Travel.State.Gov > Intercountry Adoption > Country Information > Rwanda Intercountry Adoption Information
Last Update: Reissued with updates to health information.
Exercise normal precautions in Rwanda. Some areas have increased risk. Read the entire Travel Advisory.
Exercise Increased Caution in:
Rwanda-Burundi Border—Level 2: Exercise Increased Caution
The Nyungwe Forest National Park abuts the border with Burundi. Borders may not be clearly marked. It is required to obtain permits from the Rwanda Development Board prior to entry. Relations between Burundi and Rwanda are tense and there have been cross-border incursions and armed clashes.
Rwanda-Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) Border – Level 2: Exercise Increased Caution
Armed rebel and militia groups operate in DRC’s North and South Kivu provinces and Virunga Park. Borders may not be clearly marked and there have been cross-border incursions and armed clashes. It is required to obtain permits from the Rwanda Development Board prior to entry to Volcanoes National Park in Rwanda, which is adjacent to Virunga Park.
Please see our section on Adoptions from the United States for more information on the process for adopting a child from the United States. We urge prospective adoptive parents residing abroad who are considering adoption of a child from the United States to consult with Rwanda’s Central Authority, the National Commission for Children, for its determination as to whether it considers your adoption to be subject to the Convention.
Rwanda is a party to the Hague Convention on Protection of Children and Co-operation in Respect of Intercountry Adoption (Hague Adoption Convention or Convention). Intercountry adoption processing in Convention countries must be done in accordance with the requirements of the Hague Adoption Convention; the U.S. implementing legislation, the Intercountry Adoption Act of 2000 (IAA); and the IAA’s implementing regulations; as well as the implementing legislation and regulations of Rwanda, once established.
The government of Rwanda is in the early stages of implementing the procedures and policies that will govern intercountry adoptions.
Note: If you started the adoption process prior to August 1, 2012 (the date on which the Hague Adoption Convention entered into force for Rwanda), by: 1) filing a Form I-600A, Application for Advance Processing of an Orphan Petition, identifying Rwanda as the country where you intended to adopt and the approval is still valid; 2) filing a Form I-600, Petition to Classify Orphan as an Immediate Relative, on behalf of a child from Rwanda, or 3) obtaining a final adoption, the Hague Adoption Convention may not apply to your case. Under these circumstances, your adopted child’s adoption could continue to be processed as a non-Convention intercountry adoption. For more information, read about Hague Transition Cases. Please contact email@example.com with the details of the case if this situation applies to you.
More information on the definition of transition cases as applied to adoptions from Rwanda is available on the USCIS website.
To bring an adopted child to the United States from Rwanda, 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 a Convention adoptee under U.S. immigration law in order to be eligible to immigrate to the United States with an IH-3 immigrant visa.
In addition to being found suitable and eligible to adopt by USCIS, prospective adoptive parents seeking to adopt a child from Rwanda must meet the following requirements imposed by Rwanda:
Because Rwanda is party to the Hague Adoption Convention, children from Rwanda must meet the requirements of the Convention in order to be eligible for intercountry adoption. For example, the adoption may take place only if the competent authorities of Rwanda have determined that placement of the child within Rwanda has been given due consideration and that an intercountry adoption is in the child’s best interests.
In addition to qualifying as a Convention adoptee under U.S. immigration law, the child must also meet the following requirements imposed by Rwanda:
Eligibility for adoption: If the Central Authority finds that a child is eligible for intercountry adoption, the child’s name will be placed on the Register of Eligible Children. Children living in orphanages or foster care are given priority for intercountry adoption. A child over age 12 years must give consent. Children with special needs are given priority for intercountry adoption.
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 not relinquished their parental rights or consented to the adoption of their child(ren).
Warning: Do not adopt a child in Rwanda before: 1) USCIS has approved your Form I-800A, Application for Determination of Suitability to Adopt a Child from a Convention Country, 2) the Central Authority of Rwanda has determined the child is available for intercountry adoption, 3) USCIS has provisionally approved your Form I-800, Petition to Classify Convention Adoptee as an Immediate Relative, and 4) a U.S. consular officer has issued an “Article 5/17 Letter” in the case. Read on for more information.
Rwanda’s Central Adoption Authority
National Commission for Children (NCC)
Because Rwanda is party to the Hague Adoption Convention, adoptions from Rwanda must follow a specific process designed to meet the Convention’s requirements. A brief summary of the Convention adoption process is provided below. You must complete these steps in the following order to meet all necessary legal requirements. Adoptions completed out of order may cause significant delays or result in the child not being eligible for an immigrant visa to the United States.
1. Choose a U.S. Accredited or Approved Adoption Service Provider (ASP) to Act as Your Primary Provider That Has Been Authorized by Rwanda’s Central Authority to Operate in Rwanda
2. Apply to USCIS to be Found Suitable and Eligible to Adopt (Form I-800A)
3. Apply to Rwanda’s Authorities to Adopt, and Be Matched with a Child
4. Apply to USCIS for the Child to be Found Provisionally Eligible for Immigration to the United States as a Convention Adoptee (Form I-800) and Receive U.S. Agreement to Proceed with the Adoption (Article 5/17 letter)
5. Adopt the Child in Rwanda
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 That Has Been Authorized by Rwanda’s Central Authority to Operate in Rwanda
The first step in adopting a child from Rwanda is to select an adoption service provider in the United States that has been accredited or approved to provide intercountry adoption services to U.S. citizens and that has been authorized by the Government of Rwanda. A primary provider must be identified in each Convention case and only accredited or approved adoption service providers may act as the primary provider in your case. Unless a public domestic authority is providing all adoption services in your case, a primary provider is required in every intercountry adoption case. Your primary provider is responsible for:
2. Apply to USCIS to be Found Suitable and Eligible to Adopt
In order to adopt a child from Rwanda, you will need to meet the requirements of the Government of Rwanda and U.S. immigration law.
After you choose an accredited or approved adoption service provider, you must be found suitable and eligible to adopt by USCIS by submitting Form I-800A, Application for Determination of Suitability to Adopt a Child from a Convention Country. You will need to submit a home study, provide biometrics, and cooperate in a background check as part of this application. Read more about Suitability and Eligibility Requirements. 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 Rwanda’s Authorities to Adopt and Be Matched with a Child
Submit Your Dossier to the Central Authority
After USCIS determines that you are suitable and eligible to adopt and approves the Form I-800A application, your adoption service provider will provide your approval notice, home study, and any other required information to the adoption authority in Rwanda as part of your adoption application. Rwanda’s adoption authority, the NCC, will review your application dossier to determine whether you are suitable and eligible to adopt under Rwanda’s law. The dossier submitted to the NCC should include a letter stating the grounds for the request for adoption, as well as the full names, dates of birth, place of birth, nationality, and permanent address of the prospective adoptive parent(s). The letter should also include the desired sex, age, and living conditions of the child to be adopted. The dossier should include a separate document listing the full names, age, gender, and relationship of all persons living in the residence where the adopted child will live. A copy of identification documents should be included, along with consent forms for everyone over age 18 years living in the household. A copy of the marriage certificate, if any, should be provided, as well as a criminal record certificate and a medical certificate issued in the past three months for each person in the household. A background study on the home living conditions and documents certifying property owned are required. The dossier must also include a letter from the Rwandan Embassy in the United States recommending approval of the application for adoption. All documents should be notarized in the home country of the prospective adoptive parents.
Receive a Referral for a Child from the Central Authority
If both the United States and Rwanda determine that you are suitable and eligible to adopt, and Rwanda’s Central Authority for Convention adoptions has determined that a child is eligible for adoption and that intercountry adoption is in that child’s best interests, the Central Authority for Convention adoptions in Rwanda may provide you with a referral. The referral is a proposed match between you and a specific child based on a review of your dossier and the needs of the child.
After receiving your dossier, the NCC analyzes it and responds within 30 days. If the application is approved, the NCC checks the Register of Eligible Children and may propose a match within six months. You must then come to Rwanda within three months of the approval of the match to complete the legal procedures and to make contact with the child. The NCC must give authorization for meeting the child. If a suitable child is not on the Register, the application is closed after six months.
The adoption authority in Rwanda will provide a background study and other information, if available, about the child to help you decide whether to accept the referral. We encourage families to consider consulting with a medical professional and their adoption service provider to understand the needs of the specific child but you must decide for yourself whether you will be able to meet the needs of, and provide a permanent home for a specific child. You must also adhere to the recommendations in the home study submitted to USCIS with respect to the number of children and capacity to deal with any special needs of an adoptive child. Learn more about Health Considerations. If you accept the referral, the adoption service provider communicates that to the Central Authority in Rwanda. Learn more about this critical decision.
4. Apply to USCIS for the Child to be Found Provisionally Eligible for Immigration to the United States as a Convention Adoptee and Receive U.S. Agreement to Proceed with the Adoption
Submit a Petition for a Determination on the Child’s Immigration Eligibility
After you accept being matched with a particular child, you will apply to USCIS for provisional approval for the child to immigrate to the United States by filing the Form I-800, Petition to Classify Convention Adoptee as an Immediate Relative. USCIS will make a provisional determination as to whether the child appears to meet the definition of a Convention adoptee and will likely be eligible to be admitted to the United States.
Submit an Immigrant Visa Application
After provisional approval of Form I-800 petition, you or your adoption service provider will submit a visa application to the consular section of the U.S. Embassy in Kigali which is responsible for issuing immigrant visas to children from Rwanda.
You should receive a letter from the National Visa Center (NVC) confirming receipt of the provisionally approved Form I-800 petition and assigning a case number and an invoice ID number. Use this information to log into the Consular Electronic Application Center (CEAC) to file the Electronic Immigrant Visa Application (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. 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. A consular officer will review the provisionally approved Form I-800 petition and the visa application and, if applicable, advises you of options for the waiver of any ineligibilities related to the visa application.
The consular officer from the U.S. Embassy in Kigali will send a letter (referred to as an “Article 5/17 Letter”) to Rwanda’s Central Authority in any intercountry adoption involving U.S. citizen parents and a child from Rwanda if all Convention requirements are met and the child appears eligible to immigrate to the United States. This letter will inform Rwanda’s Central Authority that the parents are suitable and eligible to adopt, that the child appears eligible to enter and reside permanently in the United States, and that the U.S. Central Authority agrees that the adoption may proceed.
Warning: Do not attempt to adopt a child in Rwanda before you receive provisional approval of your Form I-800 petition AND a U.S. consular officer issues the “Article 5/17 Letter” for your adoption case.
Remember: The consular officer will make a final decision about a child’s eligibility for an immigrant visa later in the adoption process.
5. Adopt the Child in Rwanda
Remember: Before you adopt a child in Rwanda, you must have completed the above four steps. Only after completing these steps can you proceed to finalize the adoption.
The process for finalizing the adoption in Rwanda generally includes the following:
There are two types of adoptions in Rwanda – full and simple. Only a full adoption will permanently sever the parent-child relationship as required by the Hague Adoption Convention and U.S. law. The court will order a full adoption only if the child’s parents are unknown or abandoned the child as declared by the court, or if the child is an orphan with no siblings, or is a ward of the State. Prospective Adoptive Parents should stress this with their adoption service provider and with attorneys and judges in Rwanda. A full adoption is required in order for an eligible child to immigrate to the United States.
The Central Authority of Rwanda highlighted that simple adoptions will be ordered if one or both of the biological parents are alive and consent to the adoption, or if the person with custody of the child consents. A simple adoption is valid for immigration purposes if the simple adoption meets the three essential elements:
Adoption service providers and prospective adoptive families must be aware of this when submitting an application for adoption with the National Commission for Children, when accepting a referral, and when submitting the adoption case to court.
We encourage prospective adoptive parents to obtain detailed receipts for all fees and donations paid, either by them directly or through your U.S. adoption service provider, and to raise any concerns regarding any payment that you believe may be contrary to the Convention, U.S. law, or the law of Rwanda, 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 Rwanda at risk. 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 IAA makes 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 central authority, or to engage another person as an agent to take any such action.
In the adoption services contract that you sign at the beginning of the adoption process, your adoption service provider will itemize the fees and estimated expenses related to your adoption process.
Note: Additional documents may be requested.
6. Apply for a U.S. Immigrant Visa for Your Child and Bring Your Child Home
Once your adoption is complete, there are a few more steps to take before your child can head home. Specifically, 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.
After you finalize the adoption in Rwanda, you will need to apply for a new birth certificate for your child. Your name will be added to the new birth certificate. Please visit the website of the Rwandan Civil Document authority for details on applying for a birth certificate. The National Commission for Children may be able to assist with this process.
Your child is not yet a U.S. citizen, so he/she will need a travel document or passport from Rwanda. Please visit the website of the Rwanda Directorate General of Immigration and Emigration for information about applying for your child’s passport. The National Commission for Children may be able to assist with this process.
U.S. Immigrant Visa
After you obtain the new birth certificate and passport for your child you need to apply for a U.S. immigrant visa for your child from the U.S. Embassy in Kigali. After the adoption is granted, visit the U.S Embassy for a final review of the case, and if applicable, the issuance of a U.S. Hague Adoption Certificate, the final approval of the Form I-800 petition, and to obtain your child’s immigrant visa. This immigrant visa allows your child to travel home with you and be admitted to the United States as your child. Please contact the U.S. Embassy in Kigali by email at firstname.lastname@example.org to schedule your child’s immigrant visa appointment. As part of this process, you must provide the consular officer with the Panel Physician’s medical report on the child if you did not provide it during the Form I-800 provisional approval stage. Read more about the Medical Examination.
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). You should receive a letter from the National Visa Center (NVC) confirming receipt of the provisionally approved Form I-800 petition and assignment of a case number and an invoice ID number. You will need this information to log into CEAC to file the DS-260 for your child. You should fill out these forms in your child's name. Answer every item on the form. If information is not applicable, please write “N/A” in the block. Print and bring the DS-260 confirmation page to the visa interview. Review the DS-260 FAQs, our Online Immigrant Visa Forms page, or contact NVC at NVCAdoptions@state.gov or +1-603-334-0700 if you have questions about completing the online DS-260 form.
Upon receipt of the case at post, the Consular Section generally notifies the petitioner. Visa issuance after the final interview generally takes 24 hours. It is not usually possible to provide the visa to adoptive parents on the same day as the immigrant visa interview. You should verify current processing times with the U.S. Embassy in Kigali before making final travel arrangements. Additional information on immigrant visa processing can be found on their website.
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 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 acquires U.S. citizenship, s/he will need a U.S. passport for international travel. Only the U.S. Department of State has the authority to grant, issue, or verify U.S. passports.
Getting or renewing a passport is easy. The Department of State’s Passport Application Wizard will help you determine which passport form you need, help you complete the form online, estimate your payment, and generate the form for you to print—all in one place.
Obtaining a Visa to Travel to Rwanda
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 Rwanda, 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 Rwanda, 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 Rwanda, 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).
Post-Adoption Reporting Requirements
We urge you to comply with Rwanda’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 Rwanda’s positive experiences with U.S. citizen adoptive parents.
Post adoption reports on the adopted child should be provided annually until the child is 18 years old. Reports should cover the general situation of the child, plus the medical condition and educational progress of the child. It should also note if there have been any acts of violence against the child. The reports should be filed with the National Commission for Children and with the Embassy of Rwanda in the country where you live. Post adoption reporting must comply with Rwandan law and with the laws of the State where the adoptive parents reside.
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 Embassy in Kigali, 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-800/A petition process.
The 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 compliance with accreditation standards, first submit your complaint in writing directly to your provider. If the complaint is not resolved through the provider's complaint process, you may file the complaint through the Complaint Registry.
U.S. Embassy in Rwanda
Address: 2657 Avenue de la Gendarmerie, Kigali
Tel: +250 252 596 400
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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