Foreign Adoption: The International Adoption Process

Celebrities like Angelina Jolie have brought about a great increase in public awareness of foreign adoption. What most people are not aware of is the long, and complex process involved in adopting a foreign child.

International adoption, also called foreign adoption, or intercountry adoption, involves three different bodies of law. Potential adoptive parents will have to navigate federal adoption laws, state adoption laws, as well as immigration laws, in order to get their adopted child into the United States.

Who Can Adopt a Foreign Child?

There are a few basic requirements for adopting a foreign child into the United States. These requirements, and the determination of eligibility, are enforced by the USCIS, the same federal body that administers immigration law processes. Until the USCIS determines that a parent is eligible for international adoption, the child will not be allowed to enter the US.

The basic requirements for adopting a foreign child are as follows:

  1. The adoptive parent must be a United States Citizen
  2. An unmarried person wishing to adopt a foreign child must be at least 25 years of age
  3. Married couples must jointly adopt the child
  4. The applicant(s) must pass criminal and other background checks

Additionally, potential adoptive parent will also need to meet legal requirements established by the state in which they reside, and any requirements of which the child is to be adopted.

How to Adopt a Foreign Child: The Basic Process

The Department of State is the US liaison with other adoptive authorities around the globe. Adoptive parent will likely work with an adoption agency. For a list of accredited agencies, click here. Please note, neither the Department of state nor an adoption agency can guarantee any child is eligible to enter the US. The immigration aspect of foreign adoption is still governed by the USCIS. Please consult with an immigration lawyer prior to taking any action regarding foreign adoption.

When choosing your adoption agency, selecting a Department of State accredited agency provides some additional benefits for the adoptive parents, as well as the peace of mind in knowing they are approved by the agency that governs the process.

Intercountry Adoption and the Hague Convention

The Hague Convention on the Protection of Children and Co-operation in Respect of Inter-Country Adoption (Hague Convention) was established in 1993 as an international agreement designed to protect children and set standards for the process of foreign adoption. Adopting a child from a Country participating in the Hague Convention is similar to adopting from a non-convention country, except that adopting parents enjoy a few additional protections. Click here for the current list of participating countries.

The key benefits of adopting from a participating country include:

  • Adoption Agency must be Transparent: The adoptive parent will be given an itemized list of fees and expenses before any actions are taken
  • Hague Adoption Certificate: A certificate is granted, that declares the adoption meets the Hague Convention requirements
  • VISA Eligibility: More importantly, the certificate also allows adoptive parents the comfort of knowing that the child likely meets visa requirements and is eligible to enter the United States
  • Adoption Agencies are Screened: Only accredited adoption agencies can perform adoption services, and these adoption agencies are screened by the Department of State

While these benefits provide a great deal of help for adoptive parents, adopting a child from a non-convention country should not be discounted. If an adoptive parent has knowledgeable legal counsel working with them, they can provide the same protective benefits.

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