LatviaLast Updated: November 2013
Hague Adoption Convention Country?YES
- Hague Convention Information
Latvia is party to the Hague Convention on Protection of Children and Co-operation in Respect of Intercountry Adoption (Hague Adoption Convention). Intercountry adoption processing in Hague countries is done in accordance with the requirements of the Convention; the U.S. implementing legislation, the Intercountry Adoption Act of 2000 (IAA); and the IAA’s implementing regulations, as well as the implementing legislation and regulations of Latvia.
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.
General public concern regarding adoption of Latvian children by foreigners contributes 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. Read about Transition Cases.
U.S. IMMIGRATION REQUIREMENTS FOR INTERCOUNTRY ADOPTIONS
To bring an adopted child to the United States from Latvia, 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 Convention adoptee under U.S. law in order to immigrate to the United States on an IH-3 or IH-4 immigrant visa.
- Who Can Adopt
In addition to the U.S. requirements, prospective adoptive parents need to meet Latvia’s requirements to adopt a child from Latvia:
- Residency: Prospective adoptive parents who are dual-nationals having both Latvian and U.S. citizenship and residency are advised to follow the Hague Adoption Convention process requirements set forth below. By doing so, you will enable your adopted child to immigrate to the United States and become a U.S. citizen immediately after adoption. If you adopt a child in Latvia as Latvian citizens and residents through a domestic Latvian adoption process without advance U.S. government approval for adoption under the Hague Adoption Convention, be aware that your adoptive child will not immediately be eligible for U.S. immigration and citizenship benefits. Your child will qualify for a U.S. immigration benefit only after you can demonstrate that the adoption took place before the child’s 16th birthday and that he/she has lived in your legal and physical custody outside the United States for at least two years. Please see uscis.gov for immediate relative petition (Petition For Alien Relative Form I-130) and application for expeditious naturalization (Application for Citizenship and Issuance of Certificate Under Section 322 Form N-600K) filing requirements.
- Age of Adopting Parents: Latvia requires that the adoptive parent is at least 25 years old and at least 18 years older than the adoptive child.
- Marriage: Married couples, as well as single individuals, are eligible to adopt. Please note that Latvia does not recognize same-sex marriages.
- Income: Latvia does not have any income requirements for intercountry adoptions.
- Other: 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 may differ among courts. Adoptive parents are advised that orphan courts may require them to take care of the adoptive children and share a household in Latvia for up to six months to establish that the parent-child relationship exists and authorize adoptive parents to finalize the adoption.
- Who Can Be Adopted
As 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 adoption may take place only if the competent authorities of Latvia have determined that placement of the child within Latvia has been given due consideration and that an intercountry adoption is in the child’s best interests. In addition to Latvia’s requirements, a child must meet the definition of Convention adoptee to be eligible for an immigrant visa that will allow you to bring him or her to the United States.
- 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” for the case. Read below for more information.
Latvia's Adoption Authority
Ministry of Welfare
Note: If any of the following occurred prior to April 1, 2008 (the date on which the Hague Adoption Convention entered into force with respect to the United States), the Hague Adoption Convention may not apply to your adoption: 1) you filed a Form I-600A identifying Latvia as the country where you intended to adopt; 2) you filed a Form I-600 or; 3) the adoption was completed. Under these circumstances, your adopted child’s visa application could continue to be processed in accordance with the immigration regulations for non-Convention adoptions.
Because Latvia is party to the Hague Adoption Convention, adopting from Latvia 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 for your adoption to meet all necessary legal requirements. Adoptions completed out of order may result in the child not being eligible for an immigrant visa to the United States.
- Choose a U.S. accredited or approved adoption service provider
- Apply to USCIS to be found eligible to adopt
- Be matched with a child by authorities in Latvia
- Apply to USCIS for the child to be found eligible for immigration to the United States and receive U.S. agreement to proceed with the adoption
- Adopt a child in Latvia
- Obtain a U.S. immigrant visa for your child and bring your child home
- Choose a U.S. Accredited or Approved Adoption Service Provider:
The recommended first step in adopting a child from Latvia is to select an adoption service provider in the United States that has been accredited or approved to provide services to U.S. citizens in Convention cases. Only accredited or approved adoption services providers may act as the primary provider in your case. The primary adoption service provider is responsible for ensuring that all adoption services in the case are done in accordance with The Hague Adoption Convention and U.S. laws and regulations. Learn more about Agency Accreditation.
You must also select a U.S. adoption service provider that is accredited by the Republic of Latvia. A list of the providers that have received Latvian accreditation is posted on the U.S. Embassy’s website http://riga.usembassy.gov/adoption2/providers.html
Note to adoption service providers seeking accreditation with the Latvian Central Authority:
Adoption 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.
- Apply to USCIS to be Found Eligible to Adopt:
After you choose an accredited or approved adoption service provider, you must apply to be found eligible to adopt by the responsible U.S. government agency, the Department of Homeland Security, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), by submitting Form I-800A. Read more about Eligibility Requirements.
Once USCIS determines that you are “eligible” and “suited” to adopt by approving the Form I-800A, your adoption service provider will provide your approval notice, home study, and any other required information to the Ministry of Welfare in Latvia as part of your adoption dossier. The Ministry will review your application to determine whether you are also eligible to adopt under Latvian law.
- Be Matched with a Child in Latvia:
If both the United States and Latvia determine that you are eligible to adopt, and the Ministry of Welfare, Central Authority for Convention adoptions has determined that a child is available for adoption and that intercountry adoption is in that child’s best interests, the Ministry may provide you with a referral for a child. The referral is a proposed match between you and a specific child based on a review of your dossier and the needs of a specific child in Latvia. The Ministry will provide a background study and other information, if available, about the child to help you decide whether to accept the referral or not. Each family must decide for itself whether or not it will be able to meet the needs and provide a permanent home for a particular child. If you accept the referral, the adoption service provider communicates that to the Ministry of Welfare in Latvia. Learn more about this critical decision.
- Apply to USCIS for the Child to be Found Eligible for Immigration to the United States and Receive U.S. Agreement to Proceed with the Adoption:
After you accept a match with a child, you will apply to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) for provisional approval for the child to immigrate to the United States (Form I-800). USCIS will make a provisional determination as to whether the child meets the definition of a Convention Adoptee and will be eligible to enter the United States and reside permanently as an immigrant.
After provisional approval of Form I-800, the U.S. Embassy in Latvia will request that your adoption service provider submit a visa application to its Consular Section, which is responsible for issuing immigrant visas to children from Latvia. Click here for an immigrant visa application document checklist: http://riga.usembassy.gov/ih3visas-checklist.html. Please ensure that your adoption service provider has the listed pre-adoption documents readily available for presentation to the U.S. Embassy. A consular officer will review the Form I-800 and the visa application for possible visa ineligibilities and advise you of possible options for the waiver of any noted ineligibilities.
WARNING: The consular officer determines that the child appears eligible to immigrate to the United States and will send a letter (referred to as an “Article 5 Letter”) to the Ministry of Welfare in any intercountry adoption involving U.S. citizen parents and a child from Latvia where all Convention requirements are met. This letter will inform the Ministry that the parents are eligible and suited to adopt, that all indications are that the child may enter and reside permanently in the United States, and that the U.S. Central Authority agrees that the adoption may proceed.
Do not attempt to adopt or obtain custody of a child in Latvia before a U.S. consular officer issues the Article 5 Letter in any adoption case.
Remember: The consular officer will make a final decision about a child’s eligibility for an immigrant visa later in the adoption process.
- Adoption of Child in Latvia:
Remember: Before you adopt a child in Latvia, you must have completed the above four steps. Only after completing these steps, can you proceed finalize the adoption for the purposes of adoption in Latvia.
The process for finalizing the adoption in Latvia generally includes the following:
- Role of 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: The main purpose of the orphan court session is to establish that the adoption will be in the child’s best interests and that the required parent-child relationship has been established. 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. 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 may take about one year.
- Adoption Application: After Petition I-800A approval, prospective adoptive parents should file their adoption application with the Ministry of Welfare.
- 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. These costs are determined by the government of Latvia, and are subject to change.
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.
In most cases, Latvian accredited adoption service providers will collect all required fees and, during the adoption process, use the collected amount to pay the involved entities. While there are no fees collected by the Ministry of Welfare, adoptive parents should be aware about the following local fees:
- Twenty (20.00) Ls (about $40.00) for expedited Latvian passport processing fee per person;
- Ten (10.00) Ls (about $20.00) for local document Apostille certification by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (see below section on authentication of documents);
- Thirty (30.00) Ls (about $60.00) for court application fee;
- Five (5.00) Ls (about $10.00) for copy of court ruling certified by the relevant court;
- Translation and notary costs differ from a case to case depending on the volume of documentation;
- Click here for information on U.S. immigrant visa application and medical examination fees. http://riga.usembassy.gov/ih3visas-checklist.html.
- Documents Required: Required documents include: Application including information about the reasons for adoption as well as information about the sex, age range, and religion of the child (or children) you are interested in adopting;
- A copy of your 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 your housing (i.e., size, location, type of residence);
- An autobiography (or curriculum vitae) for each parent;
- Medical statements regarding the health of the family (hereditary illnesses, if any, and any specific illnesses);
- 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.
- Authentication of Documents: Please note that Latvia requires document certification under apostille for documents originating in the United States. Click here for more information on this process: http://riga.usembassy.gov/notary.html
- Obtain an Immigrant Visa for your Child and Bring Your Child Home
Now that your adoption is complete there are a few more steps to take before you can head home. You should make sure that you have appointments confirmed with the below listed agencies before you acquire your travel tickets. Specifically, you need to apply for three documents before your child can travel to the United States:
If you have finalized the adoption in Latvia you will firstneed to apply for a birth certificate for your child so that you can later apply for a passport.
The local representative of your Latvia-accredited adoption services provider will assist you with filing an application for your child’s post-adoption birth certificate with Civil Registry of the Ministry of Justice. If the court approving your adoption application authorized child’s name change, the post-adoption birth certificate will list the child’s new name in Latvian and English and you will be listed as child’s parent(s).
Your child is not yet a U.S. citizen, so he/she will need a travel document or passport from Latvia.
The local representative of your Latvia-accredited adoption services provider will assist you with filing an application for your child's post-adoption passport with Office of Citizenship and Migration Affairs of the Ministry of Interior. To ensure that your travel plans are not delayed you may request expeditious one day passport processing at the cost of 20.00 Ls (about $40.00) per person.
U.S. Immigrant Visa
After you obtain the new birth certificate and passport for your child, you also need to finalize your application for a U.S. visa for your child from the U.S. Embassy in Latvia. After the adoption is granted, confirm your visit to the U.S. Embassy for final review of the case, issuance of a U.S. Hague Adoption Certificate, final approval of Form I-800, and to obtain your child’s immigrant visa. 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. Read more about the Medical Examination.
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.
- Traveling Abroad
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 Latvia
In addition to a U.S. passport, you may 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 affixed to your passport and allow you to enter a foreign nation. To find information about obtaining a visa for Latvia 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 Latvia enrollment assists the U.S. Embassy in reaching you.
Enrollment is free and can be done online via the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP).
- After Adoption
Post-Adoption/Post-Placement Reporting Requirements
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 Latvia’s 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 U.S. citizen parents
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.
- Contact Information
Latvian Adoption Authority
Children and Family Policy Department
Ministry of Welfare
28 Skolas St., Riga, Latvia, LV-1331
U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS)
For questions about immigration procedures:
National Customer Service Center (NCSC)
Tel: 1-800-375-5283 (TTY 1-800-767-1833)
For questions about filing a Form I-800A or I-800 petition:
National Benefits Center
Tel: 1-877-424-8374 (toll free); 1-816-251-2770 (local)