LatviaLast Updated: February 2012
Hague Adoption Convention Country?YES
- Hague Convention Information
WARNING: Latvia is party to the Hague Adoption Convention. Do not adopt or obtain legal custody of a child in Latvia before a U.S. consular officer issues an "Article 5 Letter." See the "How to Adopt" section for more information.
Latvia 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 Latvia and the United States must meet the requirements of the Convention; the U.S. implementing legislation, the Intercountry Act of 2000 (IAA); and the IAA implementing regulations.
Public opposition in Latvia to the adoption of Latvian children by foreigners has contributed to reluctance to reform intercountry adoption procedures, which currently require several extended trips by adoptive parents to Latvia to complete the requirements. In addition, the Latvian government has announced that it will approve applications for intercountry adoption only if the adoptive parents file to adopt a sibling group of three or more children; a child over age 9 ; a child with severe health problems; or a child released for intercountry adoption because he or she has not been adopted by Latvians.
Note: Special transition provisions apply to adoptions initiated before April 1, 2008. Learn more.
- Who Can Adopt
Adoption between the United States and Latvia is governed by the Hague Adoption Convention. Therefore, to adopt from Latvia, you must first be found eligible to adopt by the U.S. government. U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), a Department of Homeland Security component, makes this determination. Learn more.
In addition to U.S. requirements, Latvia has the following requirements for prospective adoptive parents:
- Residency requirements: Parent-child relationship requirement: Latvian adoption law requires that a parent-child relationship be established before the final court decision can be made by the town or city court having jurisdiction over the child. It leaves to each orphan court to decide on a case-by-case basis the period of time required to establish the parent-child relationship. The interpretation of the child-parent relationship among courts may differ. Adoptive parents are advised that orphan courts may require them to take care of the adoptive children and share a household in Latvia for a certain amount of time, not exceeding six months.
- Age requirements: Latvia requires that the adoptive parent is at least 25 years old and at least 18 years older than the adoptive child.
- Marriage requirements: Both single individuals and married couples are eligible to adopt.
- Income requirements: Latvia does not have any income requirements for intercountry adoptions.
- Who Can Be Adopted
Because Latvia is party to the Hague Adoption Convention, children from Latvia must meet the requirements of the Convention in order to be eligible for adoption. For example, the Convention requires that Latvia attempt to place a child with a family in-country before determining that a child is eligible for intercountry adoption. In addition to Latvia's requirements, a child must meet the U.S. definition of a Convention adoptee for you to bring him or her back to the United States.
Learn more about the Convention's requirements for adoptable children.
- How To Adopt
WARNING: Latvia is party to the Hague Adoption Convention. Do not adopt or obtain legal custody of a child in Latvia before a U.S. consular officer issues an "Article 5 Letter." Read on for more information.
Latvia's Adoption Authority
Ministry of Welfare
Because Latvia is party to the Hague Adoption Convention, adopting from Latvia must follow a specific process designed to meet the requirements of the Convention. A brief summary of the Convention process is given below. You must complete these steps in the following order so that your adoption meets the necessary legal requirements.
NOTE: If you filed Forms I-600A (Application of Advance Processing of Orphan Petition) or I-600 (Petition to Classify Orphan as an Immediate Relative) before April 1, 2008, the Hague Adoption Convention may not apply to your case. (If you filed an I-600A, it must have been valid at the time the I-600 was submitted.) The immigration regulations for non-Convention adoptions may apply to your case. Learn more .
- 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 Latvia
- Bring your Child Home
- Choose an Accredited Adoption Service Provider: The first step in adopting a child from Latvia is to select an adoption service provider in the United States that has been accredited. Only these agencies and attorneys can provide adoption services between the United States and Latvia. Learn more.
You must also select a U.S. adoption service provider that has been accredited by the Republic of Latvia. The following providers have received Latvian accreditation:
- About a Child
- Adoption related Services, Inc., Shrewsbury Pennsylvania
- Angel's Haven Outreach
- Great Wall China Adoption/Children of All Nations
- Life Adoption Services, Inc.
- One World Adoption Services, Inc.
- Premier Adoption Agency, Inc.
- The Open Door Adoption Agency, Inc.
- West Sands Adoptions
- World Links International Adoption Agency
Note to adoption service providers seeking accreditation with the Latvian Central Authority: A doption service providers should apply for accreditation with the Ministry of Welfare by submitting a request in the form of a letter with reference to Article 12 of Hague Adoption Convention. Forward the letter with any supporting documents to the Consular Section of the U.S. Embassy in Riga by e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org . U.S. Embassy Riga will then inform the Latvian Central Authority. The Ministry of Welfare will notify the adoption service provider directly of its decision to approve or deny the request.
- Apply to be Found Eligible to Adopt:
After you choose an accredited adoption service provider, file Form I-800A ( Application for Determination of Suitability to Adopt a Child from a Convention Country) with USCIS. Learn how.Once the U.S. government determines you are "eligible" and "suitable" to adopt, you or your agency will forward your information to the adoption authority in Latvia. Latvia's adoption authority will review your application to determine whether you are also eligible to adopt under Latvian law. The Ministry of Welfare reviews all applications and determines whether the applicant is eligible. If the judgment is favorable, the Ministry provides the prospective parents with information on children available for adoption.
- Be Matched with a Child: If both the United States and Latvia determine you are eligible to adopt, and a child is available for intercountry adoption, the Latvian Central Authority 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 and provide a permanent family placement for the referred child. After the prospective parents accept a match, the Ministry issues permission for them to meet the child. The Ministry is informed after the adoptive family has cared for the child for the required time period and the orphan court has established that the adoption would (or would not) be in the child's interests.
- Apply for the Child to be Found Eligible for Adoption:
After you accept a match with a child, you will apply to USCIS for provisional approval to adopt that particular child by filing Form I-800 ( Petition to Classify Convention Adoptee as an Immediate Relative). USCIS will determine whether the child is eligible under U.S. law to be adopted and enter the United States. Learn how.After this, your adoption service provider or you will submit a visa application to a consular officer at U.S. Embassy Riga. The consular officer will review the child's information for possible visa ineligibilities. A visa application at this stage in the process includes: a) immigrant visa application DS-230; b) the child's pre-adoption birth certificate and English translation; c) documents showing how the child was released for intercountry adoption and English translations; d) medical examination results, if available; e) immigrant visa application fee of $404 per applicant. Please go to Section 6 (Bring Your Child Home) for a complete list of the documents required for the final immigrant visa interview date after the court ruling on adoption approval takes effect.
If the consular officer determines that the child appears eligible to immigrate to the United States, he or she will send a letter (an "Article 5 Letter") to the Latvian Central Authority. Do not adopt or obtain custody of a child in Latvia before a U.S. consular officer issues the Article 5 Letter. Learn more.
Remember: The consular officer will make a final decision about the immigrant visa later in the adoption process.
- Adopt the Child (or Obtain Legal Custody) in Latvia:Remember: Before you adopt or obtain legal custody of a child in Latvia, you must have completed the above four steps. Only then can you proceed to finalize the adoption or grant of custody for the purpose of adoption.The process for finalizing the adoption (or obtaining legal custody) in Latvia generally includes the following:
- Role of the Adoption Authority: The Ministry of Welfare is responsible for administering intercountry adoptions. Orphan courts in Latvia carry out functions similar to those of social workers in the United States. The Ministry prepares an adoption approval (or rejection) statement for submission to the town or city court responsible for the final adoption decree. The Ministry's adoption permission is valid for three months.
- Role of the Court: Orphan courts decide whether the birth parents' rights can be terminated; whether an orphan should be placed in an orphanage or whether someone else must be granted custody; and issues related to inheritance rights when a child's parents die. The main purpose of the orphan court session is to establish that the adoption will be in the child's interest and that the required parent-child relationship has been established. Town or city courts approve adoptions by granting full custody of the child to the adoptive parents. Current law provides for a 20-day period before the final court decree takes effect. Thus, the adoptive child is eligible to apply for a post-adoption birth certificate, passport, and immigrant visa only after the court decree becomes effective. After the 20-day period, the Ministry Welfare issues a statement certifying that the adoption has been completed in accordance with the Hague Adoption Convention (Article 23 Certificate).
- Role of Adoption Agencies: Adoption agencies are allowed to represent parents and may do the required translations and file adoption applications at the Ministry. Under current law, however, the adoptive parents are required to personally file applications at orphan courts and participate in the orphan court and final court sessions.
- Time Frame: The time needed to complete an adoption in Latvia from beginning to end varies, but can take from under a year to four years.
- Adoption Fees: There are no Latvian government fees for adoption services. Prospective adoptive parents, however, should be prepared to cover fees related to the translation and certification of documents and the processing of new civil and travel documents for the adopted child.
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. Learn more.
Adoption Application, Required Documents:
After Petition I-800A approval, prospective adoptive parents should file their adoption application with the Ministry of Welfare. Required documents:
- Application including information about the reasons for adoption as well as information about the sex, age range, and religion of the child (children) they are interested in adopting;
- A copy of the parents' marriage certificate, if applicable, under apostille (please see information below about the authentication of documents);
- A copy of any divorce decree (if applicable), under apostille;
- A statement about the family's housing (i.e., size, location, type of residence);
- An autobiography (curriculum vitae);
- Medical statements regarding the health of the family (hereditary illnesses, if any, and any specific illnesses);
- A home study, under apostille, conducted by a U.S. state adoption agency or a private organization licensed to perform such studies. Home studies must be current in order for the adoption application to considered. Extensions of home study approval should be forwarded to the Ministry for applications to remain valid;
- A police clearance statement under apostille.
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.
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 three documents for your child before he or she can travel to the United States:
You will first need to apply for a new birth certificate for your child, so that you can later apply for a passport. Your name will be added to the new birth certificate.
Your child is not yet a U.S. citizen, so he or she will need a travel document or passport from Latvia.
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 U.S. Embassy for him or her. 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. Immigrant visa applications for adopted children are processed by U.S. Embassy Riga. Please schedule the immigrant visa appointment with U.S. Embassy Riga in a timely manner by calling 371-6710-7034 or e-mailing email@example.com. The immigrant visa allows your child to travel home with you.
As part of this process, the consular officer must be provided with the panel physician's medical report on the child if it was not provided during the provisional approval stage. The medical examination process must be completed before the immigrant visa appointment. The medical examination and laboratory tests may only be done at the address given below. Each applicant will be required to show his or her passport as identification at each step of the medical process. Please bring one photo of the child to the medical exam. This photo will be attached to the medical examination form and submitted to the Embassy. Medical examinations performed by anyone other than the Embassy panel physician listed below are not accepted.
All applicants 15 years or older must have a full chest X-ray taken at one of the authorized laboratories and a blood test for syphilis and HIV infection. Before leaving the X-ray lab, please make sure the following information is imprinted on the X-ray: first and last name; passport number; date the X-ray was taken; and the name of the X-ray lab. Applicants 15 years or older must bring the chest X-ray and the results of the blood tests with them to the doctor. The chest X-ray must be taken to the United States. Immigrant visa applicants under age 15 do not need a chest X-ray or blood tests.
Results of the medical examination are valid for one year from the date of examination. Children 14 years or younger must be accompanied to the medical exam by an adopting parent or guardian. The panel physician has the necessary forms in her office. At the conclusion of the examination, the doctor completes several forms and hands them to the parents in a sealed envelope to be delivered to the Embassy at the time of the final interview.
U.S. law requires immigrant visa applicants to obtain certain vaccinations (listed below) prior to the issuance of the immigrant visa. Panel physicians who conduct medical examinations on behalf of immigrant visa applicants must verify they have met the vaccination requirement, or that it is medically inappropriate for the visa applicant to receive one or more of these vaccinations:
- Tetanus and Diphtheria Toxoids
- Influenza Type B (HIB)
- Hepatitis B
- Hepatitis A
To assist the panel physician and to avoid processing delays, immigrant visa applicants should have their vaccination records available for the panel physician's review during the medical exam. Visa applicants should consult with their regular health care provider to obtain a copy of their immunization record, if available. If you do not have a vaccination record for your newly adopted child, the panel physician will work with you to determine which vaccinations the child may need to meet the recommendation.
Certain waivers of the vaccination requirement are available upon the panel physician's recommendation. Only a physician can determine which of the listed vaccinations are medically appropriate, given the age, medical history, and current medical condition of the visa applicant. The vaccination requirement can be postponed for children 10 and younger if an adopting parent signs an affidavit prior to the child's arrival in the United States attesting that, within 30 days of the child's admission to the United States or at the earliest time that is medically appropriate, the child will receive the required vaccinations. This affidavit must be completed on the Department of State form and must be notarized, which the consular officer can do at the time of the visa interview. The vaccination requirement, however, may not be postponed for children adopted pursuant to Hague Adoption Convention.
The per-person fee for a physical exam in Latvia for applicants under 15 years of age will not exceed 90 Latvian lats (about $200). For applicants 15 years of age and over, the exam fee will not exceed 100 Latvian lats (about $220). An extra fee will be charged for any required additional tests, such as for the bacteriological examination of sputum, X-ray and radiology consult, or for additional vaccinations as recommended by the panel physician. In Latvia there is one panel physician authorized to conduct medical exams for U.S. immigrant visa applicants, including children adopted by American parents.
Livija Caune, MD
2 Elizabetes St. (1 st Floor)
Riga, Latvia , LV1010
Tel. 371-6732-1980 or 371-2913-9115
In Dr. Caune's absence, adoptive parents can have the medical exam completed by one of the panel physicians designated by U.S. embassies in neighboring countries:
Dr. Anneli Kalle-Talvik at Narva mnt 7/1, 3 rd floor, Tallinn, Estonia, tel: 372-661-6036; fax: 372-661-6038;
Dr. Richard J. Cervin at private clinic "Medicina Generalis", Gedimino ave. 1-19, Vilnius, Lithuania, tel: 370-5261-3534, 370-684-33100.
Documents required at the time of the final visa interview:
- USCIS confirmation of an approved and valid I-800A (or I-600A if filed before April 1, 2008);
- USCIS confirmation of a valid fingerprint clearance;
Completed I-800 (or I-600 if filed before April 1, 2008) petition, with original signatures by both adopting parents. These forms can be downloaded from the USCIS Web site ( http://www.uscis.gov);
- Immigrant visa application (Forms DS-230 Part I and II), signed by one parent on behalf of the child, in the presence of a consular officer. Information on the form should pertain to the child, not the adopting parents. These forms can be downloaded from our Web site at http://www.travel.state.gov;
- Two color photographs, square 5x5 cm, front view of the child's face, with a white or light background;
Results of the child's immigrant visa physical examination, including a vaccination report. The adoptive parent(s) may present a signed and notarized Form DS-1981 ( Affidavit Concerning Exemption from Immigrant Vaccination Requirements for a Foreign Adopted Child) if any vaccinations are missing. The form may be signed by either of the adopting parents and notarized by a U.S. consular officer or U.S. notary public. This form may be used only for children 10 years of age and younger;
- An Affidavit of Acknowledgement of Health Problems of Adopted Child. Both parents' signatures must be notarized and may be done in the presence of a U.S. consular officer or U.S. notary public. Please make sure to include all health problems that are listed in the adoption court decree and child's medical history (if available);
- The final adoption decree, declaring that the court has ordered the child's complete and unconditional adoption (original and one copy with English translation);
- Official statement by the Ministry of Welfare indicating that the adoption has been finalized in Latvia and the court ruling has become effective (Article 23 Certificate);
- Certified copy of the child's pre-adoption birth certificate (with English translation);
- The child's complete, new (post-adoption) birth certificate, listing the adoptive parents as the parents (original and one copy with English translation);
- Court records pertaining to the disposition of the birth parents' rights, including, if applicable, the fact that an unacknowledged father has no parental rights (original and one copy with English translation);
- If applicable, records of the child's stay in an orphanage (with English translation);
- Original passports for the adoptive parent applying for the child's immigrant visa;
- The child's original Latvian passport issued in the child's new name;
- Immigrant visa fee of $404. This fee may be paid with clean, unmarked U.S. dollars, Latvian lats equivalent at the Embassy's exchange rate, or Visa or MasterCard credit cards with proof of identification;
Form I-864W ( Intending Immigrant's Affidavit of Support Exemption) plus a copy of the most recent year's federal tax return Form I-864 ( Affidavit of Support) should be used if the adoption will be finalized in the United States;
- Police clearance letter issued by the Information Center of the Latvian Ministry of Interior for children age 16 or over.
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 a lawful permanent resident.
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 important to take the required steps so he or she qualifies as soon as possible. Failure to obtain citizenship for your child can impact many areas of his or her life including family travel, eligibility for education and education grants, and voting. Learn more about the Child Citizenship Act.
After adoption your child also remains a citizen of Latvia until Latvian citizenship is officially renounced, usually at age 18, if your child decides to do so. You should maintain contact with the Embassy of Latvia in the United States at 2306 Massachusetts Avenue NW, Washington, DC 20008, tel: 202- 328-2840, fax: 202-328-2860, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. When your child approaches 18, inquire about the procedures for either renouncing Latvian citizenship or renewing his or her Latvian passport. Note that dual nationals owe allegiance to both the United States and the foreign country. They are required to obey the laws of both countries. Either country has the right to enforce its laws, particularly if the person later travels there. Most U.S. citizens, including dual nationals, must use a U.S. passport to enter and leave the United States. Dual nationals may also be required by the foreign country to use its passport to enter and leave that country. Use of the foreign passport does not endanger U.S. citizenship. Most countries permit a person to renounce or otherwise lose citizenship.
- Traveling Abroad
Applying for Your U.S. Passport
A valid U.S. passport is required to enter and leave Latvia. 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 may 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 the foreign nation.
To find information about Latvian visa requirements, see the Department of State's Country Specific Information.
Staying Safe on Your Trip
Before you travel, investigate the local conditions, laws, political landscape, and culture of the country. The Department of State is a good place to start.
The Department of State provides Country Specific Information for every country in the world on 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 abroad, registration assists the relevant U.S. embassy or consulate in reaching you. Registration is free and can be done online.
- After Adoption
What does Latvia require of adoptive parents after the adoption?
If the adoptive parents and the child continue to reside in Latvia, the orphan court having jurisdiction over the child's place of residence will monitor the adopted child's well-being for the first two years after the adoption's finalization.
If the adoptive parents and the child reside overseas, the Ministry requires post-adoption reports on the adopted child for two years after the adoption (one a year). The reports should be conducted by appropriate child welfare officials in the state where the child resides.
We strongly urge you to comply with the wish of Latvia and complete all post-adoption requirements in a timely manner. Your adoption agency may be able to help you with this. Your cooperation will contribute to the 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
Latvian Adoption Authority
Adoption Division, Department of Out-of-Family Care
Ministry of Welfare
28 Skolas St. Riga, LV-1010
Embassy of Latvia
2306 Massachusetts Avenue NW
Washington, DC 20008
*Latvia also has honorary consuls in several U.S. states.
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 intercountry adoption and related immigration procedures, call the USCIS National Benefits Center (NBC) 1-877-3424-8374