LaosLast Updated: June 2010
Hague Adoption Convention Country?NO
Alerts & Notices
- Hague Convention Information
Laos is not party to the Hague Convention on Protection of Children and Co-operation in Respect of Intercountry Adoption ( Hague Adoption Convention ). Therefore, when the Hague Adoption Convention entered into force for the United States on April 1, 2008, intercountry adoption processing for Laos did not change.
On July 26, 2008, the National Assembly of the Lao People's Democratic Republic (PDR) approved a revised Family Law. Under, Part VI, Chapter 3, Article 51 of that law, the adoption of Lao children in Laos by foreign citizens is allowed but must be "authorized by the competent authorities of the Lao People's Democratic Republic." The Revised Family Law does not specifically state the legal procedures for foreigners to adopt Lao children. In practice, the Lao government is currently using an informal regulatory process that was in effect prior to the July 2008 revision of the Lao Family Law. Under those procedures, prospective adoptive American citizen parents obtain written authorization from the Office of the Prime Minister (OPM) to begin the intercountry adoption process. The OPM has suggested the steps listed below to obtain approval from the OPM - although these steps may not apply in all cases and Lao authorities may impose additional requirements:
- Prospective adoptive American Citizen parents send a letter of proposal of adoption to the Lao Embassy in the United States.
- Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) reviews and approves.
- Ministry of Justice (MOJ) reviews and approves
- OPM conducts a review and final approval
- MOJ issues a Final Agreement.
Because Lao Family Law is relatively new and is still being developed, regulations may not be clear and may not be fully consistent with other laws or regulations. There are no public or private institutions that operate solely as orphanages. There are no government agencies with clear authority and responsibility for orphans. Irregularities in the methods used to identify children for adoption in Laos can make it difficult to determine if some children meet the requirements established by U.S. immigration law. Such practices as payment to birth mothers to induce them to relinquish their child are clearly prohibited under U.S. immigration law. In this context, prospective adoptive parents should be prepared for a lengthy wait while a review is conducted by U.S. officials to verify a Lao child's background and eligibility for an immigrant visa.
- Who Can Adopt
To bring an adopted child to United States from Laos, you must 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). Learn more.
In addition to these U.S. requirements for prospective adoptive parents, Laos also has the following requirements for prospective adoptive parents:
- RESIDENCY REQUIREMENTS: There are no residency requirements. Adoptive parents must provide their current residence address.
- AGE REQUIREMENTS:Adoptive parents must be 18 years old and at least 18 years older than the adopted child.
- MARRIAGE REQUIREMENTS: Both married and single individuals can adopt.
- INCOME REQUIREMENTS:While there is no specified income requirement, prospective adoptive parents must submit evidence of their ability to financially support the child. There are no specific documents required but typically this includes a job letter or copies of bank statements.
- Who Can Be Adopted
Laos has specific requirements that a child must meet in order to be eligible for adoption. You cannot adopt a child in Laos unless he or she meets the requirements outlined below.
In addition to these requirements, a child must meet the definition of an orphan under U.S. law for you to bring him or her back to the United States. Learn more about these U.S. requirements.
- Relinquishment Requirements. The biological parent(s) must provide a letter of agreement to release custody of the child. Normally this is accompanied by a certificate stating this from the Village Chief. If the child is 10 years of age or older, the child must also provide a letter of agreement that he/she agrees to be adopted by the adoptive parents.
- Abandonment Requirements. The Village Chief must provide a letter certifying that the biological parent(s) have abandoned the child. If this takes place at a hospital, the administration of the hospital must provide this letter.
- Age Requirements Ages 0 to 18.
- How To Adopt
Laos' Adoption Authority
Ministry of Justice
Office of the Prime Minister
The OPM is the sole authority which can approve adoptions of Lao children by foreign parents. The Ministry of Justice issues the final adoption agreement.
It should be noted that there are no public or private institutions that function only as orphanages. There are no government agencies with clear responsibility for orphans. Currently, the Office of the Prime Minister (OPM) has sole authority to approve foreign adoptions.
The process for adopting a child from Laos generally includes the following steps:
Choose an Adoption Service Provider to assist with beginning the process:
- Apply to be Found Eligible to Adopt in the U.S. by filing a Form I-600A
- Be Matched with a Child
- Adopt the Child in Laos
- Apply for the Child to be Found Eligible for Adoption
- Bring Your Child Home
- Choose an Adoption Service Provider
The first step in adopting a child from Laos is usually to select a licensed agency in the United States that can help with your adoption. Adoption service providers must be licensed by the U.S. state in which they operate. Learn more about choosing the right adoption service provider.
- Apply to be Found Eligible to Adopt
To bring an adopted child from Laos to the United States, you must apply to be found eligible to adopt (Form I-600A) by the U.S. Government, Department of Homeland Security, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). Learn how.
In addition to meeting the U.S. requirements for adoptive parents, you need to meet the requirements of Laos as described in the "Who Can Adopt" section. If you are eligible to adopt, you must submit a letter of proposal for adoption to the Lao Embassy in the United States. The Embassy will forward it to Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) for review and then submit to the Ministry of Justice (MOJ). U.S. citizens resident in Laos may submit the letter directly to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Consular Department, in Vientiane. The MOJ will review your application and will submit it to the OPM after conducting an investigation. The OPM is the final issuing authority.
- Be Matched with a Child
There is no formal matching process in Laos completed by government authorities. Prospective parents seeking to adopt from Laos must work with a local agency, representative or reputable foreign NGO to be matched with a prospective child. Some hospitals in Laos maintain lists of prospective adoptive parents to contact when a newborn child is abandoned at the hospital. There are no known orphanages in Laos that arrange for the routine placement of orphaned children with adoptive parents. It is important to remember that the child must be eligible to be adopted according to Laos' requirements, as described in the "Who Can Be Adopted" section. The child must also meet the definition of an orphan under U.S. law.
Each family must decide for itself whether or not it will be able to meet the needs of a particular child and provide a permanent family placement for the child.
- Adopt the Child (or Gain Legal Custody) in Laos
The process for finalizing the adoption (or gaining legal custody) in Laos generally includes the following:
- ROLE OF THE ADOPTION AUTHORITY: After the MOJ has received the proposal from the MFA with all the documents, the MOJ may interview the prospective adoptive parents. Once the documents are reviewed and approved by the MOJ, the documents will be submitted to the Office of the Prime Minister.
- ROLE OF THE COURT: The OPM is the sole authority to approve adoptions of Lao children by foreign parents.
- ROLE OF ADOPTION AGENCIES: There are no approved Adoption Service Providers operating in Laos. There are also no public or private institutions that operate solely as orphanages. The Ministry of Justice (MOJ) accepts adoption applications and will provide assistance in the legal and regulatory requirements needed to process the final adoption but does not provide assistance with matching prospective adopted children with parents.
- ADOPTION APPLICATION: The prospective adoptive parents submit a letter of their proposal of adoption to the Lao Embassy in the United States. The parents should attach to the letter a set of required documents from both Laos and the U.S. In some cases, adopting parents have submitted the letter to the Lao Embassy in Washington and later submitted the documents to the Lao Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA), Consular Department, once the letter of proposal arrives at the MFA. If the prospective adoptive parents reside in Laos, the letter and supporting documents may be submitted directly to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
- TIME FRAME: The time frame for adoption from Laos can vary greatly but adoptive parents typically spend 18-24 months in-country in order to successfully complete the adoption process.
- ADOPTION FEES: The application fee with the Ministry of Justice is 100,000 Lao Kip per child (approximately $12). If the application is approved by the OPM, there is an additional fee of 500,000 Lao Kip per child ($60).
- DOCUMENTS REQUIRED: The following documents related to the child are needed:
- Child's Lao Birth Certificate
- Custody certificate from the child's Laotian guardian to the adopting parents (both the husband/wife must sign)
- Residential Certificate of the Lao guardian
- Punishment record of the Lao guardian
- Certificate of economic status of the Lao guardian
- Letter of comment from the village chief and district authority to certify the reason for granting custody of the child to the adopting parent
- Medical examination of the child and the Lao guardian
- Copy of house hold registration book for the child and the Lao guardian
- Six 4X6 cm photos of the child
- Biographic data of the Lao guardian
- For children 10 year old and above, a letter of agreement from the child, agreeing to be adopted by the adoptive parents
The following documents are needed from the prospective adoptive parents:
- The birth certificate of each parent
- Residential Certificate (in Laos or abroad)
- Adoption Application
- Guarantee Statement from Adopting Parent(s)
- Punishment Record for Adopting Parent(s)
- Medical Examination
- Certificate of economic status
- Biographic data
- Copy of passport(s)
- A letter of purpose from the Adopting Parents stating the reasons why they want to adopt the child
- Six 4X6 cm photos, one set for each parent
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. Learn how.
ALERT: The U.S. Embassy must confirm the validity of Lao documents. The format of official documents varies widely from province to province. There is no centralized repository for the storage or maintenance of public records. Civil documents issued by the proper civil authority in the correct format may contain erroneous or falsified information. Although late registration is legal births are supposed to be registered with the local village authorities, either the village chief "naay baan" or district chief "jao muang". The birth certificate format is not standardized.
The death certificate format is not standardized and may be issued by a hospital, the police, or the village or district chief. Generally, pre-printed forms are acceptable, and death certificates should be on such a form. At a minimum, the death certificate should contain the name of the deceased, cause of death, date of death, and the deceased's date of birth or age at death. Late registration is legal.
For more information regarding these issues please contact the U.S. Embassy in Laos.
Apply for the Child to be Found Eligible for Adoption
After you finalize the adoption (or gain legal custody) in Laos, the U.S Government, Department of Homeland Security, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) MUST determine whether the child is eligible under U.S. law to be adopted (Form I-600). Learn how.
Please note: If you file the I-600 petition in the U.S., try to ensure USCIS approves the petition before you leave for Laos to complete the adoption of your child. You should ask USCIS to send telegraphic notice of approval (called a Visas 38 or Visas 39 cable) or fax notification of petition approval to the U.S. Embassy in Vientiane, Laos. The Embassy cannot accept fax copies of the Notice of Approval sent directly from you, but can accept the original USCIS Notice of Approval of the I-600 petition (called an I-797), presented at the time of your child's interview.
If you wish to file the I-600 petition with the USCIS office in Bangkok, you should contact their office directly for details at:
U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS)
Sindhorn Building, Tower 2, 15th Floor
130-132 Wireless (Witthayu) Road, Bangkok 10330, Thailand
Tel: (662) 205-5352 or 5382
- Bring 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 apply for several documents for your child before
he or she can travel to the United States:
After the adoption is approved, it is not necessary to apply for new birth certificate. However, the adoptive parents may apply for one if they wish to have their name(s) added to the birth certificate. The adoptive parents should go to the Village Chief and then the District Chief where the child was born in order to obtain a new birth certificate for their child.
Your child is not yet a U.S. citizen, so he/she will need a travel document or Passport from Laos. The MFA can only issue a Lao passport to the adopted child once the adoption is approved.
Contact the Consular Department at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Vientiane. You will need the original adoption decree. You and your child must apply in person. The application fee is $20.
U.S. Immigrant Visa
After you obtain a passport for your child, you also need to apply for a 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-600 petition and to obtain a visa for the child. The I-600 petition must be approved before processing for a U.S. immigrant visa can begin. The Embassy will not interview an adopted child that does not have an approved I-600 petition. USCIS Bangkok requires original or certified copies of all Lao documents submitted with I-600 applications. Original or certified copies of all Lao documents may also be required at the time of the interview at the U.S. Embassy in Vientiane. USCIS Bangkok forwards all original documents with the approved petition to the U.S. Embassy in Vientiane. The USCIS documents will be returned to you when you pick up your visa.
This immigrant visa allows your child to travel home with you. You may go to the Consular Section of the U.S. Embassy in Vientiane on any Thursday afternoon between 1:00 and 3:00 pm for information or forms. Please call 021-267-000 or email email@example.com to schedule a visa interview appointment or file a visa petition. Since pre-screening will not be carried out in advance of the interview, please do not fax documents to the Embassy. The interview will take about thirty minutes, however, there may be a longer wait while data entry is completed and documents are prepared for the interview. The following documents are needed to process the visa case:
- Child's birth certificate (if the parents' names are known, the names must appear on the birth certificate)
- Relinquishment statements:
Single-parent relinquishments: Statement of relinquishment of the child by the parent with the reasons for the relinquishment and evidence that the parent was unmarried at the time the child was relinquished (marital status should be verified by police or other competent authority).
- Two-parent relinquishments: Statement of relinquishment of the child by parents to an orphanage/hospital or other state institution with the reasons for the relinquishment.
- Abandonments: Statement from the orphanage/hospital detailing the circumstances in which the child became an orphan with police certification that the abandoned child's parents could not be located.
- Orphanage/hospital release of the child for foreign adoption (optional).
- Death Certificate of the child's deceased parent or parents (if applicable).
- A final adoption agreement from the MOJ and a decree from the Office of the Prime Minister of Laos authorizing the adoption.
- Valid Lao passport.
In addition, English translations must be provided for all Lao documents. You should also have photocopies of all the child's Lao documents at the time of the interview.
NOTE: If custody of the child is transferred from one individual or institution to another, the transfer must be clearly documented. An "Orphanage Acceptance", specifying that an orphanage accepts custody of a child, is an example of a transfer of custody document.
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. The only facilities authorized to perform medical examinations for U.S. immigrant visa applications are the Australian Embassy Clinic in Vientiane and the North Eastern Wattana General Hospital in Udorn Thani, Thailand.
Australian Embassy Clinic
KM4, Thadeua Road
Tel: +856-(21) 353-840
North Eastern Wattana General Hospital
70/7-8 Suphakitjanya Road
Muang District, Udorn Thani, Thailand
Tel: +66(42) 241-0313
You should plan to do the examination at least several days before the interview. The sealed medical examination results must be presented at the interview. If the child is 11 years of age or older, the child must receive three immunizations: Tetanus-Diphtheria, MMR and Hepatitis B.
The following items should be completed and/or presented at the time of interview. An immigrant visa cannot be issued if any of the specified items are missing.
- Form DS-230 Part I and II (Immigrant Visa Application Form)
- Forms DS-2053, DS-3024, and DS-3026 (for the medical examination)
- Affidavit concerning exemption from immigrant vaccination requirements for a foreign adopted child.
- The child's Lao passport
- Two (2) color photos of your child in accordance with U.S. immigrant visa photo specifications (2X2 inches)
- Originals or certified copies of all documents previously submitted
- If the child in over 16 years of age, a Lao Police Certificate
- An Affidavit of Support (Form I-864) is required only in the following situation: In cases involving a married petitioner,
where one of the couple has not met the child, the petitioner will be required to submit an original, signed and notarized
I-864 Affidavit of Support and all required, supplemental documents as detailed below:
- Copies of the Federal income tax returns with all W-2s and other supporting schedules/forms for the three most recent tax years
- A current letter of employment or pay statement
- I-864A for household member sponsors (e.g. spouses) plus proof of U.S. citizenship or Legal Permanent Resident status
- Separate I-864/I-864A for joint sponsors with the above documentation plus proof of U.S. citizenship or Legal
Adoptive parents should be prepared to pay a $355 USD visa application fee and a $45 USD security fee. Payment can only be made in U.S. dollars. Bills that are torn, stained, or otherwise damaged cannot be accepted.
Visas may take several days for printing because of new security requirements. Once you have the issued visa in hand you may proceed to the United States with your child. The sealed visa package must be given unopened to the USCIS officer at your port of entry into the United States.
PLEASE NOTE: A detailed investigation may be necessary to establish that a child adopted in Laos is an orphan as defined by U.S. Immigration law. Even though the child may be fully adopted under local laws, a U.S. visa cannot be issued for that child until this investigation is complete. Please contact the U.S. Embassy in Vientiane for more information.
Child Citizenship Act
For adoptions finalized abroad: The Child Citizenship Act of 2000 allows your new child to acquire American citizenship automatically when he or she enters the United States as lawful permanent residents.
For adoptions finalized in the United States: The Child Citizenship Act of 2000 allows your new child to acquire American citizenship automatically when the court in the United States issues the final adoption decree.
* 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.
Learn more about the Child Citizenship Act.
- Traveling Abroad
Applying for Your U.S. Passport
A valid U.S. passport is required to enter and leave Laos. 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. 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 Laos, 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 register your trip with the Department of State. Travel registration makes it possible to contact you if necessary. Whether there's a family emergency in the United States, or a crisis in Laos registration assists the U.S. Embassy or Consulate in reaching you.
Registration is free and can be done online.
- After Adoption
What does Laos require of the adoptive parents after the adoption?
Once the adoption is approved, the adopting parents should report back to the local authorities that the adoption was approved.
We strongly urge you to comply with the wish of Laos 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 that country'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:
Note: Inclusion of non-U.S. Government links does not imply endorsement of contents.
- Contact Information
U.S. Embassy in Laos
P.O. Box 114
Vientiane, Lao PDR
Laos' Adoption Authority
Ministry of Justice
Department of Judicial Administration System
Vientiane Capital, Lao PDR
Office of the Prime Minister
(Note: The OPM has requested that prospective adoptive parents contact the Ministry of Justice with questions about pending or new adoption applications.
Embassy of the Lao People's Democratic Republic
2222 S St., NW
Washington, DC 20008
Tel: (202) 332-6416
Fax: (202) 332-4923
Ministry of Foreign Affairs
23 Singha Road
Vientiane, Lao PDR
Tel. 856-21-414-033, 414-002
Office of Children's Issues
U.S. Department of State
2201 C Street, NW
Washington, DC 20520
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).