Guatemala Adoption Process

Guatemala Adoption Process

Guatemala Adoption Process     Guatemala Adoption Process

Special Note: Currently the U.S. is Not Processing Guatemalan Adoptions

As of September 12, 2008 the Department of State advises potential adoptive parents and adoption service providers not to initiate new adoptions from Guatemala because the Department cannot process such adoptions from Guatemala to completion at this time.

The Hague Convention on Protection of Children and Co-operation in Respect of Intercountry Adoption (Hague Adoption Convention) entered into force with respect to the United States on April 1, 2008.  Effective April 1, 2008, newly initiated intercountry adoptions between the United States and other Convention countries must comply with the Convention’s standards.

Guatemala acceded to the Hague Adoption Convention in March 2003.  While Guatemala passed legislation designed to implement the Convention in Guatemala, it has not yet established the regulations and infrastructure necessary to meet its obligations under the Convention.  As a result, the Department of State cannot issue the documentation required by the Intercountry Adoption Act (IAA) for issuance of an immigrant visa for Convention adoption cases.

Based on the above, our Agency and every adoption agency has temporarily suspended programs in Guatemala.

What Is Involved to Adopt a Guatemalan Child?

There are approximately four major steps for completing an adoption in most foreign countries, including Guatemala.

The first step in the process is to pick the country you want to adopt from, select an agency to assist you with the international placement, and to have your home study completed by a reputable agency that you have thoroughly checked out including calls to the agency's licensing authority.

The second step is to work with your agency to assemble the critical documents that will be needed in Guatemala (this group of documents is referred to as the "dossier". On average, preparing a dossier takes between 2-4 months.  As part of this process you must apply for INS (Immigration and Naturalization Service) approval to adopt internationally (the I-600A application, which generates the I-171H / I-797C approval letter [forms 171H and 797C are the same, some regions use one and some use the other] as well as a cable to INS-Guatemala confirming your approval).  Since the INS is frequently overloaded with requests and may be slow to respond in your geographic area, you will want to get your INS application in as soon as possible. ( The instructions on the forms will tell you to wait to send in the document until you have all the necessary paperwork, and you know where you are adopting from, but most INS offices will except the paperwork and begin the application process for you before you have made final decisions and have all the paperwork.) You can write "to be determined" in the blanks for agency and even country, so you can get started before you have picked an agency and before you have been through the home study process. Some agencies may refer a child to you while you are waiting for you home study to be completed or while you are awaiting INS approval, while other agencies require that you be "paper ready" before they refer a child to you or put you on their list of waiting parents. The legal adoption proceedings in Guatemala cannot begin until the home study is completed and the subsequent the INS approval is received, so if these are not ready when you start it will add to the waiting time.

The third and fourth step of the process may vary depending on how quickly a child is referred to you.

The third step involves submission of your adoption dossier to Guatemala.  Once your dossier is ready, including notarization and certification by the Guatemalan consulate, and if you have not accepted referral of a child, your dossier will sent to Guatemala where the documents will be translated and held by your agency's Guatemalan staff. After this step, it is a matter of waiting for your agency, through their Guatemalan adoption attorneys or the Guatemalan Government, to provide a referral.  At present, families typically wait between 1-4 months after the submission of the dossier for a referral, depending on the type of child desired, but in some instances a family will receive a referral as soon as they have received their INS approval or have completed their dossier.  When a child referral is made, the Guatemalan government or Guatemalan adoption attorney will provide a photo or photos and limited medical information on the child.  In some cases information may also be provided by the Guatemalan government or attorney about the birth mother.  This information, if provided, is usually very limited and very general in nature.  Rarely, but occasionally, a photo of the birth mother. may be provided to the adopting family as part of the referral information.

The fourth step is the acceptance of a referral. After acceptance of a referral, the legal process of finalizing the adoption in Guatemala is usually concluded within 4-6 months. Once the legal process is concluded, families take the fourth and final step and travel to Guatemala to pick up the child they have adopted. Travel to Guatemala usually takes place within 2-6 weeks after the Guatemalan government has finalized the adoption.

U.S. Department of State - Adoption from Guatemala

The following information is taken from, and credit goes to, the U.S. Department of State website This site is intended as a very general guide to assist U.S. citizens who plan to adopt a child from a foreign country and apply for an immigrant visa for the child to come to the United States. Two sets of laws are particularly relevant: 1) the laws of the child's country of birth govern all activity in that country including the adoptability of individual children as well as the adoption of children in country in general; and 2) U.S. Federal immigration law governs the immigration of the child to the United States.

Please also see the Web site for the U.S. Embassy in Guatemala for more information.

I. GUATEMALA ADOPTION PROCEDURES

Adoptions by U.S. citizen parents in Guatemala are processed under a "notarial system."   Guatemalan attorneys receive and refer potential orphans to parents desiring to adopt a child.  If the parents accept the referral, they will provide the attorney with a power of attorney to act on their behalf to complete an adoption.  In most cases the attorney represents the birth parent(s), the adopting parents and the child(ren) in the Guatemalan Government proceedings.  After obtaining clearance from a social worker under the supervision of a family court to proceed with a potential adoption case, and upon receipt of "pre-approval" from the Department of Homeland Security Office (DHS) in Guatemala, the attorney submits the case for review by the Guatemalan Solicitor General's Office (Procuradoria General de la Nacion, PGN ).  The PGN scrutinizes the adoption case for signs of fraud or irregularities before providing its approval of the adoption.  Upon receiving PGN approval, the adoptive parents in the U.S. are legally responsible for their child(ren).  The attorney obtains final approval from the Guatemalan birth mother and then requests a birth certificate listing the adoptive parents as the parents of the adopted child.  With these final documents, the attorney submits the complete case file, including the I-600 orphan visa petition, to DHS in Guatemala.  DHS reviews the case and either approves the I-600 or notifies the attorney in writing if any further problems prevent approval of the case. Once DHS approves the I-600, the case is sent to the Embassy's Consular Section and a visa interview is scheduled, usually within a few days.  Note that the PGN does not charge fees for adoptions.

II. RESPONSIBILITIES OF YOUR AGENCY & GUATEMALAN ATTORNEYS:

The U.S. adoption agency serves as the adopting family's agent, and the Guatemalan attorney serves as an agent for your agency, acting on your behalf. Therefore adoptive parents should be kept informed of all aspects of the identification, care, and adoption process of their prospective adoptive children by the agency or agent. Your adoption agency and/or attorney are your sole contacts for the progress of your adoption in the Guatemalan legal proceedings. You should be aware that the U.S. Embassy does not have information regarding the status of specific cases in the Guatemalan adoption process or Guatemalan passport process nor does the Embassy have authority to intervene in court or in the legal processes in Guatemala adoption process. You must contact your adoption agency or Guatemalan attorney for information on your case status. The Guatemalan attorney, or other accredited representative, must bring the final adoption documents to DHS/ at the Embassy upon completion of the Guatemalan portion of the process.

If you have hired an agency in the United States to assist you in the adoption, the agency is responsible for keeping you informed about your case. Ask your agency for the name(s) of your attorney(s) and whether anyone in the attorney's office speaks English, etc.

Prospective adoptive parents are advised to fully research any adoption agency or facilitator they plan to use for adoption services. For U.S.-based agencies, it is suggested that prospective adoptive parents contact the Better Business Bureau and licensing office of the Department of Health and Family Services in the state where the agency is located. The Department of State does not assume any responsibility for the quality of services provided by these private adoption agencies or their employees.

Please see Important Notice Regarding Adoption Agents and Facilitators at the Web site for the Bureau of Consular Affairs.

Some families have worked directly with an attorney in Guatemala instead of an intermediary agency or law firm in the United States. While they face certain risks and forego the support of organizations with international adoption experience, families that choose competent, experienced, attorneys can have satisfactory experiences. Unfortunately, some parents have experienced problems working with their Guatemalan attorneys, and prospective adoptive parents are encouraged to research their options before selecting an attorney.  Neither the Department of State nor Embassy Guatemala maintains a list of Guatemalan adoption attorneys or makes recommendations. The best method of finding a competent attorney is to obtain referrals from families who have had satisfactory experiences working with a specific attorney. Neither the U.S. Embassy nor the U.S. Department of State can assume any responsibility for the professional ability or personal integrity of Guatemalan attorneys.

III. U.S. IMMIGRATION OVERVIEW

The U.S. Embassy in Guatemala issued more than 3500 immigrant visas in fiscal year 2004 to Guatemalan children adopted by U.S. citizens. The work involved in processing an adoption in Guatemala is significant. Both the Department of Homeland Security's Bureau of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (DHS/ICE) and the State Department Consular section have a role, with the division of responsibilities roughly divided as follows:

The Embassy DHS/ICE Office reviews all procedures connected to defining the child as an "orphan" under U.S. law, including reviewing documents leading up to the DNA test, the DNA results, and other information regarding the birth mother. The Embassy DHS/ICE office also reviews the Guatemalan adoption paperwork to certify that the American parents have adopted the child properly in accordance with Guatemalan law. Finally, DHS (either in the embassy or in the U.S.) reviews and adjudicates the I-600 Petition to Classify Orphan as an Immediate Relative.

The Consular Section receives and files the approved I-600A Application for Advance Processing of Orphan Petition (also known as a Visas 37 Cable) from the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service (U.S. CIS) office in the U.S. The Consular Section also conducts the Adoption Immigrant Visa Interview AFTER the Embassy DHS/ICE office has completed review of the Guatemalan adoption paperwork and approved the I-600.

The estimated time frames listed below are to give you an idea of what you are facing when you decide to adopt a Guatemalan child:

Step

Form No.

Description

Responsible Office

Confirmation

Document

Expected Elapse Time

1

I600A

Eligibility of parents to adopt overseas (home study, etc.)

US DHS District or sub-office

I171H and

Visa 37 (or 38/39)

6 months

(may be done in advance or concurrently with other steps)

2

 

Proof of "orphan" status (birth certificates, cedula, hospital records)

Guatemalan Attorney

BCIS form "Autorizacion para iniciar prueba de ADN"

2 months

(depends on attorney & situation)

3

 

DNA test submission

Guatemalan Attorney

DNA test results

30 days (after step 2)

4

 

DNA test approval

Embassy DHS/ ICE

Consentimiento (irrevocable release by birth mother) to Guat. Attorney

6 weeks (after step 3)

5

 

Guatemalan passport

Guatemalan Attorney

Passport

20 days (after step 4)

6

 

Guatemalan court documents.

Guatemalan PGN/attorney

Protocolo/escritura

2 months (after step 4)

7

 

Final adoption documents packet

Attorney submits to

Embassy DHS/ ICE

"Pink" interview

Appointment slip

2 business days

(after step 6)

8

 

Medical report

Attorney/

Approved Dr.

Envelope w/report

1 day

(after step 7)

THE REMAINING STEPS MUST FOLLOW STEPS 1-8 ABOVE:

9

I600

Petition to Classify an Orphan (blue form)

(filed in the US for escort cases)

Embassy ICE or DHS in U.S.

Approved petition -in US for escorts

-parents sign at interview

same day as interview except for escorts

10

DS230

Immigrant Visa application

Consular Section

Approval at interview

same day as interview

11

I-864 (for IR-4 cases only)

Affidavit of Support

W/tax returns, etc.

Consular Section

Approval at interview

same day as interview

12

IR3 or

IR4

Immigrant Visa

Consular Section

Delivered with final documents

3:30 p.m. the next workday following the interview

IV. U.S. IMMIGRATION REQUIREMENTS:

Children adopted abroad who have been in the custody of the adoptive parents for less than two years require U.S. immigrant orphan petitions and orphan visas to enter the United States. Generally speaking, the process involves prospective parents being found suitable to adopt, a petition being filed on behalf of the potential adoptee, an investigation into the adoptee's "orphan" status, and adjudication of the visa application for the adoptee.

A.  Determining suitability, orphan status  (the I-600A, I-600)

Prospective adoptive parents should be aware that, whether they identify a child prior to leaving the United States or locate the child on a trip to Guatemala, certain time-consuming processes will have to be completed before the required U.S. immigration petition for the child can be approved by DHS. The first of these processes is a demonstration of prospective adoptive parents' eligibility and suitability to adopt an overseas child, usually documented with an I-600A form and supporting documents submitted to USCIS. Prospective adoptive parents are encouraged to check the DHS website for the I-600A form and instructions . Some of the I-600A requirements include:

  • satisfactory completion and submission to DHS of a home study of the adoptive parent(s),

  • compliance with any state pre-adoption requirements,

  • fingerprint check by DHS of the adoptive parent(s),

  • submission of certified copies of the prospective adoptive parent's(s') U.S. birth certificate(s) or other evidence of U.S. citizenship,

  • submission of a certified copy of the marriage certificate (if applicable), and

  • submission of a certified copy of the death certificate or divorce decree reflecting termination of previous marriage (if applicable).

Once DHS has approved the I-600A, it will notify the prospective parents with form I-171H and will notify the designated embassy with a cable called a Visas 37. Please note that I-600A approvals are valid for 18 months, and the fingerprint records clearance validity is only 15 months after they are taken (I-171H forms now note when that 15-month period expires). Both the I-600A approval and the fingerprint clearance must be valid when parents submit petitions on behalf of the potential adoptee. If prospective adoptive parents are not able to file their I-600 within the validity periods, they should have their fingerprints retaken before traveling (see DHS website for instructions.) Note: Adoptive parents who travel to Guatemala to file I-600s at the Embassy outside the fingerprint validity period without getting their fingerprints rechecked will have to pay a fee to have their fingerprints retaken and checked before the I-600 is approved and immigrant visa issued. Adoptive parents can expect to wait two to three weeks in Guatemala for the fingerprint results to be returned.

With the I-600A approval (or while the I-600A is being processed), the next step in the process involves identifying the particular child the prospective parents would like to adopt. As parents work with local authorities to match a child to the family, it is important to note that any identified child will need to match the definition of a "child" or "orphan" (see below) to be able to immigrate to the United States. Evidence that the child meets these definitions will be reviewed when parents submit an I-600 petition on the child to DHS. Parents traveling to Guatemala to receive the child will submit the I-600 petition to the [ICE] office in Guatemala City. If the parents will not travel to Guatemala to receive the child and an escort will bring the child to the U.S., the final processing of the I-600 must be performed in the U.S. by the DHS office having jurisdiction over the parents' place of residence.

The I-600 must be approved (and, if such approval is done in the U.S., notice of the approval must be sent to the Embassy in Guatemala) before the parents (or escorts) can apply for an immigrant visa for the child. [See also Escort Cases below] Please check with the Consular Section to confirm that the appropriate notice has been received before making plans to travel to Guatemala to complete the visa application. Children adopted overseas must have an immigrant visa in order to enter the United States.

B. DETERMINING ABILITY OF THE CHILD TO IMMIGRATE

1. DEFINITIONS OF CHILD AND ORPHAN:

The overwhelming majority of Guatemalan children adopted by U.S. citizens meet the definition of legal orphans. Parents who have adopted overseas children before they reach age 16 and who have had the child residing with them in their legal custody for at least two years may be eligible to petition for their children to enter the United States based on their status as the "child of an American citizen," rather than as "orphans." Parents should contact DHS/ICE at Embassy Guatemala for further information on such "child" cases, as their processing is considerably different than that of "orphans," the subject of this information sheet.

Immigrant visa issuance to orphans depends on a DHS determination that the adopted child meets the legal definition of orphan contained in Section 101(b)(1)(F) of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA). To be an orphan, a child must be "an orphan because of the death or disappearance of, abandonment or desertion by, or separation or loss from, both parents, or for whom the sole or surviving parent is incapable of providing the proper care and has in writing irrevocably released the child for emigration and adoption .." Two of the most common scenarios for meeting this definition in Guatemala are described in more detail below:

a. Irrevocable Release by the sole or surviving parent

A sole or surviving parent must be unable to care for the child they are giving up, and must in writing irrevocably release the child for adoption and emigration to the United States. ("Sole parents" are mothers of children born out of wedlock where the child does not have a natural or step-father; "surviving parents" are child's living parent when the other parent is dead and the child has no step-parent.) The DHS Board of Immigration Appeals has ruled that an inability to care for the child would be demonstrated when the parent is destitute by Guatemalan standards and cannot provide the child with the nourishment and shelter necessary for subsistence consistent with the local standards of the child's place of residence.

b. Abandonment by both parents

A child with two living parents can meet the definition of an orphan only through the disappearance of, abandonment, desertion by, or separation or loss from both parents. Abandonment, desertion, separation and loss all have very exact definitions that must be satisfied for the child to be considered an orphan. The most common situation in Guatemala involves abandonment, where parents have willfully given up all parental rights, obligations, and claims to the child, as well as all control over and possession of the child. Abandonment requires that the release of the child be unconditional, and not with the intent to transfer the child to any specific person(s). Cases involving abandonment are significantly different from the single parent relinquishment situation described above, and usually take considerably longer to finalize.

2. DHS/ICE REVIEW OF BIRTH MOTHER INFORMATION AND DNA TESTING:

Problems occur when U.S. citizens are encouraged to adopt children who do not meet the U.S. definition of "orphan." In some cases, these children may have been obtained by illegal means, perhaps even stolen. The DHS/ICE office at the U.S. Embassy requires DNA testing in all cases where the child is released by an identifiable birth mother (first scenario described above) because the use of a false birth mother to release "her child" is the usual method chosen by unscrupulous operators to create a paper trail for an illegally obtained child. Occasionally DHS/ ICE must also interview and investigate the birth mother. These problematic cases are further complicated by the high incidence of corruption and civil document fraud in Guatemala. The Embassy has the legal responsibility to issue visas in accordance with U.S. law and to ensure that U.S. citizens do not adopt stolen children.

In order to confirm the parental relationship in sole/surviving parent relinquishment cases and arrange for required DNA tests, your Guatemalan attorney must contact DHS/ICE at the Embassy once the child has been identified and prior to submitting the I-600 petition. DHS/ ICE will not authorize this test until all required documentation has been received. Some of the documentation includes the consent of the birth mother to the adoption, her birth certificate and a notarized copy of her "cedula" (national identification card), and the hospital records of the birth. DHS/ICE also requires an HIV test to be performed on the mother.

Upon review of the documentation, DHS/ICE will then assist parents/attorneys in making arrangements for the DNA test. Upon receipt of a DNA result confirming the parental relationship, DHS/ICE will either approve the case or refer it for further investigation. If further investigation is necessary, DHS/ICE may require an interview with the biological mother to confirm her consent that the child can be adopted by U.S. citizens. If the investigating officer determines that there are no obstacles to the adoption, he or she will approve the mother's irrevocable release of the child  ("consentimiento"), which must be presented to the PGN. PGN has an agreement with the Embassy not to approve any adoption without this original certification. The purpose of this procedure is to ensure that the child qualifies for a visa under U.S. law before the Guatemalan adoption process is finalized. This is done to avoid the tragic situation where a child is adopted in Guatemala by U.S. citizens and then is unable to join them in the United States.

If the result of the DNA examination is negative, the case will be terminated immediately.

DNA tests must be performed by one of the laboratories in the United States approved by DHS. The Embassy panel physicians take the samples necessary for the test. Fees for the DNA analysis differ among the laboratories, but range from approximately $400 to $600. Results are available within two weeks. After receiving the results, it can take up to 6 weeks for DHS/ICE to approve the case. The fee for taking the DNA samples is approximately $140, which includes packaging of the samples and courier shipment to the laboratory in the United States.

C. AFTER THE GUATEMALAN ADOPTION PROCESS IS COMPLETE - THE I-600 PETITION AND VISA INTERVIEW

1. DHS/ICE REVIEW PRIOR TO SUBMISSION OF PETITION:

Once you have adopted a child, you will need to file an I-600 petition on your child's behalf. If you file your petition in the U.S., see the DHS website for forms, instructions, a list of documents to be submitted and methods of submitting the petition. If your local USCIS office approves your petition, they will notify you and forward notice of the approval (visas 38 or 39 cable) to the consular section at Embassy Guatemala. At that point, you (or your escort - see below) will be provided instructions on appearing for a visa interview.

If filing your I-600 petition in Guatemala, once the Guatemalan adoption process is complete, your attorney submits your Guatemalan adoption documents for review and approval to the DHS/ICE office at the Embassy. The adoption-related documents listed below and designated with and asterisk ("* ") must be submitted with an English translation. Translations must be done by a certified translator.

A. *The original of the child's birth certificate issued by the civil registrar indicating the names of the biological parents

B. *The original of the child's birth certificate issued by the civil registrar indicating the child's new adopted name, as well as the name(s) of the adopting parent(s);

C. If the birth father, mother, or both are deceased, a certified copy of the death certificates issued by the civil registrar;

D. *Relinquishment of parental rights executed before the appropriate Guatemalan authority, or the declaration of abandonment issued by the Juzgado de Menores (children's court judge);

E. The birth mother's certification of relinquishment signed before an ICE Officer in non-abandonment cases;

F. *The approval of the adoption signed by an officer of the Procuraduria de la Nacion (Office of the Solicitor General) This document is called the "Protocolo/Escritura";

G. *The certified copy of the final decree authorizing the adoption;

H. Valid Guatemalan passport for the child.

Your attorney may submit these documents to an ICE official any Monday through Thursday, excluding official holidays, from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. at Window 8 of the Consular Section The ICE office will review the documentation and also make sure that the I-600A approval (a/k/a the "Visas 37") has been received from a U.S. CIS office in the U.S. The attorney may return after 48 hours (two business days) Monday through Thursday to verify that I-600A approval and adoption-related documentation are in order. If they are, the attorney will be given a pink slip, along with information on filing the I-600 petition, obtaining the medical appointment and applying for the immigrant visa. If the case is not complete, your lawyer will be informed of what additional documents need to be submitted (or, in the case of a Visas 37, received directly from an CIS office by fax or cable). Therefore, it is very important that you do not make definitive plans to travel to Guatemala until your attorney has confirmed receipt of the pink slip.

2. MEDICAL EXAM

After the "pink slip" (visa appointment letter) has been issued, the attorney will schedule the child for a medical examination with one of the Embassy-approved panel physicians.  One pediatric clinic and two general practitioners are authorized by the Embassy to perform medical exams.  The medical examination costs $85 for children under age 15 and $100 for children 15 or older, payable directly to the office of the panel physician. In addition to performing the required examination, the physician will determine whether any required vaccinations remain outstanding. The necessary vaccinations may be obtained from the panel physician or, for children 10 years of age or younger, the petitioning parent may complete an affidavit promising that the child will receive the required vaccinations within 30 days of entering the U.S.  Please note, however, that the best interests of the child should always be the focus of the child's vaccination schedule. The U.S. Embassy has occasionally found that foster care providers and orphanages fail to obtain the proper vaccinations for the child knowing that the parent can always complete an affidavit.  Please discuss your child's vaccination schedule with your agency so that your wishes can be relayed to your foster care provider.

3. THE VISA INTERVIEW WITH THE CONSULAR SECTION

Adoptive parents (or escorts - see below) and children may appear for an Immigrant Visa Interview Monday through Thursday at the time marked on their pink slip excluding Guatemalan and U.S. holidays.  A fixed, pre-scheduled appointment date is not required, though it is preferred. As noted in the Adoption Appointment packet, however, families should not appear for the interview until all the required documents, including the Guatemalan passport and medical exam have been obtained.

On the morning of your interview, please arrive at the Consular Section Entrance (on the north side of the embassy) on time, show your appointment letter (pink colored) to the guards at the building entrance, and you will be admitted to the consular section waiting room. Take a seat and wait for each adoption case to be called to Window 6 to submit all required documents. At this time you will be given instructions to pay the required fees. Please pay the fees and retain the receipt for later presentation to the consular officer. The consular officer will review all the adoption files and call each family for a brief interview.

Documents you or the escort must bring to the Adoption Immigrant Visa Interview :

1. Either: notice of an approved I-600 from CIS in the United States (required for all escort cases - see below), or a complete, although not signed, I-600 form. In the latter case, the form must be signed in the presence of an ICE or Consular officer by the adopting parent(s) during the immigrant visa interview. If only one adopting parent travels to Guatemala for the immigrant visa interview, he/she should have the completed I-600 form, with the original and notarized signature of the other spouse.

2. Guatemalan adoption documents approved by DHS with DHS approval letter (pink slip)

IT IS VERY IMPORTANT THAT THESE DOCUMENTS REMAIN STAPLED.

3. The child's valid Guatemalan passport (issued with the adopting parents' surname/s)

4. Medical examination (according to Embassy instructions in the Adoption Appointment Packet). If the child has a physical and/or mental disability, a notarized statement will be required from the adoptive parents indicating that they are fully aware of the physical and/or mental disability of the minor and acknowledge that the Guatemalan adoption process is complete and the adoption has been finalized. This statement can be included in item 19 of form I-600, and also in the home study if more convenient. In that case a separate notarized statement will not be required.

5. Three 2 x 2-inch color photographs with a white background. The child's face must be clear and facing front.

6. Form DS-230 completed with information regarding the child (not the parents). Please wait until the interview to sign the DS-230.

7. For IR-4 cases (see Immigrant Visa section below): A) An original Affidavit of Support (Form I-864) signed by the adopting parent who is petitioning for the child's visa. If that parent's income alone is insufficient according to meet the poverty guidelines outlined in the Affidavit of Support, the other adopting parent must sign the Agreement of Household Member (Form I-864A)­ and provide required supporting documents.

B) Copies of the last three years of  federal tax returns as filed with the Internal Revenue Service, including, if applicable, W-2 forms, 1099 forms, and all IRS Schedules. The adopting parents do not need to separately attest to the accuracy of the federal income taxes, nor have the tax copies notarized; the Concluding Provisions of Part 7 of the Affidavit of Support contain a certification to this effect.

C) In addition, the adopting parents must present proof of current employment in the form of a copy of a recent pay stub or a letter from the employer.

For IR-3 cases (see Immigrant Visa section below): An I-864 is not required for an orphan classified IR-3, provided the child will be admitted to the U.S. while still under age 18 and will reside in the United States with and in the custody of the adoptive U.S. Citizen parent. However, an orphan exempt from the I-864 requirement must still show that he/she is not likely to become a public charge.

8. $380 total fees for the immigrant visa application

9. The parents' U.S. passports for identification and citizenship purposes and to establish prior visits to Guatemala, if necessary.

4. THE IMMIGRANT VISA

The purpose of the immigrant visa interview is to verify that the adopted child meets the criteria established for "orphan" and that there are no legal impediments (serious health issues, financial difficulties, etc.) to visa issuance. If satisfied with regard to these issues, the consular officer will approve the visa, and you will be told when to pick up the immigrant visa (generally at 3:30 p.m. the next workday following the visa interview).

At the interview, the consular officer will determine which type of visa your child will receive. Orphans receive either IR3 or IR4 visas. IR3 visas are for orphans adopted overseas by American citizens who have met the child prior to the adoption; IR4 visas are for orphans to be adopted or re-adopted in the U.S. (child has been adopted in Guatemala, but the adopting parents have not met the orphan prior to the adoption -- see escort section below.) For the IR3 classification, the Consular officer will use Guatemalan entry stamps to verify that both parents (or the unmarried parent if applicable) saw their adopted child prior to his/her legal adoption in Guatemala. The date that legal adoption occurs in Guatemala is the date of approval of the adoption signed by an officer of the Procuraduria de la Nacion (Office of the Solicitor General). If these conditions are met, the child will receive an IR3 visa. Otherwise, the child will receive an IR4 visa, and the parents will most likely have to re-adopt in their home state. Note that most escort cases will receive an IR4 classification, as parents have generally not personally seen the child prior to adoption.

The distinction between IR3 and IR4 visas has become more important since the Child Citizenship Act of 2000 became effective on February 27, 2001. This law facilitates the acquisition of United States citizenship for the foreign-born children (both biological and adopted) of United States citizen parents when those children do not acquire United States citizenship at birth. Please see the fact sheet on the Child Citizenship Act.

Under this law, children automatically acquire U.S. citizenship on entry into the United States if all of the following conditions have been met:

1. One parent is a U.S. citizen, by birth or through naturalization.

2. The child is under the age of eighteen.

3. The child is residing in the United States pursuant to a lawful admission as a permanent resident alien in the legal and physical custody of the American citizen parent (note that on entry to the United States based on an immigrant visa, the child is a lawful permanent resident.)

In practice, this means that only orphans with IR-3 visas that are traveling with their adoptive parents will be granted automatic citizenship on entry to the U.S. For IR-4 cases, on entry to the United States, the orphans become lawful permanent residents. Once the adoption (or re-adoption) is completed, the orphan becomes eligible for citizenship. For further information on the passport application process for your child, please consult the Department of State's web site at http://travel.state.gov/content/passports/en/passports/under-16.html

V. IN SUMMARY, BEFORE YOU TRAVEL TO GUATEMALA TO RECEIVE THE CHILD:

Before you make airline reservations for yourselves or for an escort and the child, confirm with your Guatemalan attorney or U.S. adoption agency that:

1. If you filed all paperwork in the U.S., the consular section has received a notice of approval of the I-600 petition (visas 38 or 39 cable), and you have all required documents for the interview, including the child's Guatemalan passport and medical exam results.

2. If you plan to file the I-600 petition in Guatemala, the consular section has received a notice of approval of the I-600A application (visas 37 cable), the DHS/ICE office has approved your adoption documents and cleared you for the appointment (after review of the Guatemalan adoption paperwork), and you have all required documents for the interview, including the child's Guatemalan passport.

ESCORTS:

If neither parent plans to travel to Guatemala and the child will be escorted by a third party for the visa interview, the I-600 Petition to Classify Orphan as an Immediate Relative must be filed in the U.S. and the Consular Section must have the official cable (called the Visas 38 or 39) from DHS indicating its approval of the I-600 petition. A notarized statement from the adoptive parents will be required authorizing that person to take the child to the United States for the purpose of placing him/her with the prospective adoptive parent(s). This statement can also be included in the judge's authorization for the child to leave Guatemala. The escort must present at the visa interview an original Affidavit of Support signed and notarized by the petitioner who is sponsoring the child, along with the petitioner's last three years of tax returns (W-2 and 1040) and other documentation as described in the Interview section above.

VI. U.S. FEES:

A. DHS Fees for I-600 and I-600A Petitions:

The BCIS fee is $525.00 for an I-600 or I-600A petition. If you have a valid I-600A and file an I-600 within eighteen months of the approval of the I-600A, no fee will be charged for the I-600, provided the petition is for one child or for siblings. If you are petitioning for more than one child and the children are not siblings, an additional fee of $525.00 for the I-600 for each additional child will be charged.

B. Medical Examination Fee:

The adopted child must have a medical examination performed by one of the U.S. Embassy's panel physicians before the immigrant visa can be issued. The cost of this medical examination is approximately $85 ($100 for children 15 or over), payable directly to the panel physician.

The costs of required vaccinations must also be born by the applicant. In adoption cases where the child is 10 years of age or younger, the adoptive parent(s) may execute an affidavit requesting waiver of the vaccination requirements and stating that the parent(s) ensures the child will receive the required vaccinations within 30 days of the child's admission to the U.S. or when medically appropriate. This affidavit should be submitted to the embassy physician performing the medical exam and should be attached to the medical exam report.

C. U.S. Immigrant Visa Fees:

The fee for the immigrant visa application is $380 for the visa issuance for each child.  If not previously paid in the U.S., these fees may be paid by credit card or in cash in either U.S. dollars or Guatemalan quetzals (the local currency).  The fees do not include the cost of the medical examination, DNA test, documents, or the petition.   The Embassy cannot accept personal checks, cashier checks or traveler's checks but will accept the following credit/debit cards:  Visa, Master Card, American Express, Discover, Diners, Master Card Debit and Visa Debit.

VII. FOR Additional Information:

A. CONTACTING THE U.S. EMBASSY:

Specific questions about your Guatemalan adoption at the Embassy may be addressed by fax, or e-mail to the Immigrant Visa Unit of the Consular Section or to ICE. Please refer to page 1 for division of responsibilities between the two offices.

The  Immigrant Visa Unit of the Consular Section at the U.S. Embassy may be reached by:    or Fax at: 011-502-2331-0564 or mail at: Immigrant Visas/Adoption Unit
U.S. Embassy Guatemala, Unit 3308, APO, AA 34024.

The Bureau of Immigration and Customs Enforcement in the Department of Homeland Security may be reached by:        or Fax at: 011-502-2331-4342 or Mail at: DHS/ICE U.S. Embassy Guatemala,
Unit 3334, APO, AA 34024.

The U.S. Embassy is located at:  7-01 Avenida de la Reforma, Zone 10, Guatemala City.  Note:  Visa issuance after the final interview now generally takes 24 hours and it will not normally be possible to provide the visa to adoptive parents on the day of the interview.

B. GENERAL QUESTIONS REGARDING INTERNATIONAL ADOPTIONS: You may also contact the Office of Children's Issues, SA-29, 4th Floor, U.S. Department of State, Washington, DC 20520, telephone 1-888-407-4747 with specific questions.

Useful information is also available from several other sources:

  • Toll Free - For information on international adoption of children and international parental child abduction, call Overseas Citizens Services at 1-888-407-4747. This number is available from 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. Eastern Standard Time, Monday through Friday (except U.S. federal holidays). Callers who are unable to use toll-free numbers, such as those calling from overseas, may obtain information and assistance during these hours by calling 1-202-501-4444.

  • U.S. Department of State Visa Office - recorded information concerning immigrant visas for adopting children, (202) 663-1225.

  • DHS Citizenship and Immigration Services - recorded information for requesting immigrant visa application forms, 1-800-870-FORM (3676).

  • Internet :

  • Adoption Information Flyers: the Consular Affairs web site at: http://travel.state.gov/ contains international country adoption information flyers like this one and the International Adoptions brochure.

Guatemala Adoption Process     Guatemala Adoption Process