Travel.State.Gov > Intercountry Adoption > Country Information > Zambia Intercountry Adoption Information
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The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has determined Zambia has a moderate level of COVID-19. Visit the CDC page for the latest Travel Health Information related to your travel.
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Last Update: Reissued with updates to health information.
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 Zambia’s Central Authority, the Department of Social Welfare in the Ministry of Community Development and Social Services, for its determination as to whether it considers your adoption to be subject to the Convention.
Zambia is a party to the Hague Convention on Protection of Children and Co-operation in Respect of Intercountry Adoption (“Convention”). Intercountry adoption processing in Convention countries must be done in accordance with the requirements of the 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 Zambia.
Note: If any of the following occurred prior to October 1, 2015 (the date on which the Convention entered into force for Zambia), the Convention may not apply to your case: 1) you filed a Form I-600A, Application for Advance Processing of an Orphan Petition, identifying Zambia as the country where you intended to adopt and the approval is still valid when you file the Form I-600; 2) you filed a Form I-600, Petition to Classify Orphan as an Immediate Relative, on behalf of a child from Zambia, or 3) the adoption was completed. Under these circumstances, your case may continue to be processed as a non-Convention intercountry adoption, provided the child’s country of origin agrees. 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.
To bring an adopted child to the United States from Zambia, 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 or IH-4 immigrant visa.
In addition to being found suitable and eligible to adopt by USCIS, prospective adoptive parents seeking to adopt a child from Zambia must meet the following requirements imposed by Zambia:
Minimum Residency: Based on the Zambian Adoption Act, prospective adoptive parents must foster a child in Zambia for three months. The fostering period for a “foreign” (non-Zambian) child is 12 months.
Age of Adopting Parents: Prospective adoptive parent(s) must be at least 25 years of age. If the prospective adoptive parents are a couple, at least one parent must be 25 years of age and at least 21 years older than the child. If prospective adoptive parents are related to the child, the age requirement is a minimum of 21 years of age.
Marriage: Prospective adoptive parents may be married or single. A single male applicant cannot adopt a female child unless the court is satisfied that special circumstances exist to permit the adoption.
Minimum Income: Prospective adoptive parents must be able to demonstrate adequate finances to support the child. An acceptable home study, a requirement of both U.S. and Zambian law, will usually suffice.
Other requirements: Adoption by gay, lesbian, transgendered persons, or same-sex couples is not permitted under Zambian law.
Because Zambia is party to the Convention, children from Zambia 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 Zambia have determined that placement of the child within Zambia 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 Zambia:
Eligibility for adoption:
A child is eligible for adoption if he/she fits any of the situations below:
1. The child has been abandoned and the Central Authority has established that the family is unknown and there is no hope of reunification;
2. The child has been admitted to a childcare facility by the Central Authority and has had no contact with family for more than six months without good reason;
3. The child is an orphan and the relatives are unwilling or incapable of providing kinship care or the surviving spouse is incapable of taking care of the child;
4. The child has been voluntarily relinquished to the Central Authority for adoptions;
5. The child has resided in a childcare facility or foster home and needs permanent family care; or
6. The parent(s) are incapable of providing care or have irrevocably surrendered the child for adoption.
Age of Adoptive Child: Zambian law refers to a person eligible for adoption as an infant, and this is any person who has not attained the age of 21 years, but it does not include a person who is or has been married. A person in that age bracket and meeting the other above-mentioned eligibility criteria may be adopted. Please note that for a child to meet the definition of Convention adoptee under U.S. immigration law, a Form I-800, Petition to Classify Convention Adoptee as an Immediate Relative, must be filed on the child’s behalf while the child is under the age of 16 (or 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 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 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). The Zambian Government strongly supports reintegration of children residing in childcare facilities back into their families. It is not permissible under Zambian law to influence or force the child’s family to sign or give consent for the adoption of the child since this should be given voluntarily.
Warning: Do not adopt or obtain legal custody of a child in Zambia 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 Zambia 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.
Zambia’s Central Adoption Authority
The Department of Social Welfare under the Ministry of Community Development and Social Services is the Central Authority.
Because Zambia is party to the Convention, adoptions from Zambia 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 to act as your primary provider.
2. Apply to USCIS to be found suitable and eligible to adopt (Form I-800A).
3. Apply to Zambia’s authorities to adopt and be matched with a child. Obtain legal custody of a child to fulfill the three months residence requirement. This service is available at every District Social Welfare Office in the country.
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 (Art. 5/17 letter).
5. Adopt the child in Zambia.
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
The first step in adopting a child from Zambia 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. This Agency must be a registered service provider with the Central Authority in Zambia. 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:
Learn more about Agency Accreditation.
Note: Prospective Adoption Service Providers can apply for authorization and recognition with the Central Authority in Zambia.
2. Apply to USCIS to be Found Suitable and Eligible to Adopt
In order to adopt a child from Zambia, you will need to meet the requirements of the Government of Zambia 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 Zambia’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 Zambia as part of your adoption application. Zambia’s Central Authority will review your application to determine whether you are also suitable and eligible to adopt under Zambia’s law.
Receive a Referral for a Child from the Central Authority
If both the United States and Zambia determine that you are suitable and eligible to adopt, and Zambia’s Central Authority has determined that a child is eligible for adoption and that intercountry adoption is in that child’s best interests, the Central Authority 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. The Central Authority 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 Zambia. Learn more about this critical decision.
Zambian law requires a three-month fostering period for a Zambian child and a 12-month fostering period for a non-Zambian child before the child may be adopted. While the law provides for the possibility of the child traveling abroad during the fostering period, subject to issuance of a special license by the Commissioner for Juvenile Welfare, the fostering/supervisory/bonding phase should generally be fulfilled in Zambia. Once the fostering period has been fulfilled, the Zambian Central Authority issues an Effective Date of Notice which is an authorization to prospective adoptive parents to proceed to court for the determination of the adoption application.
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 Lusaka which is responsible for issuing immigrant visas to children from Zambia.
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, advise you of options for the waiver of any ineligibilities related to the visa application.
The consular officer will send a letter (referred to as an “Article 5/17 Letter”) to Zambia’s Central Authority in any intercountry adoption involving U.S. citizen parents and a child from Zambia if all Convention requirements are met and the child appears eligible to immigrate to the United States. This letter will inform Zambia’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 Zambia 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 Zambia
Remember: Before you adopt a child in Zambia, 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 Zambia generally includes the following:
Role of Zambian Central Authority:
Role of the Court:
Zambian Subordinate (magistrate)-level or High courts grant adoption and custody orders based on recommendations made by district level Juvenile Inspectors from the Zambian Central Authority. If these officers are satisfied that the prospective adoptive parents are suitable to adopt and that the adoption is clearly in the best interest of the child in need of care, then they are likely to recommend adoption to the courts. Courts rarely turn down cases, although it is possible for magistrates or judges to do so if they do not believe the adoption is in the best interests of the child. The court also grants the Committal Order to commence the fostering period.
Role of Accredited or Approved Adoption Service Providers:
Unless a public domestic authority is providing all adoption services in your case, 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 intercountry adoption case must be accredited or approved, or be a supervised or exempted provider. Adoption service means any one of the following six services:
The prospective adoptive parent/s must submit an application to foster and a letter of intention to adopt to the Zambian Central Authority. Please see the Zambian Adoption Act, Section 37, Forms 1 and 2 for the Application to Adopt and the Intention to Foster. After the requisite fostering period is completed, the applicant/s submit the Notice of Intention to Adopt (Form 1). The Zambian Central Authority reviews the adoption application filed when the match was accepted. If approved, the Central Authority issues an Effective Date of Notice to the applicants and sends its copy to the district juvenile inspector of the child's place of residence. Based on the Effective Date of Notice, the prospective adoptive parents, a legal firm, or the district juvenile inspector petitions the court for adoption, at which time a summons will be served on the prospective adoptive parents, prospective adoptive child, and any person caring for the child (if applicable). The hearing is confidential. Note that both prospective adoptive parents must appear in person for this hearing. The child is assigned a guardian ad litem (social worker) who will represent the child’s interests before the court, investigate what is in the child’s best interests, and report his/her findings to the court at the adoption hearing. Once the adoption order is issued, it must be registered with the Registrar General’s Office, and the child’s details must be entered in the register as an adopted child. The adoption certificate (decree) signifies the successful completion of the adoption process; the court order alone does not suffice.
Time Frame: Intercountry adoptions in Zambia may take approximately six months to complete, but the process can potentially be expedited if an applicant applies for a Certificate of Urgency of Hearing from the court.
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 they believe may be contrary to the Convention, U.S. law, or the law of Zambia, with their adoption service provider, and, when appropriate, through the Complaint Registry. Improper payments may violate applicable law or create the appearance of buying a child and could put all future adoptions in Zambia at risk. The Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, for example, makes it unlawful to make payments to foreign government officials to assist in obtaining or retaining business. The Zambian Anti-Corruption Act deters any form of unauthorized payments or solicitation of payments by a public officer for a service rendered. 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.
Some of the fees specifically associated with adopting from Zambia include:
Note: Court fees may vary from district to district.
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 new birth certificate for your child.
If you have finalized the adoption in Zambia, you will first need to apply for a new birth certificate for your child. Your name will be added to the new birth certificate.
Note: The adoption application with the Zambian Central Authority should indicate that the applicant has the intention of changing names of the adopted child. This will ease the process of changing names on official documents after the adoption process.
After the adoption court order has been granted, the adoptive parents must apply to the Registrar General for two documents: a new birth certificate for the adopted child and the adoption decree or certificate; these documents are not issued automatically. The adoption decree signifies the successful completion of the adoption process; the court order alone does not suffice. The application for the new birth certificate and adoption decree may take approximately two weeks.
Your child is not yet a U.S. citizen, so he/she will need a travel document or passport from Zambia.
A Zambian passport in your adoptive child’s new name can be obtained at passport offices in Lusaka, Ndola, and Livingstone. To apply for a Zambian passport, you will need to submit the child’s new birth certificate, your adoption order and certificate (decree), and a passport application. Officially, processing time for passport applications is 21 days; however, passports are usually issued within a week of submission of the application with a receipted, fee-based expedite request. Delays still can occur.
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 Lusaka. 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 or Hague Custody 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 to be admitted to the United States as your child. Please contact the U.S. Embassy in Lusaka by email at Consularlusaka@state.gov 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.
Please note that the U.S. Embassy in Lusaka processes immigrant visas for non-U.S. citizens located in Zambia. Additional information concerning immigrant visa processing at the U.S. Embassy in Lusaka can be found on U.S. Embassy Lusaka’s website.
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 Lusaka before making final travel arrangements. Additional information on immigrant visa processing can be found on our 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.
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 Zambia
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 Zambia, 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 Zambia, 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 Zambia, 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/Post-Placement Reporting Requirements
We urge you to comply with Zambia’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 Zambia’s positive experiences with U.S. citizen adoptive parents. Zambia requires post-adoption reports prepared by an authorized social worker twice in the first year and once annually for the following three years for children under the age of 18 years.
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 Lusaka, 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.
Zambia’s Central Adoption Authority
Commissioner for Juvenile Welfare
Department of Social Welfare, Ministry of Community Development and Social Services
P.O. Box 31958
Tel: (26)-021-123-5343, (26)-021-122-3319, (26)-021-123-6967
Fax: (26)-021-123-6968, (26)-021-123-5343
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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