Exercise normal precautions in South Korea.
Read the Safety and Security section on the country information page.
If you decide to travel to South Korea:
The Republic of Korea (South Korea) 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 of 2012 (UAA), which became effective on July 14, 2014, the requirement that adoption service providers be accredited or approved, and therefore meet the accreditation standards, which previously only applied in Convention cases, now also applies in non-Convention (“orphan”) cases under section 101(b)(1)(F) of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA). The UAA requires that an accredited or approved adoption service provider act as the primary provider in every Convention or non-Convention intercountry adoption case, and that adoption service providers providing any adoption services, as defined at 22 CFR Part 96.2, on behalf of prospective adoptive parents be accredited or approved, or be a supervised or exempted provider. See additional guidance for limited situations when a primary provider may not be required. 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 U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) website on the impact of the UAA on Form I-600A and Form I-600 adjudications, including the requirement that all home studies, including home study updates and amendments, comply with the home study requirements listed at 8 CFR 204.311, which differ from the orphan home study requirements that were in effect before July 14, 2014.
Republic of Korea’s law requires the use of an adoption agency for the intercountry adoption of all Korean orphans, and requires that such agencies be authorized by the Ministry of Health and Welfare. Please see the list of adoption agencies approved by the Republic of Korea in the "Contact Information" section of this website. More information is provided on each individual website regarding their counterpart agencies in the United States.
To bring an adopted child to the United States from the Republic of Korea, 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 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.
In addition to being found suitable and eligible to adopt by USCIS, prospective adoptive parents seeking to adopt a child from the Republic of Korea must meet the following requirements:
Please Note: In addition to eligibility requirements listed above, the prospective adoptive parents must comply with additional requirements (i.e., home visits, mandatory pre-adoption education, [complete reports][submit required reports to…]) before being matched with a child. The adoption service provider will notify the prospective adoptive parents when they have been matched with a child in Korea and can finalize the intercountry adoption procedures in Korea.
Under the INA 101(b)(1)(F), a child can be considered an orphan because of the death or disappearance of, abandonment or desertion by, or separation or loss from both parents, or in the case where there is a sole or surviving parent who is incapable of providing the proper care and has in writing irrevocably released the child for emigration and adoption.
In addition to qualifying as an orphan under U.S. immigration law, the child must also meet the following requirements of the Republic of Korea:
There is currently a 5-month wait period before a child is eligible for intercountry adoption to ensure that the child cannot be placed through domestic adoption.
The Republic of Korea has specific requirements that a child must meet in order to be eligible for intercountry adoption under the "Special Law on Adoption" (effectuated in Aug. 2012). You cannot adopt a child in the Republic of Korea unless he or she meets the “HOW TO ADOPT” requirements outlined below.
In addition to these requirements, a child must meet the definition of an orphan under U.S. law for you to immigrate him or her to the United States. Find out more about Who Can Be Adopted and these U.S. requirements.
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 possible. In such cases, the birth parent(s) have rarely relinquished their parental rights or consented to the adoption of their child(ren).
Republic of Korea’s Adoption Authority
The Ministry of Health and Welfare
The process for adopting a child from the Republic of Korea generally includes the following steps:
1. Choose a U.S. Accredited or Approved Adoption Service Provider to Act as Your Primary Provider
Before taking steps to adopt a child from the Republic of Korea, you should select a U.S. accredited or approved adoption service provider to be the primary provider in your case. Your primary provider is responsible for:
For more information on primary providers and the UAA, please see Universal Accreditation Act of 2012. See additional guidance for limited situations when a primary provider may not be required. Learn more about Agency Accreditation.
2. Apply to USCIS to be Found Suitable and Eligible to Adopt
In order to adopt a child from the Republic of Korea, you will need to meet the requirements of the Government and laws of the Republic of Korea and U.S. immigration law. U.S. adoption service providers must work with Korean adoption agencies approved by the Republic of Korea Government. Learn more about choosing the right adoption service provider here.
To meet U.S. immigration requirements, you may 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. If you have already identified the child you wish to adopt, you may also choose to file the Form I-600 petition for the child and include all the required supporting documentation for the Form I-600A application (i.e. an approved home study) so USCIS can make a determination on your suitability and eligibility to adopt before revieiwing the child’s eligibility as an orphan. Please see the USCIS website for more information about filing options. Unless an exception applies, the home study must be prepared by a person who is authorized under 22 CFR 96 to prepare home studies and must comply with the requirements in 8 CFR 204.311.
3. Apply to the Republic of Korea’s Authorities to Adopt, and be Matched with a Child
If you are found suitable and eligible to adopt under U.S. immigration law, the Republic of Korea requires you to submit an adoption application to the Republic of Korea adoption authority to be found eligible to adopt by the Republic of Korea.
An approved Korean adoption agency must work with you and your U.S. adoption service provider to file an eligibility for adoption application with the adoption authority of the Republic of Korea.
The competent adoption authority or other authorized entity in the Republic of Korea will review your adoption dossier and, if an appropriate match is found, may provide you with a referral. We encourage families to consider consulting with a medical professional and their adoption service provider to understand the needs of the specific child, but you must decide for yourself whether you will be able to meet the needs of, and provide a permanent home for a specific child. You must also ultimately adhere to the USCIS’ suitability determination (i.e. typically the Form I-600A approval notice) with respect to the number of children you are approved to adopt and the characteristics of the child(ren) (such as age, gender, nationality, and/or special need, disability, and/or impairment) that you are approved to adopt. Learn more about Health Considerations.
The child must be eligible to be adopted according to the Republic of Korea’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 the Republic of Korea
The process for finalizing the adoption in the Republic of Korea generally includes the following:
Adoption service means any one of the following six services:
Note: See additional guidance for limited situations when a primary provider may not be required.
We encourage prospective adoptive parents to obtain detailed receipts for all fees and donations paid, either by them 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 the Republic of Korea , with your adoption service provider, and, when appropriate, through the Complaint Registry. Improper payments may violate applicable law, or create the appearance of buying a child, and could put all future adoptions in the Republic of Korea at risk. The Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, for instance, makes it unlawful to make payments to foreign government officials to assist in obtaining or retaining business. Further, the UAA and IAA make certain actions relating to intercountry adoptions unlawful, and subject to civil and criminal penalties. These include offering, giving, soliciting, or accepting inducement by way of compensation intended to influence or affect the relinquishment of parental rights, parental consent relating to adoption of a child, or a decision by an entity performing functions as a competent authority, or to engage another person as an agent to take any such action.
In the adoption services contract that you sign at the beginning of the adoption process, your adoption service provider will itemize the fees and estimated expenses related to your adoption process. Some of the fees specifically associated with adopting from the Republic of Korea include:
Note: Additional documents may be requested.
5. Apply for Your Child to be Found Eligible to Immigrate to the United States as an Orphan
After you finalize the adoption in the Republic of Korea, USCIS must determine if 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, on behalf of the child and unless an exception applies, you must identify a primary provider.
If you have a valid Form I-600A approval, you may file your Form I-600 petition in the United States with the USCIS National Benefits Center or with the USCIS office in Seoul, Republic of Korea. Please see the USCIS website for more information about filing options.
When a Form I-600 petition is adjudicated by USCIS in the United States, the USCIS office in Seoul, Republic of Korea 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.
After you file your visa application with the U.S. Embassy in Seoul, USCIS Seoul will begin the necessary Form I-604 determination. Conducting the Form I-604 determination is a critical part of the non-Convention adoption process. It can take approximately 1-2 weeks to complete, depending upon the circumstances of your case. USCIS officers appreciate that families are eager to bring their adopted 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. USCIS 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
Once 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, you need to apply for two documents before your child can travel to the United States:
Republic of Korea Passport
Your child is not yet a U.S. citizen, so he/she will need a travel document or passport from South Korea.
The Republic of Korea Ministry of Foreign Affairs issues Republic of Korea passports. Information on applying for a Korean passport can be found at passport.go.kr. An approved Korean adoption agency may work with you to obtain a Republic of Korea passport for your child.
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 acquires U.S. citizenship, s/he will need a U.S. passport for 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 the Republic of Korea
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 Republic of Korea, 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 abroad 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 the Republic of Korea, to contact you in an emergency, whether natural disaster, civil unrest, or family emergency. Whether there is a family emergency in the United States or a crisis in the Republic of Korea, 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]
The Government of the Republic of Korea requires at least four post-adoption reports during the year following completion of an intercountry adoption in Korea. A social worker from a U.S. accredited ASP will provide a report to the Korean agency on the status of the child. The reports require a minimum of two home visits.
Please note the following about the disclosure of adoption information:
Information about Korean adopted children provided in post-placement reports is recorded and stored in an Adoption Database system maintained by Korea Adoption Services. All adoptees may request information regarding their adoption from Korea Adoption Services (under the Ministry of Health and Welfare) or the relevant adoption agency. If a requesting adoptee is a minor (under the age of 19 under Korean law), then s/he must receive consent from her/his adoptive parents.We urge you to comply with Republic of Korea’s’s post-adoption/post-placement requirements in a timely manner. Your adoption service provider may be able to help you with this process. Your cooperation will contribute to Republic of Korea’s positive experiences with U.S. citizen adoptive 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. You may wish to 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 adoptions.
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services maintains a website, the Child Welfare Information Gateway, which can be a useful resource to get you started on your support group search.
If you have concerns about your intercountry adoption process, we ask that you share this information with the Embassy in Seoul, South Korea, 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/A process.
The 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 not have been in 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 Complaint Registry.
U.S. Embassy in South Korea
32 Sejongno, Jongno-gu
Internet: U.S. Embassy and Consulate in Korea
South Korean Adoption Authority
Division of Child Welfare Policy
The Ministry of Health and Welfare
7th, 13, Doum4-ro, Sejong-si,
Republic of Korea 30113
Korea Adoption Services
7th Floor, Chungyang Bldg, 58-3, Chungjung-Ro 1Ga, Jung-gu, Seoul, Korea (postal code. 04516)
Embassy of South Korea
2450 Massachusetts Ave., NW
Washington, DC 20008
*South Korea also has consulates in Agana (Guam), Anchorage, Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, Dallas, Honolulu, Houston, Los Angeles, New York, San Francisco, and Seattle.
U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS)
For questions about filing a Form I-600A application or a Form I-600 petition with the USCIS National Benefits Center (NBC):
Tel: 1-877-424-8374 (toll free); 1-913-275-5480 (local); Fax:1-913-214-5808
For questions about filing a Form I-600A application or a Form I-600 petition with a USCIS international field office:
Please visit http://www.uscis.gov/about-us/find-uscis-office/international-immigration-offices and select the appropriate office.
For general questions about immigration procedures:
USCIS National Customer Service Center (NCSC)
Tel: 1-800-375-5283 (TTY 1-800-767-1833)
APPROVED ADOPTION AGENCIES IN SOUTH KOREA
EASTERN SOCIAL WELFARE SOCIETY, INC.
26 Yeonhui-ro, Seodaemun-gu, Seoul, Korea 03784
HOLT INTERNATIONAL CHILDREN'S SERVICES
19 Yanghwa-ro, Mapo-gu, Seoul, 04027
SOCIAL WELFARE SOCIETY, INC.
21, Nonhyeon-ro 86-gil, Gangnam-gu, Seoul, 06220
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