Travel.State.Gov > Intercountry Adoption > Country Information > Nicaragua Intercountry Adoption Information
Reconsider travel to Nicaragua due to crime, civil unrest, limited healthcare availability, and arbitrary enforcement of laws.
On September 12, 2018, the U.S. Department of State lifted the ordered departure of non-emergency U.S. government personnel and family members. The U.S. Embassy remains open to provide emergency services for U.S. citizens and will gradually return to normal operations.
Throughout Nicaragua, armed and violent uniformed police or civilians in plain clothes acting as police (“para-police”) are targeting anyone considered to be in opposition to the rule of President Ortega. The government and its affiliated armed groups have been reported to:
These police and para-police groups often cover their faces, sometimes operate in groups numbering in the hundreds, and use unmarked vehicles.
Rallies and demonstrations are widespread and occur daily around the country. Government forces, uniformed police and para-police have attacked peaceful demonstrators leading to significant numbers of deaths and injuries. Looting, vandalism, and arson often occur during unrest.
Road blocks, including in Managua and other major cities, may appear and limit availability of food and fuel.
Government hospitals are understaffed and may deny treatment to suspected protestors. Some hospitals throughout the country may not be able to assist in emergencies. Ambulances have reportedly refused to respond or have been denied access to areas with individuals needing emergency care.
Violent crime, such as sexual assault and armed robbery, is common.
The U.S. Embassy in Managua is limited in the assistance it can provide. U.S. government personnel in Nicaragua must avoid unnecessary travel and remain in their homes between 10:00 p.m. and sunrise. They are prohibited from traveling outside of Managua and are advised to avoid demonstrations. Additional restrictions on movements by U.S. government personnel may be put in place at any time, depending on local circumstances and security conditions, which can change suddenly.
Read the Safety and Security section on the country information page.
If you decide to travel to Nicaragua:
Nicaragua 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”). Intercountry adoptions of children from non-Hague countries are processed in accordance with 8 CFR, 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 of 2012 (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 (“orphan”) cases under section 101(b)(1)(F) of the Immigration and Nationality Act. Unless an exception applies, the UAA requires that an accredited or approved adoption service provider act as a primary provider in every orphan 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. 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 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 Convention 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.
Important Notice: The entire Nicaraguan adoption process timeframe – even when successful – is unpredictable and can take between nine months and two years. Prospective adoptive parents should expect to spend at least three to six months, and often much more, of that time physically present in Nicaragua.
Nicaraguan law does not allow for a Nicaraguan child to travel to the United States to be adopted. Therefore, prospective adoptive parent(s) must obtain a full and final adoption under Nicaraguan law before the child can immigrate to the United States.
The Nicaraguan Ministry of the Family has a history of abrupt staffing changes and often requests additional documents from adoptive parents that were not initially required as part of the process. It is strongly suggested that adoption service providers acting as the primary provider in adoptions from Nicaragua work with a Nicaraguan attorney to assist them in keeping adoption cases on track because the Ministry of the Family will not communicate with foreign adoption service providers. Few Nicaraguan government officials speak English. A list of attorneys registered with the U.S. Embassy in Managua is available on the Embassy’s website, and prospective adoptive parents or adoption service providers can search attorney names here to confirm if they are in good standing and registered as attorneys in Nicaragua (information available in Spanish only). The administrative process that takes place in the Ministry of the Family, including the approval notice, is all free of charge.
To bring an adopted child to the United States from Nicaragua, 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 from Nicaragua must meet the following Nicaraguan requirements:
In addition to qualifying as an orphan under U.S. immigration law, the child must meet the following requirements imposed by Nicaragua:
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, unless an exception applies (i.e., under the age of 18 if the child is the birth sibling of another adopted child who meets the age and other requirements to immigrate as an orphan based on adoption by the same adoptive parent(s). Please see the USCIS website for special rules on filing dates for children aged 15-16 or siblings aged 17-18.
Caution: Prospective adoptive parents should be aware that not all children in orphanages or children’s homes are available 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) rarely relinquish their parental rights or consented to the adoption of their child(ren).
Nicaragua’s Adoption Authority: Ministry of the Family (Mi Familia)
The process for adopting a child from Nicaragua generally includes the following steps:
1. Choose a U.S. Accredited or Approved Adoption Service Provider to Act as Your Primary Provider
Before taking steps to adopt a child from Nicaragua, you should select a U.S. accredited or approved adoption service provider to be the primary provider in your case. Unless a public domestic or public foreign authority is providing all adoption services in your case, a primary provider is required in every intercountry adoption case under the UAA. Your primary provider is responsible for:
Nicaragua does not allow any foreign adoption service providers to work in the country. Therefore, prospective adoptive parents nearly always select a local attorney from the List Of Attorneys registered with the U.S. Embassy to represent them in Nicaragua. Prospective adoptive parents or adoption service providers can search attorney names here to confirm if they are in good standing and registered as attorneys in Nicaragua (information available in Spanish only).
2. Apply to USCIS to be Found Suitable and Eligible to Adopt
In order to adopt a child from Nicaragua, you will need to meet the requirements of the Government of Nicaragua 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. 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. 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 comply with the requirements in 8 CFR 204.311.
3. Apply to Nicaragua’s Authorities to Adopt and be Matched with a Child
If you are found suitable and eligible to adopt under U.S. immigration law, you may also submit an adoption application to the Ministry of the Family of Nicaragua to be found eligible to adopt by Nicaragua.
Nicaragua's Ministry of the Family will verify that the prospective adoptive parents have been approved by USCIS to adopt a child from abroad and verify translated and notarized copies of the home study conducted in the United States. The Form I-600A approval is valid for 18 months from the approval date and can be extended once at no extra charge, prior to its expiration for an additional 18 months. If the adoption is not completed before the extension of the Form I-600A expires, the prospective adoptive parents will have to file a new Form I-600A and pay the fee.
If the Ministry of the Family determines that you are eligible to adopt, they will place you on a waiting list until an appropriate match is identified. We encourage families to consult with a medical professional and their adoption service provider to understand the needs of the specific child. 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 adhere to the recommendations in the home study submitted to USCIS 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 Nicaragua’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 Nicaragua
The process for finalizing the adoption in Nicaragua generally includes the following:
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.
Please note that Nicaragua does not allow foreign adoption service providers to operate in the country.
We encourage prospective adoptive parents to obtain detailed receipts for all fees and donations paid, either directly or through your 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 Nicaragua with your adoption service provider, and, when appropriate, through the Complaint Registry. For more information in this regard, please refer to information concerning the Complaint Registry.
Improper payments may violate applicable law or create the appearance of child buying, and could put all future adoptions in Nicaragua at risk. The Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, for instance, makes it unlawful to bribe 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 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 function, or to engage another person as an agent to take any such action.
Note: Additional documents may be requested.
5. Apply for Your Child to be Found Eligible for Immigration to the United States as an Orphan
After you finalize the adoption in Nicaragua, 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. 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.
If you have a valid Form I-600A, Application for Advance Processing of an Orphan Petition, approval you may file your Form I-600 petition either in the United States with USCIS National Benefits Center, the USCIS office with jurisdiction over your residence if living abroad, or if eligible, in person at the U.S. Embassy in Managua, Nicaragua. Please see the USCIS website for more information about filing options.
When a Form I-600 petition is adjudicated by USCIS, the consular section in Managua, Nicaragua 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.
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 non-Convention adoption process. It can take a few 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 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:
If you have finalized the adoption in Nicaragua, you will need to apply for a new birth certificate for your child. When the final adoption decree is issued by the Nicaraguan court, you will be able to obtain a birth certificate (at least two original copies are recommended) from the Central Registry in Managua with the adoptive parent(s)’ surnames. The Civil Registry is located in the SERVIGOB building; the first certificate is free and the second costs C$ 35.00 (approximately $1 USD). Expedited, same-day service for birth certificate issuance is available at the Central Registry for C$120.00 (approximately $4 USD). You can also apply for a birth certificate on Fridays only at Hospital Bertha Calderon, Hospital Aleman Nicaraguense, Hospital Solidaridad, or Hospital Vivian Pellas for the same cost, with certificates available for pick-up the day after the application is made. It is recommended that you have the new birth certificate authenticated at the Nicaraguan Ministry of Foreign Affairs. You should also receive a Decree of Abandonment for the child.
Your child is not yet a U.S. citizen, so he/she will need a travel document or passport from Nicaragua.
As soon as the new birth certificate has been issued, a passport should be obtained from Nicaraguan Immigration (approximately $50 USD). The normal turnaround time for a Nicaraguan passport is one to two weeks. Expedited same-day passport service is generally available for an extra charge (approximately $50 USD). Parent(s) will also need to obtain an "exit visa" from Nicaraguan Immigration in order to leave the country with the child (approximately $20 USD). The Nicaraguan exit visa is valid for 30 days and parents should wait until after receiving the U.S. immigrant visa before applying for a Nicaraguan exit visa.
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 Managua. 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 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. 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 NVCAdoptions@state.gov or +1-603-334-0700 if you have questions about completing the online DS-260 form.
Please contact the Immigrant Visa Unit of the U.S. Embassy in Managua at Managuaconsularadoptions@state.gov for complete instructions regarding supporting documents required for the visa interview and to schedule the interview.
Visa issuance for children who are found eligible for a visa after the final interview generally takes two to three business days. It is not usually possible to provide the visa to adoptive parents on the same day as the immigrant visa interview. Adoptive parents will be told on the day of the interview when they can return to pick up the visa and immigration packet. Adoptive parents should verify current processing times with the U.S. Embassy in Managua before making final travel arrangements.
Bring Your Child Home
Once your child has received their passport and immigration packet, they are able to travel to the United States. DO NOT open the immigration packet. This packet will be opened at the port of entry by immigration officials once the adoptive parent(s) and child arrive in the United States.
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.
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 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 Nicaragua
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 Nicaragua, 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 in Nicaragua, 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 Nicaragua, 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
Nicaragua's Ministry of the Family requires a U.S.-based adoption agency to conduct annual visits after adoption and to report on the welfare of the child until the child reaches age 18. These reports need to be sent directly to the Ministry of the Family's Consejo de Adopción.
We urge you to comply with Nicaragua’s post-adoption/post-placement requirements in a timely manner. Your adoption service provider may be able to help you with this process. Your cooperation will contribute to Nicaragua’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 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 intercountry adoption process, we ask that you share this information with the Embassy in Managua, 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 the compliance of U.S. accredited or approved adoption service providers with U.S. accreditation standards. If you think your provider's conduct may not have been in 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.
Nicaragua’s Adoption Authority
Ministry of the Family (MiFamilia)
De ENEL Central, 100 mts. Al Sur, Managua
Tel: 011 (505) 2270-2644
011 (505) 2278-1620
011 (505) 2278-5637
Embassy of Nicaragua
1627 New Hampshire Avenue, NM
Washington, D.C. 20009
Tel: (202) 939-6531/32
Consular Section: Tel: (202) 939-6541
Fax: (202) 939-6574
Nicaragua also has consulates in Los Angeles, San Francisco, Houston, Miami, New York, and other cities.
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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