What You Should Know Before Adopting Internationally Through the Orphan Process

Adoption is one of the most amazing experiences in the world. It is all about your family
welcoming a child and raising them as your own. Amazingly, adopting internationally is
something that continues to gain in popularity. Before families start this journey,
what should they know before adopting internationally through the orphan process?

You May Immigrate an Adopted Child Through the Orphan Process if:

  • You Are a U.S. citizen.
    • If you are married, your spouse must also adopt the child
    • If you are not married, you must be at least 25 years old when filing the petition
  • You establish that you will provide proper parental care to the child
  • You establish that the child whom you have adopted or plan to adopt is an “orphan” as defined in U.S. immigration law
  • You establish that either:
    • You (and your spouse, if married) have adopted the child abroad, and that at least 1 of you personally saw and observed the child before or during the adoption proceedings
      OR
    • 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)

Who is an Orphan?

Under U.S. immigration law, an orphan is a foreign-born child who:

  • does not have any parents because of the death or disappearance of, abandonment or desertion by, or separation or loss from, both parents
    OR
  • has a sole or surviving parent who is unable to care for the child, consistent with the local standards of the foreign sending country, and who has, in writing, irrevocably released the child for emigration and adoption

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 sibling of another child whom you have also adopted and who immigrated (or will immigrate) as:

  • an orphan based on the petition filed before the sibling’s 16th birthday
    OR
  • 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

Overseas Investigation

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

Hague Adoption Convention Cases

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 process. Instead you must follow the Hague Adoption Process to adopt the child and bring the child to the United States.

Home Study:  Establishing Proper Parental Care

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 DHS regulations.

Filing a Petition for Your Child

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

Submit your home study with your petition 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.

Before Traveling Abroad

  • Verify that your Approval Notice is valid
  • Verify that your fingerprints are still valid
  • Contact the appropriate USCIS overseas office or U.S. embassy or consulate for details on processing times

After the Orphan Petition is Approved

Apply to a U.S. embassy or consulate 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 Form I-601, Application for Waiver of Ground of Inadmissibility.