happy mexican family portrait
happy mexican family portrait

Adopting a child from a foreign country is becoming more of a mainstream practice in the U.S. In fact, last year, well over 5,600 children from foreign countries were adopted by Americans and brought into the U.S. This makes foreign adoptions nearly as popular as domestic adoptions.

That being said, however, the process of adopting a child from another country can be complicated – particularly when it comes to securing an immigration status change for that child. To try to clear up some of the immigration issues that can surround foreign adoptions, below, we have provided an overview of some of the most important things to understand about this process.

Adoption Laws

When planning to adopt a child from overseas, generally, there are three different sets of laws that will come into play:

  • U.S. federal law
  • Laws of your U.S. state
  • Laws of the country where the child is from/is located.

Regardless of the specifics of these laws, however, there are typically two main ways of adopting a child from a foreign country: the Hague method and the orphanage method.

The Hague Adoption Method

This method stems from the Hague Adoptive Convention, an international treaty designed to provide a high-level of safety to children, birth parents, and the adopting parents all involved in the adoption process. Here’s how a Hague adoption typically proceeds:

  • Fill out and submit form Form I-800A, Application for Determination of Suitability to Adopt a Child from a Convention Country. If USCIS approves the I-800A form, you may proceed to the next step.
  • Select a Hague certified Adoption Service Provider (ASP).
  • Obtain and complete a Hague adoption home study.
  • Submit to a USCIS background to check to determine if you are qualified for international adoption.
  • Coordinate with ASP to obtain a proposed adoption placement.
  • Petition USCIS to have the child deemed eligible for entry to the U.S.
  • Adopt and obtain custody of the child.
  • Secure an immigration visa for the adopted child:
    • IH-3 visa is for children who have officially been adopted and are still overseas.
    • IH-4 visa is for children coming to the U.S. who will soon be adopted.
  • Return to the United States with the adopted child to begin admission with the visa.

The Orphan Adoption Method

Only U.S. citizens who are at least 25 years old can take part in the Orphan process. Those who are married must have their spouse also take an equal part in these types of adoptions. Here’s how an Orphan adoption process typically proceeds:

  • Complete Form I-600, Petition to Classify Orphan as an Immediate Relative.
  • Document or establish how you will provide proper parental care to the adopted child.
  • Obtain proof that the child being adopted is, in fact, an orphan according to USCIS standards.
  • Declare that you (and your spouse) have performed the adoption abroad and that at least one of you took part in that effort abroad (or that you plan to perform the adoption when the child arrives in the U.S.). At this point, USCIS will perform an overseas investigation to conclude whether or not the child is an orphan, according to U.S. law
  • Obtain a IR-3 or IR-4 visa so the child can legally enter the U.S. as a documented individual.

Adopted children who come to the U.S. and have already received an IR-3 or IH-3 visa automatically gain citizenship if they arrive in the U.S. before their 18th birthday.

Children with IR-4 or IH-4 visas will automatically receive a permanent resident card (green card) and will automatically gain citizenship the day their adoption is finalized in the U.S.

Conducting a Home Study

The Home Study aspect of the foreign adoption process is mandatory and typically involves:

  • A face-to-face interview and home visit to the residence where the child will live. Additionally, the extended family will be interviewed.
  • An assessment of each parent’s physical, mental and emotional conditions
  • An inventory of the finances, including careful review of each parent’s incomes, debts, expenses, budget, and spending
  • A special needs assessment, if necessary.
  • An evaluation of any counseling services the parents are currently receiving and/or that they plan for the child, if necessary
  • An investigation regarding whether either parent has a history of criminal activity/convictions, child abuse, sexual abuse, domestic violence, etc.

There are separate Home Study processes for the Hague method of adoption and a different process for orphanage adoptions.

Once you have done a Home Study and you are clear to move forward with your adoption search for a child, you’ll need to find an appropriate Adoption Service Provider (ASP). The U.S. Department of State provides a list of certified and accredited ASPs to choose for the appropriate country of origin that you plan to adopt from.

Contact a Los Angeles Immigration Lawyer at the Hanlon Law Group, P.C.

For effective help resolving any immigration legal issue, contact a Los Angeles immigration lawyer at the Hanlon Law Group, P.C. by calling (626) 684-3712 or (866) 227-5527 or by emailing our firm via the contact form on this page.

From Pasadena, we serve clients throughout the Los Angeles area, across the state of California and from around the world.