Adoptions by Non-U.S. Citizens Living in the U.S.
Incoming/Immigrant Adoption Cases
U.S. Lawful Permanent Residents
Each year our office learns of cases in which lawful permanent residents (LPRs) of the United States have legally adopted a child in another country and then found out that the child cannot join them in the United States. The parents and child face only anguish and heartbreak. Generally the best solution for lawful permanent residents wishing to adopt children who are not U.S. citizens is to first naturalize as U.S. citizens. An unmarried U.S. citizen over twenty-five years of age or a married U.S. citizen may file an I-600 or, upon meeting certain conditions, an I-800, immigrant visa petition for an adopted child. The spouse of a married U.S. citizen need not be a U.S. citizen but he or she must agree to the adoption. Note that only U.S. citizens may file an I-600 or I-800 United States immigrant visa petition on behalf of a foreign-born adopted child.
A lawful permanent resident, however, may be able to bring an adopted foreign-born child to the U.S. on the basis of an approved I-130 immigrant visa petition in the immigrant category "F2A" if the adopted child meets the definition of "child" in Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) Section 101(b)(1)(E). That section of law requires: 1) the child be adopted while under the age of 16, 2) evidence of a full and final adoption, and 3) the child has been in the legal and physical custody of the adoptive parent(s) for at least two years before the lawful permanent resident adoptive parent(s) may file an immigrant visa petition for the child in a family preference category. The two years of physical and legal custody may be fulfilled inside or outside the United States, depending on the circumstances. Family preference immigrant visas are subject to numerical limitations, so even after fulfilling the two year physical and legal custody requirements of the law, there is likely to be an additional waiting period for a visa number to become available.
U.S. Nonimmigrant Visa Holders
A foreign-born adopted child will not be entitled to derivative U.S. nonimmigrant visa status unless the child meets the criteria of INA 101(b)(1)(E) as described above. In practice this means that long term nonimmigrant visa holders cannot adopt overseas and immediately bring the child back to the United States on a nonimmigrant visa of the same classification as that of the adoptive parent(s). The only exceptions apply to an unmarried son or daughter (which would include an adopted child) of a principal nonimmigrant alien entitled to "A" (diplomatic and other foreign government officials) or "G" (foreign government representative to international organization) nonimmigrant status.
Domestic Adoptions in the United States
U.S. Lawful Permanent Residents
In most cases, U.S. lawful permanent residents who adopt children in the United States do so under domestic state adoption laws. The adopted children are generally U.S.-born, U.S. citizen children who are habitually resident in the United States. One of the rights of LPRs is that in the United States they receive the protection of Federal, state, and local law.
If you are a U.S. lawful permanent resident and you wish to adopt a specific child who is living in the United States, but who is NOT a U.S. citizen or already a U.S. lawful permanent resident, please write for further information to AskCI@State.gov (if the child is a citizen of a country NOT a signatory of the Hague Intercountry Adoption Convention) or to AdoptionUSCA@state.gov (if the child is a citizen of a country that is a signatory of the Hague Intercountry Adoption Convention).
If you have questions about anything in this entire section, please write to AdoptionUSCA@state.gov about adoptions from countries party to the Hague Intercountry Adoption Convention, or to AskCI@state.gov about adoptions from countries that are not signatories of the Convention.
Disclaimer: This information is intended as a general overview of the circumstances and requirements described. It is not a substitute for the actual Immigration and Nationality Act and its implementing regulations, nor is it a comprehensive summary of the individual provisions discussed. In the case of any inconsistencies between this document and U.S. immigration law and regulation, the law or regulation governs, as appropriate.
If the child's adoption occurs in a country that is a party to the Convention on Protection of Children and Co-operation in Respect of Intercountry Adoption (Hague Adoption Convention), the two years of legal and physical custody must be fulfilled outside the U.S.