States that has been accredited. Only these agencies and attorneys can provide adoption services in Convention adoptions between the United States and Bulgaria. Learn more about Agency Accreditation.
The U.S. ASP must work with a Bulgarian adoption agency that has been accredited by the Bulgarian Ministry of Justice. The U.S. ASP may not work directly with the Ministry of Justice. For a complete list of Bulgarian adoption agencies accredited by the Bulgarian Ministry of Justice, please visit the web site of the U.S. Embassy in Sofia, Bulgaria.
After you choose an accredited ASP, you must apply to be found eligible to adopt (Form I-800A) by the Department of Homeland Security, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). Read more about Eligibility Requirements.
Once the U.S. government determines that you are “eligible” and “suitable” to adopt, you or your adoption agency will forward your information to the adoption authority in Bulgaria. Bulgaria’s Ministry of Justice will review your application to determine whether you are also eligible to adopt under Bulgaria’s law.
After completing the U.S. pre-adoption requirements through USCIS, the U.S. ASP works with a Bulgarian adoption agency that has been licensed by the Bulgarian Ministry of Justice. While the two agencies work together as partners, with a signed agreement,under 22 CFR 96.46, the Bulgarian ASP would be considered a foreign supervised provider. The U.S. accredited or approved ASP has certain responsibilities of oversight over the conduct of the Bulgarian ASP, even though the Bulgarian ASP is also accredited by the Bulgarian Central Authority. All required documents must be filed at the Ministry of Justice by the Bulgarian ASP. If the prospective parent(s) application is accepted, their names are placed on a registry.
If both the United States and Bulgaria determine that you are eligible to adopt, and a child is available for intercountry adoption, Bulgaria’s Ministry of Justice may provide you with a referral for a child in accordance with the criteria you have specified in your home study. Each family must decide for itself whether or not it will be able to meet the needs and provide a permanent home for a particular child.
Due to the priority given to children with special needs, the Bulgarian Ministry of Justice processes referrals of prospective adoptive parents willing to adopt a child with special needs before other referrals. A child with special needs is defined as a child with significant health issues or a child over seven years of age.
The Adoption Council within the Ministry of Justice reviews the registries of prospective parents and available children, including all relevant documentation, and proposes a match. The MOJ provides the adoptive parents through their Bulgarian accredited agency photographs of the child and information about the child, including his/her medical condition. If the family declines to adopt the child, the agency must inform the Council within two months of the referral, and the Council will suggest a match with a different child. There is no limitation as to the number of times prospective adoptive parents may decline a proposed match.
After you accept a match with a child, you will apply to the U.S Government, Department of Homeland Security, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) for provisional approval to adopt that particular child (Form I-800). USCIS will make a provisional determination as to whether the child meets the definition of a Convention Adoptee and will be eligible to enter the United States and reside permanently as an immigrant.
After provisional approval of Form I-800, an electronic visa application form (DS-260) must be submitted. The visa application may be filled out and submitted by you or your U.S. or Bulgarian ASP. You, or someone acting on your behalf, will then visit the consular section of the U.S. Embassy to pay the visa fee and submit a photograph of the child. A consular officer will review the child’s information and evaluate the child for possible visa ineligibilities.
WARNING: The consular officer will send a letter (referred to as an “Article 5 Letter”) to the Bulgarian Central Authority in any intercountry adoption involving U.S. citizen parents and a child from Bulgaria where all Convention requirements are met and the consular officer determines that the child appears eligible to immigrate to the United States. This letter will inform the Bulgarian Central Authority that the parents are eligible and suited to adopt, that all indications are 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.
Do not attempt to adopt or obtain custody of a child in Bulgaria before a U.S. consular officer issues the Article 5 Letter in any adoption case.
Remember: The consular officer will make a final decision about a child’s eligibility for an immigrant visa later in the adoption process.
Remember: Before you adopt (or gain legal custody of) a child in Bulgaria, 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 in Bulgaria.
The process for finalizing the adoption (or gaining legal custody) in Bulgaria generally includes the following:
In addition to the above, U.S. adoption agencies charge fees for the services they provide.
The Department of State discourages the payment of any fees that are not properly receipted that may be requested from prospective adoptive parents. Such fees have the appearance of “buying” a baby, may be contrary to the Convention and U.S. law, and put all future adoptions in Bulgaria at risk. If you think such a fee has been asked or demanded, please inform the U.S. Embassy in Bulgaria.
Now that your adoption is complete (or you have obtained legal custody of the child), there are a few more steps to take before you can head home. Specifically, you need to apply for three documents before your child can travel to the United States:
You will firstneed to apply for a new birth certificate for your child, so that you can later apply for a passport. Your name will be added to the new birth certificate.
Note: The process of obtaining a birth certificate and passport takes 3 - 4 weeks. The parents are not required to do anything in order to apply for these two documents. Their accredited adoption agency authorizes an attorney to represent them at court and deposit documents at various Government entities.
Your child is not yet a U.S. citizen, so he/she will need a travel document or Passport from Bulgaria.
After the new birth certificate has been issued, the representative has to apply for a passport of the child. The process of obtaining a birth certificate and a passport takes 3-4 weeks.
U.S. Immigrant Visa
After you obtain the new birth certificate and passport for your child, you also need to apply for a U.S. visa from the U.S. Embassy in Sofia for your child. After the adoption (or custody for purpose of adoption) is granted, visit the U.S Embassy for final review and approval of the child’s I-800 petition and to obtain a visa for the child. This immigrant visa allows your child to travel home with you. As part of this process, the consular officer must be provided the “Panel Physician’s” medical report on the child.
The visa interview may be scheduled by the adoptive parents or by their Bulgarian representative over the telephone as soon as the child obtains a Bulgarian passport. They must first make sure that their fingerprint clearances have not expired. The visa interview may be scheduled a few days before the intended interview date.
Interviews can be scheduled by calling (359-2) 937-5444 each working day from to 09:00 to 12:00. This is the direct line to the Immigrant Visa Unit. In case of emergency or if the line is busy, adoptive parents may reach the Immigrant Visa Unit through the Embassy's switchboard: (359-2) 937-5100. The Embassy conducts immigrant visa interviews Monday through Thursday from 13:00 to 15:30 hours.
For adoptions finalized abroad: Pursuant to the provisions of the Child Citizenship Act of 2000, children who enter the U.S. on an IR-3 or IH-3 immigrant visa generally acquire U.S. citizenship automatically upon entry to the United States for the purpose of lawful permanent residence.
For adoptions to be finalized in the United States: Pursuant to the provisions of the Child Citizenship Act of 2000, children who enter the United States on an IR-4 or IH-4 immigrant visa generally acquire U.S. citizenship automatically when a court in the United States issues the final adoption decree.
*Please be aware that if your child did not qualify to become a citizen upon entry to the United States, it is very important that you take the steps necessary so that your child does qualify as soon as possible. Failure to obtain citizenship for your child can impact many areas of his or her life including family travel, eligibility for education and education grants, and voting.
Read more about the Child Citizenship Act of 2000.
Applying for Your U.S. Passport
U.S. citizens are required by law to enter and depart the United States on a valid U.S. passport. Only the U.S. Department of State has the authority to grant, issue, or verify U.S. passports. Getting or renewing a passport is easy. The Passport Application Wizard will help you determine which passport form you need, help you to complete the form online, estimate your payment, and generate the form for you to print—all in one place.
Obtaining Your Visa
In addition to a U.S. passport, you also need to obtain a visa. A visa is an official document issued by a foreign country that formally allows you to visit. Where required, visas are attached to your passport and allow you to enter a foreign nation.
To find information about obtaining a visa for Bulgaria, see the Department of State’s Country Specific Information.
Staying Safe on Your Trip
Before you travel, it's always a good practice to investigate the local conditions, laws, political landscape, and culture of the country. The State Department webpage is a good place to start. The Department of State provides Country Specific Information for every country of the world about various issues, including the health conditions, crime, unusual currency or entry requirements, and any areas of instability.
Staying in Touch on Your Trip
When traveling during the adoption process, we encourage you to register your trip with the Department of State. Travel registration makes it possible to contact you if necessary. Whether there’s a family emergency in the United States, or a crisis in Bulgaria, registration assists the U.S. embassy or consulate in reaching you. Registration is free and can be done online.
What does Bulgaria require of the adoptive parents after the adoption?
Bulgaria requires adoptive parents to submit post adoption reports. The Ministry of Justice requires four post-placement reports – one every six months after the adoption for the first two years.
We strongly urge you to comply with all post-adoption requirements in a timely manner. Your adoption agency may be able to help you with this process. Your cooperation will contribute to Bulgaria’s history of positive experiences with U.S. parents.
What resources are available to assist families after the adoption?
Many adoptive parents find it important to find support after the adoption. Take advantage of all the resources available to your family -- whether it’s another adoptive family, a support group, an advocacy organization, or your religious or community services.
Here are some good places to start your support group search:
Note: Inclusion of non-U.S. government links does not imply endorsement of content.
Bulgaria’s Adoption Authority
Ministry of Justice
Department of International Legal Child Protection and Intercountry Adoptions
Address: No 1, Slavyanska Str.
1040 Sofia, Bulgaria
Tel: +359 (2) 923 7304
Fax: +359 (2) 987 1557
Email: M_Parvanova@justice.government.bg; Petya.Todorova@mjeli.government.bg
U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS)
For questions about filing a Form I-800A application or a Form I-800 petition:
USCIS National Benefits Center (NBC):
Tel: 1-877-424-8374 (toll free); 1-913-275-5480 (local); Fax: 1-913-214-5808
For general questions about immigration procedures:
USCIS National Customer Service Center (NCSC)
Tel: 1-800-375-5283 (TTY 1-800-767-1833)
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