Travel.State.Gov > Intercountry Adoption > Country Information > Laos Intercountry Adoption Information
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There is a continued threat of violence in Xaisomboun Province.
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Intercountry adoption to the United States from Laos is legally possible, but exceptionally difficult. The government of Laos temporarily suspended all adoptions in 2012 while rewriting its adoption laws. Adoptions resumed in 2014 when the government of Laos passed the Decree on Adoption of Children, and has been working to fully implement the decree announcing the resumption, but the law presents significant complications for foreign prospective adoptive parents (PAPs), especially those who do not speak Lao or live in Laos.
Laos 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.
To bring an adopted child to the United States from Laos, 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 Laos must meet the following requirements:
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 Laos:
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).
Lao’s Adoption Authority
Ministry of Justice
The process for adopting a child from Laos generally includes the following steps:
1. Choose a U.S. Accredited or Approved Adoption Service Provider To Act as Your Primary Provider
2. Apply to USCIS to be Found Suitable and Eligible to Adopt (Form I-600A)
3. Apply to Laos’s Authorities to Adopt and be Matched with a Child
4. Adopt the Child in Laos
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 to Act as Your Primary Provider
Before taking steps to adopt a child from Laos, 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 Laos, you will need to meet the requirements of the Government of Laos and U.S. immigration law.
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 note, however, that Lao immigration law allows foreign PAPs to adopt only children that the Government of Laos has selected. 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 Laos’s Authorities to Adopt, and be Matched with a Child
If you are found suitable and eligible to adopt under U.S. immigration law, Laos requires you to submit an adoption application to the Ministry of Justice, the central adoption authority of Laos, to be found eligible to adopt. PAPs living outside of Laos can submit their application through the Lao Embassy or Consulate nearest them.
Adoptions in Laos are carried out pursuant to the 2014 Decree on Adoption of Children (DAC), which states that the Lao government will match a child with PAPs. According to Article 35 of the DAC, foreign prospective adoptive parents must submit an application to the Lao Adoption Authority in order to adopt a Lao national child.
Families should 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 Laos’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 Laos
The process for finalizing the adoption in Laos generally includes the following:
Role of [Adoption Authority or Competent Authority]:
The Ministry of Justice reviews background eligibility information on adoptability of the child and determines if foreign PAPs may adopt a Lao child. The Lao government oversees the placement of a child during the probationary period and monitors the activities of the provincial authorities in Laos.
Adoption service means any one of the following six services:
o Identifying a child for adoption and arranging an adoption;
o Securing the necessary consent to termination of parental rights and to adoption;
o Performing a background study on a child or a home study on a prospective adoptive parent(s), and reporting on such a study;
o Making non-judicial determinations of the best interests of a child and the appropriateness of an adoptive placement for the child;
o Monitoring a case after a child has been placed with prospective adoptive parent(s) until final adoption; or
o 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.
Note: See additional guidance for limited situations when a primary provider may not be required.
Adoption Application: U.S. Citizen PAPs living in Laos must submit their adoption applications to the Ministry of Justice. PAPs residing outside Laos will submit applications through the Lao Embassy or Consulates in their country of residence. If a Lao citizen is applying jointly with a U.S. citizen PAP they should apply for adoption as a foreigner.
PAPs must submit the following supporting documents along with their application:
A. Report and recommendation from Social Welfare sector or social worker on the assessment of a child and child’s family;
B. Notes on counselling provided to a child’s parents or guardian;
C. A letter of notification of birth (if there is no letter of notification of a birth there must be a certification from the village administrative authority or from the hospital if a child was delivered at a hospital) or birth certificate;
D. The consent of the birth parents or guardians, (if available);
E. Health certificate (physical and psychological);
F. The consent of the child if they have reached the age of ten years;
G. Death certificate(s) of the parent(s) or guardian(s) (if exists); [Unofficial translation]
The next step is consideration of the adoption application, which occurs at the central level of the Ministry of Justice and includes an assessment and counselling of the parents by the government. The child is then placed with the PAPs for a six-month probationary period, with check-ins every two months by the adoption teams at the local and provincial levels of government. After the probation period, which includes analysis of the adoption dossier by five different government ministries, the Ministry of Justice approves the adoption and recommends it for final registration and signature by the Minister of Justice.
Note: Additional documents may be requested.
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 Laos, with your adoption service provider, and, when appropriate, through the Complaint Registry. Improper payments violate applicable law, or create the appearance of buying a child, and could put all future adoptions in Laos 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 Laos include processing of documents from various ministries, translation of English documents into Lao, and general processing fees.
5. Apply for Your Child to be Found Eligible to Immigrate to the United States as an Orphan
After you finalize the adoption in Laos, 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.
When a Form I-600 petition is filed with the Embassy’s consular section, the consular officer must complete the Form I-604, Determination on Child for Adoption, to verify the child’s orphan status. Conducting the Form I-604 determination is a critical part of the non-Convention adoption process. It can take several weeks to complete, depending upon the circumstances of your case. Consular 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. 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
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 three documents before your child can travel to the United States:
You will need to obtain a birth certificate for your child.
If you have finalized the adoption in Laos, you will first need to apply for a new birth certificate for your child. Your name will be added to the new birth certificate.
If you have been granted legal custody for the purposes of emigration and adoption of the child in the United States, the birth certificate you obtain will, in most cases, not yet include your name.
An adopted child listed in a family book as such can be used as evidence of legal custody and adoptions may be backdated to the date the child was added to the family book.
Your child is not yet a U.S. citizen, so he/she will need a travel document or passport from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Consular Section. Even with a finalized adoption certificate, obtaining a Lao passport with Adoptive Parents who are not Lao is a long process. A committee of four ministries (MOFA, Health, Labor and Justice) must approve issuance of a passport to the child based on demonstration that the child is in the adoptive parents’ family registration book. Adoptive parents can then have the name of the adopted child inserted into their family registration book, which can be used to obtain a Lao passport. Obtaining a passport and editing a family registration book may take months.
U.S. Immigrant Visa
After you obtain the new birth certificate and passport for your child and you have filed Form I-600, you then need to apply for a U.S. immigrant visa for your child from the U.S. Embassy in Vientiane. This immigrant visa allows your child to travel home with you. As part of this process, you must provide the consular officer with 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. You 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 confirmation page to the visa interview. Review the DS-260 FAQs, our Online Immigrant Visa Forms page, or contact NVC at NVCAdoptions@state.gov or +1-603-334-0700 if you have questions about completing the online DS-260 form.
Upon receipt of the case at post, the Consular Section generally notifies the petitioner. Visa issuance after the final interview generally takes 24-48 hours. It is not usually possible to provide the visa to adoptive parents on the same day as the immigrant visa interview. You should verify current processing times with the U.S. Embassy in Vientiane before making final travel arrangements. Additional information on immigrant visa processing can be found on our website.
Child Citizenship Act
For adoptions finalized abroad prior to the child’s admission 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 if the child otherwise meets the requirements of the Child Citizenship Act of 2000, including that the child is under the age of eighteen.
For adoptions finalized after the child’s admission into the United States: You will need to complete an adoption following your child’s admission 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.
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 Laos
In addition to a U.S. passport, you may also need to obtain a visa to travel to Laos. 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 Laos, 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 Laos, 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
Laos does not have any known reporting requirements once the adoption is completed. In the event the Government of Laos asks you to comply with a post-adoption/post-placement reporting requirement, you should do so in a timely manner. Your adoption service provider may be able to help you with this process. Your cooperation will contribute to Laos’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, you should share this information with the Embassy in Vientiane, 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.
Laos’s Adoption Authority – Ministry of Justice
Lanexang Avenue, Vientiane Capital
Tel: 856 21-451 920, 21-415 523
Fax: 856 21-414 102
Embassy of Laos
Laotian Embassy in Washington, D.C., United States
2222 S Street N.W.
Washington, D.C. 20008
Tel: (+1) 202 332 6416
Fax: (+1) 202 332 4923
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 general questions about immigration procedures:
USCIS Contact Center
Tel: 1-800-375-5283 (TTY 1-800-767-1833)
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