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What is the Hague Adoption Convention?

If you have been considering international adoption, you have likely come across several references to the Hague Adoption Convention. But what is the Hague Convention, and does it to apply to your adoption?
The Hague Adoption Convention is an international treaty put in place to protect children adopted internationally. In order for a country to be Hague-compliant, they must establish an authority in the country to oversee international adoptions and adhere to the treaty. By implementing standards for all participating nations to use, the Hague Convention guidelines regulate the process and puts up safeguards to promote successful adoptions and the wellbeing of adopted children.

History of the Hague Adoption Convention

The full name of the Hague Convention is the “Hague Convention on Protection of Children and Co-operation in Respect of Intercountry Adoption.” It was developed in 1993 in The Hague, The Netherlands, by the Hague Conference on Private International Law. This is the same organization that implemented treaties such as the Hague Service Convention, the Hague Abduction Convention, and many others. In 1994, the United States signed the Convention, and by 2008 it was incorporated fully into adoption law.
Four years later, the Universal Accreditation Act of 2012 required that every international adoption service provider comply with Hague requirements, whether or not they work in a Hague country. This added further regularity to the process of how United States adoption agencies carry out international adoption, and it ensures that all U.S. families and internationally adopted children benefit from the Hague safeguards.
As a result of the Hague Convention and the Universal Accreditation Act, all international adoptions by U.S. couples follow the same Hague-compliant federal standards.

Why Adopt from a Hague Country?

You may be unsure as to why you should adopt from a Hague Convention country. Some of the benefits the Hague Convention provides include:

  • Prevention of child trafficking
  • Itemized expenses
  • Better access to medical records
  • Adoption and Custody Certificates

None of this means that you cannot successfully adopt from a non-Convention country. Many of families have grown through adoption from a non-Convention country, such as Ethiopia and South Korea. For more information on the difference between adoptions from Hague and non-Hague countries, you can visit the Child Welfare Information Gateway.

Hague Country Requirements

By signing the Convention, Hague-accredited countries must agree to the following set of requirements:

  • Countries who are party to the convention must establish a Central Authority in the country, usually an organization. to guide the process. For example, the United States’ Central Authority is the Department of State.
  • Intercountry adoptions can proceed if the child has been deemed eligible for adoption by his or her birth country, but has been able to find a home in that country.
  • Hague-compliant agencies must be reviewed by an accrediting entity, which approve agencies on behalf of the Department of State.
  • Accredited agencies are required to itemize and disclose adoption fees.
  • Each adopted child must receive a Hague Adoption Certificate or a Hague Custody Declaration.
  • Prospective adoptive parents must fill out the proper forms and visa categories.

Who Can Adopt?

If you want to adopt from a Hague country, you will have to meet these basic requirements:

  • Be a United States Citizen and reside in the U.S.
  • If adopting as a couple, both must sign the Form I-800A
  • Unmarried parents must be at least 24 when filing the Form I-800A and 25 when filing the Form I-800

In addition to the Hague requirements, you must meet the eligibility criteria of the country from which you want to adopt. Here, you can find some of the Hague countries where United States couples commonly adopt, along with their adoption requirements:

  • Bulgaria – Parents must be at least 15 years older than the child they adopt, and while there are no residency requirements, they must spend five days with the child before taking him or her home. The law states that single individuals and heterosexual married couples can adopt.
  • China – China only allows heterosexual married couples between the ages of 30 and 50 to adopt (or 30 to 55 in a special needs adoption). If they have not been married for at least two years, or if either has had more than two divorces, then they may not adopt. They also have strict health guidelines.
  • Colombia – In order to adopt from Columbia, parents must be at least 25 years old and 15 years older than the adopted child. They permit married and single-parent adoptions, although the requirements for single parents are more stringent.
  • Haiti – If an adopting couple is married, at least one spouse must be at least 30 years old, and neither may be older than 50. Single parents must be at least 35. In both cases, the adoptive parents must be at least 14 years older than the child, or 9 years if the child is a relative. Married couples must be heterosexual and married for at least five years.
  • India – Married adoptive parents must be heterosexual and between the ages of 25 and 50, and their combined age cannot be over 90 years. If the child is older, the upper limit is increased to 55, and the combined age limit is increased to 105. Single parents must be between 30 and 45 to adopt a child younger than three, and between 30 and 50 to adopt an older child.

You can find a full list of Hague Convention countries at the Intercountry Adoption section of Travel.State.gov.


As a result of the Universal Accreditation Act, your adoption service provider will be Hague-compliant, even if the country you adopt from is not party to the Convention. Whichever option you choose, remember to make sure that your professional is accredited or approved to work in the country you have chosen.
If you choose to adopt from a Hague Convention country, you can expect to take the following steps to complete your adoption:

  1. Find an international adoption professional
  2. Complete a Hague home study
  3. Apply to USCIS and wait for approval
  4. Wait for child placement
  5. File a petition with USCIS
  6. Adopt the child
  7. Get an immigrant visa for your child
  8. Take your child home

These steps apply to all Hague Convention adoptions, although some of them might occur in a different order. For example, in certain cases, parents may return with their child to the United States and then legally complete the adoption after arrival. The details of the process will depend on the country and adoption professional you choose.
Whether or not your adoption is complete upon arrival in the United States will depend on which immigrant visa was issued to your child. IH-3 visa are given to children “with full and final adoptions from a Hague Convention country,” while IH-4 visas are for children “coming to the United States from a Hague Convention country to be adopted.”
Regardless of your child’s visa, you will want to consider re-adoption upon bringing your child home. While this is not always a requirement, it is strongly recommended, as it protects your child’s rights as a United States citizen.

The Hague: Protecting Adopted Children

Every country has a set of guidelines governing who can be adopted and how the process must be carried out. The Hague Convention has provided consistency and regularity in those guidelines for all accredited countries. By adopting from a Hague-accredited nation and observing the proper procedures, you can be sure that you will have a successful adoption that’s in the best interest of you and your child.