Under U.S. immigration
law, a foreign-born child is an orphan if he or she does not
have any parents because of the death or disappearance of,
abandonment or desertion by, or separation or loss from, both
parents. A foreign-born child is also an orphan if his or her
sole or surviving parent is not able to take proper care of
the child and has, in writing, irrevocably released the child
for emigration and adoption. For such a child to gain immigration
benefits, an orphan petition must be filed before his or her
16th birthday. An orphan petition may be filed before the child's
18th birthday, if the child is a natural sibling of an orphan
or adopted child, and is adopted with or after that child,
by the same adoptive parents.
Who is eligible to file an orphan petition?
A married U.S. citizen and spouse (no special age)
or an unmarried U.S. citizen at least 25 years of age may file
an orphan petition. The spouse does not need to be a U.S. citizen;
however, the spouse must be here legally if living in the United
States. To make the adoption process faster, you may apply
for advanced processing before you actually find an
orphan to adopt. An application for advance processing may
be filed by anyone eligible to file an orphan petition. An
unmarried U.S. citizen may file an application for advance
processing if the U.S. citizen is at least 24 years of age
and will be at least 25 when an orphan petition is filed in
behalf of an actual child and when the child is adopted.
How Do I Apply?
What is the quickest way to bring a foreign-born orphan that I adopt to
fastest way is to file ) before you
identify a foreign-born child to adopt. This allows the INS to first
process the application that relates to your ability to provide a
proper home environment and your suitability as a parent. Then, once
a child who meets the INA's definition of orphan is identified, you
must fileINS Form I-600 (Petition to Classify
Orphan as an Immediate Relative) in behalf of
Should I do "advance processing" if I've already
identified the child?
It is generally advisable for all
prospective adoptive parents to do advance processing. You
should do advance processing even if you are traveling to the
country where the child is located and will file an orphan
petition at an overseas INS office (or at an American consulate
or embassy if there is no INS office in the country). By completing
advance processing, you will ensure that INS has already processed
the application that relates to your ability to provide a proper
home environment and your suitability as a parent before you
adopt a child in a foreign country. This is important, because
you will not be allowed to bring a child that you have adopted
to the United States if you are found to be unable to provide
that child with a proper home environment or you are found
unsuitable as a parent.
What kind of information about myself and my spouse will
I, as the petitioner, need to provide to the INS?
provide proof of U.S. citizenship. If you are married and living
in the United States, you must provide evidence of your spouse's
U.S. citizenship or lawful immigration status as well as proof
that you are married and that any previous marriages ended
legally. You must submit a complete and current home study
within prescribed time limits. You may also have to prove that
you comply with the preadoption requirements of the state in
which you will live with your adopted child. You must submit
the required filing fee for your application, and be aware
that each adult member of the household must be fingerprinted
by the INS. (Please refer to The Immigration of Adopted
and Prospective Adoptive Children (document M-249N, revised
1998) for specific information on this question).
What kind of information about the child will I need to
provide to the INS?
You must provide:
child's birth certificate or, if the certificate is
unavailable, evidence of the child's age and identity;
that the child is an orphan as defined by the INA;
final decree of adoption, if applicable;
of legal custody of the child for emigration and adoption,
if applicable; and
of compliance with preadoption requirements, if applicable.
I adopt a foreign-born orphan and bring him/her to
the U.S. without involving the INS?
is no way an orphan can legally immigrate to the U.S.
without INS processing.
I adopt a child from a country experiencing social
or political upheaval?
Immigration and Naturalization Service shares your concern
for the children of countries experiencing social or political
upheaval. However, adopting children from a country in crisis
is usually not a feasible way to assist them. There are a
number of reasons for this.
times of crisis, it can be exceptionally difficult to fulfill
the legal requirements for adoption of the child's country
of origin. This is especially true when civil authority
breaks down. Correspondingly, it can be very difficult
to gather documents necessary to fulfill the legal requirements
of the immigration law of the United States. Also, in a
crisis situation, it can be extremely difficult to determine
if children whose parents are missing are truly orphans.
It is not uncommon in a hostile situation for parents to
send their children out of the area, or to become separated
during an evacuation. Even when children have been truly
orphaned or abandoned by their parents, they are often
taken in by other relatives. International conventions
place a strong preference on keeping children within extended
family units and within their culture as opposed to uprooting
the child completely. For these reasons, individuals considering
adoption from a country in crisis should proceed with extreme
caution. They should review the Department of State's website
and contact their local INS office early in the process
to avoid disappointment at not being able to complete the
adoption and emigration of a child.