Adoption is a legal process where an individual assumes parental responsibilities over a child. The adoption process transfers parental rights and obligations from the existing legal or biological parents to the adoptive parents. The process of adoption requires court approval which occurs after a legal proceeding called an adoption hearing.
In most cases, the adoption process requires the adoptive parents to:
- Select a child for adoption;
- Be interviewed by social workers or other employees of various state agencies who handle adoption services;
- Undergo background checks;
- Fill out required forms, such as a petition for adoption; and
- Pay the necessary state or filing fees.
In the United States, there are two general categories of adoption: domestic adoption and foreign adoption. Both of these adoption types involve the transfer for parental rights from a child’s biological parents to a child’s adoptive parents. Should the adoption process be completed, the child will be viewed legally as if it were the biological child of the adoptive parents.
Once parental rights are transferred, the biological parents no longer have legal rights to make decisions regarding the child. Those rights now lie completely with the adoptive parents. This also includes establishing a formal parent-child relationship in the eyes of the law which relates to other issues. These issues may include inheritance rights and/or child custody obligations.
The decision of the court regarding the adoption of the child will be based on the child’s best interest standard. This standard is based on a number of factors including the child’s background and the circumstances surrounding the lives of the adoptive parents.
Adoptions overseas, also known as foreign adoptions or intercountry adoptions, occur when a child is adopted from another country. These adoptions can be very complex because the child is being adopted and must complete the immigration process. This is an extra step beyond domestic adoptions, or adoptions that occur in the United States.
American adoptive parents have adopted children from over 50 countries. American parents may not adopt children from Western, Europe, Australia, or Canada. As of the early 2000s, most foreign children were adopted from China, Russia, Guatemala, South Korea, and Ukraine.
What Do I Need to Complete to Carry Out a Foreign Child Adoption?
A foreign child adoption can be a complex and multi-step process. It involves coordinating with several agencies, each of which have their own separate and distinct requirements that must be met.
In order to complete a foreign adoption, an adoptive parent will generally be required to follow guidelines set forth by:
Adopting a foreign child usually takes between 1 and 4 years. The total time to complete the process will vary based on the child’s birth country and the circumstances surrounding the adoption.
In most cases, in order to complete a U.S. immigration adoption, the adoptive parents must complete the following steps:
- Filing advance paperwork with the USCIS attesting to their parental ability and stable home environment;
- Deciding what country or countries they want to explore for adoption;
- Locating an orphan child that they wish to adopt;
- Adopting the child following the laws of the child’s country;
- Filing the appropriate petition to classify the child as their relative to bring the child legally to the United States for residence; and
- Completing any background checks, paperwork, home studies or other requirements imposed by any of the agencies involved in the process.
The adoption of a child from a foreign country is legal in most cases in the United States. However, individual states are not required to recognize the foreign adoption. Therefore, adoptive parents may also wish to re-adopt the child in the state court where they reside and obtain a state birth certificate.
What Are the United States Rules and Procedures for Foreign Adoptions?
The adoptive parents must satisfy the requirements for adoption in the United States and the country where the child resides. Parents may obtain an immigrant visa for the adoptive child from the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services after certain requirements have been satisfied. These include:
- Providing proof the adoptive parents are married; OR
- If single, providing proof the adoptive parent is 25 years of age or older;
- Filling out the required forms, such as the Orphan Petition, or Form I-600; and
- Completing a home study;
- Receiving a favorable home study report.
Form I-600 is used to prove that the adoptive child’s parents are deceased, have disappeared, or that the remaining parent consents to the child’s adoption and immigration to the United States.
How Does the Immigration Process Work after Adopting a Child from a Foreign Country?
After adopting a child from a foreign country, there are three different ways the adoptive parents can immigrate the child into the United States. The difficult level for the adoption varies and is dependent on how the adoption is categorized. The three categories are:
- Non-Hague, or orphan adoption; and
- Immigrating other adopted children.
A Hague immigration is available if a child is from a country where they have a treaty with the United States for intercountry adoptions. The treaty is the Hague Convention on the Protection of Children and Co-operation in Respect of Intercountry Adoption. This treaty applies to 98 countries, and the number continues to grow. Should this method be available, it is preferred for the immigration process.
A non-Hague, or orphan adoption is available when the child is from a country that is not party to the Hague treaty. The guidelines and filing procedures in these cases are different than those of Hague adoptions. The child will have to meet certain requirements and the adoptive parents will need to file an orphan petition.
Immigrating other adopted children occurs when the adoptive parents submit a family based petition for an alien relative. This is done using Form I-130. This form is used to establish a relationship between the individual immigrating and a lawful permanent resident of the United States.
There are specific requirements for each type of adoption and immigration, including and beyond paperwork. A Hague and an orphan adoption both require the completion of a home study.
A home study may include obtaining personal references about the adoptive parents. Additionally, visits are conducted at the home to ensure it is safe and can accommodate all family members, including the adopted child. The requirements for home studies vary by state. An immigration attorney can assist with ensuring the process is completed properly and no steps are missed.
One of the most common questions in these processes is how the adopted child can become a United States citizen following the adoption. In most cases, the United States will issue a permanent resident visa to the child after the petition is approved. The adopted child will not be placed on a waiting list for citizenship if:
- At least one adoptive parent is a United States citizen;
- The child is under 18 years of age; and
- The adoption is finalized.
Should I Hire an Attorney If I Want to Adopt a Foreign Child?
Yes, foreign adoptions are complex processes that involve many agencies, guidelines, and requirements. An experienced child adoption lawyer can assist with all steps and aspects of the process.
An immigration attorney can insure paperwork is property followed, steps and not skipped, and represent you during and proceedings and/or interactions with various agencies if necessary.