LaosLast Updated: October 2013
Hague Adoption Convention Country?NO
Are intercountry adoptions between Laos and the United States possible?Adoptions from Laos to the United States are not possible.
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). Intercountry adoptions of children from non-Hague countries are processed in accordance with 8 Code of Federal Regulations, Section 204.3 as it relates to orphans as defined under the Immigration and Nationality Act, Section 101(b)(1)(F).
In February 2012, the Office of the Government of Laos suspended the ability of foreigners, including foreigners of Lao heritage, to adopt Lao children until appropriate intercountry adoption regulations and procedures are established. The suspension remains in effect. The information below about adoptions in Laos pertains to what was in place PRIOR to the suspension. It is not clear when Laos may lift their suspension or what the requirements may be if Laos does so.
The current Family Law of the Lao People’s Democratic Republic does not contain provisions for foreigners to adopt Lao children. There are no government agencies with clear authority and responsibility for orphans.
The Department of State is providing the following information for general reference but strongly cautions U.S. prospective adoptive parents against taking any steps to initiate an intercountry adoption from Laos.
- Contact Information
U.S. Embassy in Laos
P.O. Box 114
Vientiane, Lao PDR
Laos’ Adoption Authorities
Ministry of Justice
Department of Judicial Administration System
Vientiane Capital, Lao PDR
Office of the Government of Laos
Note that the Ministry of Justice is the appropriate point of contact for questions about adoptions.
Embassy of the Lao People’s Democratic Republic
2222 S Street, N.W. Washington, DC 20008
U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS)
For questions about filing a Form I-600A application, Form I-600 petition, Form I-800A application or Form I-800 petition: National Benefits Center
Tel: 1-877-424-8374 (toll free); 1-816-251-2770 (local)
- Archived Information on Intercountry Adoption Procedures
U.S. IMMIGRATION REQUIREMENTS FOR INTERCOUNTRY ADOPTIONS
To bring an adopted child to the United States, you must meet eligibility and suitability requirements. The U.S. Department of Homeland Security, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) determines who can adopt under U.S. immigration law.
Additionally, a child must meet the definition of orphan under U.S. immigration law in order to be eligible to immigrate to the United States on an IR-3 or IR-4 immigrant visa.
WHO CAN ADOPT
Prior to the February 2012 suspension, foreigners had to meet the following requirements to adopt a child from Laos, in addition to meeting U.S. immigration requirements:
- Residency: There were no residency requirements. Prospective adoptive parents had to provide the address of their current residence.
- Age of Adopting Parents: Prospective adoptive parents had to be 18 years old and at least 18 years older than the child to be adopted.
- Marriage: Both married and single individuals were able to adopt. Lao law did not specify whether lesbian, gay, bi-sexual, transgendered, or intersex individuals or same-sex couples could adopt.
- Income: While there were no specific income requirements, prospective adoptive parents had to submit evidence of their ability to financially support the child. There were no specific documents required, but typically evidence included a job letter or copies of bank statements.
- Other: No other requirements.
There is no information on whether these requirements will be the same under any future adoption regulations and procedures that Laos may enact.
WHO CAN BE ADOPTED
Prior to the February 2012 suspension, Laos had specific requirements that a child had to meet to be eligible for adoption, in addition to U.S. immigration requirements:
- Relinquishment: The biological parent(s) had to provide a “letter of agreement” to prospective adoptive parent(s) terminating parental rights and releasing custody of the child. This was normally accompanied by a certificate/letter from the Village Chief that legalized the “letter of agreement” from the biological parents. If the child was ten years of age or older, the child had to also provide a “letter of agreement” to the prospective adoptive parent(s) stating that he/she agreed to be adopted. This was also normally accompanied by the Village Chief’s certificate/letter.
- Abandonment: The Village Chief had to provide a letter to the prospective adoptive parent(s) certifying that the biological parent(s) had abandoned the child. If this took place at a hospital, the administration of the hospital had to provide this letter.
- Age of Adoptive Child: Children under 18 years of age were able to be adopted.
- Sibling Adoptions: No requirements specified.
- Special Needs or Medical Conditions: No requirements specified.
- Waiting Period or Foster Care: No requirements specified.
There is no information on whether these requirements will be the same under any future adoption regulations and procedures that Laos may enact.
Caution: Prospective adoptive parents should be aware that not all children in orphanages or children’s homes are adoptable. In many countries, birth parents place their child(ren) temporarily in an orphanage or children’s home due to financial or other hardship, intending that the child return home when this becomes possible. In such cases, the birth parent(s) have rarely relinquished their parental rights or consented to their child(ren)’s adoption.
HOW TO ADOPT
Laos’ Adoption Authorities
Ministry of Justice (MOJ)
Office of the Government of Laos (GOL)
Prior to the suspension, the GOL was the sole authority that could approve adoptions of Lao children by foreign parents. The MOJ issued final adoption agreements. Lao courts did not issue foreign adoption agreements or decrees. There is no information on whether this will be the same under any future adoption regulations and procedures that Laos may enact.
There are no public or private institutions that function only as orphanages. There are no government agencies with clear responsibility for orphans.
The process for adopting a child from Laos prior to the suspension generally included the following steps:
1. Choose an adoption service provider
2. Apply to be found eligible to adopt
3. Be matched with a child
4. Adopt or obtain custody of the child in Laos
5. Apply for the child to be found eligible for orphan status
6. Bring your child home
1. Choose an Adoption Service Provider
Prior to the suspension, the recommended first step in adopting a child from Laos was to decide whether to use a licensed adoption service provider in the United States that could help with the adoption. U.S. adoption service providers must be licensed by the U.S. state in which they operate. The Department of State provides information on selecting an adoption service provider on its website.
There are no adoption service providers operating in Laos that have been authorized by the GOL.
2. Apply to be Found Eligible to Adopt
Prior to the suspension, prospective adoptive parents had to meet the requirements of the Government of Laos and U.S. immigration law to adopt a child from Laos. This involved submitting an application to be found eligible to adopt with the Ministry of Justice and the GOL.
Being found eligible to adopt involvedsubmittinga letter of proposal for adoption to the Lao Embassy in the United States. The Embassy would forward it to Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) for review and then submit it to the MOJ. U.S. citizens resident in Laos could then submit the letter directly to the MFA, Consular Department, in Vientiane. The MOJ reviewed the application, including the home study, to determine eligibility to adopt and then submitted it to the GOL after conducting an investigation. The GOL was the final issuing authority.
To meet U.S. immigration requirements, prospective adoptive parents must file an I-600A, Application for Advance Processing of an Orphan Petition with U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services to be found eligible and suitable to adopt.
3. Be Matched with a Child
There was no formal matching process performed by government authorities in Laos prior to the suspension. Prospective adoptive parents had to work with a local agency, representative or reputable foreign NGO to be matched with a prospective adoptive child. Some hospitals in Laos maintained lists of prospective adoptive parents to contact when a newborn child was abandoned at the hospital. There are no known orphanages in Laos that arranged for the routine placement of orphaned children with prospective adoptive parents.
4. Adopt or Obtain Legal Custody of Child in Laos
Prior to the suspension, the process for finalizing the adoption (or obtaining legal custody) in Laos generally included the following:
- Role of Adoption Authority: After the MOJ received the proposal to adopt from the MFA with all necessary documents, the MOJ might interview the prospective adoptive parents to review their suitability to adopt and verify information provided in the application. Once the MOJ reviewed and approved the proposal, it would submit it and all documents to the GOL for approval. The MOJ then issued the final adoption agreement.
- Role of the GOL: The GOL had sole authority to approve adoptions of Lao children by foreign parents. There was no court process. There is no information on whether this will be the same under any future adoption regulations and procedures that Laos may adopt.
- Role of Adoption Agencies: There are no adoption service providers operating in Laos that have been authorized by the Government of Laos. There are also no public or private institutions that operate solely as orphanages. Prior to the suspension, the MOJ accepted adoption applications and provided assistance with the legal and regulatory requirements needed to process the final adoption but did not assist with matching adoptable children with prospective adoptive parents. There is no information on whether this will be the same under any future adoption regulations and procedures that Laos may adopt.
- Adoption Application: Adoptions of Lao children by foreigners is not possible at this time. Therefore, neither the Lao Embassy in the United States nor the MFA will accept a letter proposing adoption from foreign prospective adoptive parents, including foreigners of Lao heritage.
- Time Frame: Adoptions of Lao children by foreigners is not possible at this time. Previously, the time frame for adoption from Laos varied greatly. Prospective adoptive parents typically spent 18 to 24 months in Laos to successfully complete the adoption process.
- Adoption Fees: The application fee for the MOJ was 100,000 Lao Kip per child (approximately $12). If the application was approved by the GOL, there was an additional fee of 500,000 Lao Kip per child ($60).
- Documents Required: Adoptions of Lao children by foreigners is not possible at this time. Therefore, the Lao Embassy in the United States, MOJ, MFA, and GOL will not accept documents or an application to adopt from foreign prospective adoptive parents.
5. Apply for the Child to be Found Eligible for Orphan Status
Previously, after finalizing the adoption (or grant of legal custody) in Laos, the Department of Homeland Security, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services would determine whether the child met the definition of orphan under U.S. immigration law. You would need to file a Form I-600, Petition to Classify Orphan as an Immediate Relative.
6. Bring Your Child Home
Adoptions of children from Laos are not currently possible. Previously, adoptive parents needed to apply for several documents for their child before they could apply for a U.S. immigrant visa to bring the child home to the United States.
Prior to the suspension, adoptive parents were not required to apply for a new birth certificate. However, the adoptive parents could apply for one if they wished to have their name(s) added to the birth certificate. The adoptive parents would visit the Village Chief and then the District Registration Office where the child was born to obtain a new birth certificate for their child.
Only the Consular Department of the MFA in Vientiane could issue a Lao passport to the adopted child once the adoption was approved. Both the adoptive parents and the child were required to apply in person. The passport application fee was approximately $20, plus an additional 100,000 Lao Kip ($12) service fee. The MFA typically can provide the passport in five business days. There is no information on whether these requirements will be the same under any future adoption regulations and procedures that Laos may adopt.
U.S. Immigrant Visa
Prior to the suspension, after adoptive parents had obtained the new birth certificate and passport for their child and had filed Form I-600, Petition to Classify Orphan as an Immediate Relative, they then had to apply for a U.S. immigrant visa for their child from the U.S. Embassy in Vientiane. Immigrant visas allow children adopted overseas to travel home with their adoptive parents. As part of this process, the Consular Officer must be provided the Panel Physician’s medical report on the child.
You can find instructions for applying for an immigrant visa on the U.S. Embassy in Vientiane’s website.
Child Citizenship Act
For adoptions finalized abroad prior to the child’s entry into the United States: A child will acquire U.S. citizenship upon entry into the United States if the adoption was finalized prior to entry and the child otherwise meets the requirements of the Child Citizenship Act of 2000.
For adoptions finalized after the child’s entry into the United States: An adoption will need to be completed following your child’s entry into the United States for the child to acquire U.S. citizenship.
*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.
Applying for Your U.S. Passport
U.S. citizens are required by law to enter and depart the United States on a valid U.S. passport. 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 a Visa to Travel to Laos
In addition to a U.S. passport, you may also need to obtain a visa to travel to Laos. A visa is an official document issued by a foreign country that formally allows you to visit. Where required, visas are affixed 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 is always a good practice to investigate the local conditions, laws, political landscape, and culture of the country. 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 with the Department of State. Enrollment makes it possible to contact you if necessary. Whether there is a family emergency in the United States or a crisis in Laos, enrollment assists the U.S. Embassy or Consulate in reaching you.
Enrollment is free and can be done online via the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP).
Post-Adoption/Post-Placement Reporting Requirements
Adoptions of children from Laos are not currently possible. Prior to the suspension, once an adoption was approved, the adopting parents were asked to report to the District Family Registration Office where the child was born or had been most recently residing when the adoption was approved.
We strongly urge adoptive parents to comply with post-adoption requirements in a timely manner. Adoption agencies may be able to help with this process. Cooperation will contribute to positive experiences with U.S. citizen parents. There is no information on whether Laos’ post-adoption requirements will be the same under any future adoption regulations and procedures that Laos may adopt.
Many adoptive parents find it important to find support after the adoption. There are many public and private nonprofit post-adoption services available for children and their families. There are also numerous adoptive family support groups and adoptee organizations active in the United States that provide a network of options for adoptees who seek out other adoptees from the same country of origin. Take advantage of all the resources available to your family, whether it is another adoptive family, a support group, an advocacy organization, or your religious or community services.
Here are some 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.