If you have decided to pursue international adoption to grow your family, you now may be wondering exactly how to adopt a child from another country. While parts of the process are similar to what you would find in a domestic adoption, other parts are more complex because you are cooperating with the government of another country.
Your international adoption process will ultimately depend on where you choose to adopt, but all international adoptions must follow certain guidelines and procedures.
You adoption experience will be different depending on whether the country you adopt from is party to the Hague Adoption Convention, and the international adoption processes for both Hague and non-Hague countries are outlined in the sections below.
Choose a Country
The first step in this process is deciding from where you would like to adopt. Once you have selected a country, you will be able to narrow down your search for adoption agencies.
When you are choosing a country to adopt from, consider the following:
- Your preferences in a child – The types of available children vary from country to country. If you are interested in adopting a child of a certain age or gender, start with some research on the children commonly available for adoption in a particular country.
- The country’s eligibility requirements – You must meet the eligibility criteria of the United States as well as the foreign country, and some countries have much more stringent adoption guidelines than others. When you are considering a country, make sure you will be allowed to adopt there.
- Costs – The expenses of your adoption can differ based on the country, usually as a result of travel costs. For an example of these differences, you can view the costs of an adoption with Bethany Christian Services by using their Adoption Fee Calculator.
- Culture of the country – The culture of your child’s country of birth is an important part of who your child is, and you will want to welcome aspects of that culture into your home and family.
Choose a Professional
Different agencies operate in different areas, so knowing what country you want to adopt from will help you to choose an adoption professional. Your professional should be Hague-accredited, as per the Universal Accreditation Act of 2012, and authorized by the country where you wish to adopt.
During your international adoption, your professional may assist you by:
- Providing support, education, guidance and case management
- Communicating with the country where you adopt
- Performing or overseeing your home study and post-placement assessments
- Identifying a child for a potential match
- Carrying out the termination of parental rights, if necessary
Complete Your Home Study
Your home study provider must also meet Hague Convention requirements, regardless of whether you adopt from a Hague country. This process can take up to three months or more from beginning to end, so it is recommended that you begin as soon as possible.
The international adoption home study is not too different from the domestic adoption home study: you will need to collect some personal documents for your social worker, pass a home inspection, and go through an interview process. The country you adopt from may have additional requirements as well, and your home study provider will inform you of what to expect.
Apply for Adoption Eligibility
Before you can bring a child from another country to the United States, you must first be deemed eligible to adopt by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).
To become eligible to adopt, you will most likely be filling out the Form I-800A or I-600A, which you will send to USCIS. From there, they will ensure that you fit all of the United States requirements for being an adoptive parent. These forms fulfill the game general purpose, but which one you fill out will depend on whether or not you are adopting from a Hague Convention country:
- Hague eligibility – To become eligible to adopt a child in a Hague Convention Country, you must file a Form I-800A with USCIS. In addition, you will need to send your personal information and completed home study. IYour eligibility is valid for 15 months.
- Non-Hague eligibility – If you are participating in a non-Hague adoption, you can file Form I-600A before you find a child to adopt, or if you have already identified a child, you can fill out the Form I-600. It is most common for parents to file Form 1-600A, and approval for this form is good for 18 months.
Once you have been cleared by USCIS, your adoption service provider will be able to send your Form I-800A or Form I-600A, along with your dossier, to the country where you wish to adopt. From there, the will determine your eligibility by their laws and guidelines.
Wait for a Referral
After you have received approval from the United States and your chosen country, the wait for a match with a child begins.
Once an opportunity presents itself, the foreign country’s authority will contact your adoption service provider, who will then contact you. In some countries, you will receive a referral before you travel to the country, while in others you may be matched with a child after you arrive.
When you receive a referral, it will usually include the following:
- Name and picture
- Date of birth
- Medical information
- Relevant psychological and social information
- Reasons the child has been matched with you
In most cases, you will have a certain amount of time to accept or refuse the referral. If you are concerned that you will not be able to meet the needs of a child, you can usually refuse the referral with no consequence. However, refusing a referral without a justifiable cause can sometimes make it difficult to continue pursuing adoption in the same country.
Once you accept a referral, you can begin preparing to travel and meet the child.
Apply for the Child to be Eligible to Adopt
After you’ve been matched with a child, you can begin sending your next application to USCIS. While your Form I-800A or I-600A determined if you were eligible to adopt, the Form I-800 or I-600 will ensure that your child is eligible to immigrate to the United States.
If your child meets the criteria to be adoptable by USCIS, you will be able to apply for your child’s visa. To begin the application process, you must fill out the DS-260 form to be reviewed by the foreign country’s adoption authorities. The rest of the process will be carried out when you travel to meet your child.
Once he or she receives a visa, you will be officially cleared to take him or her back to the United States.
Travel and Adopt
When you travel to meet your child, you can expect your stay to last anywhere from 1 to 4 weeks. During this time, you will get to know the child, begin the legal work of the international adoption process, and complete your visa application. The last step of the application is an interview with the country’s adoption authorities, who will ensure that you have met their standards for adoption.
After the visa interview, your child will receive one of the following immigrant visas:
- IH-3 or IR-3 visa – An IH-3 (Hague) or IR-3 (non-Hague) visa signifies that both adoptive parents (if applicable) were present to see the child and that the adoption was completed in the foreign country.
- IH-4 or IR-4 visa – Your child will receive an IH-4 or IR-4 visa if the adoption was not completed in the country, or if only one of two parents met the child. This means that you have legal custody of the child, but you need to finalize the adoption in the United States.
Before you return home, you will need to make sure you have certain documents for your child:
- Birth certificate
- Social Security card
- Additional documentation required by the foreign country
Once you have adopted or gained custody of your child, you will be able to return home. However, the international adoption process has one more important step that often goes overlooked.
After you bring your child home, you will either need to finalize the adoption or complete a recommended re-adoption. If your child received an IH-4 or IR-4 visa, this means that the adoption process was not fully completed and finalization is still required. If your child received an IH-3 or IR-3 visa, then the adoption was completed, but a re-adoption is still highly encouraged.
By taking this final step, you can be sure that your adoption is legally recognized and that your child will have all the rights of a United States citizen. Neglecting to finalize or re-adopt can lead to legal difficulties in the future, so it is recommended that you do this as soon as possible upon arriving home.
After you have returned home and completed the legal procedures, your international adoption process will be complete.