International adoption is the process where a US citizen adopts a child from another country. Especially if you want to adopt an older infant or toddler, there are a lot of options through international adoption. Thousands of US residents go through this process every year.
According US State Department statistics, 3980 children were adopted by US citizens from other countries in 2016. According to the Annual Report for FY 2017, the overall number of adoptions to the United States in FY 2017 was 4,714, a decline of 658 from the previous year. This decline is primarily attributable to changes in two countries – China and the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). The number of adoptions to the United States increased in 42 countries. A dozen countries on four continents saw double digit increases in adoptions to the United States, including Nigeria, Colombia, India, and Sierra Leone.
In 2016, the most common countries where these children come from are:
- Democratic Republic of the Congo
- South Korea
International Adoption Requirements
To complete an international adoption and bring a child to the United States, parents must must meet the requirements set by the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), the foreign country in which the child resides, the Hague Convention on Intercoutry Adoption, and the State of North Carolina.
Most international adoptions will have requirements relating to:
- Marital Status
- Criminal records
- Physical & mental health
International Adoption Process
The international adoption process is complex and varies by country. Visit the US State Department website for country specific information. It’s very important to have an experienced attorney working with you through the process to make sure deadlines are met, forms are filled out and submitted properly, and the adoptee country’s requirements are met to ensure you have a smooth adoption process.
To date, 90 countries have joined The Hague Convention on Adoption. If you are adopting from a Convention country, you must follow the Convention requirements. Follow these steps in a Convention case to complete the adoption and visa process:
- Choose a U.S. Accredited or Approved Adoption Service Provider.
- Apply to USCIS to be Found Suitable and Eligible to Adopt: You will need to file Form I-800A – Determination on Suitability to Adopt a child from a Convention Country with the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) to establish your suitability as an adoptive parent. You will need to complete a home study, fingerprints, and a background check as part of this application.
- Apply to the Country of Origin’s Authorities to Adopt and be Matched with a Child.
- Apply to USCIS for the Child to be found Provisionally Eligible for Immigration to the United States as a Convention Adoptee and Receive U.S. Agreement to Proceed with the Adoption.
- Adopt the Child or Obtain Legal Custody of the Child in the Country of Origin for Purposes of Emigration and Adoption.
- Complete the Application Process for a U.S. Immigrant Visa for your Child and Bring your Child Home.
- If your child enters the US with an IR4 or IH4 visa, more is required. You must complete your adoption in your home state.
Upon returning to the United States, many parents also choose to readopt their child. Replacing foreign adoption documents and birth records is difficult. In some situations, it may be impossible. A readoption creates a US adoption decree and certificate of foreign birth which is like a birth certificate. They can be readily replaced when necessary.
There are also special adoption processes in certain cases, including the special immigrant juvenile (SIJ) adoption. This process allows children who are out of status in the US to have a legal path to citizenship in the US.
If the child is under 21, declared dependent in a juvenile court, unable to be rejoined with their parents, and it’s unsafe for them to return to the country of origin, this is also an option for adoptions. If the court makes the necessary findings, a special immigrant juvenile order, “SIJS Order” or “Predicate Order” will be issued by the court, which will allow the non-citizen child to apply for special immigrant juvenile status with the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).
This is a very narrow classification, so if you think this may apply to your situation, call us at 919-306-2899 for a consultation and we can help you select the best option.
Experience On Your Side
Mills Adoption Law can assist with the process of adopting a child internationally, from the initial planning, through the final certificate of citizenship. Call us today at 919-306-2899 to set up your consultation.