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Intercountry Adoption


Country Information


Exercise normal precautions in Japan.

Japan – Level 1: Exercise Normal Precautions

Reissued after periodic review without changes.

Exercise normal precautions in Japan.

Read the country information page for additional information on travel to Japan.

If you decide to travel to Japan: 


Intercountry adoption from Japan is a complex matter. Please review adoption notices for Japan for additional information.

Hague Convention Participation

Hague Adoption Convention Country?
Are Intercountry Adoptions between this country and the United States possible?
Both adoptions to the United States from Japan and from the United States to Japan are possible.

Hague Convention Information

Japan is not a party to the Hague Convention on Protection of Children and Co-operation in Respect of Intercountry Adoption (Hague Adoption Convention or Convention). Under the Intercountry Adoption Universal Accreditation Act (UAA), which became effective on July 14, 2014, the accreditation requirement and standards, which previously only applied in Convention cases, now also apply in non-Convention or “orphan” cases. The UAA requires that an accredited or approved adoption service provider acts as a primary provider in every case, and that adoption service providers providing adoption services on behalf of prospective adoptive parents be accredited or approved, or be a supervised or exempted provider. Adoption service providers and prospective adoptive parents should review the State Department’s Universal Accreditation Act of 2012 webpage for further information. Intercountry adoptions of children from non-Convention countries continue to be processed under the Orphan Process with the filing of the Forms I-600A and I-600. However, adoption service providers should be aware of the information on the USCIS website on the impact on Form I-600A and Form I-600 adjudications under the UAA, including the requirement that all home studies, including home study updates and amendments, comply with the Convention home study requirements, which differ from the orphan home study requirements that were in effect before July 14, 2014.

Please note: Japan does not have a comprehensive national law on intercountry adoption. Please review adoption notices for Japan for additional information.

American citizens can complete a full and final adoption in Japan under Japanese law. However, Japanese law requires the adopting parents and the child to spend at least six months togetherin Japan before the adoption can be finalized. 


For adoptions that are finalized in Japan, there are two types of adoptions under Japanese law - regular and special.

"Regular" adoptions are not considered a viable option for American citizens wishing to adopt in Japan as they are based on Japanese cultural and family traditions and do not legally sever the ties between the child and his or her birth family. To date there have been no known cases of Americans applying for immigrant visas for children adopted under the Japanese "regular" adoption process. To be a valid adoption for U.S. immigration purposes there must be an irrevocable termination of the biological parent(s) - child relationship.

"Special" adoptions in the Japanese context are an option for Americans who are able to satisfy the required minimum six-month trial nurturing period in Japan. The law on special adoptions went into effect on January 1, 1988, having been created to protect children. Special adoptions more closely resemble Western-style adoptions. As in U.S. adoptions, a special adoption legally severs the child's ties, rights and privileges with regard to the birth parent(s) and any prior adoptive parents.

U.S. Immigration Requirements

To bring an adopted child to the United States from Japan, you must meet certain suitability and eligibility requirements. The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) determines who can 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 an orphan under U.S. immigration law in order to be eligible to immigrate to the United States with an IR-3 or IR-4 immigrant visa.

Who Can Adopt

In addition to being found suitable and eligible to adopt by USCIS, prospective adoptive parents seeking to adopt from Japan must meet the following requirements:

  • RESIDENCY REQUIREMENTS: There are no laws concerning the visa status of prospective adoptive parents. However, parents almost always must reside in Japan during the entire court process, which takes a minimum of six months and possibly as long as 18 months. When the adoption is finalized at least one parent must be present at court. Proxy adoptions are not permitted.
  • AGE REQUIREMENTS: In special adoptions, prospective adoptive parents must be over 25 years of age. However, if one parent is over 25, the other parent can be younger than 25 so long as he or she is at least 20 years old. In regular adoptions, prospective adoptive parents must be at least 20 years of age.
  • MARRIAGE REQUIREMENTS: In special adoptions, prospective adoptive parents must be a married couple. In regular adoptions, there may be circumstances in which single people can adopt.
  • INCOME REQUIREMENTS: While there are no specific income requirements required by Japanese law, the prospective adoptive parents likely will have to provide documentation on their income and finances.
  • OTHER REQUIREMENTS: There are no laws regulating or addressing same-sex couples adopting in Japan, but there have been no known cases of this happening. However, it may be permitted if the prospective adoptive parents' state recognizes the marriage as legal.

Who Can Be Adopted

In addition to qualifying as an orphan under U.S. immigration law, the child must meet the following requirements of Japan: 

  • Relinquishment: Japanese law does not specify that the child must be an "orphan" (i.e., as defined in U.S. immigration law) in order for the adoption to proceed. According to Article 817-7, a special adoption can be granted when:
  1. It is extremely difficult for the biological parents to take care of the child;
  2. It is considered inappropriate for the biological parents to raise the child; and/or
  3. It is in the interests of the child. 
  • Age of Adoptive Child: For a child to be adopted under the special adoption law, the child must be under the age of 6 at the time the petition to adopt is filed. However, the adoption can still proceed if the child is under the age of 8 and the prospective adoptive parents have had custody of the child and continually cared for the child since before the child was 6 years of age. Please note that for a child to meet the definition of an orphan under U.S. immigration law, a Form I-600, Petition to Classify Orphan as an Immediate Relative, must be filed on the child’s behalf while the child is under the age of 16 (or under the age of 18 if the child is the birth sibling of another adopted child who has immigrated or will immigrate based on adoption by the same adoptive parent(s)).
  • Sibling Adoptions: None specified. 
  • Special Needs or Medical Conditions:  None specified.
  • Waiting Period or Foster Care: None specified. 
  • Please note: The family court uses these guidelines to determine whether or not to grant the adoption, taking the specific circumstances of each case into account. Please note that it is possible for the Japanese court to issue a final adoption order, but for the child to still be ineligible for an IR-3 immigrant visa because he or she does not meet the U.S. definition of "orphan" in the U.S. Immigration and Nationality Act (INA 101(b)(1)(F)). For more information on the child's eligibility for a U.S. immigrant visa please see the Immigrant Visa Process page on our website.

Caution: Prospective adoptive parents should be aware that not all children in orphanages or children’s homes are eligible for adoption. In many countries, birth parents place their child(ren) temporarily in an orphanage or children’s home due to financial or other hardship, intending that the child return home when this becomes possible. In such cases, the birth parent(s) have rarely relinquished their parental rights or consented to the adoption of their child(ren).

How to Adopt

Japan’s Adoption Authority

Japan's principal adoption authorities are the Family Courts and the Child Guidance Centers (CGC), both of which are administered at the prefectural level.

The Process

The process for adopting a child from Japan generally includes the following steps:

1. Choose a U.S. Accredited or Approved Adoption Service Provider

2. Apply to USCIS to be Found Suitable and Eligible to Adopt (Form I-600A)

3. Apply to Japan’s Authorities to Adopt and be Matched with a Child

4. Adopt the Child in Japan

5. Apply for Your Child to be Found Eligible to Immigrate to the United States as an Orphan (Form I-600)

6. Apply for a U.S. Immigrant Visa for Your Child and Bring Your Child Home

1. Choose a U.S. Accredited or Approved Adoption Service Provider

Before taking steps to adopt a child from Japan, you should select a U.S. accredited or approved adoption service provider to be the primary provider in your case. As of July 14, 2014, a primary provider is required in every intercountry adoption case under the UAA, unless an exception applies. The primary provider is responsible for:

  • Ensuring that all six adoption services defined at 22 CFR 96.2 are provided;
  • Supervising and being responsible for supervised providers where used (see 22 CFR 96.14); and
  • Developing and implementing a service plan in accordance with 22 CFR 96.44.

For more information on primary providers and the UAA, please see Universal Accreditation Act of 2012.

2. Apply to USCIS to be Found Suitable and Eligible to Adopt

In order to adopt a child from Japan, you will need to meet the requirements of the Government of Japan and U.S. immigration law.

To meet U.S. immigration requirements, you may also choose to file a Form I-600A, Application for Advance Processing of an Orphan Petition, with USCIS to be found suitable and eligible to adopt before you identify a child to adopt. You may also choose to file the Form I-600 petition along with all the required Form I-600A application supporting documentation, including an approved home study, once you have been matched with a child and have obtained all the necessary documentation. Please see the USCIS website for more information about filing options. Regardless of which approach you take, the home study must meet the same requirements. As of July 14, 2014, unless an exception applies, the home study must comply with the requirements in 8 CFR 204.311 and 22 CFR Part 96.47.

3. Apply to Japan’s Authorities to Adopt and be Matched with a Child

If you are found suitable and eligible to adopt under U.S. law, you must also submit an adoption application to the adoption authority of Japan to be found eligible to adopt by Japan.

If you are eligible to adopt, and a child is available for intercountry adoption, the Japanese adoption service provider or the Child Guidance Center that has custody of the child arranges for child/prospective adoptive parent matches. In some cases the biological parent is asked to provide input concerning who will adopt the child. We encourage families to consult with a medical professional and their adoption service provider to understand the needs of the specific child but each family must decide for itself whether it will be able to meet the needs of, and provide a permanent home for, a specific child, and must conform to the recommendations in the home study for the number of children and capacity to deal with any special needs of an adoptive child. Learn more about Health Considerations.

The child must be eligible to be adopted according to Japan’s requirements, as described in the Who Can Be Adopted section. The child must also meet the definition of an orphan under U.S. immigration law.

4. Adopt the Child in Japan.

The process for finalizing the adoptionin Japan generally includes the following:

  • Role of the Court: Final Adoption (Special Adoption):

    For those who are finalizing the adoption in Japan, the Family Court reviews the adoption application. Please note that you may never actually appear in court in front of a judge; the paperwork may be done at the clerk's office. In reviewing the application, the Court examines the law governing intercountry adoptions in the prospective adoptive parents' U.S. state of legal domicile. The Court informs the prospective adoptive parents of their court hearing date. This first hearing date generally occurs at the end of the trial six-month period, during which time a court representative conducts an interview with the prospective adoptive parents and conducts at least one home visit. Approximately two to three weeks after the final hearing, the judge will decide whether or not to approve the adoption. If the judge approves the petition, the Court issues a certificate allowing "Permission to adopt" (yoshi no kyoka). If the biological parents or any interested parties do not object within two weeks of the parents' registering the adoption at the ward office or two weeks after the date provided on the final decree, it is considered final.

  • Role of Adoption Agencies: When finalizing the adoption in Japan, the adoption agency can match the prospective adoptive parents with a child, provide all of the necessary forms and instructions on how to complete the adoption process in Japan, and help collect the documents necessary for the U.S. immigrant visa, including the birth certificate and adoption decree.

Starting July 14, 2014, unless an exception applies, there must be a U.S. accredited or approved adoption service provider acting as the primary provider in every case. Also, any agency or person providing an adoption service on behalf of prospective adoptive parents in any Convention or non-Convention case must be accredited or approved, or be a supervised or exempted provider. Adoption service means any one of the following six services:

  • Identifying a child for adoption and arranging an adoption;
  • Securing the necessary consent to termination of parental rights and to adoption;
  • Performing a background study on a child or a home study on a prospective adoptive parent(s), and reporting on such a study;
  • Making non-judicial determinations of the best interests of a child and the appropriateness of an adoptive placement for the child;
  • Monitoring a case after a child has been placed with prospective adoptive parent(s) until final adoption; or
  • When necessary because of a disruption before final adoption, assuming custody and providing (including facilitating the provision of) child care or any other social service pending an alternative placement. 22 CFR 96.2 Definitions.
  • Adoption Application: When finalizing an adoption in Japan, the prospective adoptive parents submit their adoption application to the Family Court with jurisdiction over the child's residence.
  • Time Frame: Intercountry adoptions through the Family Court require at least six months and sometimes longer, possibly up to 18 months. The Japanese court system will take into account the laws of your state of residence and will try to comply with those laws. In practice, this may mean that finalization of the adoption takes several months longer than it otherwise would. The Family Court does not mandate a time limit on when an adoption must be completed.


  • Adoption Fees: For those who are resident in Japan and adopting a child through the Japanese court system, the costs vary widely; however, the average total cost is approximately US$20,000. This includes fees for the Family Court, adoption agency, immigration processing, and document translations and authentications.

    Please note that Japanese adoption service provider fees can range from US$5,000 to US$50,000 or higher, so the overall cost of adoption depends on the agency the prospective adoptive parents select. Japanese law prohibits adoption service providers operating in Japan from profiting from adoptions, and the provider is required to give you an itemized invoice. That list may include fees to cover the birth of the child, as such costs are not covered by Japanese health insurance. Prospective adoptive parents may incur additional fees when adopting a child with medical conditions.

    Adoption service providers in Japan are prohibited from receiving donations before the completion of the adoption process, and a donation may not be a condition for providing services. Providers that violate these regulations should be reported to the prefectural government and may be suspended or closed by that government.
  • Prospective adoptive parents are advised to obtain detailed receipts for all fees and donations paid, either by themselves directly or through their U.S. adoption service provider, and to raise any concerns regarding any payment that you believe may be contrary to U.S. law, or the law of Japan, with your adoption service provider. Please also refer to information concerning the Hague Complaint Registry.  Improper payments may have the appearance of buying achild, violate applicable law, and could put all future adoptions in Japan at risk. The Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, for instance, makes it unlawful to bribe foreign government officials to obtain or retain business. Further, the UAA and IAA make it unlawful to improperly influence relinquishment of parental rights, parental consent relating to adoption of a child, or a decision by an entity performing Central Authority functions.
  • Documents Required: When completing a full and final adoption under Japanese law, the Japanese adoption agency should provide you with a complete list of required documents. These may include:
    • Birth certificate and/or family register of all parties
    • Passport, Japanese visas and Alien Registration cards for all parties
    • Copy of U.S. military ID (where applicable)
    • Marriage, divorce, and death certificates (where applicable)
    • Copy of any property ownership deeds and/or bank statements
    • Certificate of foster parent registration (where applicable)
    • Certificate of good conduct/no criminal record for each adoptive parent (issued by their home city or state police department)
    • Certificate of legal address, employment, and income
    • Biographic history of all parties
    • Statement of consent to adopt by the child's biological parent(s) or guardian
    • Statement of prospective parent(s)' intent to adopt the identified child
    • Home Study (approved by an authorized and licensed adoption agency)
    • Two character references

Note: Additional documents may be requested.

  • Authentication of Documents: You may be asked to provide proof that a document from the United States is authentic. The U.S Department of State’s Authentications Office has information on the subject.

5. Apply for Your Child to be Found Eligible for Immigration to the United States as an Orphan

After you finalize the adoption in Japan, USCIS must determine whether the child meets the definition of an orphan under U.S. immigration law in order for the child to immigrate to the United States. You will need to file a Form I-600, Petition to Classify Orphan as an Immediate Relative. At the time you file your Form I-600 petition, the adjudicating officer will determine whether the UAA applies or if your case is UAA grandfathered. For more information on UAA grandfathering and transition cases, please see Universal Accreditation Act of 2012. Unless an exception applies, you must identify a primary provider in your case and the adjudicating officer may ask for the name and contact information of the primary provider if not provided in your Form I-600 petition. This information is required and, without it, your Form I-600 petition cannot be approved.

If you have an approved, valid Form I-600A, Application for Advance Processing of an Orphan Petition, you may file your Form I-600 petition either in the United States with USCIS or in person at the U.S.Embassy in Tokyo.

When a Form I-600 petition is adjudicated by USCIS in the United States, the consular section in Tokyo must complete a Form I-604, Determination on Child for Adoption (sometimes informally referred to as an orphan determination), to verify the child’s orphan status. When a Form I-600 petition is adjudicated by an international USCIS office, USCIS generally completes the Form I-604 determination.

For Form I-600 petitions filed with the Embassy’s consular section, the consular officer must complete the Form I-604 determination after you file your Form I-600 petition. Conducting the Form I-604 determination is a critical part of the orphan adoption process. It can take months to complete, depending upon the circumstances of your case. Consular officers appreciate that families are eager to bring their child home as quickly as possible. Some of the factors that may contribute to the length of the process include prevailing fraud patterns in the country of origin, civil unrest or security concerns that restrict travel to certain areas of the country, and the number of determinations performed by available staff. Consular officers make every effort to conduct them as quickly and thoroughly as possible. You are advised to keep your travel plans flexible while awaiting the results.

6. Apply for a U.S. Immigrant Visa for Your Child and Bring Your Child Home

Now that your adoption is complete, and the Form I-604 determination has been completed finding that your child meets the legal definition of an orphan for immigration purposes, there are a few more steps to take before you and your child can head home. Specifically, you need to apply for three documents before your child can travel to the United States:

Birth Certificate

Once you have finalized the adoption in Japan, you will first need to apply for a new birth certificate for your child. Your name will be added to the new birth certificate.

You will first need to apply for a family registry (the Japanese version of a birth certificate) for the child, so that you can later apply for a passport An adoption service provider should be able to assist you with this process.

Japan Passport

Your child is not yet a U.S. citizen, so he/she will need a travel document or passport from Japan.

Only the child's biological or adoptive parent or legal guardian may apply for a passport on behalf of the minor child, but an adoption service provider should be able to help get the document.

Please note: according to the Japanese nationality law, a child is not considered to have gained citizenship of a second country (the United States in this case) by his or her own will, so the child does not automatically lose Japanese citizenship when naturalized as a U.S. citizen. For more information, click here.

U.S. Immigrant Visa

After you obtain the new birth certificate and passport for your child and you have filed Form I-600, Petition to Classify Orphan as an Immediate Relative, you then need to apply for a U.S. immigrant visa for your child from the U.S. Embassy in Tokyo. This immigrant visa allows your child to travel home with you and be admitted to the United States as your child. As part of this process, you must provide the consular officer the Panel Physician’s medical report on the child.

Before coming for your child’s immigrant visa interview, please complete an Electronic Immigrant Visa Application (DS-260) online at the Consular Electronic Application Center (CEAC). If you filed a Form I-600 petition in the United States, you should receive a letter from the National Visa Center (NVC) confirming receipt of the petition and assignment of a case number and an invoice ID number. You will need this information to log into CEAC to file the DS-260 for your child. An adoptive parent should fill out these forms in your child's name. Answer every item on the form. If information is not applicable, please write “N/A” in the block. Print and bring the DS-260 form confirmation page to the visa interview. Please review the DS-260 FAQs, our Online Immigrant Visa Forms page, or contact the NVC at or +1-603-334-0700 if you have questions about completing the online DS-260 form.

It is not usually possible to provide the visa to adoptive parents on the same day as the immigrant visa interview. Adoptive parents should verify current processing times with the U.S. Embassy in Tokyo before making final travel arrangements.


Child Citizenship Act

For adoptions finalized abroad prior to the child’s entry into the United States: An adopted child residing in the United States in the legal and physical custody of the U.S. citizen parent pursuant to a lawful admission for permanent residence generally will acquire U.S. citizenship automatically upon entry into the United States if the child otherwise meets the requirements of the Child Citizenship Act of 2000, including the child is under the age of eighteen.

For adoptions finalized after the child’s entry into the United States: You will need to complete an adoption following your child’s entry into the United States and before the child turns eighteen for the child (if he or she otherwise meets the requirements of the Child Citizenship Act of 2000) to automatically acquire U.S. citizenship.

Read more about the Child Citizenship Act of 2000.

Traveling Abroad

Applying for Your U.S. Passport

U.S. citizens are required to enter and depart the United States on a valid U.S. passport. Once your child has acquired U.S. citizenship, s/he will need a U.S. passport for any international travel. 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 Department of State’s 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 Japan

In addition to a U.S. passport, you may also need to obtain a visa. Where required, visas are affixed to your passport and allow you to enter a foreign nation. To find information about obtaining a visa for Japan, 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 in the world about various issues, including health conditions, crime, 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 through our Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP) to receive important information from the Embassy about safety conditions in your destination country. Enrollment makes it possible for the U.S. Embassy or Consulate in Japan, to contact you in an emergency, whether natural disaster, civil unrest, or family emergency.

Enrollment is free and can be done online via the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP).

After Adoption

The adoptive parents need to work with the Japanese adoption service provider to have the child's name removed from the birth mother's family registry (koseki). This is important to the birth mother because she may have chosen intercountry adoption so that the child's name would be removed from her family registry.

Japanese children who are adopted by foreign parents and acquire a second nationality retain Japanese citizenship because they are not viewed as having acquired a second nationality by their own choice. According to Japanese law they should select their citizenship before reaching the age of 22. For more information, click here.

Post-Adoption Resources

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. Your primary provider can provide or point you to post- placement/post-adoption services to help your adopted child and your family transition smoothly and deal effectively with the many adjustments required in an intercountry adoption.

Here are some places to start your support group search:

Note: Inclusion of non-U.S. government links does not imply endorsement of contents.


If you have concerns about your adoption process, we ask that you share this information with the Embassy in Tokyo, particularly if it involves possible fraud or misconduct specific to your child’s case. The Department of State takes all allegations of fraud or misconduct seriously. Our Adoption Comment Page provides several points of contact for adoptive families to comment on their adoption service provider, their experience applying for their child’s visa, or about the Form I-600 petition process.

The Hague Complaint Registry is an internet based registry for filing complaints about U.S. accredited or approved adoption service providers. If you think your provider's conduct may have been out of substantial compliance with accreditation standards, first submit your complaint in writing directly to your provider. If the complaint is not resolved through the provider's complaint process, you may file the complaint through the Hague Complaint Registry.

Contact Information

U.S. Embassy in Japan
Box 114
1-10-5 Akasaka Minato-ku
Tokyo 107-8420, Japan
Tel: (81)(3) 3224-5000
Fax: (81)(3) 3224-5929

Japan’s Adoption Authority

The Family Court and the Child Guidance Center (CGC) are administered at the local prefectural level and are often located in the City or Ward Office.

Embassy of Japan

2520 Massachusetts Ave., NW
Washington, D.C. 20008-2869
Tel: (202) 939-6700

Japan also has consulates in: Anchorage, Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, Detroit, Honolulu, Houston, Miami, Kansas City (MO), Los Angeles, New Orleans, New York, Portland (OR), Saipan (Mariana Islands), San Francisco, Seattle, and Tamuning (Guam).

Office of Children’s Issues

U.S. Department of State
SA-17, 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)

Assistance for U.S. Citizens

U.S. Embassy Tokyo
1-10-5 Akasaka, Minato-ku,
Tokyo 107-8420 Japan

Japan Map