Intercountry Adoption


Country Information


Republic of Malawi
Exercise increased caution in Malawi due to civil unrest.

Exercise increased caution in Malawi due to civil unrest.

Scheduled political demonstrations have recently occurred in several cities and towns in Malawi. On occasion, acts of vandalism and looting have accompanied these demonstrations, and police have responded by deploying tear gas.

Read the Safety and Security section on the country information page.

If you decide to travel to Malawi:

  • Avoid demonstrations and crowds.
  • Monitor local media for breaking events and be prepared to adjust your plans.
  • Keep travel documents up to date and easily accessible.
  • Enroll in the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP) to receive security messages and make it easier to locate you in an emergency.
  • Follow the Department of State on Facebook and Twitter.
  • Review the Crime and Safety Report for Malawi.
  • U.S. citizens who travel abroad should always have a contingency plan for emergency situations. Review the Traveler’s Checklist.

Last Update: Reissued with updates to a Risk Indicator and Travel Advisory level.


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 Malawi and from the United States to Malawi are possible.

Hague Convention Information


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 (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.

The Malawi Adoption of Children Act of 1949 does not address intercountry adoptions and courts have wide discretion on how they handle adoptions. Although a May 9, 2009, Malawi Supreme Court decision gave courts more leeway in granting adoptions for foreign adoptive parents, the decision has not resulted in a permanent change to the country's intercountry adoption laws or regulations. The courts in Malawi assess each case individually, taking into consideration the circumstances of the prospective adoptive child. The May 9, 2009, Supreme Court decision did, however, set aside the requirement that prospective adoptive parents live in Malawi and foster a child for a period between 18 and 24 months before an adoption is granted. 

U.S. Immigration Requirements

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.

Who Can Adopt

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

  • Residency:  In a May 2009 Malawi Supreme Court decision, the Court determined that an adoption may be granted to foreign adopting parents so long as the parent(s) are not temporary visitors to Malawi and have a serious commitment or connection to Malawi. This decision effectively set aside the informal practice of requiring foreign adopting parents to foster the prospective orphan for a period of 18 months. (Note: this former practice was never set forth in Malawi law or regulation). While the Ministry of Gender, Child, and Community Development has not promulgated a written policy implementing the May 2009 Supreme Court decision, we have observed that lower court judges are issuing adoption decrees to foreign adopting parents which adhere to the Supreme Court decision.

    Note: In all cases, prospective adoptive parent(s) should consult with an experienced Malawi attorney for more information.
  • Age of Adopting Parents:  Prospective adoptive parent(s) must be at least 25 years old and at least 21 years older than the prospective adoptive child.
  • Marriage:  Both married and single persons may adopt. An adoption order shall not be made in any case where the sole applicant is male and the child is a female unless the court is satisfied that there are special circumstances, which justify the exception.
  • Income:  None.
  • Other:  No guidance or regulation regarding gay and lesbian adoption, and/or adoption by same-sex couples.

Who Can Be Adopted

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

  • Relinquishment:  Adoption cannot take place without the consent of every person who is a parent or guardian, has custody of, or is likely to contribute to the support of the prospective adoptive child.
  • Abandonment:  If the birth parent(s) or other legal guardian(s) are unable to care for the child, the child may be classified as an orphan by Malawi authorities.
  • Age of Adoptive Child:  The prospective adoptive child must be less than 18 years old.  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:  Adoption of twins is permissible. There are no specific laws or regulations that relate to the adoption of siblings.
  • Special Needs or Medical Conditions:  None.
  • Waiting Period or Foster Care:  There is no specific waiting period.

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

Malawi’s Adoption Authority
Ministry of Gender, Child and Community Development

The Process
The process for adopting a child from Malawi 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 Malawi’s Authorities to Adopt and be Matched with a Child
  4. Adopt the Child in Malawi (or Obtain Legal Custody of the Child for Purposes of Emigration and Adoption)
  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 Malawi, 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.

There are no adoption agencies in Malawi. Most prospective adoptive parents hire a Malawian attorney to assist them in navigating the adoption process and because an attorney is needed to complete all adoption paperwork with the court. For information regarding home studies, prospective adoptive parents in Malawi should contact the Ministry of Gender, Child and Community Development at Private Bag 330 Lilongwe 3 or Telephone 01-770-411. Prospective adoptive parents in the U.S. can normally use their I-600A home study for adoption purposes in Malawi.

The U.S. Embassy in Lilongwe maintains a list of English-speaking attorneys in Malawi on its website.

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 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 Malawi’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 Ministry of Gender, Child and Community Development of Malawi to be found eligible to adopt by Malawi.

If a child is eligible for intercountry adoption, the Ministry of Gender, Child and Community Development of Malawi will review your adoption dossier and, if an appropriate match is found, will provide you with a referral if you are unable to identify a child on your own. Prospective adoptive parent(s) often identify a child for adoption through local churches, orphanages, hospitals, or missions. 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 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 (or Obtain Legal Custody of the Child for Purposes of Emigration and Adoption)

The process for finalizing the adoption in Malawi, or obtaining legal custody for purposes of emigration and adoption, generally includes the following:

  • Role of Adoption Authority:  Although the Ministry of Gender, Child and Community Development oversees the adoption process, the High Court will make the final decision regarding a specific adoption.
  • Role of the Court:  After an adoption petition is filed with the Magistrate’s Court, the Magistrate’s Court chooses a social worker to be the prospective adoptive child’s guardian ad litem.  The guardian ad litem investigates the prospective adoptive child’s social history and monitors the prospective adoptive family for a specified period, after which the guardian ad litemsubmits a Court Social Report (home study) to the High Court.  Upon receipt of the report, the High Court rules on whether or not the adoption can be finalized.  (Embassy Lilongwe has seen the requirement that the guardian ad litem monitor the prospective adoptive parents waived in a few adoption cases where the prospective adoptive parents live abroad.)
  • Role of Adoption Agencies:  None; there are no adoption agencies in Malawi.

    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:  There is no adoption application. Prospective adoptive parents should contact the Ministry of Gender, Child and Community Development to let the Ministry know of their interest in adopting a Malawian child (see Contact Information).
  • Time Frame:  It normally takes two to six months to complete the adoption process from start to finish, including the investigation by the guardian ad litem of the child’s eligibility for adoption and the prospective adoptive parents’ eligibility to adopt the child.
  • Adoption Fees: On average, depending on the complexity of the case, attorneys fees range between Malawi Kwacha (MK) 60,000 and 85,000 (U.S. $350 and $500). Court filing fees and Registrar fees for the new birth certificate are under five dollars. The Malawian passport fee is approximately MK 15,000 (U.S. $89).  Informally, Ministry officials have indicated that an offer to pay per diem and travel expenses for the guardian ad litem can speed the process.

    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 Malawi, 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 Malawi 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:  Malawi adoptions are governed by the Adoption of the Children Act (CHAP. 26:01 of the laws of Malawi). Documents required when seeking to adopt include:
    • Proof of Identity and Nationality of the adoptive parents
    • A completed U.S. home study and Malawi Court Social Report;
    • Proof that the child is eligible for adoption
    • Consent of every person who is either the birth parent or legal guardian of, or has custody or is likely to contribute to the support of, the prospective adoptive child;
    • Evidence of residency status in Malawi (see Residency Requirements above)

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, or gain legal custody for purposes of emigration and adoption in Malawi, 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 Lilongwe, Malawi.

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 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 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

Now that your adoption is complete, or you have obtained legal custody of the child for the purposes of emigration and adoption of the child in the United States, 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

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.

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.

The responsible office for birth records in Malawi is the Registrar General's Office in Blantyre.  The Registrar General's Office is under the Ministry of Justice.  Please note that it can take two to three weeks to obtain a birth certificate once the application is submitted.

Physical address of the Registrar General's Office:
Fatima Arcade
Opposite ESCOM House
Haile Selasie Road

Mailing address of the Registrar's Office:
P.O. Box 100
Tel:  01-824-355

Documents to submit when requesting a birth certificate:

  • Completed birth certificate application;
  • Original adoption order from a Malawi court;
  • Adoptive parent(s) proof of citizenship (e.g. passport);
  • Birth certificate application fee of MK 200 ($2.00).

Malawi Passport

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:

Physical address of the Regional Immigration Office:

Old Town
Opposite PVHO/Behind CFAO Malawi
Off Paul Kagame Road

Mailing address of the Regional Immigration Office:
P.O. Box 1272
Tel:  01-759-270

Physical address of Immigration Department Headquarters:
Malawi Immigration Department Headquarters
New Government Building Complex

Mailing address of Immigration Department Headquarters:
P.O. Box 331
Blantyre 3
Tel:  01-823-77
Documents to submit when requesting a Malawi passport:

  • Completed Malawi passport application form
  • Adopted child's birth certificate
  • Two recent passport photographs of the adopted child
  • Original Adoption Order from a Malawi Court
  • Passport application fee of MK 15,100.00 (U.S. $100.00)

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 Lilongwe.  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.

Hours for immigrant visa processing are Tuesday and Thursday by appointment only.

Please call the Consular Section at 01-773-166 to schedule an appointment. The Embassy recommends that adoptive parents plan to be in the Lilongwe, Malawi area for several days and advises parents not to make firm travel plans until they have their adopted child's immigrant visa in hand.

The following documents are required to process an immigrant visa at U.S. Embassy Lilongwe:

  • Approved Form I-600 petition;
  • Adopted child's birth certificate;
  • Adopted child's Malawi passport;
  • Four passport photographs (2 inches by 2 inches) of the adopted child
  • Completed DS-260 Part I and Part II forms for the adopted child;
  • Completed forms DS-2054, DS-3025, DS-3026, and DS-3030 (medical examination forms completed by U.S. Embassy Lilongwe certified panel physician);
  • Completed and signed form I-864-W, Affidavit of Support (no U.S. tax returns required)

Note: additional documents may be requested at the consular officer’s discretion.


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 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 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 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 Malawi, 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

Post-Adoption/Post-Placement Reporting Requirements

There are no post-adoption reporting requirements for Malawi.

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 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 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. 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 Lilongwe
Area 40, City Center
Lilongwe, Malawi
Mailing Address: PO Box 30016
Lilongwe 3, Malawi
+(265) 1-773-166, 1-773-342 and 1-773-367 (Dial "0" before the "1" within Malawi)
+(265) (0) 999-591-024 or +(265) (0) 888-734-826
+(265) 1-774-471 (Dial "0" before the "1" within Malawi)

Malawi Map