BelizeLast Updated: January 2012
Hague Adoption Convention Country?YES
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- Hague Convention Information
WARNING: Belize is party to the Hague Adoption Convention. If you wish to immigrate your adopted child to the U.S. following the adoption, do not adopt or obtain legal custody of a child in Belize before a U.S. consular officer issues an "Article 5 Letter." See the "How to Adopt" section for more information.
Belize is party to the Hague Convention on Protection of Children and Co-operation in Respect of Intercountry Adoption (Hague Adoption Convention). Therefore all adoptions between Belize and the United States must meet the requirements of the Convention; the U.S. implementing legislation, the Intercountry Adoption Act of 2000 (IAA); and the IAA implementing regulations.
All adoptions in Belize must be processed in coordination with Belize’s designated Central Adoption Authority, which is the Belize Department of Human Services, within the Ministry of Human Development. There are no private adoptions in Belize or adoptions through extra-judicial processes. All adoptions in Belize must be processed through the Supreme Court of Belize.
Belizean law requires that prospective adoptive parents complete a one year probationary period of custody of the child before a final adoption decree for purposes of immigration can be issued. Prospective adoptive parents are required to provide quarterly reports on the child’s well-being during this period. Prospective adoptive parents may fulfill this one year period in Belize, or may be authorized by the Supreme Court of Belize to fulfill the probationary period in their country of residence. “Provisional”, “Interim” or “Preliminary” adoption decrees issued by the Supreme Court of Belize before the one year probationary period of custody is fulfilled can be considered permission for the prospective adoptive parents to take the child out of Belize during the probationary period, and to pursue an adoption process in accordance with the laws of their country of residence after fulfillment of the one year probationary period of custody. In such cases, quarterly reports regarding the child’s care and progress must still be provided to the Belize Department of Human Services during the probationary period.
Children adopted by residents of Belize may be documented as lawful permanent residents or U.S. citizens after completion of a two year period of physical and legal custody abroad by either filing an I-130 visa petition or by filing an application for a certificate of citizenship. For more information on these processes direct questions to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).
- Who Can Adopt
Adoption between the United States and Belize is governed by the Hague Adoption Convention. Therefore to adopt from Belize, you must first be found eligible to adopt by the U.S. Government. The U.S. Government agency responsible for making this determination is the Department of Homeland Security, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). Read more on Who Can Adopt.
In addition to these U.S. requirements for prospective adoptive parents, Belize also has the following requirements for prospective adoptive parents:
- RESIDENCY REQUIREMENTS: Belizean law prohibits the issuance of a final adoption order unless the non-Belizean prospective adoptive parent resides in Belize with the Belizean child for 12 months. A social worker will visit periodically to assess the parent-child relationship.
- AGE REQUIREMENTS: At least one of the prospective adoptive parents must be a minimum of 25 years old and no fewer than 12 years older than the child.
- MARRIAGE REQUIREMENTS: Both married and single individuals can adopt in Belize. Single men cannot adopt female children. These restrictions can be waived if the court finds that special circumstances warrant it.
- INCOME REQUIREMENTS: While there are no specific income requirements, prospective adoptive parents’ financial status will be included as part of the home study.
- OTHER REQUIREMENTS: A person who is not a citizen of Belize may adopt a Belizean child if he or she:
- Does not have a criminal record
- Has a current recommendation concerning his suitability to adopt a child from his country’s probation and welfare office or other competent authority. A social services practitioner must verify this recommendation in writing as well as submit a report of the findings of the inquiry to the court. (Please note that U.S. immigration law requires that in Hague Convention countries like Belize the determination of suitability (home study) must be completed, supervised, or approved by a U.S. based Hague accredited or approved adoption service provider.)
- In addition, the court may request a report/recommendation from an additional person or authority
- Has satisfied the court that his country of origin will respect and recognize the adoption order.
- Who Can Be Adopted
Because Belize is party to the Hague Adoption Convention, children from Belize must meet the requirements of the Convention in order to be eligible for adoption. For example, the Convention requires that Belize attempt to place a child with a family in-country (i.e. in Belize) before determining that a child is eligible for intercountry adoption. In addition to Belize’s requirements, a child must meet the definition of a Convention adoptee for you to bring him or her back to the United States.
Belizean law only provides for the adoption of children who are citizens of Belize. A child who is not a Belizean citizen cannot be the subject of an adoption in a Belizean court, although Belizean courts can issue custody orders for any child residing in Belize.
Children in Belize may only be adopted through the judicial process. There are no private adoptions or adoptions through extra-judicial processes. Intercountry adoption placements are made on a case-by-case basis. Belizean law requires that prospective adoptive parents complete a one year probationary period of custody of the child before a final adoption decree for purposes of immigration can be issued.
- Relinquishment Requirements: Under Belizean law, consents provided by birth parents or legal guardians of the child become irrevocable upon issuance of a provisional adoption order. However, once entered with the court, the consents by the parent or legal custodian are not revocable by the parent or guardian themselves, but are only revocable by court action.
- Abandonment Requirements: Determined on a case-by-case basis.
- Age Requirements: Determined on a case-by-case basis.
- Sibling Requirements: Determined on a case-by-case basis.
- Requirements for Special Needs or Medical Conditions: Determined on a case-by-case basis.
- Waiting Period: Belizean law requires that prospective adoptive parents complete a one year probationary period of custody of the child before a final adoption decree for purposes of immigration can be issued. Prospective adoptive parents may fulfill this one year period in Belize, or may be authorized by the Supreme Court of Belize to fulfill the probationary period in their country of residence. “Provisional”, “Interim” or “Preliminary” adoption decrees issued by the Supreme Court of Belize before the one year probationary period of custody is fulfilled can be considered permission for the prospective adoptive parents to take the child out of Belize during the probationary period, and to pursue an adoption process in accordance with the laws of their country of residence after fulfillment of the one year probationary period of custody.
- How To Adopt
Belize's Adoption Authority
Belize Department of Human Services, within the Belize Ministry of Human Development
Because Belize is party to the Hague Adoption Convention, adopting from Belize must follow a specific process designed to meet the Convention’s requirements. A brief summary of the Convention adoption process is given below. You must complete these steps in the following order so that your adoption meets all necessary legal requirements.
NOTE: If you filed an I-600A with USCIS before April 1, 2008, or completed a full and final adoption in Belize prior to April 1, 2008, the Hague Adoption Convention may not apply to your adoption. Your adoption could continue to be processed in accordance with the immigration regulations for non-Convention adoptions. Read about Transition Cases for more information.
- Choose an Accredited Adoption Service Provider
- Apply to be Found Eligible to Adopt
- Be Matched with a Child
- Apply for the Child to be Found Eligible for Immigration to the United States
- Adopt the Child in Belize
- Bringing your Child Home
- Choose an Accredited Adoption Service Provider:
The first step in adopting a child from Belize is to select an accredited or approved adoption service provider in the United States. Only these agencies and attorneys can provide adoption services between the United States and Belize. Learn more.
Intercountry adoptions must be decided by a Supreme Court Judge and require the services of a local attorney authorized to present cases to the Supreme Court of Belize. Contact the Belize Central Authority or a Belizean attorney for forms and procedures for intercountry adoption. A list of local attorneys can be found at http://belize.usembassy.gov/legal_information.html.
Prospective adoptive parents should fully research any adoption agency or facilitator they plan to use for adoption services. For U.S.-based agencies, prospective adoptive parents may wish to contact the Better Business Bureau and/or the licensing authority in the U.S. state where the agency is located or licensed.
- Apply to be Found Eligible to Adopt:
After you choose an accredited or approved adoption service provider, you apply to be found eligible to adopt (Form I-800A) by the U.S. Government, Department of Homeland Security, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). Read more about Eligibility Requirements
Once the U.S. government determines that you are “eligible” and “suited” to adopt, you or your agency will forward your information to the adoption authority in Belize.
Belize’s adoption authority will review your application to determine whether you are also eligible to adopt under Belize’s adoption law. Sections 137 and 141 of Belizean Adoption Law specify the requirements for Non-Belizean citizens who would like to adopt a Belizean child.
- Be Matched with a Child:
If both the United States and Belize determine that you are eligible to adopt, and a child is available for intercountry adoption, the central adoption authority in Belize may provide you with a referral for a child. Each family must decide for itself whether or not it will be able to meet the needs of the particular child and provide a permanent family placement for the referred child.
A child who is not a Belizean citizen cannot be the subject of an adoption in a Belizean court, although Belizean courts can issue custody for any child residing in Belize.
- Apply for the Child to be Found Eligible for Adoption:
After you accept a match with a child, you will apply to the U.S. Government, Department of Homeland Security, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) for provisional approval of a petition to immigrate a child through adoption (Form I-800). Form I-800, like Form I-800A, must be submitted in the United States. USCIS will determine whether the child is eligible under U.S. law to be adopted and enter the United States.
After the I-800 is provisionally approved by USCIS, the entire case file is transferred to the U.S. Department of State’s National Visa Center, which immediately forwards the case file to the U.S. Embassy. Upon receipt of the file the Embassy makes contact with your adoption service provider to arrange for submission of a visa application. The Embassy will ask for an immigrant visa application form known as the DS 230 Parts I and II, an original or certified birth certificate for the child, photos of the child and, if practicable, a medical exam conducted by a panel physician. Once the Consular Officer receives the visa application, the officer reviews the child’s information and evaluates the case and the application for compliance with the Hague Convention and for possible visa ineligibilities. If the Consular Officer determines that the child appears eligible to immigrate to the United States, he or she will notify the Belize Central Authority of this initial determination in a letter known as the Article 5 letter. When the Belize Central Authority receives the Article 5 letter from the Embassy, it will issue a letter known as the Article 17 letter to the prospective adoptive parent(s) and the Adoption Service Provider. The Article 17 letter notifies the prospective adoptive parents that they may proceed with the adoption. For Convention country adoptions, prospective adoptive parent(s) may not proceed with the adoption or obtain custody for the purpose of adoption until both the Article 5 and Article 17 letters have been issued. You cannot initiate the adoption process prior to issuance of the Article 5 and Article 17 letters.
Remember: The Consular Officer will make a final decision about the immigrant visa later in the adoption process.
- Adopt the Child (or Gain Legal Custody) in Belize:
Remember: Before you adopt (or gain legal custody of) a child in Belize, 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 in Belize.
The process for finalizing the adoption (or gaining legal custody) in Belize generally includes the following:
- Role of the Adoption Authority: The Adoption Authority processes the adoption application and upon approval forwards the dossier to the Supreme Court of Belize.
- Role of the Court: Upon any application for an adoption order, the court may postpone the determination of the application and may make an interim order giving the custody of the child to the applicant for a probationary period not exceeding two years with terms regarding provision for the maintenance, education, supervision of the welfare of the child specified as the court may think fit.
All consents required for a full and final adoption order are also required for an interim adoption order. Under Belizean law, consents provided by birth parents or legal guardians of the child become irrevocable upon issuance of a provisional adoption order. However, once entered with the court, the consents by the parent or legal custodian are not revocable by the parent or guardian themselves, but are only revocable by court action.
As mentioned above, according to sections 137 and 141 of Belizean adoption law, the Supreme Court of Belize may (and usually does) postpone the granting of a final adoption decree and instead issues an interim or provisional adoption order. Under this circumstance, the prospective adoptive parent(s) will have custody of the child for a probationary period of one year during which there must be quarterly reports regarding the child’s care and progress. Prospective parents who receive an interim order from the Supreme Court of Belize and would like to carry it out in the U.S. may seek an IH-4 visa for the child. This visa is granted to the prospective parents only with the understanding and agreement that they will also seek a final adoption decree from their state of legal residence. Even though the child will be living in the U.S., the Supreme Court of Belize may request home study reports from U.S. Social Services agencies during the interim.
Prospective adoptive parents may fulfill the interim one year probationary period in Belize. In this case prospective adoptive parents would obtain a final adoption decree from the Supreme Court of Belize after fulfilling the one year period and would then apply to the U.S. Embassy for an IH-3 immigrant visa for the child.
- Role of Adoption Agencies: International adoptions occur before a Supreme Court Judge and require the services of a local attorney authorized to present cases to the Supreme Court of Belize. Those persons desirous of information regarding the forms and procedures to follow for adoptions should contact a Belizean attorney see list of attorneys in Belize.
- Time Frame: The processing time for adoptions can vary, depending on the circumstances of the case. The Belize Department of Human Services reports that “ward adoptions” (children in the custody of the Department of Human Services) can take up to one year or more to process because of the need for home study reports, matching, placement and legal proceedings. For children not in the custody of the Belize Department of Human Services, the processing time can be shorter. If the prospective adoptive parents request a specific child, the matching and placement determination can take less time. These adoption proceedings take from 3 months to one year.
- Adoption Application: The prospective adoptive parents will file the adoption application to the Belize Human Services Department.
- Adoption Fees: In the adoption services contract that you sign at the beginning of the adoption process, your agency will itemize the fees and estimated expenses related to your adoption process.
Prospective adoptive parents can expect to pay attorney’s fees for adoption services in Belize ranging from $1,500 USD to $5,000 USD. The cost can vary based on the attorney selected, the type of adoption (local vs. international) and the number of children being adopted. Attorneys’ fees include all costs related to the adoption process, such as court costs and filing fees.
The U.S. Embassy in Belize discourages the payment of any fees that are not properly receipted. In addition, “donations,” or “expediting” fees, which may be requested from prospective adoptive parents, have the appearance of “buying” a baby and put all future adoptions in Belize at risk. U.S. citizens adopting a child in Belize should report any exorbitant fees to the U.S. Embassy in Belize or to the U.S. Department of State.
- Documents Required: The following documents are required by the Belize Human Services Department:
- A valid police certificate;
- An approved home study;
- Proof of home government approval to adopt (for U.S. citizens, this is an approved I-800 or I-800A).
NOTE: Additional documents may be requested. If you are asked to provide proof that a document from the United States is authentic, we can help. Read more on Traveling Abroad to learn about Authenticating U.S. Documents.
- Bringing Your Child Home:
Now that your adoption is complete (or you have obtained legal custody of the child), there are a few more steps to take before you can head home. Specifically, you need to acquire the following:
You will need to apply for a birth certificate so that you can later apply for a passport.
Contact the Belize Vital Statistics Unit for information on how to obtain a birth certificate for the child.
Your child is not yet a U.S. citizen, so he/she will need a travel document or Passport from Belize.
Contact the Belize Immigration and Nationality Department for information on how to obtain a passport.
U.S. Immigrant Visa
After you obtain the birth certificate and passport for your child, you also need to apply for an U.S. visa from the United States Embassy for your child. After the adoption (or custody for purpose of adoption) is granted, visit the U.S Embassy for final review and approval of the child’s I-800 petition and to obtain an immigrant visa for the child. This immigrant visa allows your child to travel home with you. As part of this process, the Consular Officer must be provided the “Panel Physician’s” medical report on the child if it was not provided during the provisional approval stage.
Adoptive parents will need the following documents for the immigrant visa application:
- An original of the child’s birth certificate issued by the Belize Vital Statistics Unit indicating the name of both parents, if known;
- If the child’s birth parents are not deceased: court documents indicating that the Government of Belize has terminated parental rights and made the child a Ward of the Belize Department of Human Services (note: this is usually included in the Home Study Report);
- If a sole or surviving birth parent voluntarily relinquished the child for the adoption: a report from the Belize Department of Human Services indicating that the birth parent was incapable of proper care of the child;
- The Provisional Adoption Order issued by the Supreme Court of Belize which shows that all pre-adoption requirements have been met;
- A valid Belize passport issued in the child’s name;
- Three 2x2 inch color passport photographs;
- Medical examination results. (Note: this medical examination must be conducted by one of the Panel Physicians located in Belize City and in accordance with guidelines set forth by the Centers for Disease Control. Detailed instructions and forms are provided by the Embassy once the I-800 is received.)
- If the minor has a physical or mental disability, a notarized statement will be required from the prospective adoptive parent(s) in the United States that indicates that they are fully aware of the disability of the minor and they have the intention of finalizing the adoption. This statement can be included in item 19 of form I-800 and also in the home study if it is more convenient.
- IH-4 visa applicants only: An Affidavit of Support (Form I-864) completed by the adoptive parent(s), as well as the required supplementary documentation (generally copies of their most recent federal tax returns, including W-2s.)
- In the case of an adoptive child to be escorted to the United States by a third party, a notarized statement will be required authorizing that person to take the minor to the United States with the purpose of placing him or her with the prospective adoptive parent(s).
Child Citizenship Act
For adoptions finalized abroad: The Child Citizenship Act of 2000 allows your child to acquire American citizenship when he or she enters the United States as lawful permanent residents.
For adoptions to be finalized in the United States: The Child Citizenship Act of 2000 allows your child to typically acquire American citizenship when the U.S. state court issues the final adoption decree. We urge your family to finalize the adoption in a U.S. State court as quickly as possible.
*Please be aware that if your child did not qualify to become a citizen upon entry to the United States, it is very important that you take the steps necessary so that your child does qualify as soon as possible. Failure to obtain citizenship for your child can impact many areas of his/her life including family travel, eligibility for education and education grants, and voting.
Read more about the Child Citizenship Act of 2000.
- Traveling Abroad
Applying for Your U.S. Passport
A valid U.S. passport is required to enter and leave Belize. Only the U.S. Department of State has the authority to grant, issue, or verify U.S. passports.
Getting or renewing a passport is easy. The Passport Application Wizard will help you determine which passport form you need, help you to complete the form online, estimate your payment, and generate the form for you to print—all in one place.
Obtaining Your Visa
In addition to a U.S. passport, you also need to obtain a visa for Belize. A visa is an official document issued by a foreign country that formally allows you to visit. Where required, visas are attached to your passport and allow you to enter a foreign nation.
To find information about obtaining a visa for Belize, see the Department of State’s Country Specific Information.
Staying Safe on Your Trip
Before you travel, it's always a good practice to investigate the local conditions, laws, political landscape, and culture of the country. The State Department is a good place to start.
The Department of State provides Country Specific Information for every country of the world about various issues, including the health conditions, crime, unusual currency or entry requirements, and any areas of instability.
Staying in Touch on Your Trip
When traveling during the adoption process, we encourage you to enroll your trip through the Department of State’s Smart Traveler’s Enrollment Program (STEP) Whether there’s a family emergency in the United States, or a crisis in Belize, enrollment in STEP allows the U.S. Embassy to reach you.
Enrollment is free and can be done online.
- After Adoption
What does Belize require of the adoptive parents after the adoption?
Under Belizean law, adoption orders made under section 141 remain provisional for 12 months during which time quarterly reports regarding the progress of the child must be submitted to the court by a competent authority in the country where the adopted child lives. After the 12 month period has expired, an application can be made to a designated court for the adoption to be made final.
We strongly urge you to comply with Belizean reporting requirements and complete all post-adoption requirements in a timely manner. Your adoption agency may be able to help you with this process. Your cooperation will contribute to Belize’s history of positive experiences with American parents.
What resources are available to assist families after the adoption?
Many adoptive parents find it important to find support after the adoption. Take advantage of all the resources available to your family -- whether it’s another adoptive family, a support group, an advocacy organization, or your religious or community services.
Here are some good places to start your support group search:
- Child Welfare Information Gateway
- North American Council on Adoptable Children
- Adoption Services Support Groups for Adopting Persons
Note: Inclusion of non-U.S. government links does not imply endorsement of contents.
- Contact Information
U.S. Embassy in Belize
4 Floral Park Road
Belizean Adoption Authority
Department of Human Services
40 Regent Street
P.O. Box 41
Belize City, Belize
Tel: ++501-227-7451, 501-227-2057
Belize Immigration and Nationality Department
Dry Creek Street
Tel: ++501-822-3860, 501-822-0739
Belize Vital Statistics Unit
Belize City, Belize
Embassy of Belize
2535 Massachusetts Ave. NW
Washington, DC 20008
Permanent Mission of Belize
820 2nd Avenue
New York, NY 10017
U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS)
For questions about immigration procedures, call the National Customer Service Center (NCSC)
1-800-375-5283 (TTY 1-800-767-1833).