Adoption Law

The International Adoption Process and Checklist

Adopting a child can seem daunting, and this is all the more so when you are dealing with the laws of another country. If you are considering adopting from overseas, you will naturally have many questions about where to start, what you need to know, and what information you should gather to prepare for international adoption.

International adoption, also known as intercountry adoption, is a particularly complex area of law because each country has its own rules and regulations regarding it. It is always best to work with an experienced international adoption attorney to assist with your adoption journey.

Where to Start When Considering International Adoption

To start, you can read more about an overview of international adoption here, and compare it to the general, domestic adoption process, which you can read about here.

If you haven’t already, you will want to familiarize yourself with the U.S. Department of State on types of intercountry adoptions, and which countries are members of the Hague Adoption Convention.

Many find the intercountry adoption process even more confusing than domestic adoptions. Here are some steps to take to start your international adoption journey:

  1. Research countries that permit adoptions to U.S. citizens. You can find this information at the U.S. Department of State.
  2. Once you’ve selected a foreign country from which to adopt a child, you need to research and select an accredited adoption service provider (ASP) for that country through the Intercountry Adoption Accreditation Maintenance Entity, Inc. (IAAME).
  3. As with domestic adoptions, you will need to complete an adoption home study to determine your eligibility as prospective adoptive parents for your selected country’s adoption laws. Different countries will have different requirements for what should be included in your home study dossier.
  4. Once your adoption home study is complete, you can begin the search for your potential adopted child. When you’re deciding on which child you want to adopt, an important question to ask your ASP or adoption agency is if their adoption program works with orphanages or other avenues (such as direct placement by birth parents) when determining the suitability of the adoptee. Not every agency will have children who are direct placements from birth parents, but rather children who are in orphanages. This will also help you decide if you wish to adopt a special needs child or not.

What is a Dossier?

Your adoption dossier should include information about you (and your spouse, if you are married, or your partner, if you are not married but residing together). This may include:

  • Biographical information such as your age and marital status
  • Where you were born, with certified copies of your birth certificate
  • Where you currently live
  • A criminal background check

This is not an exhaustive list of things your dossier could include. Your dossier may also include referrals from friends or family members about you and your spouse and your suitability as prospective adoptive parents. The dossier will be included in your home study packet and is necessary to meet eligibility requirements in the country of origin for your prospective adopted child. The social worker you’re working with to complete your home study will help you gather all the required information for your dossier.

How To Bring Your Adopted Child Home to the United States

The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) outlines the process you will need to follow to bring your child home to the U.S. You should familiarize yourself with the type of immigrant visas you will need to obtain for your child and how internationally adopted children become U.S. citizens. One visa option is the IR-4 visa. This visa is used when your child is adopted from a non-Hague country. Whereas an IH-4 visa is used when your child is from a Hague Convention country.

Your ASP should help guide you through this process. You also need to ask your ASP if the child’s country of origin requires any post-placement updates once your child is home with you in the U.S.

Costs of International Adoptions

The cost of international adoptions can be high and can vary widely. Some intercountry adoptions can have a final cost of upwards of $50,000. There are tax credits available for international adoptions, which can help offset the cost. Part of the costs go to your ASP, which may or may not cover an attorney to assist in finalizing your adoption in court, home study costs, travel costs, and costs to obtain required visas.

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