Travel.State.Gov > Intercountry Adoption > Country Information > Malawi Intercountry Adoption Information
Last Update: Reissued with updates to health information.
Exercise increased caution in Malawi due to crime.
Crime, such as theft, burglary, armed robbery, assault, and carjacking is common. The capabilities of the Malawi Police Service are growing, but its resources and abilities to deter and investigate crimes, assist victims, and apprehend criminals are limited.
Read the country information page for additional information on travel to Malawi.
If you decide to travel to Malawi:
Malawi 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.
The Malawi Adoption of Children Act of 1949 does not specifically address intercountry adoption, but it states that adopting parents and adopted infants must both be resident in Malawi. While this requirement may appear to preclude the adoption of children from Malawi by parents from another country, a May 9, 2009, Malawi Supreme Court decision gave courts more leeway in granting adoptions for foreign adoptive parents. In particular, while the law remains unchanged, following the Supreme Court decision Malawian courts are no longer obliged to strictly enforce a specific residence requirement before an order for adoption can be granted. The decision extended the meaning of residence so that some kind of physical presence in the country, in addition to ties or links with the country, may now qualify for residence for adoption purposes. The courts in Malawi assess each case individually, taking into consideration the circumstances of the prospective adoptive child.
To bring an adopted child to the United States from Malawi 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 Malawi must meet the following requirements:
Note: Prospective adoptive parent(s) may wish to consult with a Malawian attorney experienced in intercountry adoptions for more information regarding the residency requirement.
Under INA §101(b)(1)(F), a child may 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 Malawi:
Consent: Adoption may not take place without the consent of every person who is a parent or guardian, has custody of, or is liable to contribute to the support of the prospective adoptive child. A court may dispense with such required consent if it is satisfied that the relevant individual has abandoned or deserted the child, cannot be found, or is incapable of giving such consent. In the case of an individual who is liable to contribute to the support of the child, the court may dispense with such an individual’s consent if it is satisfied that the individual has persistently neglected or has refused to contribute to supporting the child, or if the court considers that the consent may be dispensed with otherwise.
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). In Malawi, no child may be adopted from an orphanage or elsewhere without the approval of the Ministry of Gender, Children, Disability and Social Welfare.
Malawi’s Adoption Authority
Ministry of Gender, Children, Disability and Social Welfare
The process for adopting a child from Malawi 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 Malawi’s Authorities to Adopt, and to be Matched with a Child
4. Adopt the Child in Malawi
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 Malawi, 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 Malawi, you will need to meet the requirements of the Government of Malawi 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 reviewing 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 Malawi’s Authorities to Adopt and Be Matched with a Child
If you are found suitable and eligible to adopt under U.S. immigration law, Malawi requires you to submit an adoption application to the Ministry of Gender, Children, Disability and Social Welfare of Malawi to be found eligible to adopt by Malawi.
If a child is eligible for intercountry adoption, the Ministry of Gender, Children, Disability and Social Welfare of Malawi will review your adoption dossier and, if an appropriate match is found, will 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 Malawi’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 Malawi
The process for finalizing the adoption in Malawi generally includes the following:
Adoption service means one or more 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.
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 Malawi, 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 Malawi at risk. The Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (15 U.S.C. §§ 78dd-1, et seq.), 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.
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 Malawi, 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 at the U.S. Embassy in Lilongwe, Malawi. 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 consular section in Lilongwe, Malawi 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 filed with the Embassy’s consular section, the consular officer will 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 weeks or, in some cases, months 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 must 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 Malawi, you will first need to apply for a new birth certificate for your child. Your name will be added to the new birth certificate.
The responsible office for birth records in Malawi is the National Registration Bureau in Lilongwe. Please note that it can take up to three weeks to obtain a birth certificate once the application is submitted.
Address of the National Registration Bureau:
The National Registration Bureau
Office of the President and Cabinet,
Capital Hill Circle, Private Bag 301
Capital City, Lilongwe 3, Malawi
Telephone: +2651789311 / +2651789 411
Documents to submit when requesting a birth certificate:
Your child is not yet a U.S. citizen, so he/she will need a travel document or passport from Malawi.
The Department of Immigration under the Ministry of Home Affairs is the government entity responsible for passport application processing and issuance. There are two passport centers in Malawi:
1) Regional Immigration Office:
Opposite PVHO/Behind CFAO Malawi
Off Paul Kagame Road
P.O. Box 1272
2) Immigration Department Headquarters:
Malawi Immigration Department Headquarters
New Government Building Complex
P.O. Box 331
Documents to submit when requesting a Malawian passport:
U.S. Immigrant Visa
After you obtain the new birth certificate and passport for your child and you have filed Form I-600, you must apply for a U.S. immigrant visa for your child from the U.S. Embassy in Lilongwe. 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 48-72 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 Lilongwe before making final travel arrangements. Additional information on immigrant visa processing can be found on our website.
Child Citizenship Act
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 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 complete the form online, estimate your payment, and generate the form for you to print.
Obtaining a Visa to Travel to Malawi
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 Malawi, 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 in Malawi 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 Malawi, enrollment assists the U.S. Embassy in reaching you.
Enrollment is free and can be done online via the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP).
Post-Adoption/Post-Placement Reporting Requirements
There are no statutory post-adoption reporting requirements for Malawi, although the court will often ask for a voluntary post-placement report.
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 adoption.
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services maintains a website, the Child Welfare Information Gateway, which may 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 Lilongwe, 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 Malawi
16 Jomo Kenyatta Rd
Internet: U.S. Embassy Lilongwe
Malawi’s Adoption Authority
Ministry of Gender, Children, Disability, and Social Welfare
Gemini House, City Centre
Private Bag 330
Tel: 265-1-770-411 / 740 / 203
Embassy of Malawi
2408 Massachusetts Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20008
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-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 Contact Center
Tel: 1-800-375-5283 (TTY 1-800-767-1833)
You are about to leave travel.state.gov for an external website that is not maintained by the U.S. Department of State.
Links to external websites are provided as a convenience and should not be construed as an endorsement by the U.S. Department of State of the views or products contained therein. If you wish to remain on travel.state.gov, click the "cancel" message.
You are about to visit: