Adopting a child from another country is not something only Hollywood celebrities can do. The act of adopting a child and providing them with a caring and loving family is one born from compassion and love. A parent who decides to do an international adoption should be rewarded for their kindness. However, the international adoption process can be a challenge for those who aren’t familiar with the applicable laws and procedures. To ensure a smooth adoption process, one should become familiar with the legal issues and rules concerning international adoptions.
The Hague Adoption Convention
The United States is among the signatory countries of the Hague Convention on Protection of Children and Co-operation in Respect of Intercountry Adoptions, otherwise known as the “Hague Adoption Convention.” The Hague Conference on Private International Law—an international organization focused on coordinating legal systems of its member countries, including the United States—established the Hague Adoption Convention to coordinate legal procedures for international adoptions and protect children against abductions and human trafficking.
Under the Hague Adoption Convention, member countries must designate a primary contact for facilitating adoption procedures, called a “Central Authority.” The member country’s Central Authority coordinates with the parties to a prospective adoption as well as state governments and their respective Central Authorities. The U.S. Department of State serves as the Central Authority for the United States with respect to the Hague Adoption Convention.
U.S. Immigration Law
Children who are adopted by U.S. citizens can attain U.S. citizenship under federal immigration law. When U.S. citizens adopt a child, their citizenship can be thought of as being imputed to the adopted child as if they were a natural-born child of their parents. The immigration process for international adoptions depends on whether the child lives in a country who is also a member of the Hague Adoption Convention—also known as a “Hague adoption” for short. Hague adoptions must go through an Adoption Service Provider (ASP) accredited per the terms of the Hague Adoption Convention.
The Hague adoption process involves the following steps for prospective parents:
- Select a Hague accredited ASP
- Participate in a home study to establish the ability of the prospective parent(s) to provide adequate childcare
- Apply for a United States Customs and Immigration Services (USCIS) determination qualifying the prospective parents for international adoption (Form I-800A)
- Coordinate with the ASP to get a proposed adoption placement
- Petition for the child’s immigration eligibility with USCIS (Form I-800)
- Obtain legal custody of the child for adoption in the U.S.
- Get an immigrant visa for the child
- Return to the U.S. with the child and their immigrant visa
Non-Hague International Adoptions
USCIS also provides immigration options for international adoptions involving children from countries who are not parties to the Hague Adoption Convention. The immigration process for non-Hague international adoptions requires parents to complete the adoption process in accordance with U.S. law and the laws of the country where the prospective child lives.
For immigration purposes, a child is considered to be adopted if the parent had both legal and physical custody over them for at least two years. Since parents cannot exercise custody over an adult, and individuals over the age of 18 are automatically considered to be adults, parents must have established custody over the child before their 16th birthday. Furthermore, legal custody must derive from a formal custody award issued by a court or other governmental entity. There are exceptions to the age requirements in situations involving birth siblings or certain children who were victims of abuse. Whether a parent goes through with a Hague adoption or non-Hague adoption, consulting an attorney for guidance and advice is highly recommended.
Get Comprehensive Legal Representation at DiPietro Law Group, PLLC
Adopting a child into your family is a significant gesture of love and affection. If you are considering adopting a child from another country, you should consult the services of a qualified attorney with experience in family law and international adoptions. At DiPietro Law Group, PLLC, our legal team has experience with international adoptions and applicable federal laws and international treaties. We can guide you through the international adoption process so you and your adopted child can focus on your future together as a family.
To arrange an initial consultation with one of our skilled lawyers, call DiPietro Law Group, PLLC at (888) 530-4374 or complete an online request form today.