Returning to the USA after an International Child Adoption / Returning to the USA after an International Child Adoption

Returning to the U.S. After an Adoption

The article below explains the documents and procedures for bringing your adopted child into the USA and how preparing in advance can this much easier.

Returning to the U.S. with Your Adopted Child

The following has been adapted from the U.S. Department of State article How can adopted children come to the United States?

A child adopted by a U.S. citizen and who will reside in the US must obtain an immigrant visa before he or she can enter the U.S. Issuance of visas is governed by the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA), which currently provides for two categories of adopted children to immigrate to the United States.

The first category allows a child adopted by an American citizen before they reached the age of 16 who has already resided with the adoptive parent in their legal custody for two years, to immigrate to the United States. The second category allows an “orphan,” as defined by U.S. law and regulations, to immigrate. Since most parents adopting overseas do not meet the custody and residence requirements of 101(b)(1)(E), the focus of this information sheet is on the second group i.e., orphans. Parents who believe that their situation may fall into the first category should contact their nearest CIS office or Embassy or Consulate for additional information. The Department of State strongly advises U.S. citizens to verify that a particular child will fit into one of these two categories per U.S. immigration law and regulations before proceeding with an adoption.


Adjudicating an orphan case requires the following steps:

Adopting parents establish their suitability for an international adoption, usually through an approved I-600A or I-800A filed with CIS.  A visa application is filed on behalf of the child, providing all necessary documentation for production of the visa and demonstrating that no legal impediments to visa issuance apply – a consular officer will review the application at a U.S. Embassy or Consulate overseas. If approvable, the visa is issued, and the child travels to the U.S. and obtains citizenship, either upon entry or upon completion of a full and final adoption in the U.S.

In order to bring an orphan to the U.S. with an immigrant visa, adopting parents must demonstrate to CIS that they can and will provide proper care to the child if admitted to the United States. The I-600A application  including the Home Study allows adopting parents to demonstrate that they are financially, logistically and otherwise prepared to adopt a child internationally.

Adopting parents are often encouraged to begin the overseas adoption process early by filing the I-600A or I-800A before identifying a particular child to adopt. CIS approval notices of the I-600A or I-800A often identify the type of child the prospective parents are authorized to adopt overseas. Approved I-600As I-800A are valid for 18 months. Adopting parents should also note that fingerprint clearances obtained during the I-600A or I-800A process are only valid for 15 months.

Once the I-600 or I-800 petition for a particular orphan has been approved, the U.S. Embassy or Consulate’s consular section will review the child’s application for a visa. The purpose of this review is to ensure that all documentation required to produce the visa and demonstrate orphan status is present, and to ensure that there are no legal impediments to visa issuance.

If not previously paid, an immigrant visa processing fee must be paid at the time of visa application. If all the documentation for the orphan is in order and there are no legal bars to visa issuance, the orphan will be provided with an immigrant visa consisting of a packet of supporting documentation and either a cover sheet or visa placed in the child’s passport. Both should be hand-carried with the child (not packed in luggage) when they travel to the U.S. and should be presented to the immigration inspectors at the port of entry. Do not open the envelope of supporting documents. The immigrant visa is valid for 180 days from the date of issuance, which means that adopting children have 180 days to use the immigrant visa to travel to the United States.

Post-Adoption Reporting

Just as with many domestic adoptions, some countries require foreign adoptive parents to report on the health and welfare of children they have adopted. These reports are generally referred to as “post-adoption reports” or “post-placement reports”. The requirements of these reports vary from country to country, and for some countries they must be prepared by a social worker. Be sure you understand a country’s reporting requirements. Your adoption agency or the U.S. Embassy often have helpful information about post-adoption reporting requirements. When a country requires post-adoption or post-placement reports, it is important for adoptive parents to fulfill that obligation. The failure to submit these reports has had a negative impact on other Americans seeking to adopt.

International Child Adoption Questions and Answers

The following has been adapted from the USCIS article How Do I Apply to Bring a Foreign-Born Orphan to the United States?

Who is Considered an Orphan?
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 incapable of providing 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 on behalf of an actual child and when the child is adopted.

Where Can I Find the Law?
The complete orphan definition can be found in the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) at Section 101(b)(1)(F). The specific eligibility requirements and procedures for applying for immigration benefits for an orphan are included in the Code of Federal Regulations [CFR] at 8 CFR § 204.3.

Should I do "advance processing" if I've already identified the child? Yes, 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 Immigration office (or at an American consulate or embassy if there is no Immigration office in the country). By completing advance processing, you will ensure that USCIS 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.

Can I adopt a foreign-born orphan and bring him/her to the U.S. without involving the USCIS?

No, there is no way an orphan can legally immigrate to the U.S. without USCIS processing.

I am a U.S. citizen, will the child I adopt automatically become a citizen too?
When an orphan enters the United States with an immigrant visa, he/she is considered to be a lawful permanent resident of the United States, not a U.S. citizen. There are exceptions to this and in some situations, a child might become a United States citizen upon admission into the United States as a lawful permanent resident.

How Do I Find out about the Status of My Application?
Please contact the USCIS office that received your application. You should be prepared to provide the USCIS staff with specific information about your application. Please click here for complete instructions on checking the status of your application. Click here for information on USCIS offices.

Can I Appeal?
If your petition is denied, the denial letter will tell you how to appeal. Generally, you may file a Notice of Appeal along with the required fee with the USCIS office that issued the denial letter. There are specific time requirements for filing an appeal. Once the fee is collected and the form is processed, the appeal will be referred to the Administrative Appeals Unit in Washington, D.C. Sending the appeal directly to the AAU will delay the process.

Can Anyone Help Me?
If advice is needed, you may contact the USCIS District Office near your home for a list of reputable adoption professionals or agencies that may be able to assist you in applying for an immigration benefit.

Frequently Asked Questions
Do you want further information? Please see our Frequently Asked Questions. You may also refer to information provided at the June 2002 INS International Conference on Adoption. If you would like information on how to proceed with an adoption in a particular country, please go to the Department of State web pages addressing Country-Specific Adoption.