5 Must Know Facts About International Adoption
Adopting a child from another country involves many legal steps, both in the U.S. and the country where the child lives. For a successful international adoption (sometimes referred to as an intercountry adoption), it is important that you be prepared beforehand and at each point of the process.
Below you will find some “must know” facts about international adoption and the laws that will apply.
#1: You Must Comply with Three Sets of Laws
Completing an international adoption requires that the adoptive parents comply with three different sets of laws:
- The laws of the country where the child lives
- The federal laws of the United States
- The laws of the state where the adoptive parents live
Before pursuing an international adoption, the prospective adoptive parents should check each set of laws to be sure that they will be able to complete the adoption as planned. This may include:
- Some states have restrictions on who may become an adoptive parent
- Some countries have restrictions on who may adopt (such as age, health, income, relationship status, and sexual orientation restrictions)
- Requirements that adoptive parents remain in the country for a set period of time before returning with the child to the United States
- Requiring the adoptive parents to undergo another home study in the other country
- Requiring adoptive parents to provide post-adoption reports or undergo additional evaluations after the parents and child have returned to the United States (it is recommended that parents follow the requirements for continuing reports so that future adoptions from the child's birth country are not affected)
#2: The Hague Convention May Affect Your Adoption
The United States and many other countries have signed the Hague Adoption Convention on the Protection of Children and Co-operation in Respect of Inter-Country Adoption (Hague Adoption Convention).
Adopting from a Country that has Joined the Hague Convention
If your child will be adopted from a country that has joined the Hague Convention ( view a list of Hague Convention members here), you will have to comply with different requirements.
For example, the pre-adoption home study must be conducted by an accredited provider, and the child must qualify as a “convention adoptee” in order to be available for adoption. The Hague Convention is intended to provide adoptive parents and children with greater protections through specific requirements, creating a Central Authority in each country that has joined the Convention, and creating greater transparency. It is important to remember that even if the other country determines that the child is available for adoption, the child must also qualify under United States law.
Adopting from a Country that has NOT Joined the Hague Convention
You may also adopt a child living in a country that has not joined the Hague Convention. When adopting from a non-Hague Convention country, it is important to know that the child must qualify as an "orphan" under United States laws to complete the adoption-in addition to qualifying for adoption under the other country’s laws. You must also still obtain a pre-adoption home study, but you are not required to use an accredited provider.
#3: There is a Lot of Paperwork.
Your journey through the adoption process will involve a lot of paperwork. You will need to gather personal documentation and complete immigration and adoption forms. There are costs associated with paperwork, as well. You will face filing fees and other fees and charges.
Your home study will involve paperwork. You will undergo a background check (or multiple background checks). You will need to gather certified copies of your personal documents. You will need the child's medical records and medical examination for the adoption.
You must also be determined by the U.S. Citizen and Immigration Services (USCIS) to be suitable as an adoptive parent. If you are adopting a child from a Hague Convention country, you must complete Form I-800A before being matched with a child. USCIS will review your Form I-800A and determine if you are suitable to adopt a child from the Convention country. You will later complete Form I-800 so that USCIS can determine that the child meets the definition of a Convention adoptee.
If you are adopting a child from a non-Hague Convention country, you will complete Form I-600A (to determine whether you may adopt a child internationally) and Form I-600 to determine that the child meets the definition of an orphan.
You should obtain multiple certified copies of all official documents when navigating the international adoption process as you may need copies for different stages of the process and your copies may not be returned to you.
#4: Your Adoption May Be Affected by Immigration Laws
Before returning to the United States, you will also need to submit a Visa Application for your child and participate in the Visa interview at the U.S. Consulate or Embassy, where the determination of whether the child may immigrate to the U.S. will be made.
You will need much of your previous paperwork and documentation at the Visa interview. The Child Citizenship Act of 2000 provides that the child will become a U.S. citizen if one parent is a U.S. citizen, the child is less than 18 years old, the child is admitted to the U.S. as a lawful permanent resident, and there is a final adoption.
It is important that you finalize your adoption in the U.S. as soon after your return as possible so that your child gains U.S. citizenship. If you do not complete the adoption process, and your child does not become a U.S. citizen, he or she may not be able to vote or work in the future, or he or she may be deported.
#5: There are Resources Available to Assist You in Preparing For Your Adoption
The international adoption process is complex and involves the interplay of many laws. You should consult with an attorney who practices in your state and who is familiar with international adoptions when considering adopting a child from another country. You should also consider consulting with an attorney who practices family la in the other country to assist with navigating that country's adoption laws.
The U.S. government has also compiled information relating to international adoptions as well as some country-specific information. Some helpful resources are:
The international adoption process can be long and complex. It will benefit you to be organized and prepared as you adopt your child. You should consider consulting with an attorney experienced in international adoption and the Hague Convention to assist you with the steps involved in your adoption and explore the information provided by the U.S. government to assist you.