People who cannot have children have the option of adoption to fulfill their dream of becoming parents. United States citizens or legal permanent residents may choose to adopt a child from within the US or from a different country. If they choose the latter, the law and certain procedures must be followed in order to bring the legally adopted child to the US.
The number of overseas adoptions has decreased over the years from 22,884 in 2004 to 5372 in 2016 with China as the leading source. Russia stopped American adoption three years ago for political reasons.
There are three ways to bring the internationally adopted child to the US. The first is by following the Hague Adoption Convention, an international agreement which the US has assented to. This method will only be used if the adopted child is also from a country that has implemented the Hague Adoption Convention. Under this method, the US citizen or LPR will file Forms I-800A and/or I-800. If the adoption was finalized in the US, then the child will enter the US with an IH-4 immigrant visa. If the adoption was finalized in the country of the adopted child, then the child will enter with an IH-3 immigrant visa.
This method of adoption begins with a home study by an accredited agency whereby the prospective adoptive parents, their family and home environment are studied to determine their suitability to adopt a child.
The adopting parents must submit the approved Form I-800A application with the home study and other supporting documents to the Central Authority (CA) of the country from which the parents are planning to adopt.
The CA then refers a child to the adopting parents. Under the Hague process, adopting parents are “matched” to a child and they generally may not identify a child for adoption.
The parents are provided with the child’s medical background along with the necessary consents and the CA’s determination that the child is eligible for adoption, that the intercountry adoption is in the child’s best interest, that the child has freely consented to the adoption in writing, and that no payment has been given to obtain the necessary consents.
The adopting parents are then given some time to decide whether to accept the CA’s referral. If they accept, they must file Form I-800 with the USCIS to qualify the child as a Convention adoptee eligible to immigrate to the US on the basis of the proposed adoption. The I-800A must be filed before the child’s 16th birthday.
After provisional approval by the USCIS, the petition will be forwarded to the proper consular post where the adopting parents will file a visa application for the child. If the consular post finds that the child is not ineligible for an immigrant visa and that no inadmissibility grounds apply, it will notify the CA that the prospective adopting parents may proceed with the adoption.
It is only at this point that the prospective adopting parents can adopt the child or obtain legal custody of the child. After the adoption, the adoptive parents will then bring the adoption decree, the child’s new birth certificate and passport, and medical examination results to the consular post which will certify the case as “Hague compliant” and finally issue an immigrant visa for the child to go to the US.
The second method is followed if the adoptive child is from a country that has not implemented the Hague Adoption Convention. The US citizen or LPR will file the Forms I-600A and/or I-600. If the adoption was finalized in the US, then the child will enter with an IR-4 immigrant visa. If the adoption was finalized in the country of the adopted child, then the child will enter the US with an IR-3 immigrant visa.
The last method is by filing the Form I-130, Petition for Alien Relative. An adopted child would be considered a “child” for immigration purposes if the adoption took place before the child turned 16 and the adopting parent had legal and physical custody of the child for at least two years. The adopting parent must show that he had legal and physical custody of the child for at least two (2) years while the child was a minor. This custody requirement must be completed before the Form I-130 is filed.
Legal custody means that there was a final adoption decree or a custody award by a court or government entity. Sworn statements attesting to custody are not sufficient to prove legal custody. The adopted child will enter the US with an IR-2 immigrant visa under this method.