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Immigration Laws and Orphan Adoption

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What is the Relation Between Immigration Laws and Orphan Adoption?

In recent years, many couples have sought out adoption of orphans from foreign countries.  Many do so because they are unable to have children of their own, or they wish to provide foreign orphans with a suitable home for upbringing.  In order to protect foreign orphans from dangers such as child trafficking, immigration laws have become more stringent with regards to foreign child adoption.

For example, a couple that seeks to adopt a foreign orphan child will usually need to:

  • File an adoption application for the child
  • Be subject to an investigation of finances, home life, as well as information regarding the other spouse
  • Apply for a visa for the child
  • Have an understanding of some of the laws of the child’s country of origin
  • Apply for the child’s naturalization, if they want the child to become a U.S. citizen

What are Some Guidelines for Adoption of an Orphan From Another Country? 

First, you should understand that there are two general sets of rules for accomplishing adoption of a foreign orphan.  The first set of rules applies to orphans who are located in countries that are subject to the “Hague Adoption Convention”, such as Mexico and Canada.  The Hague Convention adoption rules are somewhat complicated and generally require the assistance of a lawyer.

Adoption from non-Hague convention countries may also require the assistance of an immigration lawyer.  The process for this avenue of adoption usually involves:

  • Filing an Orphan Petition: Form I-600 should be submitted to the USCIS (U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services).  The petitioner should classify the child as an orphan and as an “immediate relative” (IR).  IR classification will speed up the process in comparison to other visa types
  • Meeting application requirements:  For example, single applicants must be at least 25 years old and a U.S. citizen to file a Form I-600.  Married couples are not subject to any age requirement, but at least one of the spouses must be a U.S. citizen. 
  • Defining who is an “Orphan”:  An orphan is generally defined as a child under 16 years old, whose parents have been deceased or have abandoned or deserted the child.  Or, the child has only one parent who is unable to care for them and has released them for adoption in writing.

What are the Qualifications for Parents?

Applicants for foreign adoption must provide proof of their ability to raise and care for the adopted orphan.  Thus, the USCIS will conduct an investigation into the parents’:

  • Financial ability to provide the child’s home
  • The mental, physical, and emotional condition of each parent
  • Criminal background, if any
  • Employment, work training, and educational credentials

In addition, the USCIS may conduct similar background investigations for every adult who will be living in the same home as the adopted child.  The child’s new home may be periodically visited and inspected for fitness.

Do I Need a Lawyer for Help With Immigration Laws and Orphan Adoption?

Understanding immigration laws and orphan adoption can be very challenging.  In nearly all cases, the assistance of a lawyer is essential when it comes to adopting an orphan from a foreign country.  You should contact an experienced immigration lawyer for assistance with the process, in order to ensure that your application meets all the requirements under immigration laws. 

Photo of page author Ken LaMance

, LegalMatch Law Library Managing Editor and Attorney at Law

Last Modified: 07-20-2012 02:20 PM PDT

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