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Foreign Adoptions: A How-To Guide

freemantolbertEach year, thousands of American families seek to adopt children from foreign countries to give them a new life on our shores. However, given the uncertainties surrounding immigration laws today, some prospective parents are concerned about whether foreign adoptions will be allowed.

The good news is, no legislation has yet passed  that bans adoption of foreign-born children. However, prospective parents must remember that adopting a child from another country is not a simple process. Below are the basic steps prospective parents must take to ensure the adoption process is done smoothly and correctly.

Do your research

Before you begin the adoption process, take a close look at the countries where Americans adopt from the most. It’s highly likely that these countries have favorable foreign adoption policies, which will prevent the adoption process from being bogged down in red tape. Every country has different adoption policies, so be aware of what the procedures are.

Also, make certain that the country you are considering is part of the Hague Adoption Convention. This international treaty sets standards of practice for intercountry adoption, such as requiring the establishment of a central authority as the point of contact in any particular country, as well as ensuring that children being placed for adoption were not abducted, sold or trafficked. The Hague Adoption Convention also recognizes adoption as a means of offering a permanent home to a child when a suitable family has not been found in the child’s home country. Note: This doesn’t mean you cannot adopt a child from a non-Hague Convention country.

Once you have an idea which country or countries you would like to adopt from, research agencies that specialize in intercountry adoptions. See which agencies have adoption programs in your targeted country, and make certain that the agency is accredited or approved by the Hague Convention process. Check with your state’s licensing authority to find out more information about the adoption agency, and check with any families you know who have adopted foreign-born children to find out which agencies they used and what their experiences were like.

The adoption process

By now, you should have chosen your agency and selected the country you wish to adopt from. If you have chosen one that is part of the Hague Convention, you should obtain a home study conducted by an authorized agency and apply to USCIS  to confirm your suitability for adoption. The next step is to apply to that country’s central authority for adoption to be matched with a child. The country’s central authority should provide a referral that includes information about the child’s identity, adoptability, background, family history, medical history, social history and any special needs, along with the necessary consent.

Once you have found the child you wish to adopt, you must petition the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) to obtain a visa for the child to move to the U.S. This form must be filled out before you can begin official adoption forms. If the child is deemed to be eligible for U.S. immigration, you would then complete an application to the embassy or consulate responsible for processing visa applications for the child’s country of origin. After you have cleared that hurdle, you may begin the adoption paperwork, obtain a birth certificate and a passport for the child from his or her country of origin and meet with the embassy or consulate for a visa interview. If it all goes well, you can complete the adoption process.

Adopting a child from a non-Hague Convention country is different. The child must qualify as an orphan – meaning the child either has no living parents, or a sole or surviving parent who cannot care for the child and has signed a written release for the child’s emigration and adoption. The child must be under the age of 16, although a child age 16 or 17 can be adopted if he or she has a sibling under the age of 16 whom the adoptive parents are willing to adopt. You will also have to adopt or obtain legal custody of the child in the child’s home country before filling out the USCIS immigrant visa petition. This step could mean being away from the U.S. for a protracted period of time, depending on how long the adoption process takes in the child’s home country.

Hire an immigration attorney

No matter which route you take, it is vital that you have access to knowledgeable and experienced legal counsel when adopting a child from a foreign country. The attorneys at Tully Rinckey PLLC are experienced in advising prospective parents about the processes necessary to adopt children from foreign countries, as well as filing visa applications. Contact us at 888-529-4543 or email to schedule a consultation.

Cianna Freeman, Esq. is an immigration attorney at Tully Rinckey PLLC in Albany, N.Y.


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