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
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.