For families hoping to adopt a child in South Korea, the last few years have marked the beginning of exciting new changes. Prior to 2013, the country was not party to the Hague Adoption Convention, an international treaty created to protect the wellbeing of adopted children. Now, they have signed the treaty, and the new policies will go into effect in the near future.
Currently, the adoption process in South Korea has not yet changed to meet Hague Convention guidelines, which is reflected in the following information:
South Korea Adoption Quick Facts
- Hague Convention Country: Pending
- Adoption Authority: The Ministry of Health, Welfare and Family Affairs
- Average # of Adoptions by U.S. Families: 200-600
- Average Travel Time for Adoption: 12-20 days total
Who Can Adopt in South Korea?
Like all other countries, South Korea has its own unique requirements for parents adopting internationally. In addition, you must meet the United States standards for adoptive parents. To find out more about your eligibility to adopt in South Korea, see the following sections.
Parents must be between the ages of 25 and 44 to adopt, and the age difference between them can be no greater than 15 years. Exceptions have been made to these age requirements in the past, though they are uncommon.
Couples who have been married for at least three years are eligible to adopt in South Korea. Single parents are not permitted to adopt. While the laws do not explicitly mention same-sex couples, the government does not grant adoptions to gay parents.
The adoptive family’s income must be higher than the United States national average, and they must show proof of the ability to support a child financially.
There can be no more than 5 children in the household (including the adopted child).
Who Can Be Adopted in South Korea?
In order to a child to be adopted in South Korea, he or she must meet the United States definition of an orphan as well as South Korea’s requirements for an adoptable child. Korean authorities will determine if a child is eligible for adoption, and the child must wait an additional 5 months before he or she can be adopted by U.S. parents. This is to make sure that every effort is made to find a home for the child in South Korea.
Most children are at least between 1 and 2 years old upon being adopted. Typically, parents are not allowed to express a gender preference, and there are often more boys available for international adoption than girls.
Since the Special Adoption Act was implemented in 2012, the Korean government has begun prioritizing domestic adoptions to find homes for children in their country of birth. As a result, the number of international adoptions has decreased. Still, hundreds of families successfully adopt from South Korea every year.
Because South Korea signed the Hague treaty in 2013, the information provided here is subject to change in the near future. Currently, the changes in their adoption policies have not been implemented yet, but over time they will make modifications to fit the Hague guidelines.
As a result of the incoming changes, there is not too much available information on how adoption in South Korea will work in the future. For a brief overview of the current process, read the sections below.
How Long Does it Take to Adopt in South Korea?
On average, the adoption process in South Korea can take around 20-30 months. If you are looking to adopt a healthy infant, however, the time can extend to three years or more. For all other cases, the general adoption timeline is as follows:
- Choose a professional and complete a home study: 3-6 months
- Wait for a referral: 1-6 months
- Wait time after referral: 12-18 months
- First trip: 6-10 days
- Waiting period and visa application: 4-6 weeks
- Second trip: 6-10 days
These times are subject to change and can vary greatly from case to case.
How Do I Find An Adoption Professional?
As per the Universal Accreditation Act, all U.S. agencies practicing international adoption must be Hague-compliant. Here, you can find a list of adoption service providers who currently operate in South Korea:
- Holt International
- New Beginnings
- Bethany Christian Services
- Lifelink International Adoption
- Wide Horizons for Children
How Do I Become Eligible to Adopt?
To become eligible to adopt, you must fill out the Form I-600A with USCIS, who will ensure that you meet their standards for adoptive parents. Then, your adoption professional can send your information on to authorities in South Korea. If they approve you, you can begin the wait for a child referral.
The length of your wait time depends mostly on the number of available children and the flexibility of your adoption preferences. Some of the children available for adoption in South Korea are identified as special needs children, meaning either they have medical issues or they are older children. Generally, South Korea has had relatively short wait times at around 6 months.
What Do I Do After I Receive a Referral?
If you are referred to a child, you will be given time to decide whether to accept or refuse a referral. In most cases, you should only refuse a referral if you believe you are unable to meet the needs of a particular child.
If you choose to accept the referral, you must then send in an adoption application with the Korean government. From there, the time frame of the rest of the adoption will depend on whether you are adopting a healthy newborn, an older child, or a special needs child. Healthy newborn adoptions take the longest, and the others take about a year on average.
Sometime following your adoption application, you will travel to Korea to meet your child and complete the formal adoption process. Both parents must be present for this trip in order for the adoption to be finalized. Afterwards, you must take a few more steps before you can bring your child home.
How Do I Finalize My Adoption?
After you have gone through the formal adoption process, you will most likely return home while you apply for your child to be eligible for adoption with USCIS. This is done through the Form I-600. In many international adoptions, families must file their Form I-600 before travelling to adopt, but in South Korea, this is not the case.
You will also need to apply for your child’s visa on your second trip to South Korea so that he or she can return home with you. For this trip, only one parent is required to travel, but it is recommended that both still attend. In order to bring your child home, he or she will need the following documents:
- New birth certificate – Once you have adopted, you can work with your adoption agency to apply for a passport for your child.
- South Korean passport – In order to travel to the States and to apply for a visa, your child must have a South Korean passport.
- Immigrant visa – Once you have a birth certificate, a passport, and an approved I-600, you can have a visa interview in Korea and receive your child’s visa.
When you return home, it is highly recommended that you go through a formal re-adoption in the U.S., even if your adoption was finalized in South Korea. Re-adoption ensures that your child’s rights as a United States citizen in all circumstances and can be a crucial safeguard to his or her wellbeing.
South Korea Adoption Costs
A typical adoption in South Korea costs $30,000-$40,000. As with most countries, these costs can be divided into three categories: agency and program fees, travel expenses, and third party costs. The differences in these expenses will depend almost exclusively on your adoption professional.
For a further breakdown of expenses, you can view examples of typical adoption costs with agencies like Dillon International or New Beginnings. Our international adoption costs page also provides information about general expenses.
South Korea Travel Tips
South Korea is widely recognized as one of the safest countries for U.S. citizens traveling abroad.
- While in South Korea, you are subject to Korean and United States laws. Some violations have more severe repercussions in South Korea than in the U.S., and you may not be allowed to take certain belongings with you. Be sure to speak with your professional if you are unsure of any regulations.
- Public transportation is very prevalent and convenient in South Korea. When using a bus or metro, be mindful of taking an empty seat, as they are usually reserved for the elderly or disabled. If you find yourself driving, be aware that traffic laws are different than in the United States, and you must have an international permit to legally drive.
- The weather in South Korea is variable and can get very cold in the winter months, so be sure to pack and dress accordingly.
Where is the U.S. Embassy?
Whenever you travel abroad, you should have the information for the U.S. Embassy on hand in case you need assistance. Below, you can find the contact information for the U.S. Embassy Seoul:
Address: 188 Sejong-daero, Jongno-gu, Seoul, Republic of Korea, 110-710
Phone: +(82) (2) 397-4114