Hague Adoption Process
The process for adopting a child from a Convention country differs in some key ways from adopting from a non-Convention country. To date, about 88 countries have joined the Hague Adoption Convention. If you are adopting a child from one of these 88 countries, the following process applies to you.
The Convention adoption process generally involves six primary steps. You must complete these steps in the following order in order to meet all legal requirements for Convention adoptions.
- Choose an Accredited Adoption Service Provider
- Apply to be Found Eligible to Adopt
- Be Referred for a Child
- Apply for the Child to be Found Eligible to Immigrate to the United States
- Adopt the Child
- Obtain an Immigrant Visa for the Child
Keys to the Hague Process
- The Hague Adoption Convention process provides additional protections to prospective adoptive parents, children, and birth parents. The primary principles of the Hague Adoption Convention include: (1) ensuring that each adoption is in the best interests of the child, and (2) preventing the abduction, the sale of, or traffic of children related to intercountry adoption. The United States strongly supports these principles. Our process for adoptions from Convention countries is aimed at meeting these principles and is governed by the the Intercountry Adoption Act of 2000 and its implementing regulations.
- Adoption service providers must be accredited, temporarily accredited, or approved on a national level in order to provide adoption services in Convention countries. When adopting from a Convention country, prospective adoptive parents will know that their agency or attorney has been evaluated based on comprehensive standards contained in federal regulations. These standards are designed to ensure that adoption agencies and persons operate using sound professional and ethical adoption practices.
- Convention procedures "front-load" the immigrant visa petition and visa application processes. The goal of this is to protect children and families by identifying potential problems that could pose a legal bar to the child from entering the United States before the child is adopted by his or her American prospective adoptive parents. This helps ensure that every child who is adopted overseas (or brought to the United States for the purpose of adoption) by U.S. citizen adoptive parents will be able to enter and reside permanently in the United States.
Convention Process Steps
1. Choose an Accredited Adoption Service Provider:
The first step in adopting a child from Convention countries is to select an adoption service provider in the United States that has been accredited. Only accredited agencies (or temporarily accredited agencies, or approved persons) can provide adoption services between the United States and other Convention countries.
In order to be accredited or approved, ASPs must be in substantial compliance with the standards established by the federal accreditation regulations (22 CFR Part 96). The Department of State has designated two accrediting entities to perform accrediting functions - the Council on Accreditation (COA) and the Colorado Department of Human Services. The Office of Children's Issues monitors the accrediting entities to ensure that each performs its functions in compliance with the Intercountry Adoption Act (IAA) and the accreditation regulations.
As outlined in the IAA, accredited adoption service providers are responsible for providing prospective adoptive parents with six adoption services:
- Identifying a child for adoption and arranging an adoption;
- Securing the necessary consent to termination of parental rights to adoption;
- Performing a home study and reporting on prospective adoptive parents or a background study and report on a child;
- Making a non-judicial determination of a child's best interests and of the appropriateness of an adoptive placement;
- Monitoring a case after a child has been placed with prospective adoptive parents until final adoption; and
- Assuming custody of a child and providing childcare or any other social service, when necessary, because of a disruption pending alternate placement.
The accredited agency responsible for ensuring that all six adoption services are provided is called the primary provider. Primary providers can be organizations (an agency) that are accredited or individuals who are approved (an attorney). They may use other agencies or individuals to provide one of the adoption services, but that adoption service provider must generally operate under the supervision of the primary provider. These adoption service providers are called supervised providers. Supervised providers may be agents, facilitators, attorneys, or other organizations working in the United States or in a Convention country.
Your primary provider will develop and implement a service plan for providing you with all six adoption services. Learn more about Hague accreditation in the Hague Convention section of this website.
2. Apply to be Found Eligible to Adopt:
After you choose an accredited or approved adoption service provider, it will help you apply to be found eligible to adopt by the U.S. government. In order to adopt a child from another country and bring that child to live in the United States, you must be found eligible to adopt under U.S. law by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). You will not be allowed to bring an adopted child (or a child for which you have gained legal custody) into the United States until USCIS determines that you are able to provide a suitable and stable home for that child.
To apply, the proper form (called I-800A, Application for Determination of Suitability to Adopt a Child from a Convention Country) needs to be filed with USCICS. Along with this form, you will submit a home study to USCIS that includes in depth information about your health, finances, home, background, and more. Learn more under in the Eligibility to Adopt and Home Study sections of this website.
3. Be Referred to a Child:
If USCIS finds you eligible to adopt, your ASP will send your I-800A approval notice form, along with your home study, to the foreign country's central adoption authority. This notifies the other Convention country that you have been found eligible to adopt by the U.S. government, and that you would like to be matched with a child. The central adoption authority will review your application to determine whether you are also eligible to adopt under that country's law.
If the country determines that you are eligible to adopt under its law and a child is eligible for intercountry adoption, the adoption authority will send you or your agency an official report on a child (called an Article 16 Report). This Article 16 report will include information about the child's psychological, social, and medical history. The report, which is required under Article 16 of the Convention, specifies the child's name and date of birth, the reasons for making the adoption placement. You will have at least two weeks to review report and consider the medical and social needs of the child, as well as your ability to meet those needs.
The Article 16 report also establishes that the competent authority has, as required under Article 4 of the Convention:
- Established that the child is eligible for adoption;
- Determined, after having given due consideration to the possibility of placing the child for adoption within the Convention country, that intercountry adoption is in the child's best interests;
- Ensured that the legal custodian, after having been counseled as required concerning the effect of the child's adoption on the legal custodian's relationship to the child and on the child's legal relationship to his or her family of origin, has freely consented in writing to the child's adoption, in the required legal form;
- Ensured that if any individual or entity other than the legal custodian must consent to the child's adoption, this individual or entity, after having been counseled as required concerning the effect of the child's adoption, has freely consented in writing, in the required legal form, to the child's adoption;
- Ensured that the child, after having been counseled as appropriate concerning the effects of the adoption, has freely consented in writing, in the required legal form, to the adoption, if the child is of an age that, under the law of the country of the child's habitual residence, makes the child's consent necessary, and that consideration was given to the child's wishes and opinions; and
- Ensured that no payment or inducement of any kind has been given to obtain the consents necessary for the adoption to be completed.
Formats of this report will vary, however your adoption service provider will provide you with an English-language translation of the report. Additionally, it will be accompanied by:
- A copy of the child's birth certificate, or secondary evidence of the child's age;
- A copy of the irrevocable consent(s) signed by the legal custodian(s) and any other individual or entity who must consent to the child's adoption unless, as permitted under Article 16 of the Hague Adoption Convention, the law of the country of the child's habitual residence provides that their identities may not be disclosed, so long as the Central Authority of the country of the child's habitual residence certifies in its report that the required documents exist and that they establish the child's age and availability for adoption;
- A statement, signed under penalty of perjury by the primary provider (or an authorized representative if the primary provider is an agency or other juridical person), certifying that the report is a true, correct, and complete copy of the report obtained from the Central Authority of the Convention country; and
- A summary of the information concerning the child's medical and social history. This summary, or a separate document, must include:
- A statement concerning whether there is reason to believe that the child has any medical condition that makes the child ineligible to immigrate to the United States;
- If both of the child's birth parents were the child's legal custodians and signed the irrevocable consent, the factual basis for determining that they are incapable of providing proper care for the child;
- Information about the circumstances of the other birth parent's death, if applicable, supported by a copy of the death certificate;
- If a sole birth parent was the legal custodian, the circumstances leading to the determination that the other parent abandoned or deserted the child, or disappeared from the child's life; and
- If the legal custodian was the child's prior adoptive parent(s) or any individual or entity other than the child's birth parent(s), the circumstances leading to the custodian's acquisition of custody of the child and the legal basis of that custody.
4. Apply for the Child to be Found Eligible to Immigrate to the United States:
After you accept a proposed referral, you will apply to the U.S Government (the Department of Homeland Security, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS)) for provisional approval to adopt that particular child (form I-800). USCIS will make a provisional determination, based on the information available to them, about whether the child is eligible under U.S. law to be adopted and enter the United States.
A child being adopted by a U.S. citizen from a Convention country must qualify as a Convention adoptee in order to immigrate to the United States. USCIS determines whether a particular child meets the definition of a Convention adoptee. To apply to USCIS for this determination, use the following form:
- I-800 - Petition to Classify Convention Adoptee as an Immediate Relative
- I-800 application instructions
If the child appears to meet all the requirements for a Convention adoptee, USCIS will provisionally approve your application. They will notify you, your adoption service provider, and the U.S. embassy or consulate in the Convention country of this provisional approval.
After this, your adoption service provider or you will submit a visa application to a Consular Officer at the U.S. embassy or consulate. The Consular Officer will review the child's information, along with the Form I-800 that USCIS had provisionally approved, and evaluate the child for possible visa ineligibilities. If practicable to complete the medical examination of the child, then the required medical exam would be completed for consideration as part of this provisional approval stage. If the Consular Office determines that the child appears eligible to immigrate to the United States, he/she will notify the Convention country's central adoption authority by issuing an Article 5 letter.
For Convention country adoptions, prospective adoptive parent(s) may not/not proceed with the adoption or obtain custody for the purpose of adoption until the Department issues the Hague Adoption Convention Article 5 letter.
REMEMBER: Most of the analysis of the child's eligibility for the Convention adoptee classification will take place at the provisional adjudication stage. However, the Consular Officer will make a final decision about the immigrant visa later in the adoption process.
5. Adopt the Child:
Before you adopt (or gain legal custody of the child for the purpose of emigration and adoption) a child in a Convention country, you must have completed the above four steps. Only after completing these steps, can you proceed to finalize the adoption or grant of custody for the purposes of adoption.
The process for adopting or gaining legal custody of a child varies from country to country. To learn about the specific requirements of the Convention country from which you are adopting, refer to the Country Information section of our website.
6. Obtain an Immigrant Visa for the Child:
After your Convention adoption is complete (or you have obtained legal custody of the child for the purpose of emigration and adoption), there are a few more steps to take before you can head home with your child. Specifically, you need to apply for several documents for your child before he or she can travel to the United States:
- Birth Certificate (if applicable)
You will first need to apply for a new birth certificate for your child, so that you can later apply for a passport from the country of your child's citizenship. Your name may be added to the new birth certificate. Refer to our Country Information section to learn how to obtain a new birth certificate for a child in his/her birth country of birth.
- The Child's Passport
Your child is not yet a U.S. citizen, so he/she will need a Passport from the country of citizenship. Refer to our Country Information section to learn how to obtain a Passport for a child in his/her country of citizenship.
- U.S. Immigrant Visa
After you obtain the new birth certificate and passport for your child, you also need to apply for a U.S. visa from the United States Embassy for your child. By this time you should have been in contact with the U.S. embassy or consulate where the visa will be issued and you should have an appointment to apply for the visa. After the adoption (or custody for purpose of adoption) is granted, visit the U.S embassy or consulate for final review and approval of the child's I-800 petition and the visa application submitted earlier, and to obtain an immigrant visa for the child. The immigrant visa allows your child to travel home with you. As part of this process, the Consular Officer must have the Panel Physician's medical report on the child if it was not provided during the provisional approval stage.
Please see the Visa section of our website for more information about the U.S. immigrant visa process.
Under U.S. law, an adoption case involving a Convention country already in process on April 1, 2008, did not change into a Convention case on that date. For the United States, these transition cases will continue to be processed in accordance with the U.S. immigration regulations for orphan adoptions which were in effect at the time the case was filed. However, each country determines what is considered a Convention case under its law. In some cases this will not coincide with U.S. law.
If the Application for Advance Processing of an Orphan Petition (I-600A) or Petition to Classify an Orphan as an Immediate Relative (I-600) was filed before April 1, 2008, then the Convention and the IAA will not apply to that case. USCIS considers a case properly filed when USCIS receives an application or petition along with any required filing fee. The filing date is stamped on the application or petition to show the time and date of actual receipt. For further information on transition cases, please see: