Immigration Law for Adoptions

Adoption is a great way to help a child find a family and to complete your own family. However, if you are planning on adopting a child that was born in another country, there are some legal issues that you need to be aware of.

Ways to File for Immigration Status for a Foreign Born Child

The first thing that you should know if you are considering adopting a child from another country is that there are two legal ways to bring them into this country. The first way is through Form I-130, and the second way is by using Form I-600. Form I-130 is often used if the prospective adoptive guardian is related to the foreign born child. In order to qualify for legal immigration through Form I-130 the child needs to under the age of 16 (18 if you are also adopting their sibling who is under 16), and they need to have lived with you for two years.

If your adoption scenario does not fit into the requirements of a Form I-130 adoption, then you can proceed with a Form I-600 adoption. In this case the child has to be able to be definable by U.S. Immigration Law as an “orphan”, and the petition for adoption must be filed by their 16th birthday (18th birthday if you are also adopting their sibling who is under 16). The problems that people face with I-600 adoptions are based on their ability to prove the child they have selected is legally an “orphan.” To qualify as an “orphan” by U.S. Immigration Law the child’s circumstances must meet the following requirements:

1. The child has no identifiable parents because of the death of both parents, the disappearance of both parents, or the desertion of the child by both parents; or

2. The child’s sole or surviving parent is unable to provide them with the care that they need to survive, and they have irrevocably released the child to immigration and adoption in writing.

Problems arise if there is not enough documentation to prove that the child does qualify as an orphan under U.S. Immigration Law. For example, one parent may still be alive and not willing or able to give written permission for the child to be adopted, even though the child is in an institutional setting. Problems also arise if the child was born out of wedlock. If the child you want to adopt was born out of wedlock, you will need to look into the legitimacy laws of the country of the child’s residency, as they may impact their ability to be defined as an “orphan.”

The Form I-600 Process

If you have decided that you definitely want to adopt an orphan from a foreign country then you will need to start your research and paperwork as soon as possible, as it can take months to get the preliminary work completed. The first thing that you should do is to research the country you plan on adopting a child from. Many problems can arise with foreign adoptions because of misunderstandings of local laws and foreign adoption definitions and policies. For example you may legally adopt a child from a foreign country, but then not be allowed to bring them into this country because they don’t qualify as an orphan. Also adoption laws differ from country to country and some countries don’t allow adoption at all, while others place restrictions on who is allow to adopt children from their country. For more information about country-specific adoption flyers you can visit the following U.S. Government website http://travel.state.gov/family/adoption/country/country_369.html.

The next step is to make sure that you qualify to adopt a foreign born child and bring them into this country. Qualifying is relatively simple, you must be an American citizen at least 18 years of age if you are married, or at least 25 years old if you are single. You also must pass a background check and a home study review. As long as you meet these basic requirements, then you are qualified to adopt an orphan from another country and bring them into this country.

After ensuring that the country that you intend to adopt from allows foreign adoptions, and after you have ensured that you qualify to adopt a foreign born child by U.S. laws, then you are ready to start the I-600 process. First it is highly recommended that you file an advance processing application before you have selected a child to adopt. This will help get the initial paperwork out of the way, and it will help speed up the adoption process/immigration process once a child has been selected. The form you will need to fill out and submit is the I-600A Application for Advance Processing of Orphan Petition. It is available at http://uscis.gov/graphics/formsfee/forms/I-600a.htm. The purpose of this form is to start your background check and screening to see if you are a fit candidate to adopt. In order to successfully complete the initial processing you will need to provide the INS with authorized proof of your citizenship, proof of your spouse’s citizenship or legal residency, your fingerprints for a background check, the fingerprints of all of the adult members of your household, proof of your marriage and/or divorce (if applicable), proof you have met state adoption requirements, and proof that you have passed an approved home study.

After filing you I-600a you can start your search for a child to adopt. The thing to remember at this stage of the adoption/immigration process is to make sure that there is enough documentation to prove that the child can be defined as an orphan by U.S. Immigration Law, and that they also qualify for adoption based on the child’s country’s laws. This may mean obtaining written irrevocable permission from the parents if they are still alive, or by obtaining certified death certificates of the child’s deceased parents.

Once you have located a qualified child to adopt you must then fill out and submit a Form I-600 Petition to Classify Orphan as an Immediate Relative. It is available at http://uscis.gov/graphics/formsfee/forms/I-600.htm. To successfully complete this stage of the INS adoption process you will need to be able to prove to the INS: (1) that the child is an orphan, (2) that you have successfully passed all of the requirements and have had your I-600a approved, (3) that the child meets age restrictions for international adoptions, (4) the identity of the child, (5) that you have met all of your state’s adoption requirements, and (6) that you have legal custody of the child. If the adoption was completed overseas then you will also need to provide the INS with a certified copy of the Final Decree of Adoption.

As long as you keep track of all of the paperwork that is required, and you are a suitable adoptive parent, then adopting a child from another country should result in a fulfilling experience that results in adding one more member to your loving family.

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