Travel.State.Gov > Intercountry Adoption > Country Information > Malaysia Intercountry Adoption Information
Last Update: Reissued with updates to health information.
Exercise normal precautions in Malaysia. Some areas have increased risk. Read the entire Travel Advisory.
Exercise Increased Caution in:
Read the country information page for additional information on travel to Malaysia.
If you decide to travel to Malaysia:
Eastern Area of Sabah State – Level 2: Exercise Increased Caution
There is a threat of kidnappings-for-ransom from both terrorist and criminal groups. These groups may attack with little to no warning, targeting coastal resorts, island resorts, and boats ferrying tourists to resort islands.
The U.S. government has limited ability to provide emergency services to U.S. citizens in eastern Sabah as U.S. government employees must obtain special authorization to travel to parts of eastern Sabah.
Malaysia is not party to the Hague Convention on Protection of Children and Co-operation in Respect of Intercountry Adoption (Hague Adoption Convention). Intercountry adoptions of children from non-Hague countries are processed in accordance with 8 Code of Federal Regulations, Section 204.3 as it relates to orphans as defined under the Immigration and Nationality Act, Section 101(b)(1)(F). 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 Adoption Act of 1952 governs adoptions of non-Muslim children. The Registration of Adoption Act of 1952 governs adoptions of Muslim children. Therefore, different procedures apply to adoptions of non-Muslim and Muslim children. For example, prospective adoptive parents file their adoption applications with different Malaysian entities, depending on whether the adoption is of a Muslim or non-Muslim child. Only Muslim prospective adoptive parents may adopt Muslim children.
Adoptions of children who are not related to the prospective adoptive parents are not common in Malaysia. Far more common are informal fostering arrangements of children within extended family groups. (Note: Participation in such informal fostering arrangements may not by itself be sufficient to qualify a child to immigrate to the United States.) Prospective adoptive parents must be “ordinarily resident” in Malaysia, i.e. working and living in Malaysia, as defined by the Social Welfare Department, at the time of the adoption application. In addition, Malaysian law may require prospective adoptive parents to remain in Malaysia for up to two years to complete a fostering period prior to finalizing the adoption.
Prospective adoptive parents may wish to review our FAQ Information “Adoption of Children from Countries in which Islamic Shari’a Law is Observed.”
To bring an adopted child to the United States from Malaysia, 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 U.S. immigration requirements, you must also meet the following requirements in order to adopt a child from Malaysia:
In addition to U.S. immigration requirements, Malaysia has specific requirements that a child must meet in order to be eligible for adoption:
Caution: Prospective adoptive parents should be aware that not all children in orphanages or children’s homes are adoptable. 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 their child(ren)’s adoption.
Malaysia’s Adoption Authority
Family and Children’s Division, Social Welfare Department, Ministry of Women, Family and Community Development
The process for adopting a child from Malaysia generally includes the following steps:
The recommended first step in adopting a child from Malaysia is to decide whether or not to use a licensed adoption service provider in the United States that can help you with your adoption. Adoption service providers must be licensed by the U.S. state in which they operate. The Department of State provides information on selecting an adoption service provider on its website.
There are no adoption service providers in Malaysia. All adoption inquiries should be directed to the Family Services Division, Social Welfare Department, Ministry of Women, Family and Community Development.
In order to adopt a child from Malaysia, you will need to meet the requirements of the Government of Malaysia and U.S. immigration law. You must submit an application to be found eligible to adopt with the Family and Children’s Division, Social Welfare Department, Ministry of Women, Family and Community Development of Malaysia.
To meet U.S. immigration requirements, you may also file an I-600A, Application for Advance Processing of an Orphan Petition with U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services to be found eligible and suitable to adopt. 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.
If you are eligible to adopt, and if a child is available for intercountry adoption, the Family and Children’s Division, Social Welfare Department, Ministry of Women, Family and Community Development in Malaysia may provide you with a referral. Each family must decide for itself whether or not it will be able to meet the needs of and provide a permanent home for a particular child.
The child must be eligible to be adopted according to Malaysia’s requirements, as described in the Who Can Be Adopted section. The child must also meet the definition of orphan under U.S. immigration law.
When adopting a non-Muslim child, prospective adoptive parents may identify a prospective adoptive child privately through friends or relatives in Malaysia or through the national Social Welfare Department. Once the prospective adoptive parents have identified a child, they must obtain a statutory declaration (notarized affidavit) from the biological parent(s) relinquishing all parental rights of the child. (The affidavit is waived if the biological parents cannot be found, or if they have abandoned the child.) The prospective adoptive parents notify the Social Welfare Department of the Malaysian State in which they are resident of their intention to apply for an Adoption Order for the child. If the Social Welfare Department identified the child, an "offer" letter will be issued to the prospective adoptive parents. This notification must be in writing. Regardless of how the child was identified, the prospective adoptive parent(s) must have been “ordinarily resident” in Malaysia at the time they file the petition with the Sessions or High Court, and must continue to reside with and care for the child in Malaysia for not less than three consecutive months afterwards.
When adopting a Muslim child, prospective adoptive parents may identifya prospective adoptive child privately or through the national Social Welfare Department. The prospective adoptive parents must obtain a statutory declaration (notarized affidavit) from the biological parent(s) relinquishing all parental rights towards the child. The statutory declaration (notarized affidavit) is not necessary if the biological parents cannot be found or if they have abandoned the child.
The process for finalizing the adoption (or gaining legal custody) in Malaysia generally includes the following:
For adoptions of Muslim children, prospective adoptive parents must present the statutory declaration (notarized affidavit) from the biological parents to the National Registration Department, along with proof that they have cared for the child for at least two years.
Note: Additional documents may be requested.
After you finalize the adoption (or gain legal custody) in Malaysia, the Department of Homeland Security, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services must determine whether the child meets the definition oforphan under U.S. immigration law. 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.
Once your adoption is complete (or you have obtained legal custody of the child), you need to apply for several documents for your child before you can apply for a U.S. immigrant visa to bring your child home to the United States:
If you have finalized the adoption in Malaysia, 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 custody for the purpose of adopting the child in the United States, the birth certificate you obtain will, in most cases, not yet include your name.
After the Court issues the Adoption Order, the Register-General will issue (for a small fee) a new birth certificate that lists the names of the adoptive parents and makes no reference to the adoption. The adoptive parents must provide identification in order to obtain the birth certificate.
Your child is not yet a U.S. citizen, so he/she will need a travel document or passport from Malaysia.
The adoptive parents may apply for a Malaysian passport for the child at any local immigration office. They must bring their U.S. passports and the child’s new birth certificate, along with other required items, in order to apply. The fee is 150 ringgit (approximately USD 50).
U.S. Immigrant Visa
After you have obtained the new birth certificate and passport for your child and 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 Kuala Lumpur. This immigrant visa allows your child to travel home with you. As part of this process, the Consular Officer must be provided the Panel Physician’s medical report on the child.
The immigrant visa process involves complex Malaysian and U.S. legal requirements. U.S. consular officers give each petition careful consideration on a case-by-case basis to ensure that the legal requirements of both countries have been met, for the protection of the child, the adoptive parent(s), and the biological parents(s). Interested U.S. citizens are strongly encouraged to contact U.S. consular officials in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia before formalizing an adoption or grant of custody to ensure that appropriate procedures have been followed. This will help make it possible for the Embassy to issue a U.S. immigrant visa for the child.
Upon receipt of USCIS’ approval of a Form I-600 petition, or upon approving a Form I-600 petition filed directly with the U.S. Embassy in Kuala Lumpur, Embassy staff will contact the petitioners and provide additional instructions on the child’s immigrant visa application process. U.S. consular officers may not begin processing the child’s immigrant visa application until they have either approved a Form I-600 petition submitted directly to the U.S. Embassy in Kuala Lumpur or received formal notification of approval from USCIS.
Note: Visa issuance after the final interview now generally takes 24 hours and it will not normally be possible to provide the visa to adoptive parents on the day of the interview.
You can find instructions for applying for an immigrant visa on the U.S. Embassy in Kuala Lumpur’s website.
Child Citizenship Act
For adoptions finalized abroad prior to the child’s entry into the United States: A child will acquire U.S. citizenship upon entry into the United States if the adoption was finalized prior to entry and the child otherwise meets the requirements of the Child Citizenship Act of 2000.
For adoptions finalized after the child’s entry into the United States: An adoption will need to be completed following your child’s entry into the United States for the child to acquire U.S. citizenship.
*Please be aware that if your child did not qualify to become a citizen upon entry to the United States, it is very important that you take the steps necessary so that your child does qualify as soon as possible. Failure to obtain citizenship for your child can impact many areas of his/her life including family travel, eligibility for education and education grants, and voting.
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 Malaysia
In addition to a U.S. passport, you may also need to obtain a visa. 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 Malaysia, 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 Malaysia, 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).
After the adoption is finalized, adoptive parents have legal custody of the child and are not subject to any other restrictions or investigations related to the adoption process. Parents must remember to obtain the child’s amended birth certificate from the National Registration Department.
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.
Here are some places to start your support group search:
Note: Inclusion of non-U.S. government links does not imply endorsement of contents.
Malaysia’s Adoption Authorities:
Family and Children’s Division
Social Welfare Department
Ministry of Women, Family and Community Development
21-23rd Floor, Menara Tun Ismail Mohd Ali
Jalan Raja Laut
50562 Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.
Tel: (60)(3) 2616-5802 – General Line; (60)(3) 2616-5865 – Adoption
National Registration Department
Ministry of Home Affairs
Lot 2G5, Precinct 2
Federal Government Administrative Centre
62100 Federal Territory of Putrajaya
Tel: (60)(3) 8880-7000
Fax: (60)(3) 8880-7059
Malaysia also has consulates in: New York City and Los Angeles and a Permanent Mission to the United Nations in New York City.
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)
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