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Understanding International Adoption Process

Understanding international adoption process

Each year thousands of United States citizens adopt children from abroad. Therefore, a clear network of laws and supporting agencies has developed to facilitate international adoptions. Prospective adopting families who reside in the United States will encounter two separate legal paths when adopting a child from overseas: the Hague Adoption Convention process and the non-Hague Convention process.

The Hague Convention refers to the Hague Convention on the Protection of Children and Co-operation in Respect of Inter-Country Adoption is an international agreement the United States participates in with other countries to ensure that international adoptions take place in the best interests of the child. The Hague Adoption Convention applies to adoptions between the United States and the 90 countries that have joined the Convention. Which process a family is adopting a child from overseas will follow will depends on whether or not the other country involved is also a party to the Hague Convention.  Adopting a child from a Hague Adoption Convention country differs from adopting from the process used when adopting from a non-Convention country.

Hague Convention Adoption Process

The Convention adoption process involves six steps order to legally adopt a child from overseas.

  • Adopting families should hire an accredited adoption service.
  • Adopting families apply to United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) to be found eligible to adopt a child from a Convention country
  • The adopting family and child are matched with a child by authorities in the child’s country of origin
  • The adopting family applies to USCIS for the child to be found eligible for immigration to the United States and receive provisional approval to proceed with the adoption
  • The adopting family gains legal custody of the child in the child’s country of origin
  • The adopting family obtains an immigrant visa for the child to enter the U.S.

Non-Hague Convention Countries Adoption Process

The process from non-Hague countries generally involves six steps:

  • Adopting families select a licensed adoption service in the family’s states of residence to perform a home study..
  • The adopting family applies to the USCIS for the child to be found eligible for immigration to the United States and receive U.S. provisional approval to proceed with the adoption
  • The adoption agency will match the family with a specific child for adoption.
  • The child must meet the requirements of his or her country for determining if a child is eligible for international adoption and the child must also meet the definition of an orphan under U.S. immigration law.
  • The adopting family legally adopts the child in the child’s country of origin
  • The adopting family obtains an immigrant visa for the child to enter the U.S.

The time needed to adopt varies by country, on average, the process from application to traveling home takes 2-3 years in some unique cases the process may take less than a year.  

Counsel experienced in navigating the adoption process can provide advice as to how best to proceed and the most cost effective manner for a international adoption.


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