Travel.State.Gov > Intercountry Adoption > Country Information > Somalia Intercountry Adoption Information
Last Update: Reissued with updates to health information.
Do not travel to Somalia due to crime, terrorism, civil unrest, health issues, kidnapping, and piracy.
Country Summary: Violent crime, such as kidnapping and murder, is common throughout Somalia, including Puntland and the Somaliland region. Illegal roadblocks are widespread. Some schools and other facilities acting as “cultural rehabilitation” centers are operating throughout Somalia with inadequate or nonexistent licensing and oversight. Reports of physical abuse and people being held against their will in these facilities are common.
Terrorists continue to plot kidnappings, bombings, and other attacks in Somalia. They may conduct attacks with little or no warning, targeting airports and seaports, government buildings, hotels, restaurants, shopping areas, and other areas that attract large crowds and are frequented by Westerners, as well as government, military, and Western convoys. Methods of attack can include car bombs, suicide bombers, individual attackers, and mortar fire, among others. While some areas have experienced less severe terrorist activity, such as the Somaliland region, where there have been no major terrorist attacks since 2008, terrorist attacks involving the indiscriminate use of explosive devices and other weapons can take place anywhere in Somalia at any time without warning.
Civil unrest occurs throughout Somalia and can sometimes be violent.
Medical facilities across Somalia have limited capacity and are often nonexistent in rural areas.
Pirates are active in the waters off the Horn of Africa, especially in the international waters near Somalia.
The U.S. government has extremely limited ability to provide emergency services to U.S. citizens in Somalia due to the lack of permanent consular presence in Somalia, including the Somaliland region.
Due to risks to civil aviation operating within or in the vicinity of Somalia, the Federal Aviation Administration has issued a Special Federal Aviation Regulation. For more information, U.S. citizens should consult the Federal Aviation Administration’s Prohibitions, Restrictions, and Notices.
Read the country information page for additional information on travel to Somalia.
If you decide to travel to Somalia:
Somalia is not party to the Hague Convention on Protection of Children and Co-operation in Respect of Intercountry Adoption (Hague Adoption Convention). Intercountry adoptions of children from non-Hague countries are processed in accordance with 8 Code of Federal Regulations, Section 204.3 as it relates to orphans as defined under the Immigration and Nationality Act, Section 101(b)(1)(F).
The Department of State has occasionally received inquiries from U.S. citizens concerned about the plight of the children of Somalia and wondering about the possibility of adopting them. Our office shares this concern for children in Somalia and we understand that some U.S. citizens want to respond by offering to open their homes and adopting these children in need. At this time, however, it is not generally possible to adopt Somali children for several reasons.
Although the United States has recently recognized the Somali government, an adoption authority does not yet exist in Somalia for adoption processing.
Laws in Somalia regarding adoption are unclear and may vary according to a prospective adoptive parent's religious background. Islamic Shari'a law does not allow for full adoption of a child, as generally understood in the United States. (Please refer to our flyer on Islamic Family Law for more information on this issue.)
Additionally, it can be extremely difficult in Somalia to determine whether children who appear to be orphans truly are eligible for adoption. Children may be temporarily separated from their parents or other family members, and their parents may be looking for them. It is not uncommon in a hostile situation for parents to send their children out of the area, or for families to become separated during an evacuation. Even when it can be demonstrated that children are indeed orphaned or abandoned, they are often taken in by other relatives. During times of crisis, it can also be exceptionally difficult to fulfill the legal requirements for adoption of both the United States and the child's country of origin. It can be very difficult to gather documents necessary to fulfill the legal requirements of U.S. immigration law.
There are ways in which U.S. citizens can help the children of Somalia. Many U.S. and international non-governmental organizations (NGOs) working in Somalia say that what is needed most at this time are financial contributions to sustain their ongoing work. Individuals who wish to assist can often do the most good by making a monetary donation to an established NGO that will be well placed to respond to Somalia's most urgent needs, including those related to its children.
The Department of State continues to warn U.S. citizens against travel to Somalia, which remains very dangerous. (Read the full text of Somalia Travel Warning issued by the Department of State, Office of Consular Affairs.)
Please visit the Department of State’s Country Specific Information for more information on travelling to Somalia and the U.S. Embassy Nairobi’s website for information on consular services.
To bring an adopted child to the United States from Somalia, 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.
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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