Re-adopting in the USA / Re-adopting in the USA

Re-adopting in the U.S. and Naturalization

Re-adopting your child when bringing them into the US is usually not a requirement, although there are exceptions (see below), it can help make things easier (such as getting birth certificates, etc) and may help avoid problems in the future.

U.S. Citizenship Issues

In most cases, the formal adoption of a child in a foreign court is legally acceptable in the United States. A U.S. state court, however, is not required to automatically recognize a foreign adoption decree.  Many adoption practitioners recommend that the child adopted abroad be re-adopted in a court of his/her state of residence in the United States as a precautionary measure. Following a re-adoption in the state court, parents can request that a state birth certificate be issued. In some instances, re-adoption of the child in the United States is required. This often occurs if the adoptive parent (or only one of a married couple) did not see the child prior to or during the adoption proceedings abroad. The child must be re-adopted in the U.S. in such circumstances, even if a full final adoption decree has been issued in the foreign country.

U.S. CITIZENSHIP FOR AN ADOPTED CHILD It’s very important that you make sure your adopted child becomes a U.S. citizen. The Child Citizenship Act of 2000 was designed to make the citizenship acquisition process easier and eliminate extra steps and costs. Under the Child Citizenship Act, children adopted abroad can automatically acquire U.S. citizenship if:

At least one parent of the child is a U.S. citizen;
The child is under the age of 18;
The child is admitted to the United States as an immigrant for lawful permanent residence; and
The adoption is final.

Because of the Child Citizenship Act, many parents are no longer required to make a separate application for their children to be naturalized. If your adoption doesn’t meet these requirements, however, acquiring citizenship for your child will require an additional process and additional fees. If you postpone or even forget to file for your child’s naturalization, your child may have difficulty getting college scholarships, working legally, voting, et cetera. In some cases, your child might actually be subject to possible deportation. Make plans right away to protect your child’s future.

Should I Re-Adopt My Child Once I Return to the US

Re-adopting is an important issue every international adopting family should address as soon as they have reentered the US.  The following has been adapted from the US Department of State website.

If the child is fully adopted overseas, there is no federal requirement for re-adoption in the United States. Even though re-adoption may not be required, the adopting parents may choose to re-adopt the child for specific reasons, such as to re-name the child or to obtain a state birth certificate. It is important to review the requirements of one's state of residence on these issues; state laws differ, and often counties within a state will have varying regulations as well. Many adoption practitioners recommend that the child adopted overseas be re-adopted in a court of the family's state of residence in the United States as a precautionary measure.

Re-adoption of a child IS required in the United States when an IR-4 immigrant visas has been issued to an adopted child by a Consular Officer overseas. Re-adoption is not required for IR-3 orphan visas, but IR-3 visas can only be issued when a full and final adoption overseas has been completed and both parents have seen the child prior to or during the overseas adoption. Under the Child Citizenship Act of 2000, an adopted child who has been issued an IR-3 immigrant visa ("Orphan adopted broad by a U.S. citizen") automatically becomes a U.S. citizen immediately upon his/her admission into the United States in the legal and physical custody of his/her U.S. citizen adoptive parent. A child, however, who has been has been admitted into the United States having been issued an IR-4 immigrant visa ("Orphan to be adopted in the United States by a U.S. citizen") becomes a U.S. citizen only when the adoption has been finalized in the United States and a legal parent-child relationship has thereby been created.

If you are seeking information regarding re-adoption practices in your state of residency, contact that state's Adoption Specialist, an adoption lawyer practicing in that state, or a private adoption agency licensed in that state. 

(Please note that re-adoption and naturalization are two separate processes.)

Guidelines Regarding the Naturalization of your Adopted Child

The following has been adapted from the US Department of State website.

Adoption Guidelines - Naturalization and Your Adopted Child

The Child Citizenship Act of 2000 Public Law 106-395, took effect on February 27, 2001. The law confers United States citizenship automatically on children adopted from other countries by United States citizens if certain criteria are met. The bill amends sections 320 and 322 of the Immigration and Nationality Act to provide foreign born adopted children with automatic citizenship if:

  • the child is under 18 years of age;

  • the child has been adopted pursuant to a full, final, and complete adoption;

  • at least one adopting parent is a U.S. citizen; and

  • the child is residing in the U.S. in the legal and physical custody of the U.S. citizen parent(s) pursuant to lawful admission for permanent residence.

Upon entry into the U.S., the child's foreign passport is stamped with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) Stamp I-551. The child is now eligible to apply for a U.S. passport, as a U.S. citizen. To apply for a U.S. passport, the parent(s) should have the following:

  • DSP-11, Application for a Passport,

  • two (2) identical photographs (2x2 inches in size),

  • parent's valid identification,

  • certified adoption decree (with English translation, if necessary),

  • the child's foreign passport with  USCIS Stamp I-551 or the child's Resident Alien Card, and

  • the fee payment.

Evidence of U.S. Citizenship

Having a U.S. passport is not the only way to show evidence of U.S. citizenship. Having a U.S. birth certificate is another standard proof of citizenship. However, by nature, foreign born children lack the U.S. birth certificate. Parents have three options:

  • use the U.S. passport as proof of citizenship;

  • apply for a Certificate of Citizenship for your child, through the USCIS, which for all intents and purposes can serve as a birth certificate; or

  • re-adopt the child in his or her state of residency and apply for a state birth certificate.

For more information about obtaining a Certificate of Citizenship for a foreign born adopted child, contact the USCIS or review the information on their web site. Applicants must complete Form N-643 and pay the associated fee.

Obtaining a Social Security Number for your Adopted Child

To apply for a social security number for your adopted child while living in the United States, you will need to complete Form SS-5. You can obtain either of these forms by calling the Social Security Administration at 1-800-772-1213, by visiting your local social security office, or by downloading the forms off the Social Security Administration web site. You must submit certain documents with the form. Contact the Social Security Administration to verify which supporting documents are needed

Additional Area of Interest

An informative article (dated 1/3/09) on the issue of foreign adoption and U.S. citizenship has been prepared by Attorney C.J. Lyford who is a member of the American Immigration Lawyers Association.  The following has been adapted from her article ”Why your foreign-born adopted child should have proof of U.S. citizenship and how to get it.” (For a copy or more details contact attorney Lyford at

What if your child is adopted under the Hague Convention on Intercountry Adoptions Hague Convention)?

As of April 1, 2008, the U.S. Intercountry Adoption Act of 2000 and regulations issued as a result of the Hague Convention govern adoptions between the U.S. and other “Convention Countries” such as China, India, Mexico, Philippines and Thailand.  Amongst many things, adoptions under the Hague Convention will involve additional U.S. visa classifications, the “IH3”, for adoptions that are final abroad and “IH4” for adoptions that will be completed in the U.S.  Those that enter on an “IH4” visa, will not be USC’s until the adoption is finalized in the U.S.  Of special note is that the requirement that the sole or both parents visit the child before or during the adoption abroad has been eliminated under the Hague Convention.   Therefore, as long as the adoption is final abroad, an “IH3” visa should be issued.   

Will your child automatically receive any official documentation of his or HER U.S. citizenship?

It depends.  Basically, since January 2004, children who enter the United States on an “IR3”, or now on an “IH3” visa as a result of the Hague Convention, and who otherwise qualify under the CCA, will receive a Certificate of Citizenship (COC) from the USCIS in the mail.  However if your child entered the United States before January 2004, or entered or will enter on an “IR4” or an “IH4” visa, he or she will not receive a COC and will have to apply for one from the USCIS when the qualifications are met.

Do you have to obtain a Certificate of Citizenship or U.S. passport  to prove U.S. citizenship for your child?

No.   You are not required to get an official document that proves your child’s citizenship.  Once the qualifications are met, your child becomes a U.S. citizen (USC) without any further action on your part, and is entitled to all the benefits of being a USC whether or not you ever obtain a document that proves U.S. citizenship. 

Should you obtain documentary proof of your child’s U.S. citizenship?

Yes and I strongly recommend it.  Here are some reasons why you should do this.

  • Having a right or entitlement to something is only half the battle.  The other half is to be able to prove the entitlement when necessary or if it is challenged. When an individual is not born in the U.S., the question of whether the individual is a USC will inevitably, and sometimes repeatedly, be raised at some point. Even if your child has become a USC under the CCA as a matter of law, and would ultimately prevail on this issue if it were challenged, you or your child will still be faced with the problem of having to convince others that he or she is a USC.  Having clear and tangible evidence immediately on hand will save you and/or your child from having to produce numerous documents, and probably having to re-explain the CCA, every time it is necessary to prove citizenship.

  • More and more situations are requiring that a person be able to supply a document proving that he or she is a USC or is in the U.S. in lawful status. For example, Social Security Offices require proof of U.S. citizenship before they will classify your child as a USC in their system. Proof of U.S. citizenship is now required or being proposed as a requirement in other contexts, for example, to show eligibility for Medicaid, eligibility to vote, etc.  Proof of U.S. citizenship or lawful immigration status is required to comply with employment eligibility verification, and in some states, to obtain a state driver’s license.   

  • For adult foreign born individuals who become USC’s through naturalization, the Certificate of Naturalization is issued to them as documentation of citizenship.  Your child should have similar documentation.

  • Finally, once you have obtained the proof of citizenship, there will be no doubt that your child has met all of the requirements under the CCA and indeed is a USC. 

Why can’t you use your child’s U.S. State-issued birth certificate to prove U.S. citizenship?

Your child was not born in the U.S. Only the birth certificate of an individual born in the U.S. or in certain territories can serve as proof of U.S. citizenship for that individual. 

How do you get proof that your child is a citizen? 

You have two choices: Obtain a COC by filing the N-600 Application and/or Obtain a U.S. Passport (USP).

Which type of proof of citizenship should you obtain?

Under U.S. law, U.S. citizenship can be proven through a COC or a USP. However, I recommend that you get both.  The COC is advantageous because it is universally recognized, only one-page long and does not need to be renewed.  It is very similar to the one page Certificate of Naturalization that is used by a naturalized USC to prove U.S. citizenship. Unfortunately the USCIS response time for issuing a COC after the application has been submitted has been very slow.   The Passport can usually be obtained fairly quickly and will be necessary if you travel outside of the United States with your child. (See comment below.) If at all possible, start the process for both. You can then wait for the CIS to provide the COC.

How do you obtain a COC?

You can obtain the COC by submitting the Form N-600 Application to the USCIS District Office with jurisdiction over your residence in the U.S.  Information and the form can be obtained through the USCIS website. The fee for the N-600 (and the N-600K) Application on behalf of an adopted child is $420.  ($460 is the fee for a foreign born biological child.)

Is a COC required before you can obtain a USP for your child?

You should not have to obtain a COC before you can obtain a USP and the current information sheet from the Department of State website regarding the CCA is in accord. However the Department of State website regarding what documents are required to obtain a USP indicates otherwise.  Because of this conflict, some offices are requiring a COC before they accept the USP application. If unsuccessful, you should try another designated office that accepts Passport applications.  Some are more knowledgeable than others.

FINALLY, Make sure that your child understands that he or she is a USC and what this means.

You should tell your child that while he or she was born outside of the U.S., he or she is a USC under U.S. law. Explain what it means to be a citizen. I am surprised at the number of teenage adoptees who either do not know or understand this.  You should also mention that sometimes U.S. citizenship may be questioned.  Show the COC and/or USP to your child so that he or she knows that you have proof of citizenship should the need arise.  Do not forget to tell your child or a responsible adult where the documents are kept.