Travel.State.Gov > Intercountry Adoption > Country Information > Nigeria Intercountry Adoption Information
Last Updated: Reissued with updates to staffing and do not travel areas
Reconsider travel to Nigeria due to crime, terrorism, civil unrest, kidnapping, and maritime crime. Some areas have increased risk. Read the entire Travel Advisory.
U.S. Embassy Abuja is only able to provide emergency assistance to U.S. citizens in Abuja. U.S. Consulate in Lagos is providing all routine and emergency services to U.S. citizens in Nigeria. U.S. citizens in Nigeria who require assistance should contact LagosACS@state.gov or +234 1 460 3410.
Do Not Travel to:
Violent crime – such as armed robbery, assault, carjacking, kidnapping, hostage taking, banditry, and rape – is common throughout the country. Kidnappings for ransom occur frequently, often targeting dual national citizens who have returned to Nigeria for a visit, as well as U.S. citizens with perceived wealth. Kidnapping gangs have also stopped victims on interstate roads.
Terrorists continue plotting and carrying out attacks in Nigeria. Terrorists may attack with little or no warning, targeting shopping centers, malls, markets, hotels, places of worship, restaurants, bars, schools, government installations, transportation hubs, and other places where crowds gather. Terrorists are known to work with local gangs to expand their reach.
There is civil unrest and low-level armed militancy in parts of Southern Nigeria, especially in the Niger Delta region. Armed criminality, including kidnapping and maritime crime, is also pervasive in this region.
Violence can flare up between communities of farmers and herders in rural areas.
There is frequent maritime crime in the Gulf of Guinea.
The U.S. government has limited ability to provide emergency services to U.S. citizens in many areas of Nigeria due to security conditions.
Read the country information page for additional information on travel to Nigeria.
If you decide to travel to Nigeria:
Borno, Yobe, Kogi, and Northern Adamawa states – Level 4: Do Not Travel
The security situation in these states is fluid and unpredictable due to widespread terrorist activity, inter-communal violence, and kidnapping. Security operations to counter these threats may occur without warning.
Terrorist groups based in the Northeast routinely target humanitarian camps, security forces, churches, schools, mosques, government installations, educational institutions, entertainment venues, and road travelers. Approximately two million Nigerians have been displaced as a result of the violence in Northeast Nigeria.
Visit our website for Travel to High-Risk Areas.
Bauchi, Gombe, Kaduna, Kano, Katsina, and Zamfara states – Level 4: Do Not Travel
The security situation in these states is fluid and unpredictable due to widespread inter-communal violence and armed criminality, especially kidnapping and roadside banditry. Security operations to counter these threats may occur without warning.
Visit our website for Travel to High-Risk Areas.
Coastal areas of Akwa Ibom, Bayelsa, Cross River, Delta, and Rivers states (with the exception of Port Harcourt) – Level 4: Do Not Travel
Crime is rampant throughout Southern Nigeria, and there is a heightened risk of kidnapping and maritime crime, especially in the Gulf of Guinea. Violent civil unrest and armed militancy persist in these areas.
Visit our website for Travel to High-Risk Areas.
Nigeria 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.
Nigerian courts, except courts in Lagos and Ogun states, only allow Nigerian citizens (dual citizens included) to adopt a child in Nigeria. If married, both members of a married couple must be Nigerian citizens, except in Lagos and Ogun states. In general, prospective adoptive parents must first obtain temporary custody of the child and must have physical and temporary legal custody of the child for a bonding period immediately prior to petitioning the court for an adoption decree. The length of the bonding period is determined by the court at the time the child is placed with the prospective adoptive parents but is usually at least three months. A prospective adoptive parent cannot have the child reside with another family member in lieu of living with the prospective adoptive parent, even if a Power of Attorney is in effect. Depending on where the adoption takes place in Nigeria, the specific law and regulations governing the adoption may differ. Courts may also waive or amend any or all of these provisions on a case by case basis if it is deemed in the best interest of the child.
Please note that the only legal way to adopt in Nigeria is to work with the respective state social welfare office (usually named the Ministry of Women Affairs and Social Development). Prospective adoptive parents are advised to obtain information on adopting in individual states through the state social welfare office. Prospective adoptive parents should not attempt to process their adoption through local officials who may attempt to circumvent the legal process. Adoption decrees must state that they are final in order for an immigrant visa to be issued to the adopted child. The U.S. Consulate in Lagos only issues IR3 classification immigrant visas for adoption applicants originating from a Nigerian state that recognizes adoption as a legal transfer of parental rights. For Nigerian States that do not have a legal authority to complete an adoption, the U.S. Consulate in Lagos may issue an IR4 classification immigrant visa if all U.S. immigration requirements are met. Often times, adoption decrees from Nigerian courts put stipulations on the adoption, such as not allowing the child to travel beyond the jurisdiction of the court or requiring periodic visits of the child by the social welfare office of the respective Nigerian state. These stipulations may prevent the consular officer from issuing an immigrant visa or cause a delay in the processing of the immigrant visa.
Prospective adoptive parents must appear in court to answer questions regarding the adoption. Courts in Nigeria do not allow proxy adoptions (whereby prospective adoptive parents appear in court via an intermediary) to minimize document and identity fraud concerns related to adoptions. Due to adoption fraud and child buying concerns, the U.S. Consulate completes the Form I-604, Determination on Child for Adoption, commonly referred to as the orphan determination, through in-person interviews to verify the authenticity of the information provided in the adoption decree and with the Form I-600 petition. In many cases, further investigation may be required. For security reasons U.S. government personnel are frequently restricted from traveling to certain parts of the country. As a result, investigations and the in-country visa application and approval process can cause adoption processing in Lagos to take up to six months to complete, after the initial approval of the Form I-600 by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).
To bring an adopted child to the United States from Nigeria, 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 orphan under U.S. immigration law in order to be eligible to immigrate to the United States on 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 Nigeria must meet the following requirements:
Under the INA 101(b)(1)(F), a child can be considered an orphan because of the death or disappearance of, abandonment or desertion by, or separation or loss from both parents, or in the case where there is a sole or surviving parent who is incapable of providing the proper care and has in writing irrevocably released the child for emigration and adoption.
In addition to qualifying as an orphan under U.S. immigration law, the child must also meet the following requirements of Nigeria:
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).
Nigeria’s Adoption Authority
The Magistrate Court (from the state where the child resides)
The process for adopting a child from Nigeria 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 Nigeria’s Authorities to Adopt, and to be Matched with a Child
4. Adopt the Child in Nigeria (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 to Act as Your Primary Provider
Before taking steps to adopt a child from Nigeria, 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 Nigeria, you will need to meet the requirements of the Government of Nigeria 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 Nigeria’s Authorities to Adopt, and be Matched with a Child
If you are found suitable and eligible to adopt under U.S. immigration law, Nigeria requires you to submit an adoption application to the Ministry of Women Affairs of Social Development in the state that you wish to adopt a child from.
The process varies state to state within Nigeria and can take several months or even years to be completed.
The competent adoption authority or other authorized entity in Nigeria will review your adoption dossier and, if an appropriate match is found, may provide you with a referral to a child. The U.S. home study should match any specifications of special needs that are observed by the Nigerian court. 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 Nigeria’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 Nigeria [or Obtain Legal Custody of the Child for Purposes of Emigration and Adoption]
The process for finalizing the adoption [or obtaining legal custody for purposes of emigration and adoption] in Nigeria generally includes the following:
The social welfare officer may visit the home of the prospective adoptive parents to determine whether the prospective adoptive parents are capable of caring for a child. Then, the social welfare officer submits a recommendation in writing to the court. The magistrate will meet the prospective adoptive parents in court to confirm their suitability and will issue or deny the adoption order.
After the adoption order has been issued, adoptive parents should obtain a new birth certificate for the child listing them as the child's parents. In some states, after the adoption has been granted, the adoptive parents must obtain the court's permission to remove the child from Nigerian jurisdiction, either temporarily or permanently. In addition, the social welfare officer might be required to submit a letter to the Nigerian immigration office, stating that the adoptive parents are now the legal parents of the child. This letter permits the adopting parents to apply for a passport to take the child out of Nigeria.
Note: Proxy adoptions are not valid in Nigeria. One or both parents must be physically present for a court to rule on an adoption case. Courts may also waive or amend provisions on a case by case basis if it is deemed in the best interest of the child.
Adoption service means any one of the following six services:
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 Nigeria, 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 Nigeria at risk. They may also result in the denial of your child’s immigrant visa. The Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, for instance, makes it unlawful to make payments to foreign government officials to assist in obtaining or retaining business. Further, the UAA and IAA make certain actions relating to intercountry adoptions unlawful, and subject to civil and criminal penalties. These include offering, giving, soliciting, or accepting inducement by way of compensation intended to influence or affect the relinquishment of parental rights, parental consent relating to adoption of a child, or a decision by an entity performing functions as a competent authority, or to engage another person as an agent to take any such action.
In the adoption services contract that you sign at the beginning of the adoption process, your adoption service provider will itemize the fees and estimated expenses related to your adoption process. Any change in this schedule of fees should be documented and reported through the Complaint Registry. U.S. Consulate Lagos recommends you bring this itemized list with you to the immigrant visa interview, along with documentation for any additional expenses you encountered throughout the adoption process, such as payments to orphanages, local attorneys, or providers.
The following is a list of some of the required documents:
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 or gain legal custody for purposes of emigration and adoption in Nigeria, 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. Consulate in Lagos, Nigeria. 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 Lagos, Nigeria 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. This determination is usually made after the I-600 filed with USCIS in the United States has been approved.
When a Form I-600 petition is filed with the U.S. Consulate in Lagos’ consular section, the consular officer must complete the Form I-604, Determination on Child for Adoption, to verify the child’s orphan status before approving the petition. Please note you may be asked to provide additional information to U.S. Consulate Lagos to complete the Form I-604, Determination on Child for Adoption.
Conducting the Form I-604 determination is a critical part of the non-Convention adoption process. It can take up to six 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 high levels of fraud in Nigeria and civil unrest or security concerns that restrict travel to certain areas of the country. Consular officers make every effort to conduct the determinations as quickly and thoroughly as possible. You are advised to keep your travel plans flexible while awaiting the results.
After an initial review, U.S. Consulate Lagos may contact you requesting additional documents or information. In order to prevent delays to your case, you must submit all requested documents and supply all required information. In some instances, you may also be required to appear at the U.S. Consulate for an I-604 interview. To minimize the financial burden prospective adoptive parents may face to travel from the United States for an I-604 interview, every effort is made to combine this interview with the visa interview.
6. Apply for a U.S. Immigrant Visa for Your Child and Bring Your Child Home
Once 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 prescreening related to the I-604 determination has been completed, you will be notified of a scheduled interview date. Prior to this interview, you need to apply for three documents before your child can travel to the United States:
You will need to obtain a birth certificate for your child.
If you have finalized the adoption in Nigeria, you will first need to apply for a new birth certificate for your child. Your name will be added to the new birth certificate. You will then need to use this birth certificate to obtain a Nigerian-issued international passport.
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.
Birth certificates in Nigeria are issued by the National Population Commission (NPC). The NPC has offices co-located within most local government authority (LGA) offices throughout the country and applicants must go to the LGA office with jurisdiction in the area where the adoption occurred in order to obtain the birth certificate. Birth certificates from NPC are documents which are normally filled by hand and can commonly including spelling mistakes or other problems. Applicants should carefully check the accuracy of documents obtained in Nigeria as visa regulations require that the spelling and other biographical information be consistent across official documents.
Your child is not yet a U.S. citizen, so he/she will need a travel document or passport from Nigeria.
In some states, after the adoption has been granted, the adoptive parents must obtain the court's permission to remove the child from Nigerian jurisdiction, either temporarily or permanently. In addition, the social welfare officer might be required to submit a letter to the Nigerian immigration office, stating that the adoptive parents are now the legal parents of the child. This letter permits the adopting parents to apply for a passport to take the child out of Nigeria.
Applicants can apply for a Nigerian passport in the Nigerian Immigration Service office of the jurisdiction in which the adoption took place or where they reside. There is a fee for obtaining a passport. The Nigerian passport may take a week or more to obtain depending on conditions. At times it may take significantly longer. Applicants should carefully check the accuracy of documents obtained in Nigeria as visa regulations require that the spelling and other biographical information be consistent across official documents.
U.S. Immigrant Visa
After you obtain the new birth certificate and passport for your child and you have received notification your Form I-600 was approved, you then need to apply for a U.S. immigrant visa for your child from the U.S. Consulate in Lagos. This immigrant visa allows your child to travel home with you. Once your child’s Form I-604 has been completed by the consular officer, the U.S. Consulate in Lagos will contact you to schedule a time for your child’s immigrant visa interview. As part of this process, you must provide the consular officer with the Panel Physician’s medical report on the child. In order to prevent delays, U.S. Consulate Lagos recommends you schedule the medical exam 2 – 4 weeks before the interview date
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.
Please note that the U.S. Consulate in Lagos processes immigrant visas for non-U.S. citizens located in Nigeria. Additional information concerning immigrant visa processing at the U.S. Consulate in Lagos can be found on the U.S. Consulate in Lagos website.
Upon receipt of the case at post, the Consular Section generally notifies the petitioner. Visa issuance after the final interview may take up to two weeks. 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. Consulate in Lagos before making final travel arrangements
Note: Although the U.S. Embassy is in Nigeria’s capital (Abuja), immigrant visa cases are reviewed only at the U.S. Consulate in Lagos. You will only be able to collect passports with issued immigrant visas from Victoria Island as we are unable to ship them to other locations within Nigeria.
Child Citizenship Act
For adoptions finalized abroad prior to the child’s admission into the United States: An adopted child residing in the United States in the legal and physical custody of the U.S. citizen parent pursuant to a lawful admission for permanent residence generally will acquire U.S. citizenship automatically upon admission into the United States if the child otherwise meets the requirements of the Child Citizenship Act of 2000, including that the child is under the age of eighteen.
For adoptions finalized after the child’s admission into the United States: You will need to complete an adoption following your child’s admission into the United States and before the child turns eighteen for the child (if he or she otherwise meets the requirements of the Child Citizenship Act of 2000) to automatically acquire U.S. citizenship.
Read more about the Child Citizenship Act of 2000.
Applying for Your U.S. Passport
U.S. citizens are required 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 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 Nigeria
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 Nigeria, 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 or Consulate in Nigeria, 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 Nigeria, 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).
Some Nigerian states may require status updates on the child until the child’s 18th birthday. Parents should confirm any post-adoption requirements with their legal representatives.
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 can 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 U.S. Consulate in Lagos, 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. A complaint may be filed at any time, including after your child has received an immigrant visa and traveled to the United States
U.S. Consulate General, Lagos
2 Walter Carrington Crescent
Victoria Island, Lagos
Tel: (1) 460-3400
U.S. Embassy in Nigeria
Plot 1075 Diplomatic Drive
Central Business District, Abuja, FCT
(Off Independence Avenue/Near the Ministry of Defense)
Tel:  (9)461-4262
Fax:  (9)461-4171
Nigeria’s Adoption Authority
Magistrate Court of State of the child’s place of birth
Embassy of the Republic of Nigeria
3519 International Court, N.W.
Washington, DC 20008
Tel: (202) 775-8400
Fax: (202) 775-1385
Nigeria also has consulates in Atlanta and New York City.
Office of Children’s Issues
U.S. Department of State
SA-17, 9th Floor
Washington, DC 20522-1709
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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