Adoption in General
This page explains the process for adopting children from foreign countries. Additionally, it provides information on immigration benefits obtainable through adoptive relationships. These resources are intended for adoptive and prospective adoptive parents of foreign-born children, as well as adoption agencies, and state and local officials involved in adoption proceedings.
Orphan petitions are the most common way of bringing foreign adopted and prospective adoptive children to the United States. The material addressed on this link is comprehensive and meant for readers who want to avoid problems and/or delays with the adoption process. Information is included on some of the difficult issues that can occur in orphan cases.
The Immigration of Adopted and Prospective Adoptive Children materials feature a section on immigration benefits that may be gained from adoptive relationships through procedures other than the orphan petition. There is also some general information on how a foreign-born adopted child can become a U.S. citizen.
Above all, this material alerts prospective adoptive parents about some serious problems that may happen in foreign adoption cases. For example, unscrupulous adoption practices are common in many areas of the world. Moreover, adoption of a foreign-born child does not guarantee the child’s eligibility to immigrate to the United States. The adoptive parent must comply with the U.S. immigration law and legal regulatory procedures. There is no way an orphan can legally immigrate to the United States without Bureau of Citizenship and Immigration Services (INS) processing.
INS regulations require that all foreign adoptions undergo an investigation to guarantee compliance with the laws of both the United States and foreign sending country. When necessary, an overseas investigation is initiated. This investigation can cause delays in adjudicating the case. Prospective adoptive parents are advised to retain a reputable agency with foreign adoption experience or competent legal representation in their efforts to bring foreign-born children to the United States.
INS places a priority on processing adoption petitions. Many BCIS field offices have assigned individual officers and clerks to process orphan petitions applications and respond to inquiries from the petitioners concerning the status of their case. Prospective adoptive parents are encouraged to go through their adoption agencies for guidance and insight on the immigration of orphan and adopted children.
The U.S. Department of State’s Office of Children’s Issues coordinates policy and provides information to the public on international adoptions, including country-specific data. Prospective adoptive parents can contact the Office of Children’s Issues at (202) 736-7000.
Adoption information is also available from the U.S. State Department internet website at http://travel.state.gov/family/family_1732.html.
A. Children Born Out of Wedlock
The prospective adoptive parent(s) should be aware that although a child may be born out of wedlock, that child may still have two parents.
A child born out of wedlock in a country that has not eliminated all legal distinctions between “legitimate” and “illegitimate”, and who has not been legitimated under the laws of the child’s or father’s residence or domicile, has a sole parent — his or her mother — unless the child has or had a bona fide relationship with the father.
If the child has or had a bona fide relationship with his or her father, the child may be considered to have a sole parent — his or her mother — only if the father has disappeared, abandoned, deserted, or in writing irrevocably released the child for emigration and adoption.
In both cases it must be evident that the mother is incapable of providing proper care for the child according to the standards of the country where she and the child reside and, in writing, irrevocably releases the child for emigration and adoption.
If a child is born out of wedlock in a country that has eliminated all legal distinctions between “legitimate” and “illegitimate”, paternity has been established, and the father has recognized or acknowledged the child, that child is considered “legitimated” with the child having both parents, not a sole parent.
Adoptive and prospective adoptive parents of children who were born out of wedlock should become familiar with the legitimacy laws in the countries where the children were born and/or live. If a child born out of wedlock is from a country which has eliminated all legal distinctions between legitimate and illegitimate, the child may still qualify for classification as an orphan under U.S. immigration law as long as there is proof that paternity has not been acknowledged or established before the civil authorities in that country. Prospective adoptive parent(s) may obtain information regarding a specific country’s legitimacy laws from BCIS or the Department of State.
B. Legitimated Children
Most countries have legal procedures for the legitimation of children by their natural fathers. Accordingly, adoptive and prospective adoptive parents of children born out of wedlock should become familiar with the laws of a foreign country to determine how children become legitimated. A legitimated child has all the same rights as a child born in wedlock. A legitimated child from any country has two legal parents and cannot qualify as a orphan unless only one of the parents is living or both of the parents have abandoned the child.
A child abandoned by both parents may qualify as an orphan under U.S. immigration law.
INS regulations state that a child who has been unconditionally abandoned to an orphanage is considered to have no parents. A child is not deemed abandoned, however, when he or she has been temporarily placed in an orphanage and the parent or parents are contributing or trying to contribute to the child’s support, or the parent or parents otherwise show that they have not ended their parental obligations to the child.
While a finding of abandonment may normally be made when the child is in the custody of an orphanage or an orphanage-like institution, the definition of the term “abandonment” is not limited to those instances. Children in other situations could possibly be considered abandoned, but adoptive or prospective adoptive parents seeking to prove the claimed abandonment should obtain legal documentation from a competent authority in the country where the child resides.
For example, in a case where a child is a ward of the court, the parents must refuse to meet their parental and legal obligations to care for and support their child and give up parental claims to the child. On the other hand, if the natural parents are deprived of custody only temporarily and afforded a chance to care for the child, the child would not be considered an orphan.
Also, a relinquishment or release of a child by the biological parents to the prospective adoptive parents or for a specific adoption does not constitute abandonment.
Occasionally, some persons will try to make a child appear to have been abandoned in order to facilitate the child’s immigration to the United States. If a child has been designated a ward of the court merely as a contrivance, the child would not qualify as an orphan. If the decree declaring the child to be a ward of the court does not describe circumstances establishing that he or she is an orphan, other proof of abandonment must be submitted in support of the petition.
D. Intra-Familial Adoptions
Prospective adoptive parents wishing to adopt a family member may encounter problems that are not found in other adoption cases. Most will find it difficult to prove that the child meets the definition of an orphan under U.S. immigration law.
As stated previously, a child is a orphan only if the sole or surviving parent is unable to care for the child properly according to the standards of the country where the parent and child reside and has, in writing, irrevocably released the child for emigration and adoption; or if the child has been abandoned or deserted by, separated or lost from, both parents, or if both parents have disappeared or died.
Additional documentation is required to verify the claim of abandonment, desertion, separation from both parents or that both parents have disappeared or died.
Once the child has been irrevocably released by the natural parents, the parents can never gain any immigration benefit through the child.
E. Some Problems Faced by Adoptive and Prospective Adoptive Parent(s) of Foreign-Born Children
The adoptive and prospective adoptive parent(s) of foreign-born children face complex requirements which appear in the law itself. BCIS has kept the documentary, regulatory and procedural requirements to a minimum, while conforming with the intent of the law. In addition to BCIS requirements, petitions for orphans must also comply with state and foreign adoption laws.
The laws of some countries do not permit adoption. Laws of other countries restrict persons eligible to adopt children. There are children legally adopted abroad who do not qualify as orphans according the U.S. immigration laws (see definition of orphan in Appendix B). The adoptive and prospective adoptive parent(s) should be aware that not all children adopted abroad are orphans, and what appears to be a foreign adoption may not comply with the laws of the foreign state; and some valid foreign adoptions are not sufficient to classify the adopted person as a “child” under U.S. immigration law.
It is the responsibility of the petitioner to prove to BCIS that a child is eligible for classification as an orphan for immigration purposes. The evidence must be in the form of documents. This evidence may vary, depending on the facts of the case. Therefore, it is sometimes necessary to submit documents in addition to those described in Section II, B, Forms Used for an Orphan Petition.
If we knew that the child has an illness or disability that has not been mentioned in the petition the BCIS or the embassy or consulate, depending on the location of the request for an orphan, they will provide to the petitioner and his spouse, if they are married Details of the medical condition. The petitioner and her spouse, if they are married, to decide if they still want the child to enter the United States as an immigrant.
If the prospective adoptive parents choose the child to enter the United States, parents should be warned that the child is still admissible in the United States. Some diseases cause the child to be inadmissible. For example, if a child has a contagious disease, the child may be inadmissible. If we apply the margins of inadmissibility, they notify parents about the requirements to be met before the child to legally enter the United States.
Prospective adoptive parents are advised to avoid fraudulent practices of adoption and agree with agencies or individuals involved in such activities. Just have to agree with sources recommended for children in adoption and ensure that the entire procedure is legal.
The INS has found that foreign children are often stolen for adoption in the United States. There is also a market for fraudulent documents for children who may be beneficiaries of petitions for orphans. There are unscrupulous individuals that attract customers saying that they have a faster, economical and easy to adopt children. The adoptive parents are exploited by the exorbitant amounts of money without requiring them to receive the child, or getting a sick child, or proving to be parts of fraudulent acts.
When the BCIS has reason to believe that a request for an orphan may be involved in fraudulent acts, a foreign investigation of orphan before the petition is approved. The investigation may delay the completion of the case whenever done as quickly as possible. The BCIS will make every effort to ensure that the request for an orphan is not involved in fraudulent practices of adoption. In addition, research is done as a service to adoptive parents. Protects them from any painful situation that might occur when an adoption is illegal.