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International Adoption: Orphan Process
(Orphan Intercountry Adoption Immigration Process)

Intercountry Adoption Immigration

International Adoption Orphan Process Immigration Intercountry Adoption

International Money Transfer - International Money Order

If the child you seek to adopt habitually resides in a country that is a party to the Hague Adoption Convention, you probably will not be able to use the Orphan adoption immigration process but rather use the Hague adoption immigration process to adopt the child and bring the child to the United States. To determine if you are adopting from a Hague Convention country, see International Adoption by Country.

Who is Considered an Orphan?

Under U.S. immigration law, a foreign-born child is an orphan if he or she does not have any parents because of the death or disappearance of, abandonment or desertion by, or separation or loss from, both parents. A foreign-born child is also an orphan if his or her sole or surviving parent is not able to take proper care of the child and has, in writing, irrevocably released the child for emigration and adoption.

Am I Eligible to Adopt through the Orphan Process?

To be eligible for international adoption immigration (intercountry adoption immigration) through the Orphan Process, you must:

  • Be a U.S. citizen

  • If you are married, your spouse must also adopt the child and must sign the immigration application

  • If you are not married, you must be at least 25 years old when you file the Form I-600 petition (see Application for International Adoption by the Orphan Process below)

  • Establish that you will provide proper parental care to the child

  • Establish that the child whom you have adopted or plan to adopt is an “orphan” as defined in U.S. immigration law

  • Establish that either:
    • You (and your spouse, if married) have adopted the child abroad, and that each of you saw the child in person before or during the adoption proceeding

    • You will adopt the child in the United States after the child arrives in the United States (you must have permission to bring the child out of his or her own country and to the United States for adoption)

Steps of the Orphan International Adoption Process

You must file an orphan petition before the child’s 16th birthday, or before the child’s 18th birthday if the child is a birth brother or sister (sibling) of another child whom you have also adopted and who immigrated (or will immigrate) as:

  • an orphan based on a Form I-600 petition filed before the sibling’s 16th birthday

  • an “adopted child” as defined in Section 101(b)(1)(F) of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) provided the actual adoption took place before that sibling’s 16th birthday.

To establish your ability to provide proper parental care, you must submit a “home study” completed by someone authorized to complete an adoption home study in your home State (or anywhere in the United States, if you adopt the child while residing abroad). The home study preparer must complete the home study according to the standards established in Department of Homeland Security regulations. For more information on home study requirements, see International Adoption: Orphan Home Study.

As part of the processing of your case, USCIS (or, in some cases, the Department of State) will conduct an investigation overseas to verify that the child is an orphan. The purpose of the investigation is to:

  • Confirm that the child is an orphan as defined in the U.S. immigration law
  • Verify that you have obtained a valid adoption or grant of custody; the child does not have an illness or disability that is not described in the orphan petition
  • Determine whether the child has any special needs that were not fully addressed in your home study
  • Determine whether there are any facts showing that the child does not qualify for immigration as your adopted child

Application for International Adoption by the Orphan Process

If you have already identified a child you want to adopt (or you have already adopted the child), you may file USCIS Form I-600, Petition to Classify an Orphan as an Immediate Relative. USCIS will review both your suitability as an adoptive parent and the child’s status as an orphan at the same time.

Submit your home study with your Form I-600 and any other relevant evidence that you are suitable as an adoptive parent. Submit evidence that the child is an orphan and that you have adopted or intend to adopt the child.

If you have not yet identified a particular child for adoption, you may still begin the orphan process by filing USCIS Form I-600A, Application for Advance Processing of Orphan Petition. Submit the home study with the Form I-600A. If USCIS approves your Form I-600A, the finding that you are suitable as an adoptive parent will make it unnecessary to address this issue again, when you file a Form I-600 for a particular child. Once a particular child has been identified, you would then file a Form I-600 for that child.

If you do not file Form I-600A, then you must complete all requirements of the I-600A when filing Form I-600.

If you have not selected a country for adoption, you may still apply for Advance Processing of an Orphan Petition, but even if your Form I-600A is approved, you may not use this process to adopt a child from a Hague Convention Country. For information, see International Adoption: Hague Process and International Adoption by Country.

After the orphan petition is approved, apply to a U.S. Consulate or Embassy for a visa for your child. The Department of State officer who decides the visa application must determine whether your child is “inadmissible” under any provision in section 212(a) of the Immigration and Nationality Act. For children, the most common ground of inadmissibility is medical inadmissibility due to certain diseases, lack of required vaccinations, or other medical issues. If your child is inadmissible, you may be able to obtain a waiver of inadmissibility by filing USCIS Form I-601, Application for Waiver of Ground of Inadmissibility.

Will the Child I Adopt Automatically Become a US Citizen?

The type of visa your child is issued through the Orphan Process will determine when and how your child acquires U.S. citizenship.

If a child immigrates to the US when a full and final adoption is completed abroad, and the parent(s) physically see the child prior to or during the adoption proceedings, the child will be issued an IR-3 visa and automatically acquire citizenship if the child:

  • enters the United States prior to the child’s 18th birthday

  • is under 18 years old, he/she is automatically a U.S. citizen upon admission to the United States

  • the child resides in the United States with his/her parents (U.S. government or military personnel assigned overseas may qualify as residing in the United States)

In this case, USCIS will automatically send your child’s Certificate of Citizenship to your U.S. address without requiring additional forms or fees.

If a child is coming to the United States to be adopted, was adopted abroad by only one parent (if married), or was not seen by the parent(s) prior to or during the adoption, the child will be issued an IR-4 visa and will not acquire automatic citizenship upon entry to the U.S. but instead:

  • become a permanent resident

  • automatically receive a Green Card (permanent resident card)

  • automatically acquire citizenship on the date of his/her adoption in United States, if the adoption occurs before the child’s 18th birthday

Checking the Status of an Application for Adoption Immigration

You may check the status of your application or case online, by phone, or by contacting an appropriate USCIS office. For details see USCIS Case Status: Check USCIS Case Status for Visas and Immigration. You may also want to review US Visa Wait Times and USCIS Immigration Processing Times. For more assistance, see HELP! (below).

Appealing if an Application is Denied for Adoption Immigration

If your petition is denied, the denial letter will tell you how to appeal. For more information, see How to Appeal if USCIS Denied My Petition or Application (US Immigration, Green Card Denial).

Help! with International Adoption by the Orphan Process

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