Travel.State.Gov > Intercountry Adoption > Country Information > Colombia Intercountry Adoption Information
Exercise increased caution in Colombia due to crime and terrorism. Some areas have increased risk. Read the entire Travel Advisory.
Do not travel to:
Reconsider travel to:
Violent crime, such as homicide, assault, and armed robbery, is common. Organized criminal activities, such as extortion, robbery, and kidnapping for ransom, are widespread.
While the Colombian government signed a peace agreement with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) terrorist group, some dissident groups refuse to demobilize.
The National Liberation Army (ELN) terrorist organization continues plotting possible attacks in Colombia. They may attack with little or no warning, targeting tourist locations, transportation hubs, markets/shopping malls, local government facilities, hotels, clubs, restaurants, places of worship, parks, major sporting and cultural events, educational institutions, airports, and other public areas.
U.S. government personnel cannot travel freely throughout Colombia for security reasons.
Read the Safety and Security section on the country information page.
If you decide to travel to Colombia:
Arauca, Cauca, Chocó, Nariño and Norte de Santander Departments – Level 4: Do Not Travel
Violent crime, including armed robbery and homicide is widespread.
Terrorists groups are active in some parts.
The U.S. government has limited ability to provide emergency services to U.S. citizens as U.S. government personnel cannot travel to these areas without permission from the Embassy’s Regional Security Office. When permitted, U.S. government personnel must travel to the cities of Popayan (capital of Cauca) and Nuqui (capital of Chocó) by air.
Visit our website for Travel to High-Risk Areas.
Several Departments throughout the Country – Level 3: Reconsider travel
Violent crime, including armed robbery and homicide, is widespread in the following departments.
Terrorists groups are active in some parts.
Reconsider travel to:
The U.S. government has limited ability to provide emergency services to U.S. citizens as U.S. government personnel cannot travel to these areas without permission from the Embassy’s Regional Security Office.
U.S. government officials and their families are generally permitted to travel to the major cities of Valledupar, Monteria, Cali, and Palmira by air.
Visit our website for Travel to High-Risk Areas.
Travel Restrictions for U.S. Government Personnel
U.S. government personnel must request advance permission for any travel outside of Bogota and the Atlantic Coast corridor from Cartagena to Santa Marta, and sometimes are required to travel in armored vehicles or carry personnel trackers. U.S. government officials and their families are generally permitted to travel to major cities only by air. They cannot not use inter- or intra-city bus transportation or travel by road outside urban areas at night. During daylight, they are permitted to use only the following routes:
Colombia is party to the Hague Convention on Protection of Children and Co-operation in Respect of Intercountry Adoption (Hague Adoption Convention or Convention). Intercountry adoption processing in Convention countries is done in accordance with the requirements of the Convention; the U.S. implementing legislation, the Intercountry Adoption Act of 2000 (IAA); and the IAA’s implementing regulations, as well as the implementing legislation and regulations of Colombia.
On July 15, 2013, Colombia's Central Authority for adoptions, the Colombian Family Welfare Institute (ICBF), ceased accepting new intercountry adoption applications from non-Colombian citizens living abroad interested in adopting a child under 6 years and 11 months old, unless ICBF considers the child to have special characteristics or needs (please see the Special Needs or Medical Conditions section below for more information). ICBF has indicated that this restriction will last at least two years.
All Colombian adoptions are managed through ICBF or an authorized adoption institution (known in Spanish as “Institucion Autorizada para desarollar el Programa de Adopciones” (IAPA)). Colombian law prohibits private adoptions. Please note ICBF does not allow for a Colombian child to travel to the United States to be adopted. Therefore, prospective adoptive parents must obtain a full and final adoption under Colombian law before the child can immigrate to the United States. The Colombian adoption process has two stages, an administrative process (with ICBF or an IAPA) and a judicial process before a family judge. Intercountry adoptions are only considered full and final in Colombia after the family judge issues the final adoption decree, called a “sentencia,” and the certificate of conformity issued by ICBF. Adopting parents are required to remain in Colombia during both stages of the adoption process.
Note: Special transition provisions apply to adoptions initiated before April 1, 2008. Read about Transition Cases.
To bring an adopted child to the United States from Colombia, 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.
In addition to the U.S. requirements, Colombia obliges prospective adoptive parents to meet the following requirements in order to adopt a child from Colombia:
Because Colombia is party to the Hague Adoption Convention, children from Colombia 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 Colombia have determined that placement of the child within Colombia has been given due consideration and that an intercountry adoption is in the child’s best interests. In addition to Colombia’s requirements, a child must meet the definition of Convention adoptee to be eligible for an immigrant visa that will allow you to bring him or her to the United States.
Colombia only approves a child for adoption after completing an extensive review of the child’s situation and his or her extended family (a process known as the restoration of rights – “restablecimiento de derechos” in Spanish).
On July 15, 2013, ICBF ceased accepting new intercountry adoption applications from non-Colombian citizens living abroad interested in adopting a child under 6 years and 11 months old, unless ICBF considers the child to have special characteristics or needs. ICBF has indicated that this restriction will last at least two years.
a. Three or more siblings
b. Two siblings, one older than eight years of age
c. Any child older than 8 years of age with no diseases or disabilities
d. Any child of any age with a physical or mental disability
e. Any child with a chronic disease (HIV, cardiac, liver, among others)
ICBF is committed to accelerating the entire adoption process – from declaration of adoptability through the final issuance of the adoption decree – for families interested in these children.
WARNING: Colombia is party to the Hague Adoption Convention. Do not adopt or obtain legal custody of a child in Colombia before a U.S. consular officer issues an “Article 5 Letter” in the case. Read on for more information.
Colombia’s Adoption Authority
Colombian Family Welfare Institute (ICBF)
Note: If any of the following occurred prior to April 1, 2008 (the date on which the Hague Adoption Convention entered into force with respect to the United States), the Hague Adoption Convention may not apply to your adoption: 1) you filed a Form I-600A identifying Colombia as the country where you intended to adopt; 2) you filed a Form I-600; or; 3) the adoption was completed. Under these circumstances, your adopted child’s visa application could continue to be processed in accordance with the immigration regulations for non-Convention adoptions. For more information, read about Transition Cases.
Because Colombia is party to the Hague Adoption Convention, adoptions from Colombia 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 applicable legal requirements. Adoptions completed out of order may result in the child not being eligible for an immigrant visa to the United States.
1. Choose a U.S. Accredited or Approved Adoption Service Provider
The recommended first step in adopting a child from Colombia is to select an adoption service provider in the United States that has been accredited or approved to provide services to U.S. citizens in Convention cases. Only adoption services providers accredited or approved by both the United States and Colombia may provide adoption services between the United States and Colombia. The U.S. accredited or approved adoption service provider will act as the primary provider in your case. The primary adoption service provider is responsible for ensuring that all adoption services in the case are done in accordance with the Hague Adoption Convention and U.S. laws and regulations. Learn more about Agency Accreditation.
Note: Colombian law allows prospective parents and their chosen adoption service provider to work with ICBF or an authorized adoption institution (IAPA). A number of U.S. adoption service providers have pre-established relationships with IAPAs. Adopting with the assistance of an IAPA can be more expensive than adopting directly through ICBF. Prospective parents should review the pros and cons of both options with their adoption service provider before making a final decision about which option to pursue.
2. Apply to USCIS to be Found Eligible to Adopt
After you choose an adoption service provider accredited or approved in both the United States and Colombia, you must apply to be found eligible to adopt by the responsible U.S. government agency, the Department of Homeland Security, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), by submitting Form I-800A. Read more about Eligibility Requirements.
Once USCIS determines that you are “eligible” and “suited” to adopt by approving the Form I-800A, your adoption service provider will provide your Form I-800A approval notice, home study, and any other required information to ICBF, or your chosen authorized adoption institution (IAPA) in Colombia, as part of your adoption dossier (see a list of documents required by ICBF below). Colombia’s adoption authority will review your application to determine whether you are also eligible to adopt under Colombia’s law.
3. Be Matched with a Child in Colombia
If both the United States and Colombia determine that you are eligible to adopt, and the Colombian Central Authority determines that a child is available for adoption and that intercountry adoption is in that child’s best interests, the Colombian Central Authority or IAPA may provide you with a referral for a child.
To request a referral, prospective adoptive parents need to submit the following documents (in addition to your Form I-800A approval notice) to ICBF or the approved adoption institution:
Note: Colombia requires that all documents submitted (except the family album) to be authenticated and include an official Spanish translation by a qualified translator.
The referral is a proposed match between you and a specific child based on a review of your dossier and the needs of a specific child in Colombia. The adoption authority in Colombia will provide a background study and other information, if available, about the child to help you decide whether to accept the referral or not. A family can request additional information about the child before making a final decision. 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. If you accept the referral, the adoption service provider communicates that to the ICBF in Colombia. Learn more about this critical decision.
4. Apply to USCIS for the Child to be Found Eligible for Immigration to the United States and Receive U.S. Agreement to Proceed with the Adoption
After you accept a match with a child, you will apply to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), for provisional approval for the child to immigrate to the United States (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, your adoption service provider or you will submit a visa application to the Consular Section of the U.S. Embassy in Bogota, Colombia, that is responsible for issuing immigrant visas to children from Colombia. A consular officer will review the Form I-800 and the visa application for possible visa ineligibilities and advise you of options for the waiver of any noted ineligibilities.
WARNING: The consular officer will prepare a letter (referred to as an “Article 5 Letter”) to the Colombia’s Central Authority in any intercountry adoption involving U.S. citizen parents and a child from Colombia 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 Colombia’s 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. A representative of your adoption service provider will need to come to the embassy to collect this letter and deliver it to ICBF.
Do not attempt to adopt or obtain custody of a child in Colombia 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 at the final visa interview.
Obtaining the Article 5 letter is a two-step process:
In order to submit the DS-260, you will need the Department of State case number (which will begin with “BGT” followed by 10 digits) and an invoice ID. The National Visa Center (NVC) will mail this information to you generally within two weeks of USCIS’ approval of your I-800. If you do not wish to wait for this letter from NVC, you may email NVCAdoptions@state.gov five to seven business days after USCIS has provisionally approved your Form I-800 petition to request your case number and invoice ID. Please include in this email your full name and date of birth, the full name and date of birth of the petitioner (if you are not the petitioner), and the USCIS receipt number (if you are adopting more than one child, please include the USCIS receipt number for each child as NVC will need to send you a separate case numbers and invoice IDs for each child). Once you have this information, you can complete the online DS-260 application. Please remember that you are filling this form out on behalf of your child(ren) – answer each question based on their current situation (to include using their biological names), not your own.
Note: This payment must be made in person at the embassy, although the local representative may pay by cash or credit card.
Note: A consular officer will confirm the validity of your USCIS-issued fingerprint clearance during the Article 5 review process. If your fingerprints are scheduled to expire within three months, the embassy will normally request that you schedule a new fingerprint appointment with USCIS to update your prints prior to travelling. We cannot issue a visa to your child if your fingerprints have expired, so you will prevent unnecessary delays by updating your prints before travel. If you have already updated your prints, please e-mail a copy of the update (or a copy of the appointment letter showing the date of your fingerprint appointment) to IVBogota@state.gov so that we can work with USCIS to add these updated results to your file.
5. Adopt or Gain Legal Custody of Child in Colombia
Remember: Before you adopt a child in Colombia, you must have completed the above four steps. Only after completing these steps, can you proceed to finalize the adoption in Colombia.
The process for finalizing the adoption in Colombia generally includes the following:
Note: For children adopted by two parents, Colombian law requires that both parents travel to Colombia for the official integration period with the child (as established by ICBF) and for the initial court date. Only one parent is required to remain in Colombia following the initial hearing with the judge. Should one parent choose to return to the United States, the departing parent must go to a Colombian notary to prepare a travel authorization to allow the child to travel to the United States with only one parent.
Before traveling to Colombia, we recommend that you confirm with your adoption service provider the services that you will receive in-country. Although the Colombian government requires adoption service providers to assist you throughout your time in country, families have reported differing levels of support. In particular, we recommend confirming the type of translation assistance you will receive during the process as well as whether the local representative will attend any meetings with you.
6. Obtain an Immigrant Visa for your Child and Bring Your Child Home
Now that your adoption is complete, there are a few more steps to take before you can head home. Specifically, you need to apply for four documents before your child can travel to the United States:
Certificate of Conformity
Your adoption representative will take the adoption decree issued by a family judge to the ICBF national headquarters to obtain a Certificate of Conformity which you will need to present to the U.S. Embassy on the day of your child’s immigrant visa interview.
If you have finalized the adoption in Colombia, you will firstneed to apply for a birth certificate for your child so that you can later apply for his/her Colombian passport.
At present, Colombia does not have any provisions which would allow for the electronic delivery of the adoption decree or the new birth certificate. Your adoption service provider will usually make arrangements to hand-deliver a notarized copy of the adoption decree to the registrar’s office where your child was originally registered. That office will prepare a new birth certificate that someone will need to collect. While this process usually takes just a few days, some families have experienced delays of a week or more due to difficulties in delivering/receiving documents. Families may wish to consult with their adoption service provider prior to traveling to Colombia to review how much additional time this process could require.
Your child is not yet a U.S. citizen, so he/she will need a travel document or passport from Colombia. Most families take the child’s new birth certificate to the Colombian Passport Office located at Calle 100 in Bogota to obtain the child’s passport. A passport costs approximately $65 and is generally available for pick-up within two days.
U.S. Immigrant Visa
After you obtain the new birth certificate and passport for your child, you also need to finalize your application for a U.S. visa for your child from the U.S Embassy in Bogota, Colombia. After the adoption is granted, visit the U.S Embassy for final review of the case, issuance of a U.S. Hague Adoption Certificate or Hague Custody Certificate, a final approval of Form I-800, and to obtain your child’s immigrant visa. 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 if it was not provided during the provisional approval stage. Read more about the Medical Examination.
Once you have the documents listed under section 4 above, along with the required medical exams, your adoption service provider can request an expedited interview by emailing this request and a copy of the child’s biographical data page from the new passport to IVBogota@state.gov. In general, the Embassy can offer an appointment the next business day as long as you or your adoption representative sends the request and a copy of the passport biographical data page before 4:00 p.m. After you or your representative requests the appointment from us, we will reopen your DS-260 application(s). You will then need to return to https://ceac.state.gov/IV/Login.aspx and update the application to show your child’s adoptive name and correct passport information. Note: You cannot make these edits until after we have reopened the DS-260 application electronically.
Child Citizenship Act
For adoptions finalized abroad prior to the child’s entry into the United States: A child will acquire U.S. citizenship upon entry into the United States if the adoption was finalized prior to entry and the child otherwise meets the requirements of the Child Citizenship Act of 2000.
For adoptions finalized after the child’s entry into the United States: An adoption will need to be completed following your child’s entry into the United States for the child to acquire U.S. citizenship.
*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/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 a Visa to Travel to Colombia
In addition to a U.S. passport, you may 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 affixed to your passport and allow you to enter a foreign nation. To find information about obtaining a visa for Colombia, see the Department of State’s Country Specific Information.
Staying Safe on Your Trip
Before you travel, it is always a good practice to investigate the local conditions, laws, political landscape, and culture of the country. 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 enroll with the Department of State. Enrollment makes it possible to contact you if necessary. Whether there is a family emergency in the United States or a crisis in Colombia enrollment assists the U.S. Embassy or Consulate in reaching you.
Enrollment is free and can be done online via the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP).
Post-Adoption/Post-Placement Reporting Requirements
Colombia requires four post-adoption reports certified by a psychologist. The reports should be provided to ICBF 3, 9, 15, and 21 months after the adoption has been finalized. We urge prospective adoptive parents to comply with Colombia’s post-adoption requirements in a timely manner. Your adoption agency may be able to help you with this process. Your cooperation will contribute to Colombia’s history of positive experience with U.S. citizen parents.
Many adoptive parents find it important to find support after the adoption. There are many public and private nonprofit post-adoption services available for children and their families. There are also numerous adoptive family support groups and adoptee organizations active in the United States that provide a network of options for adoptees who seek out other adoptees from the same country of origin. Take advantage of all the resources available to your family, whether it is another adoptive family, a support group, an advocacy organization, or your religious or community services.
Here are some places to start your support group search:
If your adopted child wants to learn about their biological family, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Note: Inclusion of non-U.S. government links does not imply endorsement of contents.
U.S. Embassy in Colombia
Carrera 45, No. 24B-27
Tel: 011-57-1-275-2000, 2:00–3:00 p.m. (Colombian Standard Time)
Email: IVBogota@state.gov, Attn: Adoptions
Colombia Adoption Authority
Bienestar Familiar (ICBF)
Grupo Nacional de Adopciones
Avenida 68 # 64-01
Tel: 011- 4377630 ext. 101000 o 101062
Internet: www.icbf.gov.co (Spanish)
Colombia also has consulates in: Houston, TX; Atlanta, GA; Los Angeles, CA; San Francisco, CA; Chicago, IL; Boston, MA; San Juan, PR; New York, NY; Miami, FL
Office of Children’s Issues
U.S. Department of State
CA/OCS/CI, SA-17A, 9th Floor
Washington, D.C. 20522-1709
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 Contact Center
Tel: 1-800-375-5283 (TTY 1-800-767-1833)
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