Exercise increased caution in Sierra Leone due to crime.
Violent crime, such as armed robbery, and assault, is common. Local police lack the resources, capacity, and training to respond effectively to serious criminal incidents.
The U.S. government is unable to provide emergency services to U.S. citizens outside Freetown at night as U.S. government employees are prohibited from traveling outside the capital after dark.
Read the Safety and Security section on the country information page.
If you decide to travel to Sierra Leone:
Sierra Leone is not party to the Hague Convention on Protection of Children and Co-operation in Respect of Intercountry Adoption (Hague Adoption Convention). Therefore, when the Hague Adoption Convention entered into force for the United States on April 1, 2008, intercountry adoption processing for Sierra Leone did not change.
To bring an adopted child to the United States from Sierra Leone, 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.
To bring an adopted child to United States from Sierra Leone, you must be found eligible to be an adoptive parent by the U.S. Government. The U.S. Government agency responsible for making this determination is the Department of Homeland Security, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). Read more on Who Can Adopt.
In addition to these U.S. requirements for prospective adoptive parents, Sierra Leone also has the following eligibility requirements for prospective adoptive parents:
Sierra Leone has specific requirements that a child must meet in order to be eligible for adoption. You cannot adopt a child in Sierra Leone unless he or she meets the requirements outlined below.
In addition to these requirements, a child must meet the definition of an orphan under U.S. law for you to bring him or her home back to the United States. Find out more on Who Can be Adopted and these U.S. requirements.
The High Court may require the written consent by the biological parents. If the child was born in wedlock, the consent of both parents may be required. If the child was not born in wedlock, only the mother must consent. Birth parents who have granted consent to the adoption may withdraw their consent at any point during the adoption proceedings, with the High Court's permission.
The High Court will not require the consent of the biological parents if those parents have legally abandoned the child, if a Sierra Leonean Governmental or judicial authority has terminated their parental rights or appointed a different legal guardian for the children, or if the parents are deceased. Birth parents who have granted consent to the adoption may withdraw their consent at any point during the adoption proceedings, with the High Court's permission.
The child must be under 17 years old. If the child is 16 years of age or older, only the child must consent to the adoption. Note: U.S. immigration law requires an orphan be under the age of 16 at the time of the adoption in order to be eligible for an immigrant visa. A child can be 16 or 17 if adopted with younger siblings and will be eligible for an immigrant visa.
Ministry of Social Welfare, Gender & Children's Affairs
The process for adopting a child from Sierra Leone generally includes the following steps:
Choose an Adoption Service Provider
The first step in adopting a child from Sierra Leone is usually to select an agency or attorney in the United States that can help with your adoption. Adoption service providers must be licensed by the U.S. state in which they operate. Learn more about choosing the right Adoption Service Provider.
The U.S. Embassy in Freetown maintains a list of local attorneys which is available upon request. There are no registered adoption agencies in Sierra Leone. There are organizations registered as non-Governmental organizations (NGOs) or private voluntary organizations (PVOs) that provide assistance to children and facilitate international adoptions. While the Government of Sierra Leone does not have a list of registered NGOs or PVOs, your adoption agency should be able to provide you with copies of a local organization's registration certificates. The U.S. Embassy cannot recommend the services of any specific attorney or organization.
Prospective adoptive parents are advised to fully research any adoption agency or facilitator they plan to use for adoption services. For U.S.-based agencies, it is suggested that prospective adoptive parents contact the Better Business Bureau and/or the licensing office of the appropriate state Government agency in the U.S. state where the agency is located or licensed.
Apply to be Found Eligible to Adopt
To bring an adopted child from Sierra Leone to the United States, you must apply to be found eligible to adopt (Form I-600A) by the U.S. Government, Department of Homeland Security, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). Read more about Eligibility Requirements.
In addition to meeting the U.S. requirements for adoptive parents, you need to meet the country's requirements as described in the Who Can Adopt section.
Be Matched with a Child
If you are eligible to adopt, and a child is available for intercountry adoption, the central adoption authority will provide you with a referral to a child. The child must meet the country's eligibility requirements for adoptable children, as described in the Who Can be Adopted section. The child must also meet the definition of an orphan under U.S. law.
Adopt the Child (or Gain Legal Custody) in Sierra Leone
The process for finalizing the adoption (or gaining legal custody) in Sierra Leone generally includes the following:
Role of Adoption Agencies: There are no registered adoption agencies in Sierra Leone. The U.S. Embassy in Freetown maintains a list of local attorneys which is available upon request. The U.S. Embassy cannot recommend the services of any specific attorney or organization.
Apply for the Child to be Found Eligible for Adoption
After you finalize the adoption (or gain legal custody), you will apply to the U.S Government, Department of Homeland Security, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) for permission to bring the child home to the United States. USCIS will determine whether the child is eligible under U.S. law to be adopted. Visit USCIS website for more information.
Because of the high incidence of fraud in Sierra Leone adoption cases, Embassy Freetown conducts a field investigation to confirm a child's status as an orphan under U.S. law. The field investigation will be conducted only after we have either (a) received an approved I-600 petition from the USCIS, or (b) have accepted an I-600 petition filed by the adopting parent(s) at the Embassy. Field investigations usually take between 2 to 4 months, depending on the availability and location of witnesses required to confirm evidence of orphan status. Upon receipt of the final results of the field investigation, we will notify the adopting parents and provide instructions on how to proceed.
Prior to completing an adoption in Sierra Leone, prospective adoptive parents should request that the U.S. adoption agency or Sierra Leonean orphanage that has identified the child as potentially adoptable provide clear evidence that the child is likely to meet the INA definition of "orphan." Adoption agencies and orphanages should be able to provide the following items for each child being offered as available for adoption:
Bringing Your Child Home
Now that your adoption is complete (or you have obtained legal custody of the child), there are a few more steps to take before you can head home. Specifically, you need to apply for three documents for your child before he or she can travel to the United States:
You will first need to apply for a new birth certificate for your child, so that you can later apply for a passport. Your name will be added to the new birth certificate.
Sierra Leone Passport
Your child is not yet a U.S. citizen, so he/she will need a travel document or Passport from Sierra Leone.
U.S. Immigrant Visa
After you obtain the new birth certificate and passport for your child, you also need to apply for an U.S. visa from the United States Embassy for your child.
Once the U.S. Embassy in Freetown has confirmed the adopted child's status as an orphan, a consular officer will contact the adopting parent(s) in order to schedule an appointment to process the child's immigrant visa.
The adopted child must be physically present at the U.S. Embassy in Freetown at the time of the visa interview.
For adoptions finalized abroad: The Child Citizenship Act of 2000 allows your new child to acquire American citizenship automatically when he or she enters the United States as lawful permanent residents.
For adoptions finalized in the United States: The Child Citizenship Act of 2000 allows your new child to acquire American citizenship automatically when the court in the United States issues the final adoption decree.
*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
A valid U.S. passport is required to enter and leave Sierra Leone. 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 Your Visa
In addition to a U.S. passport, you may also need to obtain a visa from Sierra Leone. A visa is an official document issued by a foreign country that formally allows you to visit. Where required, visas are attached to your passport and allow you to enter a foreign nation.
To find information about obtaining a visa for Sierra Leone, see the Department of State's Country Specific Information.
Staying Safe on Your Trip
Before you travel, it's always a good practice to investigate the local conditions, laws, political landscape, and culture of the country. The State Department is a good place to start.
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 register your trip with the Department of State. Travel registration makes it possible to contact you if necessary. Whether there's a family emergency in the United States, or a crisis in Sierra Leone, registration assists the U.S. Embassy or Consulate in reaching you.
Registration is free and can be done online.
What does Sierra Leone require of the adoptive parents after the adoption?
We strongly urge you to comply with any post-adoption requirements Sierra Leone may require and complete all post-adoption requirements in a timely manner. Your adoption agency may be able to help you with this process. Your cooperation will contribute to Sierra Leone's history of positive experiences with American parents.
What resources are available to assist families after the adoption?
Many adoptive parents find it important to find support after the adoption. Take advantage of all the resources available to your family -- whether it's another adoptive family, a support group, an advocacy organization, or your religious or community services.
Here are some good places to start your support group search:
Note: Inclusion of non-U.S. Government links does not imply endorsement of contents.
2160 Freetown Place
Washington, DC 20521-2160
International Mailing Address:
P O Box 50
Freetown, Sierra Leone
Freetown, Sierra Leone
Tel: (232) 22 515 000 or (232) 76 515 000
Fax: (232) 22 515 355
Sierra Leone's Adoption Authority
Ministry of Social Welfare, Gender & Children's Affairs
New England, Freetown
Tel: (232) 22 241 256
Embassy of Sierra Leone
1701 19th Street, N.W.
Washington, D.C. 20009
Telephone: (202) 939-9261
Fax: (202) 483-1793
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 immigration procedures, call the National Customer Service Center (NCSC)
1-800-375-5283 (TTY 1-800-767-1833)
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