Malawi

Last Updated: August 2012

Hague Adoption Convention Country?

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Hague Convention Information

Malawi is not party to the Hague Convention on Protection of Children and Co-operation in Respect of Intercountry Adoption(the 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).

The Malawi Adoption of Children Act of 1949 does not address intercountry adoptions and courts have wide discretion on how they handle adoptions.  Although a May 9, 2009, Malawi Supreme Court decision gave courts more leeway in granting adoptions for foreign adoptive parents, the decision has not resulted in a permanent change to the country's intercountry adoption laws or regulations.  The courts in Malawi assess each case individually, taking into consideration the circumstances of the prospective adoptive child.  The May 9, 2009, Supreme Court decision did, however, set aside the requirement that prospective adoptive parents live in Malawi and foster a child for a period between 18 and 24 months before an adoption is granted.

U.S. IMMIGRATION REQUIREMENTS FOR INTERCOUNTRY ADOPTIONS

To bring an adopted child to the United States from Malawi, you must meet eligibility and suitability requirements.  The U.S. Department of Homeland Security, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) determine Who Can Adopt under U.S. immigration law.

Additionally, a child must meet the definition of orphan under U.S. law in order to be eligible to immigrate to the United States on an IR-3 or IR-4 immigrant visa.

Who Can Adopt

In addition to these U.S. requirements for prospective adoptive parents, Malawi also has the following requirements for prospective adoptive parents:

  • RESIDENCY REQUIREMENTS: In a May 2009 Malawi Supreme Court decision, the Court determined that an adoption may be granted to foreign adopting parents so long as the parent(s) are not temporary visitors to Malawi and have a serious commitment or connection to Malawi. This decision effectively set aside the informal practice of requiring foreign adopting parents to foster the prospective orphan for a period of 18 months. (Note: this former practice was never set forth in Malawi law or regulation). While the Ministry of Gender, Child, and Community Development has not promulgated a written policy implementing the May 2009 Supreme Court decision, we have observed that lower court judges are issuing adoption decrees to foreign adopting parents which adhere to the Supreme Court decision.

    Note: In all cases, prospective adoptive parent(s) should consult with an experienced Malawi attorney for more information.
  • AGE REQUIREMENTS: Prospective adoptive parent(s) must be at least 25 years old and at least 21 years older than the prospective adoptive child.
  • MARRIAGE: Both married and single persons may adopt. An adoption order shall not be made in any case where the sole applicant is male and the child is a female unless the court is satisfied that there are special circumstances, which justify the exception.
  • INCOME REQUIREMENTS: None.
  • OTHER REQUIREMENTS: No guidance or regulation regarding gay and lesbian adoption, and/or adoption by same-sex couples.
Who Can Be Adopted

In addition to U.S. immigration requirements, Malawi has specific requirements that a child must meet in order to be eligible for adoption:

  • Relinquishment:  Adoption cannot take place without the consent of every person who is a parent or guardian, has custody of, or is likely to contribute to the support of the prospective adoptive child.
  • Abandonment:  If the birth parent(s) or other legal guardian(s) are unable to care for the child, the child may be classified as an orphan by Malawi authorities.
  • Age of Adoptive Child:  The prospective adoptive child must be less than 18 years oldPlease note that in order for a child to meet the definition of orphan under U.S. immigration law, a Form I-600 petition must be filed while the child is under the age of 16 (or under the age of 18 if adopted or to be adopted together with a natural sibling under the age of 16).
  • Sibling Adoptions:  Adoption of twins is permissible.  There are no specific laws or regulations that relate to the adoption of siblings.
  • Special Needs or Medical Conditions:  None.
  • Waiting Period or Foster Care:  There is no specific waiting period.

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 because of financial or other hardship, with the intention of returning for the child when they are able to do so.  In such cases, the birth parent(s) rarely would have relinquished their parental rights or consented to their child(ren)'s adoption.

How To Adopt

Malawi's Adoption Authority

Ministry of Gender, Child and Community Development

The Process

The process for adopting a child from Malawi generally includes 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 the Child in Malawi
  5. Apply for the Child to be Found Eligible for Adoption
  6. Bring Your Child Home
  1. Choose an Adoption Service Provider

    The recommended first step in adopting a child from Malawi is to decide whether or not to use a licensed adoption service provider in the United States that can help you with your adoption.  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 agencies in Malawi.  Most prospective adoptive parents hire a Malawian attorney to assist them in navigating the adoption process and because an attorney is needed to complete all adoption paperwork with the court.  For information regarding home studies, prospective adoptive parents in Malawi should contact the Ministry of Gender, Child and Community Development at Private Bag 330 Lilongwe 3 or Telephone 01-770-411.  Prospective adoptive parents in the U.S. can normally use their I-600A home study for adoption purposes in Malawi.

    The U.S. Embassy in Lilongwe maintains a list of English-speaking attorneys in Malawi on its website.

  2. Apply to be Found Eligible to Adopt

    To adopt a child from Malawi, you will need to meet the requirements of the Government of Malawi and U.S. immigration law.  You must submit an application to be found eligible to adopt to the Ministry of Gender, Child and Community Development of Malawi.

    To meet U.S. immigration requirements, you may also 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

    If you are eligible to adopt, and a child is available for intercountry adoption, the Ministry of Gender, Child and Community Development can provide you with a child referral if you are unable to identify a child on your own.  Prospective adoptive parent(s) often identify a child for adoption through local churches, orphanages, hospitals, or missions.  The child must be eligible to be adopted according to Malawi's requirements, as described in the Who Can Be Adopted section.  The child must also meet the definition of orphan under U.S. immigration law. 

  4. Adopt the Child (or Gain Legal Custody) in-country

    The process for finalizing the adoption (or gaining legal custody) in Malawi generally includes the following:
    • ROLE OF AUTHORITY: Although the Ministry of Gender, Child and Community Development oversees the adoption process, the High Court will make the final decision regarding a specific adoption.
    • ROLE OF THE COURT: After an adoption petition is filed with the Magistrate’s Court, the Magistrate’s Court chooses a social worker to be the prospective adoptive child’s guardian ad litem.  The guardian ad litem investigates the prospective adoptive child’s social history and monitors the prospective adoptive family for a specified period, after which the guardian ad litem submits a Court Social Report (home study) to the High Court.  Upon receipt of the report, the High Court rules on whether or not the adoption can be finalized.  (Embassy Lilongwe has seen the requirement that the guardian ad litem monitor the prospective adoptive parents waived in a few adoption cases where the prospective adoptive parents live abroad.)

    • ROLE OF ADOPTION AGENCIES: None; there are no adoption agencies in Malawi. Many prospective adoptive parents use an attorney instead.

    • ADOPTION APPLICATION: There is no adoption application. Prospective adoptive parents should contact the Ministry of Gender, Child and Community Development to let the Ministry know of their interest in adopting a Malawian child (see Contact Information).

    • TIME FRAME: It normally takes two to six months to complete the adoption process from start to finish, including the investigation by the guardian ad litem of the child’s eligibility for adoption and the prospective adoptive parents’ eligibility to adopt the child.

    • ADOPTION FEES: On average, depending on the complexity of the case, attorneys fees range between Malawi Kwacha (MK) 60,000 and 85,000 (U.S. $350 and $500).  Court filing fees and Registrar fees for the new birth certificate are under five dollars.  The Malawian passport fee is approximately MK 15,000 (U.S. $89).  Informally, Ministry officials have indicated that an offer to pay per diem and travel expenses for the guardian ad litem can speed the process.

    • DOCUMENTS REQUIRED: Malawi adoptions are governed by the Adoption of the Children Act (CHAP. 26:01 of the laws of Malawi). Documents required when seeking to adopt include:

      • Proof of Identity and Nationality of the adoptive parents
      • A completed U.S. home study and Malawi Court Social Report;
      • Proof that the child is eligible for adoption
      • Consent of every person who is either the birth parent or legal guardian of, or has custody or is likely to contribute to the support of, the prospective adoptive child;
      • Evidence of residency status in Malawi (see Residency Requirements above)

      NOTE: Additional documents may be requested.

    • AUTHENTICATION OF DOCUMENTS:You may be asked to provide proof that a document from the United States is authentic.  If so, the Department of State, Authentications Office may be able to assist.

  5. Apply for the Child to be Found Eligible for Adoption

    After you finalize the adoption (or gain legal custody) in Malawi, the Department of Homeland Security, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services must determine whether the child meets the definition of orphan under U.S. law.  You will need to file a Form I-600, Petition to Classify Orphan as an Immediate Relative.

  6. Bring Your Child Home

    Once your adoption is complete (or you have obtained legal custody of the child), you need to apply for several documents for your child before you can apply for a U.S. immigrant visa to bring your child home to the United States:

    • Birth Certificate
      If you have finalized the adoption in Malawi you will first need to apply for a new birth certificate for your child.  Your name will be added to the new birth certificate.

      If you have been granted custody for the purpose of adopting the child in the United States, the birth certificate you obtain will, in most cases, not yet include your name.

      After the child has been legally adopted, the adoptive parent(s) can apply for the child's birth certificate.  The responsible office for birth records in Malawi is the Registrar General's Office in Blantyre.  The Registrar General's Office is under the Ministry of Justice.  Please note that it can take two to three weeks to obtain a birth certificate once the application is submitted.

      Physical address of the Registrar General's Office:
      Fatima Arcade
      Opposite ESCOM House
      Haile Selasie Road
      Blantyre

      Mailing address of the Registrar's Office:
      P.O. Box 100
      Blantyre
      Tel:  01-824-355

      Documents to submit when requesting a birth certificate:

      Documents to submit when requesting a birth certificate:

      • Completed birth certificate application;
      • Original adoption order from a Malawi court;
      • Adoptive parent(s) proof of citizenship (e.g. passport);
      • Birth certificate application fee of MK 200 ($2.00).
    • Malawi Passport

      Your child is not yet a U.S. citizen, so he/she will need a travel document or passport from Malawi.  The Department of Immigration under the Ministry of Home Affairs is the government entity responsible for passport application processing and issuance.  There are two passport centers in Malawi:

      Physical address of the Regional Immigration Office:
      Old Town
      Opposite PVHO/Behind CFAO Malawi
      Off Paul Kagame Road

      Mailing address of the Regional Immigration Office:
      P.O. Box 1272
      Lilongwe

      Tel:  01-759-270

      Physical address of Immigration Department Headquarters:
      Malawi Immigration Department Headquarters
      New Government Building Complex

      Mailing address of Immigration Department Headquarters:
      P.O. Box 331
      Blantyre 3

      Tel:  01-823-77

      Documents to submit when requesting a Malawi passport:

      • Completed Malawi passport application form
      • Adopted child's birth certificate
      • Two recent passport photographs of the adopted child
      • Original Adoption Order from a Malawi Court
      • Passport application fee of MK 15,100.00 (U.S. $100.00)
    • U.S. Immigrant Visa

      After you obtain the new birth certificate and passport for your child and you have filed Form I-600, Petition to Classify Orphan as an Immediate Relative, you then need to apply for an U.S. immigrant visa for your child from the United States Embassy in Lilongwe.  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.

      You can find instructions for applying for an immigrant visa on Embassy Lilongwe's website.

    • Hours for immigrant visa processing are Tuesday and Thursday by appointment only.

      Please call the Consular Section at 01-773-166 to schedule an appointment. The Embassy recommends that adoptive parents plan to be in the Lilongwe, Malawi area for several days and advises parents not to make firm travel plans until they have their adopted child's immigrant visa in hand.

      The following documents are required to process an immigrant visa at U.S. Embassy Lilongwe:

      • Approved Form I-600 petition;
      • Adopted child's birth certificate;
      • Adopted child's Malawi passport;
      • Four passport photographs (2 inches by 2 inches) of the adopted child
      • Completed DS-260 Part I and Part II forms for the adopted child;
      • Completed forms DS-2054, DS-3025, DS-3026, and DS-3030 (medical examination forms completed by U.S. Embassy Lilongwe certified panel physician);
      • Completed and signed form I-864-W, Affidavit of Support (no U.S. tax returns required)
    • Note: additional documents may be requested at the consular officer’s discretion.

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.

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 Malawi

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 Malawi, 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 Malawi, 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).

After Adoption

There are no post-adoption reporting requirements for Malawi.

Post-Adoption Resources
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:

Note:  Inclusion of non-U.S. Government links does not imply endorsement of contents.

Contact Information

U.S. Embassy in Malawi

Embassy of the United States of America
Area 40, Plot 24
16th Jomo Kenyatta Road
P.O; Box 30016
Lilongwe 3
Tel:  265-773-166
Fax:  265-774-976
Email:  ConsularLilong@state.gov
Internet:  lilongwe.usembassy.gov

Malawi's Adoption Authority

Mrs. H. Kulemeka/Director of Women and Child Development
Ministry of Women, Child and Child Development
Gemini House
Private Bag 330
Lilongwe 3
Tel:  (265) 1-770-411

Mr. Simon Chisale/Acting Deputy Director Child Development Affairs (currently working on a part-time basis)
Ministry of Gender, Child and Community Services
Gemini House
Private Bag 330
Lilongwe 3
Tel:  (265) 01-770-411

Mr. C. Jeke/Deputy Director Child Development Affairs
Ministry of Gender, Child and Community Development
Gemini House
Private Bag 330
Lilongwe 3
Tel:  (265) 01-770-411

Mrs. Mary Khonje/Senior Social Welfare Officer
Ministry of Women and Child Development
Gemini House
Private Bag 330
Lilongwe 3
Tel:  (265) 1-770-411

Embassy of Malawi
Embassy of the Republic of Malawi
2408 Massachusetts Avenue N.W.
Washington, DC  20008
Tel:  (202) 797-1007

Office of Children’s Issues
U.S. Department of State  
CA/OCS/CI  
SA-17, 9th Floor
Washington, DC 20522-1709
Tel:  1-888-407-4747
Email:  AskCI@state.gov
Internet:  adoption.state.gov

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)
Internet:   uscis.gov

For questions about filing a Form I-600A or I-600 petition:
National Benefits Center
Tel:   1-877-424-8374 (toll free); 1-816-251-2770 (local)
Email:  NBC.Adoptions@DHS.gov