U.S. Visas

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U.S. Visa: Reciprocity and Civil Documents by Country

Ethiopia

Ethiopia
Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia

Exercise increased caution when traveling in Ethiopia due to the potential for civil unrest and communications disruptions. Some areas have increased risk. Read the entire Travel Advisory.

Do not travel to:

  • Somali Regi

Exercise increased caution when traveling in Ethiopia due to the potential for civil unrest and communications disruptions. Some areas have increased risk. Read the entire Travel Advisory.

Do not travel to:

  • Somali Regional State due to potential for civil unrest, terrorism, and landmines.

Reconsider travel to:

  • The East Hararge region of Oromia state due to civil unrest.
  • The Danakil Depression region in Afar due to crime.
  • Border areas with Kenya, Sudan, South Sudan, and Eritrea due to armed conflict or civil unrest.

On February 16, 2018, the Government of Ethiopia imposed a State of Emergency. Under the State of Emergency, law enforcement bodies are granted broad authority to arrest or search individuals without a court order for activities they may otherwise consider routine. These include, but are not limited to: possession or consumption of certain media, illicit communication, participation in protests or strikes, attendance at illegal gatherings, communication with foreign or international organizations, and violation of curfews. Additionally, landlords must provide the government of Ethiopia with passport copies of all foreign tenants.

The Government of Ethiopia has restricted or shut down internet, cellular data, and phone services during and after civil unrest. This impedes the U.S. Embassy’s ability to communicate with, and provide consular services to, U.S. citizens in Ethiopia.

The U.S. government has limited ability to provide emergency services to U.S. citizens outside of Addis Ababa. 

Read the Safety and Security section on the country information page.

If you decide to travel to Ethiopia:

  • Monitor local media for breaking events and be prepared to adjust your plans.
  • Be aware of your surroundings.
  • Stay alert in locations frequented by Westerners.
  • Carry a copy of your passport and visa and leave originals in your hotel safe.
  • Have evacuation plans that do not rely on U.S. government assistance.
  • Enroll in the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP) to receive Alerts and make it easier to locate you in an emergency.
  • Follow the Department of State on Facebook and Twitter.
  • Review the Crime and Safety Report for Ethiopia.
  • U.S. citizens who travel abroad should always have a contingency plan for emergency situations. Review the Traveler’s Checklist.

Somali Region

Civilians have been killed and injured in civil unrest along the Oromia-Somali Regional State border and in ongoing military operations against armed groups in the Ogaden and Hararge areas.

Terrorists maintain a presence in Somali towns near the Ethiopian border, presenting a risk of cross-border attacks targeting foreigners.

There are also landmines in this region.

U.S. government personnel may not take personal trips to the Somali region.

Visit our website for Travel to High-Risk Areas.

The East Hararge Region of Oromia State

Demonstrations can occur anywhere with little warning. Civil unrest has resulted in injuries and deaths in parts of Oromia State. Government security forces have used lethal force in response to some demonstrations.

Visit our website for Travel to High-Risk Areas.

The Danakil Depression in Afar

Violent crime, such as armed assault, is common.

The U.S. Embassy in Addis Ababa has restricted travel to Danakil Depression for Embassy personnel.

Visit our website for Travel to High-Risk Areas.

Border Areas with Kenya, Sudan, South Sudan, and Eritrea

U.S. government personnel may not take personal trips to:

  • The border areas with Eritrea in the Tigray and Afar regions.
  • The border with Kenya in the Oromia region.
  • Gambella (except Gambella City).
  • Benishangul Gumuz (except Asosa) adjacent to the Sudan border.  

U.S. government personnel must travel to Gambella City and Asosa by plane only. 

Visit our website for Travel to High-Risk Areas.

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Quick Facts
PASSPORT VALIDITY:


6 months

BLANK PASSPORT PAGES:



1 page

TOURIST VISA REQUIRED:


Yes

VACCINATIONS:


Yellow fever

CURRENCY RESTRICTIONS FOR ENTRY:


1,000 ETB and $3,000

CURRENCY RESTRICTIONS FOR EXIT:


1,000 ETB (4,000 ETB if travelling to Djibouti) and $3,000

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Embassies and Consulates

U.S. Embassy Addis Ababa

Entoto Street
PO Box 1014
Addis Ababa, Ethiopia
Telephone:
+251-11-130-6000
Emergency After-Hours Telephone: 011-130-6000
Fax: +251-11-124-2435 and +251-11-124-2419
Email: ConsACS@state.gov

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Destination Description

See our Fact Sheet on Ethiopia for information on U.S.-Ethiopian relations.

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Entry, Exit and Visa Requirements

Requirements for Entry:

  • Passport
  • Visa
  • World Health Organization (WHO) card with yellow fever vaccination.

Visas:

  • Obtain your visa before traveling. Contact the Embassy of Ethiopia for the most current visa information. Apply for an eVisa on the website for the Main Department for Immigration and Nationality Affairs. Tourist visas are also available upon arrival at Bole International Airport, though not for U.S. citizens of Somali or Eritrean descent. Overseas inquiries should be made at the nearest Ethiopian Embassy or Consulate.

Foreign Currency Restrictions:

  • Visitors to Ethiopia may hold up to a maximum of 1,000 ETB per trip to and from Ethiopia. This limit is extended to 4,000 ETB for a person travelling to Djibouti.
  • Residents of Ethiopia must declare all foreign currency exceeding the equivalent of $1,000 when entering the country.
  • Nonresidents of Ethiopia must declare all foreign currency exceeding the equivalent of $3,000 when entering the country.
  • Residents of Ethiopia may not hold foreign currency for more than 30 days after declaring it. Nonresidents may hold foreign currency for the duration of their visa.
  • When departing Ethiopia, nonresidents carrying more than the equivalent of $3,000 in foreign currency and residents carrying any amount of foreign currency must produce a valid bank document or foreign currency customs declaration that is less than 30 days old.

Ivory, Animal Skins, Souvenirs, Precious Stones and Minerals, Antiques/Artifacts:

  • Travelers transporting ivory may be detained, imprisoned, or fined and the ivory may be confiscated.
  • Contact the Ethiopian Revenue and Customs Authority. Souvenirs that are copies of antiques and religious artifacts require a proper receipt but still may be confiscated.
  • Export permits processed by the Export Section of the airport customs office are required for antiques, including religious artifacts, Ethiopian crosses, and animal skins and other wildlife parts. Contact the Ethiopian Wildlife Conservation Authority for a permit.
  • There are limits on the amount of precious stones and minerals that can be exported for personal use. Check with local authorities if in doubt.
  • See our Customs and Import Restrictions information sheet.

Electronics:

  • Laptop computers and video equipment other than for personal use must be declared upon arrival and departure.
  • Some recording devices may require special customs permits. If these items are being used for work, you should contact the Ethiopian Embassy or the Ethiopian Ministry of Communications before you travel.
  • The Embassy cannot assist with obtaining permits or the return of confiscated equipment.

HIV/AIDS:

  • The U.S. Department of State is unaware of any HIV/AIDS entry restrictions for visitors to or foreign residents of Ethiopia. Please verify this with the Ethiopian Embassy before you travel.

Find information on dual nationality, prevention of international child abduction, and customs information on our websites. 

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Safety and Security

See the Department of State Travel Advisory for Ethiopia. Ethiopia has experienced sporadic and spontaneous civil unrest throughout the country, some of which has ended in violence. During such episodes, the government often curtails or limits mobile telecommunications, internet access, and social media. If this happens, you may be unable to contact family and friends or emergency services.

Safety Precautions:

  • Avoid demonstrations and public gatherings, as they have the potential to turn violent.
  • Quickly leave the area if a demonstration is forming.
  • Review your personal safety and security posture, remain vigilant, and exercise caution when visiting prominent public places and landmarks where westerners gather on a routine or predictable basis.
  • Avoid unattended baggage or packages left in any location, including in taxis.
  • Monitor consular messages.
  • Avoid travel outside of major towns, particularly along border areas (Kenya, Eritrea, Somalia, Sudan, and South Sudan).
  • Avoid walking alone.
  • Do not display cash and valuable personal property.
  • Secure your valuables and travel documents.
  • Drive with doors locked and windows closed or rolled up enough at all times to prevent theft while stopped in traffic.

Terrorism: Al-Qa’ida and its regional affiliate, Somalia-based al-Shabaab, maintain a presence throughout East Africa. Current information indicates that terrorist organizations continue to plan terrorist attacks against U.S. citizens and Western targets and interests in East Africa, as well as against high-profile targets within those countries that contribute troops to the African Union Mission in Somalia, including Ethiopia.

Border with Kenya: There have been numerous incidents of inter-ethnic conflict reported near the border areas with Kenya, as well as attacks attributed to the Oromia Liberation Front. Criminal activity in this border area also remains a concern.

Border with Eritrea:

The border is closed and remains disputed. The border area is a militarized zone where armed conflict can erupt without warning. The latest clash between the Ethiopian and Eritrean forces was reported on June 12, 2016. There have also been reports dating back to 2012 of armed groups attacking and kidnapping foreigners and Ethiopian nationals in the area. In December 2017, a German tourist was killed and an Ethiopian national wounded during an attack by unidentified assailants in the vicinity of the Erta Ale volcano in Afar region. The incident occurred during a nighttime tourist excursion to the volcano.

Border with South Sudan (Gambella Region):  

The security situation in the region is volatile. Sporadic inter-ethnic clashes are common along the western border area with South Sudan. Between February and May 2017, South Sudanese armed Murle tribesmen conducted cross-border attacks, kidnapped women and children, and raided cattle. The Ethiopian Federal Army was deployed to the area following the attack and imposed a curfew. Tensions remain high with the possibility of future incursions from South Sudan and ensuing clashes. Past tribal conflict between Anyuak, Nuer and Highlanders also resulted in numerous casualties. The number of refugees has significantly increased as conflict within the Republic of South Sudan has intensified. As with other border areas, landmines and criminal activity remain a concern.

Somali Region (eastern Ethiopia):

Civilians have been injured, killed, and displaced in ongoing Ethiopian military operations against armed groups in the volatile Somali Region which have resulted in casualties and internal displacement. Al-Shabaabmaintains a presence in Somali towns near the Ethiopian border, presenting risk of cross-border attacks and kidnapping. As with other border areas, landmines and criminal activity remain a concern.

Crime: Pick-pocketing, purse snatching, theft from vehicles and other petty crimes are common in Addis Ababa. Thieves are active throughout the city all times of day and night, but particularly on Bole Road, in the Piazza, the Merkato, and other areas frequented by tourists and foreigners. Violent robberies have also occurred in this area, with victims stabbed or beaten.

See the Department of State and the FBI pages for information on scams.

Victims of Crime: U.S. citizen victims of crime in Addis Ababa should contact the Addis Ababa Police at 011-111-0111 and the U.S. Embassy at 011-130-6000/6911.

Crimes occurring outside of Addis Ababa should be reported to the Ethiopian Federal Police at 011-551-8000.

Remember that local authorities are responsible for investigating and prosecuting crime.

See our webpage on help for U.S. victims of crime overseas.

We can:

  • help you find appropriate medical care
  • assist you in reporting a crime to the police and contact relatives or friends with your written consent
  • explain the local criminal justice process in general terms and provide a list of local attorneys
  • provide our information on victim compensation programs in the United States
  • provide an emergency loan for repatriation to the United States and/or limited medical support in cases of destitution
  • help you find accommodation and arrange flights home
  • replace a stolen or lost passport

Domestic Violence: U.S. citizen victims of domestic violence may contact the Embassy for assistance.

For further information:

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Local Laws & Special Circumstances

Criminal Penalties: You are subject to local laws. If you violate local laws, even unknowingly, you may be expelled, arrested, or imprisoned. Convictions for possessing, using, or trafficking in illegal drugs result in long jail sentences and heavy fines. Furthermore, some laws are also prosecutable in the United States, regardless of local law. For examples, see our website on crimes against minors abroad and the Department of Justice website.

Photography: It is illegal to take pictures of government buildings, military installations, police/military personnel and key infrastructure such as roads, bridges, dams, and airfields. If you are caught photographing prohibited sites, you could be fined, your photographic equipment could be confiscated, and you could be detained and/or arrested. As a general practice, it is always advisable to avoid taking pictures of individuals without their clear consent.

U.S. - Somali Dual Nationals: U.S.-Somali dual citizens have been detained by Ethiopian security services in Addis Ababa for extended periods without charges. You should prepare for this contingency by carrying copies of all important documents and contact information for the U.S. Embassy.

Arrest Notification: If you are arrested or detained, ask police or prison officials to notify the U.S. Embassy immediately. See our webpage for further information.

Phone Service: Cellular phones are the norm, as other telephone service is unreliable and landlines are nearly non-existent. Cell phones brought into Ethiopia must be registered with the Ethiopian Revenue and Customs Authority. Phones can be registered either at Bole International Airport or at any Ethio Telecom shop. SIM cards are available for local purchase from Ethio Telecom, but will only work with phones that have been registered. As noted, cell phone access may be cut off without warning.

Currency: The Ethiopian Birr (ETB) is the currency of Ethiopia and, with the exception of international hotel bills, payment for commercial transactions in any other currency is illegal. Credit cards are accepted at only a few outlets in Addis Ababa. Foreign currency may only be exchanged legally at banks.

Ethiopian Refugee Camps: All access to refugee camps must be preapproved by the UNHCR and Ethiopian government. You may be detained and deported if you attempt to gain access without proper permissions.

Calendar: The Julian calendar is used in Orthodox Christian areas in the highlands, and some Ethiopians set their clocks differently to standard practice elsewhere, resulting in significant time differences. Double check bookings and appointments to avoid confusion.

Faith-Based Travelers: See our following webpages for details:

LGBTI Travelers: Consensual same-sex sexual activity between adults is illegal and punishable by imprisonment under the law. There are some reports of violence against LGBTI individuals; reporting is limited due to fear of retribution, discrimination, or stigmatization. There is no law prohibiting discrimination against LGBTI persons. Ethiopians do not generally identify themselves as LGBTI due to severe societal stigma and the illegality of consensual same-sex sexual activity between adults.

Activists in the LGBTI community in Ethiopia have stated that they have been followed and at times fear for their safety. There have been periodic detentions and interrogations of some LGBTI persons, and alleged physical abuse. Outside the major international hotels, same-sex couples may be unable to share a room. See our LGBTI Travel Information page and section 6 of our Human Rights Report for further details.

Travelers Who Require Accessibility Assistance: See The Ethiopian Center for Disability and Development guidebook with information on accessible hotel accommodations and transportation (including the new Addis Ababa metro). Persons with disabilities have limited access to transportation, communication, accommodations, and public buildings. There are few sidewalks and no curb-cuts, and most buildings lack functioning elevators. Landlords are required to give persons with disabilities preference for ground floor apartments.

Students: See our Students Abroad page and FBI travel tips

Women Travelers: Domestic violence, including spousal abuse, is a pervasive social problem. Domestic violence and rape cases often are delayed significantly and given low priority. Female genital mutilation/cutting (FGM/C) is illegal, but the prohibition is not actively enforced. Many women and girls have undergone FGM/C. It is much less common in urban areas.

See our travel tips for Women Travelers.   

Earthquakes: Ethiopia is located in an active seismic zone.

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Health

Consult the CDC website for Ethiopia prior to travel.

We do not pay medical bills. Be aware that U.S. Medicare does not apply overseas.

Medical care is extremely limited and health care facilities are only adequate for stabilization and emergency care. There is a shortage of physicians and other qualified medical personnel. Emergency, ambulance services, and psychiatric services are also limited. Medications are in short supply. All care providers, both public and private, require payment or a cash deposit in Ethiopian birr before treatment is performed.

Medical Insurance: Make sure your health insurance plan provides coverage overseas. Most care providers overseas only accept cash payments. See our webpage for more information on insurance providers for overseas coverage.

We strongly recommend supplemental insurance to cover medical evacuation.

Medication: Carry prescription medication in original packaging, along with your doctor’s prescription. If the quantity of drugs exceeds that which would be expected for personal use, a permit from the Ministry of Health is required.

Altitude: Addis Ababa is located more than 7,000 feet above sea level and many tourist areas are considerably higher. Altitude may cause problems for travelers in/transiting Ethiopia, particularly those who suffer from respiratory or heart conditions. Travelers may experience shortness of breath, fatigue, nausea, headaches, and sleep problems.

The following diseases are prevalent:

Vaccinations: All travelers should be up-to-date on vaccinations recommended by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control.

Further health information:

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Travel and Transportation

Road Conditions and Safety: Traffic accidents occur regularly in Addis Ababa and throughout the country and are sometimes fatal. Roads are ill maintained, inadequately marked, and poorly lit. Excessive speed, erratic driving habits, pedestrians, stray animals, and lack of vehicle maintenance pose other hazards. Travel with other vehicles outside of cities during daylight hours only, due to the threat of roadside bandits and be sure to carry additional fuel, a spare tire, and provisions. Professional roadside assistance service is not available.  

Traffic Laws: You will need an Ethiopian driver’s license to drive in Ethiopia. In order to obtain an Ethiopian’s driver’s license you will need an authenticated copy of your U.S. driver’s license. For more information on authentication, visit the Department of State’s Office of Authentications. Use of cell phones while driving is prohibited. Use of seat belts is required. It is illegal to give money to beggars who approach vehicles stopped in traffic.

Accidents: In the event of an automobile accident, remain inside the vehicle and wait for police. It is illegal to move your vehicle before a police officer arrives. If a hostile mob forms or you feel your safety is in danger, however, leave the scene and proceed directly to the nearest police station to report the incident.

Public Transportation: Avoid all travel by public transportation, and hire private transport from a reliable source. Any form of public transportation, except for the light rail system in Addis Ababa, is unregulated, unreliable, and unsafe. Buses are in poor mechanical condition and are often filled well beyond capacity.

While taxis are available in Ethiopia, most do not meet U.S. safety standards. In Addis Ababa, green and yellow metered taxis are generally newer and in better condition than other taxis.

Please refer to our Road Safety page for more information. Also, we suggest that you visit the website of Ethiopia’s national tourist office.

Aviation Safety Oversight: The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has assessed the government of Ethiopia’s Civil Aviation Authority as being in compliance with International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) aviation safety standards for oversight of Ethiopia’s air carrier operations. Further information may be found on the FAA’s safety assessment page.

Hague Convention Participation
Party to the Hague Abduction Convention?
No
U.S. Treaty Partner under the Hague Abduction Convention?
No
What You Can Do
Learn how to respond to abductions FROM the US
Learn how to respond to abductions TO the US
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Embassies and Consulates

U.S. Embassy Addis Ababa

Entoto Street
PO Box 1014
Addis Ababa, Ethiopia
Telephone:
+251-11-130-6000
Emergency After-Hours Telephone: 011-130-6000
Fax: +251-11-124-2435 and +251-11-124-2419
Email: ConsACS@state.gov

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General Information

For information concerning travel to Ethiopia, including information about the location of the U.S. Embassy, the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program, entry/exit requirements, safety and security, crime, medical facilities and health information, traffic safety, road conditions and aviation safety, please see country-specific information for Ethiopia.

The U.S. Department of State reports statistics and compliance information for individual countries in the Annual Report on International Parental Child Abduction (IPCA).  The report is located here.

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Hague Abduction Convention

Ethiopia is not a signatory to the 1980 Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction (Hague Abduction Convention), nor are there any bilateral agreements in force between Ethiopia and the United States concerning international parental child abduction.

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Return

Legal systems and laws pertaining to custody, divorce, and parental abduction vary widely from country to country.  Parents are encouraged to consult with an attorney who specializes in family law in Ethiopia and who can provide accurate legal guidance that is specific to their circumstances. 

The Department of State's Bureau of Consular Affairs, Directorate for Overseas Citizens Services, Office of Children's Issues provides assistance in cases of international parental child abduction.  For U.S. citizen parents whose children have been wrongfully removed to or retained in countries that are not U.S. partners under the Hague Abduction Convention, the Office of Children's Issues can provide information and resources about country-specific options for pursuing the return of or access to an abducted child.  The Office of Children's Issues may also coordinate with appropriate foreign and U.S. government authorities about the welfare of abducted U.S. citizen children.  Parents are strongly encouraged to contact the Department of State for assistance.

Contact information:

U.S. Department of State 
Bureau of Consular Affairs
Office of Children's Issues
CA/OCS/CI 
SA-17, 9th Floor 
Washington, DC 20522-1709
Telephone:  1-888-407-4747
Outside the United States or Canada: 1-202-501-4444
Website:  travel.state.gov
Email: AskCI@state.gov

Parental child abduction is a criminal offense in Ethiopia under Article 589 (3) of the Criminal Code of the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia.

Parents may wish to consult with an attorney in the United States and in the country to which the child has been removed or retained to learn more about how filing criminal charges may impact a custody case in the foreign court.  Please see Possible Solutions - Pressing Criminal Charges for more information. 

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Visitation/Access

Legal systems and laws pertaining to custody, divorce, and parental abduction vary widely from country to country.  Parents are encouraged to consult with an attorney who specializes in family law in Ethiopia and who can provide accurate legal guidance that is specific to their circumstances.

The Office of Children's Issues may be able to assist parents seeking access to children who have been wrongfully removed from or retained outside the United States.  Parents who are seeking access to children who were not wrongfully removed from or retained outside the United States should contact the appropriate U.S. Embassy in Ethiopia for information and possible assistance.

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Retaining an Attorney

Neither the Office of Children's Issues nor consular officials at the U.S. Embassy in Ethiopia are authorized to provide legal advice.

The U.S. Embassy in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, posts a list of attorneys, including those who specialize in family law

This list is provided as a courtesy service only and does not constitute an endorsement of any individual attorney. The Department of State assumes no responsibility or liability for the professional ability or reputation of, or the quality of services provided by, the following persons or firms. Professional credentials and areas of expertise are provided directly by the lawyers.

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Mediation

Under the Ethiopian Family Code, courts may direct parties to a divorce action to attempt to mediate their dispute.

Exercising Custody Rights

While travelling in a foreign country, you are subject to the laws of that country. It is important for parents to understand that, although a left-behind parent in the United States may have custody or visitation rights pursuant to a U.S. custody order, that order may not be valid and enforceable in the country in which the child is located.  For this reason, we strongly encourage you to speak to a local attorney if planning to remove a child from a foreign country without the consent of the other parent.  Attempts to remove your child to the United States may:

  • Endanger your child and others;
  • Prejudice any future judicial efforts; and
  • Could result in your arrest and imprisonment.

The U.S. government cannot interfere with another country’s court or law enforcement system.

To understand the legal effect of a U.S. order in a foreign country, a parent should consult with a local attorney in the country in which the child is located.  

For information about hiring an attorney abroad, see our section on Retaining a Foreign Attorney. 

Although we cannot recommend an attorney to you, most U.S. Embassies have lists of attorneys available online. Please visit the local U.S. Embassy or Consulate website for a full listing.

For more information on consular assistance for U.S. citizens arrested abroad, please see our website.

Country officers are available to speak with you Monday - Friday, 8:00 a.m. - 5:00 p.m.  For assistance with an abduction in progress or any emergency situation that occurs after normal business hours, on weekends, or federal holidays, please call toll free at 1-888-407-4747. See all contact information.

DISCLAIMER: The information in this flyer is provided for general information only, is not intended to be legal advice, and may change without notice. Questions involving interpretation of law should be addressed to an attorney licensed in the relevant jurisdiction. 

 

Hague Convention Participation
Hague Adoption Convention Country?
No
Are Intercountry Adoptions between this country and the United States possible?
Is this country a U.S. Hague Partner?
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Hague Convention Information

Ethiopia 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).

Ethiopia participates in a Pre-Adoption Immigration Review (PAIR) program. The PAIR program requires prospective adoptive parents receive a preliminary determination on the child’s likely immigration eligibility prior to filing an adoption case with a court. This preliminary determination, referred to as the PAIR process, provides the foreign courts and relevant government authorities with information regarding a child’s likely eligibility to immigrate to the United States before the court enters an order establishing a permanent legal relationship between the U.S. citizen parent(s) and the child. The Ministry of Women Children and Youth Affairs (MOWCYA) will not issue an adoption approval letter to the Federal First Instance Court for entry of a final adoption decree until MOWCYA has received a letter indicating that USCIS has completed a PAIR review. To enable prospective adoptive parents adopting from Ethiopia to comply with Ethiopia’s new criterion, USCIS has issued a policy memo allowing prospective adoptive parents to file a Form I-600, Petition to Classify Orphan as an Immediate Relative, before filing an adoption proceeding with Ethiopian courts.


Following the receipt of a PAIR letter from USCIS and subsequent issuance of a foreign adoption decree, prospective adoptive parents must submit the foreign adoption decree and the child’s travel and identity documents to the U.S. Embassy in Addis Ababa which will then complete the final review of their Form I-600 and visa processing. If the U.S. Embassy finds the case is not clearly approvable, it will return the case to USCIS for further action. Prospective adoptive parents should pay special attention to the process described below as it differs from other non-Hague and Hague countries.

Beginning on September 1, 2013, the Ethiopian government will require a PAIR letter from USCIS in all U.S. adoption cases. 

Media reports in recent years alleging direct recruitment of children from birth parents by adoption service providers or their employees remain a serious concern for the Department of State. The U.S. Embassy in Addis Ababa will continue its heightened scrutiny of adoption visa processing under the PAIR program. The required Form I-604 investigation, Determination on Child for Adoption – sometimes referred to as the orphan investigation, will still occur, but at an earlier stage in the Ethiopian adoption process. The U.S. Embassy will work with adoptive parents and their adoption agency to ensure that each case is processed in the most expeditious manner possible in accordance laws and regulations.

U.S. IMMIGRATION REQUIREMENTS FOR INTERCOUNTRY ADOPTIONS

To bring an adopted child to the United States from Ethiopia, you must meet eligibility and suitability requirements. The U.S. Department of Homeland Security, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) determines who can adopt 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.

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Who Can Adopt

In addition to U.S. immigration requirements, you must also meet the following requirements in order to adopt a child from Ethiopia:

  • Residency: There are no residency requirements for prospective adoptive parents. However, the Government of Ethiopia generally requires adoptive parents to travel to Ethiopia prior to finalizing the adoption in Ethiopian court. In practice, this results in most adoptive parents making at least two trips to Ethiopia.
  • Age of Adopting Parents: The prospective adoptive parent must be at least 25 years of age. The maximum age limit for adoptive parents is 65. In addition to these age requirements, the Ethiopian Government has sometimes limited the age difference between the prospective adoptive parent and the adopted child to no more than 40 years.
  • Marriage: While the Ethiopian Government has shown a preference for placing children with married couples who have been married for at least five years, unmarried women are eligible to adopt under Ethiopian law as of February 2013. As the change in Ethiopian government policy regarding adoptions by unmarried women is new, adoption service providers in Ethiopia may still have different policies regarding whether or not they make referrals of adoptable children to unmarried women and under what circumstances. The U.S. Embassy in Addis Ababa urges adoptive parents to contact their agency to clarify their current policies. In general, unmarried men are ineligible to adopt under Ethiopian law unless they are of Ethiopian descent and are adopting a family member.
  • Income: A prospective adoptive parent must prove financial ability as determined by the Ethiopian courts, although there is no set minimum income requirement.
  • Other: Ethiopian law prohibits adoption by gay and/or lesbian individuals or couples.
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Who Can Be Adopted

In addition to U.S. immigration requirements, Ethiopia has specific requirements that a child must meet in order to be eligible for adoption:

  • Relinquishment: A relinquishment occurs between the biological parent(s) of the child and the orphanage, and is certified by the appropriate local government office responsible for women’s and children’s issues. The Contract of Adoption is signed between the child's legal guardian, usually the orphanage, and the adoptive parents or their agency representative.  This contract is the basis for the issuance of the adoption decree, which shows that the guardian or the orphanage has relinquished their legal rights to the adopted child. The contract must be taken to the Inland Revenue Administration office to be stamped. There is a nominal fee of 5 Ethiopian birr for this service.  In general, except in inter-family adoptions, relinquishment by a living biological parent directly to a prospective adoptive parent is not permitted under Ethiopian or U.S. law.
  • Abandonment: When a child is abandoned, by law s/he comes into the custody of the Government of Ethiopia.  
  • Age of Adoptive Child: A child must be under the age of 18 to be adopted under Ethiopian law. Please keep in mind however that, in most cases, a child must be under the age of 16 to be eligible for immigration benefits under U.S. law unless s/he is the natural sibling of another child who was adopted by the same parents.
  • Sibling Adoptions: The Government of Ethiopia has demonstrated a preference for keeping sibling orphans together, if possible.
  • Special Needs or Medical Conditions: Biological parents who are unable to provide adequate medical care for their children, either because of special needs, HIV/AIDS, or another medical condition, are permitted to relinquish their children under Ethiopian law, even if both parents are still alive. When a child is found to have two HIV/AIDS-infected parents, or one living HIV/AIDS-infected parent, and the living parent(s) are unable to provide ongoing care for the child, the Government of Ethiopia sometimes classifies the child as an orphan and facilitates the placement of the child in institutional care.
  • Waiting Period or Foster Care: Typically, the Government of Ethiopia requires that a child be resident in an orphanage for three months before being adopted.

Caution: Prospective adoptive parents should be aware that not all children in orphanages or children’s homes are adoptable. 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 this becomes possible. In such cases, the birth parent(s) have rarely relinquished their parental rights or consented to their child(ren)’s adoption.

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How to Adopt

ETHIOPIA’S ADOPTION AUTHORITY

The Children and Youth Affairs Office (CYAO) operating under the Ministry of Women's, Children’s, and Youth Affairs (MOWCYA) is the primary adoption authority in Ethiopia.

THE PROCESS

The process for adopting a child from Ethiopia generally includes the following steps:

  1. Choose an adoption service provider
  2. Apply to be found eligible to adopt
  3. Be matched with a child
  4. File the Form I-600 with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services to initiate the Pre-Adoption Immigration Review prior to filing an adoption case with the courts
  5. Adopt the child in Ethiopia
  6. Receive final approval of Form I-600
  7. Obtain a Visa and bring your child home

1.  Choose an Adoption Service Provider

The recommended first step in adopting a child from Ethiopia is to decide whether or not to use a licensed adoption service provider in the United States that can help you with your adoption. Please note that U.S. citizens adopting from Ethiopia are required by the Ethiopian government to use a U.S. adoption service provider that has been authorized by the Ethiopian Government to provide adoption services. Adoption service providers must be licensed by the U.S. state in which they operate. The Department of State provides information on selecting an adoption service provider on its website.

Intercountry adoptions from Ethiopia are handled by the Children and Youth Affairs Office (CYAO), a part of the Ministry of Women's, Children’s, and Youth Affairs (MOWCYA). There are currently more than 20 U.S.-based adoption agencies authorized by the Ethiopian Government to provide adoption services for American adoptive parents. For a current list, contact MOWCYA (see Contacts section below) or the Ethiopian Embassy in Washington, D.C.

2.  Apply to be Found Eligible to Adopt

In order to adopt a child from Ethiopia you will need to meet the requirements of the Government of Ethiopia and U.S. immigration law. You must submit an application to be found eligible to adopt to the Ministry of Women, Children, and Youth Affairs, MOWCYA of Ethiopia. This is also called the dossier. U.S. prospective adoptive parents resident outside Ethiopia may request pre-approval to adopt prior to receiving a match. If not done prior to the match, the determination on the U.S. prospective adoptive parent(s) eligibility to adopt under Ethiopian law will be made by the MOWCYA at the time of the best interests review during the court process (see step 5 for more details). U.S. prospective adoptive parents resident in Ethiopia seeking a private adoption are required to go through the pre-approval process before receiving a match. The Embassy of Ethiopia in Washington, D.C. provides a list of required documents for the application to adopt an Ethiopian child on their website.

Prospective adoptive parents must take or send all of the required documents, certified and authenticated, to the Ethiopian Embassy in Washington, D.C. for additional authentication. Once it has completed its authentication, the Ethiopian Embassy returns the documents to the parents and the parents forward them to MOWCYA, Children and Youth Affairs Office (CYAO). You can find their address in the Contacts section of this information sheet.

MOWCYA reviews the documents for completeness and creates a dossier on the adoptive parent(s). The Claims and Authentication Section of the Protocol Office at the Ethiopian Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Addis Ababa authenticates the dossier and returns it to the Children and Youth Affairs Office (CYAO) for approval.

Note on Private adoptions: In general, only U.S. citizens who currently reside in Ethiopia and have done so for two years are eligible to complete a private adoption. Most U.S. prospective adoptive parents, therefore, will be required to use a licensed adoption service provider.

Note on Relative adoptions: Ethiopian-Americans who are adopting orphaned relatives do not have to come to Ethiopia to process their adoptions. They can have a representative with a power of attorney represent them in court. Married adoptive parents need to make sure that both parents have given the representative a power of attorney so that both parents' names appear on the adoption decree.

To meet U.S. immigration requirements, you may also file a Form I-600A, Application for Advance Processing of an Orphan Petition with U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services to be found eligible and suitable to adopt.

3.  Be Matched with a Child

If you are eligible to adopt, and a child is available for intercountry adoption, the central adoption authority or other authorized entity in Ethiopia will provide you with a referral. Each family must decide for itself whether or not it will be able to meet the needs of and provide a permanent home for a particular child.

The child must be eligible to be adopted according to Ethiopia’s requirements, as described in the Who Can Be Adopted section. The child must also meet the definition of orphan under U.S. immigration law.

At this time Ethiopian authorities publish in the local press a notice seeking any other claimants to the child, stating the child's name and the name of the prospective adoptive parents. The notice advises that any parties opposed to the adoption must appear at MOWCYA by a certain date and time.

Prospective adoptive parents have the option to either accept or refuse the referral. Upon acceptance of the referral, a Contract of Adoption is signed by the child's legal guardian, usually the orphanage, and the adoptive parents or the agency representative. The contract is taken to the Inland Revenue Administration office to be stamped. A nominal fee of 5 Ethiopian birr is charged.

4.  File the Form I-600 with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services to initiate the Pre-Adoption Immigration Review prior to filing an adoption case with the courts

Under the Pre-Adoption Immigration Review (PAIR) program, the U.S. prospective adoptive parent(s) files a Form I-600, Petition to Classify Orphan as an Immediate Relative, with the National Benefits Center (NBC) prior to obtaining a final adoption decree from the relevant court authority in Ethiopia. After review of the Form I-600 petition and completion of the Form I-604 investigation, NBC will make a preliminary determination on whether the child meets the definition of orphan under U.S. immigration law. If the determination is favorable, NBC will issue a preliminary determination of immigration eligibility to the U.S. prospective adoptive parent(s) in the form of a USCIS PAIR letter. If an unfavorable determination is made, NBC may issue a request for additional evidence or denial letter to the U.S. prospective adoptive parent(s).

Beginning on September 1, 2013, the Ethiopian government will require a USCIS PAIR letter in all U.S. adoption cases filed with the Ethiopian Federal First Instance Court (FFIC). Therefore, beginning on May 1, 2013, all new adoption cases filed with NBC must undergo a pre-adoption immigration review.

To initiate the PAIR process, prospective adoptive parents should submit a completed Form I‑600 together with all available documentation listed in the Form I-600 Instructions, minus an adoption decree or grant of legal custody to the USCIS National Benefits Center through the Dallas Lockbox. All documents originally produced in a foreign language must be accompanied by a certified English translation. In addition, the following PAIR-specific documentation must be submitted when the child’s country of origin is Ethiopia:

  • Evidence of the match between petitioner and child such as:
    • Adoption Contract between the Prospective Adoptive Parent (PAP) and the orphanage, together with a power of attorney appointing the Adoption Service Provider (ASP) to represent the PAP, in cases where the contract is signed by the ASP on behalf of the PAP; or
    • Adoption Contract between the PAP and relinquishing birth relative.
  • Evidence of child’s availability for intercountry adoption, such as:
    • Court order from Regional, Zonal or Woreda authorities;
    • Police report from local authorities, placing the child in the care of a licensed orphanage; or
    • Adoption Contract between PAP and relinquishing birth relative, in cases of intra-family adoption only.

In addition to the documentation required in the Form I-600 instructions pertaining to evidence that the child is an orphan as defined in section 101(b)(1)(F) and 8 CFR 204.3(b), there may be Ethiopia specific documentation that can help establish the child’s orphan status. Such documentation may include, but is not limited to:

  • Child’s life history report
  • Police report documenting finding of abandoned child
  • Police reports documenting disappearance of birth parent(s), if applicable
  • Medical or Court order documenting birth parent(s)’ incapacitation or illness
  • Copies of birth parent(s) death certificate(s)

Please note that additional documents may be requested.

USCIS will forward its preliminary favorable determination, together with the prospective adoptive parent’s file, to the U.S. Embassy in Addis Ababa. USCIS will also forward the original preliminary determination letter to the prospective adoptive parents for their records. 
Upon issuance of the PAIR letter, USCIS NBC will forward your petition to the U.S. Embassy in Addis Ababa for final adjudication following the completion of the Ethiopian court process.

5.  Adopt or Gain Legal Custody of Child in Ethiopia

The process for finalizing the adoption in Ethiopia generally includes the following:

After September 1, 2013, under PAIR, prospective adoptive parents will file a dossier with Ethiopia’s Federal First Instance Court (FFIC) to initiate the legal adoption process in Ethiopia. This dossier will include documents related to the child’s background, such as the Life History document created by the orphanage, along with the PAIR letter, the signed adoption contract, and information about the adoptive parents’ suitability to adopt. As of February 2013, the court requires a filing fee of 25 Ethiopian birr to open a case. The FFIC will forward the case to the Ministry of Women’s, Children’s, and Youth Affairs for its review, and will usually set a specific date by which the review must be completed. MOWCYA will review the dossier, along with the approved home study, and make a determination on whether the adoption is in the best interests of the child. If it determines that the prospective adoptive parents are eligible under Ethiopian law and the adoption should move forward, the dossier will be sent back to the FFIC for a hearing. Usually, if a child has been relinquished by living relatives, the court will hold a first hearing in order to obtain the relatives’ legal consent to the adoption. One to two weeks later, the court will schedule a hearing with the adoptive parents. In most cases, if the court approves the adoption, full legal custody is transferred to the adoptive parents on the same day. The adoptive parents receive an adoption decree from the court, which they can take back to MOWCYA for certification. Possession of the certified adoption decree permits adoptive parents or their agency’s representative to begin the process of applying for a new passport and birth certificate for the child. Please see below for more information on these processes. 

  • Role of Adoption Authority: The MOWCYA approves the dossier of the prospective adoptive parents and conducts a review of the best interests of the child, including whether a preliminary determination on the immigration eligibility of the child is favorable. It makes a recommendation to the FFIC on whether the adoption should proceed. The MOWCYA also certifies the final adoption decree and provides letters of request for the issuance of amended birth certificates and passports for the adopted child.
  • Role of the Court: The FFIC accepts all petitions for intercountry adoption and forwards the dossier to the MOWCYA for the best interests review. They review the adoptability of the child, ensure the process at the local level adhered to Ethiopian law, and make the final determination on the adoption decree. The FFIC issues the final adoption decree.
  • Role of Adoption Agencies: ASPs facilitate the match of a child at a licensed Ethiopian orphanage and U.S. prospective adoptive parent(s). ASPs also act on behalf of the prospective adoptive parent(s) in filing the dossier and petition with the FFIC. 
  • Adoption Application: The adoption application, also referred to as the dossier, serves to evaluate the prospective adoptive parent(s)’ eligibility to adopt under Ethiopian law. This step takes place during the MOWCYA review of the best interests of the child.
  • Time Frame: The time to complete the adoption will include approximately 12-14 weeks for the PAIR processing by USCIS following the match and approximately 6 weeks for the adoption petition to be finalized by the Government of Ethiopia. Following the issuance of the adoption decree in Ethiopia, an additional 4-6 weeks will be necessary for the Ethiopian passport application.
  • Adoption Fees: As of February 2013, the fees for the Ethiopian government portions of the adoption process total approximately $35 U.S. dollars, but must be paid in the local currency.  The fees charged are:
  • 5 Birr – Fee for Inland Revenue Authority stamp on adoption contract
  • 25 Birr – Fee for opening an adoption case with the Federal First Instance Court
  • 300 Birr – Fee for child’s Ethiopian birth certificate
  • 150-300 Birr – Fee for child’s Ethiopian passport

There may be additional fees charged by the U.S. adoption service provider (ASP) or Ethiopian legal counsel. Prospective adoptive parents should seek information in writing, upfront of all fees their ASP or legal representative will charge throughout the process. Many non-adoption related services, like lodging or transportation, for example, can be booked privately by prospective adoptive parents prior to traveling to Ethiopia. Prospective adoptive parents are encouraged to research all of the options available to them, which will give them an idea of the price of various goods and services on the local market. For prospective adoptive parents with legal questions, Embassy Addis Ababa can provide a list of local attorneys with experience working with American Citizens, including some that specialize in adoptions.

  • Documents Required: Please refer to the Embassy of Ethiopia in Washington, D.C. website for a list of requirements for the adoption dossier.

Note: Additional documents may be requested.

  • Authentication of Documents: You may be asked to provide proof that a document from the United States is authentic. If so, the Department of State, Authentications Office may be able to assist.

6.  Receive final approval of your Form I-600

Under the PAIR program, your Form I-600, Petition to Classify Orphan as an Adopted Child is not adjudicated until after your adoption is complete. You need to submit the final adoption decree issued by the FFIC and certified by MOWCYA, as well as the child’s identity and travel documents, to the U.S. Embassy in Addis Ababa in order to complete the processing of the Form I-600 and receive a final determination on the immigration eligibility of your child. The U.S. Embassy in Addis Ababa will approve Form I-600s that are clearly approvable.

You will need to apply for several documents before you submit your decree:

Birth Certificate
Once you have finalized the adoption in Ethiopia, you will need to apply for a new birth certificate for your child. The names of the adoptive parents will be listed on the new birth certificate. In general, your child’s legal name in Ethiopia will be the child’s given name followed by the first and last names of the adoptive father (e.g. Habtamu John Smith). When an adoptive mother is unmarried, the child’s name will follow the same pattern using the new mother’s name.

Once the adoption is complete, MOWCYA prepares a request to the City of Addis Ababa for the issuance of a new birth certificate. This is best facilitated if the request is hand-carried to the relevant office. The fee for a new birth certificate, as of February 2013, is 300 birr per child.

Ethiopian Passport
Your child is not yet a U.S. citizen, so s/he will need a travel document or passport from Ethiopia.

The MOWCYA prepares a request to the Office of Security, Immigration and Refugee Affairs for an Ethiopian passport for the child in his/her new name. This request is best facilitated if it is hand-carried to the relevant office. The fee for a new passport, as of February 2013, is 150 birr for children aged 7 and under, and 300 birr for children age 8 and above. It can sometimes take 4-6 weeks for the passport to be issued by the Ministry of Immigration following certification of the adoption decree.

7.  Obtain a Visa and Bring Your Child Home

U.S. Immigrant Visa
If your Form I-600 is approved, you then need to apply for a U.S. immigrant visa for your child from the U.S. Embassy in Addis Ababa. This immigrant visa allows your child to travel home with you.  As part of this process, the Consular Officer must be provided the Panel Physician’s medical report on the child.

You may submit your immigrant visa application and medical report when you submit the final, certified adoption decree, birth certificate, and Ethiopian passport for final adjudication of your Form I-600. You can find instructions for applying for an immigrant visa on the adoption page of the U.S. Embassy in Addis Ababa’s website. The U.S. Embassy in Addis Ababa will contact you, and your ASP or designated representative, once the Form I-600 is approved, to schedule the immigrant visa interview.

Visas for Other Countries
If the child will transit through the U.K. or Germany en route to the U.S., and will exit the airport, a German or U.K. visa will be required. A German or U.K. visa may be obtained by applying at the respective embassies in Addis Ababa. If the child does not exit the airport then no visa is required.

Child Citizenship Act

For adoptions finalized abroad prior to the child’s entry into the United States: A child will acquire U.S. citizenship upon entry into the United States if the adoption was finalized prior to entry and the child otherwise meets the requirements of the Child Citizenship Act of 2000.

For adoptions finalized after the child’s entry into the United States: An adoption will need to be completed following your child’s entry into the United States for the child to acquire U.S. citizenship.

*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

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Traveling Abroad

Applying for Your U.S. Passport U.S. citizens are required by law to enter and depart the United States on a valid U.S. passport. 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 a Visa to Travel to Ethiopia
In addition to a U.S. passport, you may also need to obtain a visa. A visa is an official document issued by a foreign country that formally allows you to visit. Where required, visas are affixed to your passport and allow you to enter a foreign nation. To find information about obtaining a visa for Ethiopia, 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 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 enroll with the Department of State. Enrollment makes it possible to contact you if necessary. Whether there is a family emergency in the United States or a crisis in Ethiopia, 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).

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After Adoption

Post-Adoption/Post-Placement Reporting Requirements
Pursuant to Ethiopian law, adoptive parents must submit post adoption reports at three months, six months, and one year. After the first year, the reports must be filed yearly until the child turns 18. This is a commitment that the adopting parents, home study agency, and adoption agency must sign when submitting documents for the adoption.

We strongly urge you to comply with Ethiopia’s post-adoption requirements in a timely manner. Your adoption agency may be able to help you with this process. Your cooperation will contribute to that country’s positive experiences with U.S. citizen parents.

Post-Adoption Resources
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. 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.

Here are some places to start your support group search:

Note:  Inclusion of non-U.S. government links does not imply endorsement of contents.

If families have concerns about their adoption, we ask that they share this information with the Embassy, particularly if it involves possible fraud or misconduct specific to your child's case.  The Embassy takes all allegations of fraud or misconduct seriously.

The best way to contact the Embassy is by email at ConsAdoptionAddis@state.gov. Please include your name, your child's name, your adoption agency, the date of the adoption (month and year), and, if possible, the immigrant visa case number for your child's case (this number begins with the letters ADD followed several numbers and can be found on any document sent to you by the National Visa Center). Please let us know if we have your permission to share concerns about your specific case with Ethiopian government officials.

We strongly encourage you to register any complaint that you may have about an adoption agency in the following ways:

  • You may file a complaint with the state licensing authority where your adoption agency is licensed and conducts business. The Child Welfare Information Gateway, which is maintained by the Department of Health and Human Services, provides a list of state licensing authorities.
  • You may also file a report with the state's Better Business Bureau through their website.
  • If your agency is a Hague-accredited adoption service provider, you are encouraged to file a complaint through the Hague Complaint Registry. This information will be used by the accrediting entities to evaluate the agency in connection with the renewal of its accreditation status.
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Contact Information

Embassy of the United States of America – Addis Ababa
Entoto Street
P.O. Box 1014
Addis Ababa
Tel: (251-11) 130-6000
Fax: (251-11) 124-24-35
Email: ConsAdoptionAddis@state.gov

American Citizens Services are available from 8 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. M-F, and from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. M-Th. Please consult the U.S. Embassy’s website for specific times when certain services are available.

Ethiopian Adoption Authority 
Ministry of Women's, Children’s Affairs 
Children and Youth Affairs Office (CYAO)
P.O. Box 1293
Addis Ababa
Ethiopia
Tel: +251 12552 1657
Fax: +251 11552 7524

Embassy of Ethiopia
3506 International Drive, N.W.
Washington, D.C. 20008
Phone: 202-364-1200
Fax: 202-587-0195
info@ethiopianembassy.org
http://www.ethiopianembassy.org/contact.shtml

Office of Children’s Issues
U.S. Department of State  
CA/OCS/CI  
SA-17, 9th Floor
Washington, DC 20522-1709
Tel: 1-888-407-4747
Email: AskCI@state.gov
Internet: adoption.state.gov

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS)

For questions about immigration procedures:
National Customer Service Center (NCSC)
Tel: 1-800-375-5283 (TTY 1-800-767-1833)
Internet: uscis.gov

For questions about filing a Form I-600A application or Form I-600 petition:
National Benefits Center
Tel: 1-877-424-8374 (toll free); 1-816-251-2770 (local)
Email: NBC.Adoptions@DHS.gov

Reciprocity Schedule

Select a visa category below to find the visa issuance fee, number of entries, and validity period for visas issued to applicants from this country*/area of authority.

Explanation of Terms

Visa Classification: The type of nonimmigrant visa you are applying for.

Fee: The reciprocity fee, also known as the visa issuance fee, you must pay. This fee is in addition to the nonimmigrant visa application fee (MRV fee).

Number of Entries: The number of times you may seek entry into the United States with that visa. "M" means multiple times. If there is a number, such as "One", you may apply for entry one time with that visa.

Validity Period: This generally means the visa is valid, or can be used, from the date it is issued until the date it expires, for travel with that visa. If your Validity Period is 60 months, your visa will be valid for 60 months from the date it is issued.

Visa Classifications
A
B
C
D
E
F
G
H
I
J
K
L
M
N
O
P
Q
R
S
T
U
V
Visa
Classification
Fee Number
of Entries
Validity
Period
A-1 None Multiple 24 Months
A-2 None Multiple 24 Months
A-3 1 None Multiple 24 Months
B-1 A None Multiple 24 Months
B-2 A None Multiple 24 Months
B-1/B-2 None Multiple 24 Months
C-1 None Multiple 3 Months
C-1/D None Multiple 24 Months
C-2 None One 6 Months
C-3 None Multiple 6 Months
CW-1 11 None Multiple 12 Months
CW-2 11 None Multiple 12 Months
D None Multiple 24 Months
E-1 2 None Multiple 6 Months
E-2 2 None Multiple 6 Months
E-2C 12 None Multiple 6 Months
F-1 None Multiple 12 Months
F-2 None Multiple 12 Months
G-1 None Multiple 12 Months
G-2 None Multiple 12 Months
G-3 None Multiple 12 Months
G-4 None Multiple 12 Months
G-5 1 None Multiple 12 Months
H-1B None Multiple 36 Months 3
H-1C None Multiple 36 Months 3
H-2A None Multiple 36 Months 3
H-2B None Multiple 36 Months 3
H-2R None Multiple 36 Months 3
H-3 None Multiple 36 Months 3
H-4 None Multiple 36 Months 3
I None Multiple 6 Months
J-1 4 None Multiple 12 Months
J-2 4 None Multiple 12 Months
K-1 None One 6 Months
K-2 None One 6 Months
K-3 None Multiple 24 Months
K-4 None Multiple 24 Months
L-1 None Multiple 36 Months
L-2 None Multiple 36 Months
M-1 None Multiple 12 Months
M-2 None Multiple 12 Months
N-8 None Multiple 12 Months
N-9 None Multiple 12 Months
NATO 1-7 N/A N/A N/A
O-1 None Multiple 36 Months 3
O-2 None Multiple 36 Months 3
O-3 None Multiple 36 Months 3
P-1 None Multiple 36 Months 3
P-2 None Multiple 36 Months 3
P-3 None Multiple 36 Months 3
P-4 None Multiple 36 Months 3
Q-1 6 None Multiple 15 Months 3
R-1 None Multiple 36 Months
R-2 None Multiple 36 Months
S-5 7 None One 1 Month
S-6 7 None One 1 Month
S-7 7 None One 1 Month
T-1 9 N/A N/A N/A
T-2 None One 6 Months
T-3 None One 6 Months
T-4 None One 6 Months
T-5 None One 6 Months
T-6 None One 6 Months
TD 5 N/A N/A N/A
U-1 None Multiple 48 Months
U-2 None Multiple 48 Months
U-3 None Multiple 48 Months
U-4 None Multiple 48 Months
U-5 None Multiple 48 Months
V-1 None Multiple 120 Months
V-2 None Multiple 120 Months 8
V-3 None Multiple 120 Months 8
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Country Specific Footnotes

Note: Bearers of diplomatic or official passports are entitled to visas valid for

Visa
Classification
Fee Number
of Applications
Validity
Period
B-1 None Multiple 12 Months
B-2 None Multiple 12 Months

Although care has been taken to ensure the accuracy, completeness and reliability of the information provided, please contact the U.S. Embassy or Consulate where you plan to apply if you believe this information is in error or if you have further questions.

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Visa Category Footnotes
  1. The validity of A-3, G-5, and NATO 7 visas may not exceed the validity of the visa issued to the person who is employing the applicant. The "employer" would have one of the following visa classifications:

    • A-1
    • A-2
    • G-1 through G-4
    • NATO 1 through NATO 6

  2. An E-1 and E-2 visa may be issued only to a principal alien who is a national of a country having a treaty, or its equivalent, with the United States. E-1 and E-2 visas may not be issued to a principal alien if he/she is a stateless resident. The spouse and children of an E-1 or E-2 principal alien are accorded derivative E-1 or E-2 status following the reciprocity schedule, including any reciprocity fees, of the principle alien’s country of nationality.  

    Example: John Doe is a national of the country of Z that has an E-1/E-2 treaty with the U.S. His wife and child are nationals of the country of Y which has no treaty with the U.S. The wife and child would, therefore, be entitled to derivative status and receive the same reciprocity as Mr. Doe, the principal visa holder.  

  3. The validity of H-1 through H-3, O-1 and O-2, P-1 through P-3, and Q visas may not exceed the period of validity of the approved petition or the number of months shown, whichever is less.

    Under 8 CFR §214.2, H-2A and H-2B petitions may generally only be approved for nationals of countries that the Secretary of Homeland Security has designated as participating countries. The current list of eligible countries is available on USCIS's website for both H-2A and H-2B visas. Nationals of countries not on this list may be the beneficiary of an approved H-2A or H2-B petition in limited circumstances at the discretion of the Department of Homeland Security if specifically named on the petition.  

    Derivative H-4, L-2, O-3, and P-4 visas, issued to accompanying or following-to-join spouses and children, may not exceed the validity of the visa issued to the principal alien.

  4. There is no reciprocity fee for the issuance of a J visa if the alien is a United States Government grantee or a participant in an exchange program sponsored by the United States Government.

    Also, there is no reciprocity fee for visa issuance to an accompanying or following-to-join spouse or child (J-2) of an exchange visitor grantee or participant.

    In addition, an applicant is eligible for an exemption from the MRV fee if he or she is participating in a State Department, USAID, or other federally funded educational and cultural exchange program (program serial numbers G-1, G-2, G-3 and G-7).

    However, all other applicants with U.S. Government sponsorships, including other J-visa applicants, are subject to the MRV processing fee.

  5. Under the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), Canadian and Mexican nationals coming to engage in certain types of professional employment in the United States may be admitted in a special nonimmigrant category known as the "trade NAFTA" or "TN" category. Their dependents (spouse and children) accompanying or following to join them may be admitted in the "trade dependent" or "TD" category whether or not they possess Canadian or Mexican nationality. Except as noted below, the number of entries, fees and validity for non-Canadian or non-Mexican family members of a TN status holder seeking TD visas should be based on the reciprocity schedule of the TN principal alien.

    Canadian Nationals

    Since Canadian nationals generally are exempt from visa requirement, a Canadian "TN' or "TD" alien does not require a visa to enter the United States. However, the non-Canadian national dependent of a Canadian "TN", unless otherwise exempt from the visa requirement, must obtain a "TD" visa before attempting to enter the United States. The standard reciprocity fee and validity period for all non-Canadian "TD"s is no fee, issued for multiple entries for a period of 36 months, or for the duration of the principal alien's visa and/or authorized period of stay, whichever is less. See 'NOTE' under Canadian reciprocity schedule regarding applicants of Iranian, Iraqi or Libyan nationality.

    Mexican Nationals

    Mexican nationals are not visa-exempt. Therefore, all Mexican "TN"s and both Mexican and non-Mexican national "TD"s accompanying or following to join them who are not otherwise exempt from the visa requirement (e.g., the Canadian spouse of a Mexican national "TN") must obtain nonimmigrant visas.

    Applicants of Iranian, Iraqi or Libyan nationality, who have a permanent resident or refugee status in Canada/Mexico, may not be accorded Canadian/Mexican reciprocity, even when applying in Canada/Mexico. The reciprocity fee and period for "TD" applicants from Libya is $10.00 for one entry over a period of 3 months. The Iranian and Iraqi "TD" is no fee with one entry over a period of 3 months.

  6. Q-2 (principal) and Q-3 (dependent) visa categories are in existence as a result of the 'Irish Peace Process Cultural and Training Program Act of 1998'. However, because the Department anticipates that virtually all applicants for this special program will be either Irish or U.K. nationals, the Q-2 and Q-3 categories have been placed only in the reciprocity schedules for those two countries. Q-2 and Q-3 visas are available only at the Embassy in Dublin and the Consulate General in Belfast.

  7. No S visa may be issued without first obtaining the Department's authorization.

  8. V-2 and V-3 status is limited to persons who have not yet attained their 21st birthday. Accordingly, the period of validity of a V-2 or V-3 visa must be limited to expire on or before the applicant's twenty-first birthday.

  9. Posts may not issue a T-1 visa. A T-1 applicant must be physically present in the United States, American Samoa, the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands or a U.S. port of entry, where he/she will apply for an adjustment of status to that of a T-1. The following dependents of a T-1 visa holder, however, may be issued a T visa at a U.S. consular office abroad:

    • T-2 (spouse)
    • T-3 (child)
    • T-4 (parent)
  10. The validity of NATO-5 visas may not exceed the period of validity of the employment contract or 12 months, whichever is less.

  11. The validity of CW-1 and CW-2 visas shall not exceed the maximum initial period of admission allowed by DHS (12 months) or the duration of the transition period ending December 31, 2014, whichever is shortest.

  12. The validity of E-2C visas shall not exceed the maximum initial period of admission allowed by DHS (24 months) or the duration of the transition period ending December 31, 2014, whichever is shortest.

 

 

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General Documents

Civil registration of births, marriages, and deaths is not automatic in Ethiopia. The documentation of these events is relatively new and largely confined to urban areas, and even genuinely-issued documents can be obtained with false information due to the lack of a centralized database. A church-issued document, an acknowledgment from one's district, and affidavits from three witnesses, all of which can be obtained for a price, are sufficient evidence for issuance of certificates. Relationships are rarely investigated for veracity. With the exception of divorce decrees, all certificates are available in the local language, English, or English-local language combinations.

 

Birth, Death, Burial Certificates

Birth Certificates

Availability: Available only to those born in Ethiopia.

Fees: 20 Birr

Document Name: Birth Certificate

Issuing Authority: Vital Events Statics Registration Agency

Special Seal(s) / Color / Format: Wet seal , circle stamp, and blue color

Issuing Authority Personnel Title: Vital Events Registration Certification Service Officer

Registration Criteria: Birth records are maintained at the District level. Requests for copies of previously issued birth certificates should be addressed to the issuing District in which the birth was registered.  For children up to 18 years old, parents can register their children’s birth in the District by presenting a hospital birth certificate, baptismal certificate, or school document to obtain a birth certificate. Any of the above documents and an identity card are required for issuance of birth certificates for persons over the age of eighteen.      

Procedure for Obtaining: The above documents and an identity card are satisfactory for issuance of birth certificates from districts.

Certified Copies Available: Certified copies are available.

Alternate Documents: There are no Alternate Documents.

Exceptions: If a person resides abroad and has not changed his citizenship, he can delegate a member of his family to get a birth certificate from his family District. The person requesting the certificate must have a Power of Attorney in addition to the required documents mentioned above.  Former Ethiopians who have changed their citizenship are required to submit a passport, visa or residence permit copy in addition to the required documents mentioned above for issuance or replacement of a birth certificate from a District.

Comments:  For citizens of other countries, new or replacement birth certificates are available only to those physically present in Ethiopia.

 

Death Certificates

Available: Available.  

Fees: 20 Birr for Ethiopians and 300 Birr for foreigners

Document Name: Death Certificate

Issuing Authority: Vital Events Statics Registration Agency (EX, in Addis Ababa  117 Districts)

Special Seal(s) / Color / Format: Wet seal ,circle stamp, and blue color

Issuing Authority Personnel Title: Vital Events Registration Certification Service Officer

Registration Criteria: If the death occurred at home, acknowledgement of dwellers association (Eder) or three witnesses, and a certificate from the church indicating where the body is buried, are required for issuance of a death certificate from the District. If the death occurred in a hospital, a death certificate issued by the hospital and a church or burial site certificate is required for the issuance of a death certificate from the District.

Procedure for Obtaining:  Submit the necessary documents to the District.

Certified Copies Available: Certified copies are available.

Alternate Documents: There are no Alternate Documents.

Exceptions:  Foreigners are required to submit passport and visa or residence permit copy in addition to hospital death certificate for issuance of death certificate from the District.  

Comments: None

Marriage, Divorce Certificates

Marriage Certificates

Available: Only available to those physically present in Ethiopia. Requests should be addressed to the District where the marriage was originally registered.

Fees: 50 Birr for Ethiopians and 300 Birr for foreigners

Document Name: Marriage Certificate

Issuing Authority: Vital Events Statics Registration Agency

Special Seal(s) / Color / Format: Wet seal , circle stamp, and blue color

Issuing Authority Personnel Title: Vital Events Registration Certification Service Officer

Registration Criteria: Physical presence of the bride and groom at the District with their IDs and two witnesses for each is required and will be registered in the log book. If the couple was married in a traditional or religious ceremony, the bride and groom may register and get Civil Marriage Certificates at the District.     

Procedure for Obtaining: Requests should be addressed to the District where the marriage was originally registered.

Certified Copies Available: Certified copies are available.

Alternate Documents: There are no Alternate Documents

Exceptions: Foreigners are required to submit passport and visa/residence permit copy, and a free-to-marry certificate authenticated by the State Secretary and U.S. Department of State for the issuance of a marriage certificate from a District.

Comments: Available only to those physically present in Ethiopia.

 

Divorce Certificates

Available: Available only to those residing in Ethiopia.

Fees: 50 Birr

Document Name: Divorce Certificate

Issuing Authority: Vital Events Statics Registration Agency

Special Seal(s) / Color / Format: Wet seal ,circle stamp, and blue color

Issuing Authority Personnel Title: Vital Events Registration Certification Service Officer

Registration Criteria: Need to present court decree to the District to issue a Divorce Certificate.

Procedure for Obtaining: Presentation of court decree

Certified Copies Available: Certified copies are available.

Alternate Documents: There are no Alternate Documents.

Exceptions: None

Comments: Available only to those residing in Ethiopia. Most marriages in Ethiopia are religious in nature and sometimes customary. Nevertheless, a civil divorce procedure is mandatory for all divorces to be effective.

Obtaining a divorce is a lengthy process in Ethiopia. Each party must have two appointed family arbiters, acceptable to the court. The first priority of the family arbiters is to attempt to reunite the husband and wife. If this is not possible, they will then negotiate agreements for property settlement and child custody. The arbiters must present the agreement to the court for a final decision. Upon presentation of the court's ruling and a copy of the judgments signed by all parties involved, the municipality will issue a Divorce Certificate in the Amharic language only.

Adoption Certificates

Available: Available only to those present in Ethiopia.

Fees: 20 Birr for Ethiopian and 300 Birr for foreigners

Document Name:  Adoption Certificate

Issuing Authority: Vital Events Statics Registration Agency

Special Seal(s) / Color / Format: Wet seal, circle stamp, and blue color

Issuing Authority Personnel Title: Vital Events Statics Registration Agency

Registration Criteria: Authenticated Adoption Contract signed between the adoption agency and orphanage naming the adoptive parents, or in cases of intra-family adoption an Adoption Contract between the adoptive parents and relinquishing birth relative. The court decree, plus a form letter from the Ministry of Women and Children Affairs acknowledging the adoption and requesting that anyone receiving the letter assist the adoptive parents as appropriate, must be affixed to the Adoption Contract in order to issue the Adoption Certificate. The Federal First Instance Court is the approving authority for all intercountry adoptions.

Procedure for Obtaining: Presentation of court decree and Ministry of Women and Children Affairs document to the District will issue Adoption Certificate.

Certified Copies Available: Certified copies are available.

Alternate Documents: There are no Alternate Documents.

Exceptions:  For foreigners, the adoptive parents must be present at the District in person with the court decree and women’s affairs documents to obtain the Adoption Certificate.

Comments: None.

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Identity Card

National ID Cards

Available: Identity cards are issued by Districts to those eighteen and older. There is no uniform identification document.

Fees: 10 Birr

Document Name: District (Woreda) ID card

Issuing Authority: Vital Events Statics Registration Agency

Special Seal(s) / Color / Format: Wet seal, circle stamp, and blue color

Issuing Authority Personnel Title: Vital Events Statics Registration Agency

Registration Criteria: For children 18 years and older who reside in the District, parents or any household member can register.

Procedure for Obtaining: Presentation of parents’ ID card and registration.

Certified Copies Available: Certified copies are not available.

Alternate Documents: There are no Alternate Documents.

Exceptions: None.

Comments: There is no uniform identification document.

Police, Court, Prison Records

Police Certificates

Available: Certificates of Good Conduct from the federal police are available to anyone who is 18 years or older who is/was in Ethiopia for more than 6 months.

Fees: 10 Birr

Document Name: Certificate of Good Conduct

Issuing Authority: Ethiopian Federal Police Commission Forensic Investigation Department

Special Seal(s) / Color / Format: Wet seal, circle stamp, and blue color

Issuing Authority Personnel Title: Ethiopian Federal Police Commission Forensic Investigation Department

Registration Criteria: Applicants must submit one passport-size photos, a valid ID card, and a letter requesting the investigation for a police certificate.

Procedure for Obtaining: Applicants should contact the Forensic Investigation Department with the above listed documents to acquire a Certificate of Good Conduct.

Certified Copies Available: Certified copies are not available.

Alternate Documents: There are no Alternate Documents.

Exceptions:  Foreigners requesting Certificates of Good Conduct must bring a supporting document from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Ethiopia.

Comments: Available to anyone who is 18 years or older and is/was in Ethiopia for more than six months. Individuals who were in Ethiopia for more than six months, but are no longer in Ethiopia may send their fingerprints (taken by an authorized entity such as a police department) in addition to the above documents, plus one photo to the Ethiopian Federal Police Commission Forensic Investigation Department in a sealed envelope to request a Certificate of Good Conduct.   

 

Court Records

Unavailable.

 

Prison Records

Available: To persons released from prison.

Fees: No Fee.

Document Name: Official Release Record

Issuing Authority: Prison Administration of the prison at which the person was detained.

Special Seal(s) / Color / Format: Wet seal and blue color

Issuing Authority Personnel Title: Prison Administrator

Registration Criteria: Persons released from prison are normally given an Official Release Record.

Procedure for Obtaining: Persons released from prison are normally given an Official Release Record.

Certified Copies Available: Certified copies are available.

Alternate Documents: There are no Alternate Documents.

Exceptions: If the person is released by pardon, the issuing authority is the Office of the President.

Comments: None.

Military Records

Available: In principle, any person who has served in the military is given a letter of discharge. Military records are generally are available.

Fees: No fee.

Document Name: Letter of Discharge

Issuing Authority: Military Personnel Department

Special Seal(s) / Color / Format: No special seal/color/format.

Issuing Authority Personnel Title: Military Personnel Department officer

Registration Criteria: Any person who has served in the military is given a letter of discharge, which indicates his/her reason for discharge (retired, disciplinary discharge, or medically unfit)

Procedure for Obtaining: Depends on the above reason.

Certified Copies Available: Certified copies are not available.

Alternate Documents: There are no Alternate Documents.

Exceptions: None.

Comments: In principle, any person who has served in the military is given a letter of discharge upon completion of his/her service.

Passports & Other Travel Documents

Travel Documents

Available: Passports are issued by the Main Department for Immigration and Nationality Affairs (MDINA) for a five-year period.

Types Available: Regular, Diplomatic, Official

Fees: 600 Birr

Document Name: Passport

Issuing Government Authority: Main Department for Immigration and Nationality Affairs

Special Seal(s) / Color / Format: Dry seal

Issuing Authority Personnel Title: Main Department for Immigration and Nationality Affairs

Registration Criteria: Submit  ID card and Birth Certificate

Procedure for Obtaining: Submit  ID card and Birth Certificate

Alternate Documents: There are no Alternate Documents.

Exceptions: None.

Comments: An Ethiopian Embassy or Consulate may replace passports multiple times for the same validity period.

Other Documents Available: In emergency cases and for one-way travel only, Ethiopian Embassies or Consulates may issue a “laissez passer” valid for six months.

Other Records

Not applicable.

Visa Issuing Posts

Post Contact Information

Post Title: Addis Ababa, Ethiopia (Embassy)

Address: Entoto Avenue
                 P.O. Box 1014
                 Addis Ababa

Phone Number: Tel: 251-11-130 6000, Fax: 251-11-124 2435

Visa Services: All visa categories for Ethiopia. US Embassy Addis Ababa also conducts Immigrant Visa issuances for Eritreans.

Comments / Additional Information: None

Visa Services

All visa categories for all of Ethiopia.

Foreign Consular Office Contact Information

Washington, DC (202) 364-1200

Los Angeles, CA (213) 365-6651 ext. 100

Assistance for U.S. Citizens

U.S. Embassy Addis Ababa
Entoto Street
PO Box 1014
Addis Ababa, Ethiopia
Telephone
+251-11-130-6000
Emergency
011-130-6000
Fax
+251-11-124-2435 and +251-11-124-2419
Ethiopia Map

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Additional Information for Reciprocity

Although care has been taken to ensure the accuracy, completeness and reliability of the information provided, please contact the U.S. Embassy or Consulate where you plan to apply if you believe this information is in error or if you have further questions.