International adoptions occur when parents residing in the U.S want to adopt a foreign national child. International adoptions are complex and require a thorough understanding of both the U.S laws and international laws. The prospective parents must apply for a visa for the child and once the adoption is approved, the child may be granted U.S citizenship.

What Laws Apply to International Adoption?

The Hague Adoption Convention governs intercountry adoptions between the U.S. and other Convention member countries. The treaty regulates the federal adoption agencies here and oversees the policies abroad. One of their main goals is to protect children, birth parents, and adoptive families from unethical adoption practices, including child abduction and hidden fees. The agencies in the U.S. must now be certified by the State Department, and mandates a certain procedure to be followed when adopting a child internationally.

Below are some steps to consider:

  • Parents planning an international adoption must prove to the State Department that the foreign country’s agencies have provided counseling for the birth parents;
  • Legal consent must be obtained from the birth parents, stating that a local placement has been considered;
  • The child must be legally cleared for adoption in the U.S. and;
  • These new provisions may cause international adoptions to take longer than usual, but they will also protect parents from predatory or corrupt agencies in other countries.

Furthermore, you can adopt a foreign child through an American agency that specializes in international adoptions. Another way is direct private adoptions. However, many people use an agency, because direct adoption can be difficult. International adoptions happen when someone adopts a child from another country and brings them home to live in the adoptive parent or parents’ country. These are also known as “transnational” adoptions.

The U.S. is home to more internationally adopted children than any other country thus far. International adoptions became more common after World War II. Usually, children are adopted from developing countries and placed into wealthier and more developed countries like the US, though this is not always the case.

Potential adoptive parents need to adhere to the laws of the country from which the child is being adopted and the laws of the state in which the adoptive parents live. All these laws need to be considered plus the U.S. immigration laws. In general, adoptions also need to comply with international law, including the Hague Convention on Protection of Children and Co-Operation in Respect of Intercountry Adoption.

The Hague Convention’s purpose is to protect children from being sold, kidnapped, or trafficked. This is crucial when it relates with international adoption because many countries may not have the same safeguards against child trafficking that the U.S. has in place. Since parents seeking to adopt internationally from the states tend to have much greater financial resources than the birth parents, a fine line needs to be drawn between voluntary termination of parental rights and economic coercion. However, laws have been in place to specifically protect against this injustice and similar situations.

What are Complications Surrounding International Adoption?

For birth parents, international adoption can potentially provide an opportunity for their children to be brought up in a more economically secure setting than the current situation the birth parents can offer. Additionally, it can help children escape potentially dangerous situations in their country of birth. However, costs can create many hurdles for birth parents and vice versa.

Once the adopted child reaches maturity, they sometimes express feelings of not belonging in either their country of birth or the country where they grew up. It is important for adoptive parents to support connections between the adopted child and the culture of their birth parents when possible. But this can sometimes be more difficult to implement.

Moreover, international adoptions are usually expensive, and travel costs can add significantly to the costs connected with the adoption procedures itself. Potential adoptive parents need to thoroughly vet the international adoption agency that they are utilizing to make sure it is a legitimate organization. It is important to note that other countries may not provide the same degree of regulation and oversight of adoption agencies that the states do.

Parents looking to adopt internationally may also be subject to changing diplomatic relationships between countries. In some cases, countries will bar outside adoptions or adoptions to specific countries due to political reasons. Since the international adoption process can be time sensitive, adoptive parents may be in the process of adopting when these changes happen and may need to begin from scratch all over again.

International adoption is basically a private legal matter between a private individual (or couple) who wishes to adopt. Furthermore, a foreign court in the U.S. cannot intervene on behalf of prospective parents with the courts in the country where the adoption takes place. However, the Department of State (DOS) does give extensive information about the adoption processes in various countries, it includes the legal requirements on the procedure of bringing a child to adopt from abroad to the U.S.

What is the Overview of the International Adoption Laws and Requirements?

Usually, to complete an international adoption and to bring a child to the U.S., the prospective adoptive parents must meet the criteria established by the U.S. Bureau of Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). There are typically three general processes for adopting a child across international boundaries, depending on your situation and the child’s country of residence. One of the most important considerations of the international adoption process is whether the child’s country of residence has signed on to the Hague Adoption Convention.

Below are some of the procedures for international adoption:

  • Hague Process – If you are adopting a child residing in a country that is party to the Hague Adoption Convention, you will need to use the “Hague process.” Each member nation has a designated central authority (DOS in the United States) responsible for overseeing the process;
  • Orphan Process – If you are adopting a child from a “non-Hague” country, then you will go through the “orphan process.” This process does not include many of the safeguards that a Hague adoption provides, for example the preparation and verification of the child’s medical records;
  • Immediate Relative Petition – The “Immediate Relative Process” is available to some individuals who do not qualify for a Hague or non-Hague adoption. In this process, an adopted child is considered to be the child of the adopting parent for immigration purposes after certain requirements are met.

To make sure you are doing due diligence with your adoption process you should make several copies of each document in case they are required to meet the regulations of these various entities. The process is lengthy and repetitive, but is meant to protect the child, the adoptive parents, and the birth parents. Some of the documents commonly required for an international adoption include are the following:

  • Birth certificate of adoptive child (if available);
  • Birth certificate of prospective adoptive parents;
  • Death certificates of orphan’s parents if applicable;
  • Foreign custody decree and;
  • Passport for the child.

When Do I Need to Contact a Lawyer?

If you are considering international adoption, it is important to reach out to an attorney to figure out what your legal options are. International adoptions are time consuming and require hefty amounts of paperwork. Therefore, finding a local adoption lawyer to assist with the process will be useful.