NicaraguaLast Updated: May 2010
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- Hague Convention Information
Nicaragua 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 Nicaragua did not change.
Nicaraguan law does not allow for a Nicaraguan child to travel to the United States to be adopted. Therefore, prospective adoptive parents must obtain a full and final adoption under Nicaraguan law before the child can immigrate to the United States. Prospective adoptive parents can expect a lengthy process to adopt a child in Nicaragua.
Important Notice: The adoption process in Nicaragua is lengthy and fraught with delays and uncertainty. The entire adoption process - when successful - can take two to three years, with twelve to eighteen months of that processing requiring the adoptive parent's physical presence in Nicaragua.
Nicaraguan law does not allow for a Nicaraguan child to travel to the United States to be adopted. Therefore, prospective adoptive parent(s) must obtain a full and final adoption under Nicaraguan law before the child can immigrate to the United States.
Please note that Nicaraguan adoption law requires a three- to six-month fostering period that must take place in Nicaragua. During this time, prospective adoptive parent(s) are expected to live with and care for the child in Nicaragua. Nicaraguan law prioritizes adoptions by Nicaraguan citizens, meaning that Nicaraguan parent(s) willing and eligible to adopt a child might jump to the head of the queue in front of non-Nicaraguans who may have already been waiting months to adopt a child. If adopting more than one child, be sure all paperwork is filed simultaneously. If not, delays will occur.
The Nicaraguan Ministry of the Family has a history of abrupt staffing changes and requesting documents from adoptive parents not initially required as part of the process. It is strongly suggested that prospective adoptive parent(s) hire a Nicaraguan attorney to assist them in keeping their adoption case on track. Few Nicaraguan government officials speak English. Please see below for a list of attorneys registered with the U.S. Embassy in Managua.
- Who Can Adopt
To bring an adopted child to the United States from Nicaragua, you must first be found eligible to adopt by the U.S. Government. The U.S. Government agency responsible for making this determination is U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). Learn more.
In addition to U.S. requirements for prospective adoptive parent(s), Nicaragua also has the following eligibility requirements:
- RESIDENCY REQUIREMENTS: Prospective adoptive parent(s) must either be Nicaraguan citizens, have a permanent residence in Nicaragua and plan to remain in Nicaragua until the child reaches 21 years of age, or be U.S. citizens with approved I-600A or I-600 forms.
- AGE REQUIREMENTS: Officially, prospective adoptive parent(s) must be between 25 and 40 years of age. However, the Ministry of the Family has been known to be flexible on this requirement on a case-by-case basis.
- MARRIAGE REQUIREMENTS: Both singles and married couples are eligible to adopt. However, the process can be significantly longer for single parent(s).
- Who Can Be Adopted
Nicaragua has specific requirements that a child must meet in order to be eligible for adoption. Generally, the child must not have living parent(s) or extended family members willing to provide care. For example, if a child is living with an aunt and uncle, no matter how dire the financial situation, that child is not an orphan under Nicaraguan law and may not be an orphan under U.S. law either. Please contact Nicaragua's Ministry of the Family should you require more details on what qualifies a child as an orphan under Nicaraguan law. In addition to Nicaraguan requirements, a child must meet the definition of an orphan under U.S. law for you to bring him or her to the United States.
Under Nicaraguan law, adoptions must be completed before the child turns 15 years old. However, if the child has been under the care of the prospective adoptive parents for at least three years the adoption can be completed up until the time the child turns 21.
Under U.S. law, the final adoption petition must be filed before the child turns 16 years old unless the child has a biological sibling under age 16 that is also being adopted.
- How To Adopt
Nicaragua's Adoption Authority
Ministry of the Family (MiFamilia) - their guidelines (Spanish)
Adoption Law (Ley de Adopción) - guiding document (Spanish)
The process for adopting a child from Nicaragua generally includes the following steps:
- Choose an Adoption Service Provider
- Apply to be found eligible to adopt with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS): file an I-600A
- Be matched with a child
- Adopt the child in Nicaragua (expected time frame in country: 12-18 months)
- Apply to find your child eligible for adoption: I-600
- Apply at the U.S. Embassy in Managua for your child's immigrant visa
- Choose an Adoption Service Provider:
The first step in adopting a child from Nicaragua 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 agency.
- Apply to be Found Eligible to Adopt: I-600A:
To bring an adopted child from Nicaragua to the United States, you must apply to be found eligible to adopt (Form I-600A) by USCIS.
Nicaragua's Ministry of the Family will verify that the prospective adoptive parent(s) have been approved by USCIS to adopt a child from abroad and that they have translated and notarized copies of the home study conducted in the United States. In addition to meeting the U.S. requirements for adoptive parent(s), you need to meet the requirements of Nicaragua as described in the "Who can adopt" section of this flyer.
The I-600A is valid for 18 months from the approval date and can be extended once prior to its expiration for an additional 18 months at no extra charge. If the adoption is not completed before the extension of the I-600A expires the prospective parents will have to file a new I-600A and pay the fee.
- Be Matched with a Child:
If you are eligible to adopt, and a child is available for intercountry adoption, the Ministry of the Family will place you on a waiting list until a child is identified. It is important to note that the Ministry of the Family will go through a number of steps to ensure that the child has been abandoned and that no biological family members are willing to take in the child. During this time, you will remain on the waiting list pending further processing. The Ministry of the Family will then provide you with a referral to an eligible child. 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 referred child. Learn more about making this critical decision.
The child must be eligible to be adopted under Nicaragua's requirements, as described in the "Who" section of this flyer. The child must also meet the definition of an orphan under U.S. immigration law. Learn more.
- Adopt the Child in Nicaragua:
Many prospective adoptive parent(s) hire a Nicaraguan attorney to assist them in initiating and completing the adoption process with the Ministry of the Family. This is advisable due to the complexity of the Nicaraguan legal system and the shortage of English speakers. A list of attorneys is available from the U.S. Embassy in Managua.
FEES: The Ministry of the Family does not charge a fee for adoptions. Typical associated charges for the process will include personal legal fees and fees for obtaining notarized legal documents. These fees generally range from $1,200 to $1,500 USD. Due to the required 3- to 6-month fostering period in Nicaragua, also consider the cost of living in Nicaragua during that time period and the potential time away from work.
TIMELINE: The process for finalizing the adoption in Nicaragua generally follows this path and can take 12-18 months to complete in-country.
- PRIMARY APPLICATION
The adoptive parent(s) file an application with the Ministry of the Family stating their intent to adopt from Nicaragua.
Notice of approval (I-171H) issued by USCIS
Home study (I-600A fulfills this requirement)
Letter addressed to Dra. Maria de los "ngeles Reyes, Directora General de Adopción (Director General for Adoptions)
Birth certificate(s) of prospective adoptive parent(s)*
Marriage certificate of prospective adoptive parent(s) (if applicable)*
Medical examination of prospective adoptive parent(s)
Letter(s) of employment for the prospective adoptive parent(s)
U.S. police record (FBI fingerprints fulfill this requirement)
Psychological evaluation by a U.S.-based adoption agency
Two 2" x 2" color photographs of the prospective adoptive parent(s) with a white background
Letter from a U.S.-based adoption agency indicating that it will follow-up with the case in the United States once the adoption has been completed in Nicaragua. Nicaragua's Ministry of the Family requires a U.S.-based adoption agency to conduct at least two family visits during the first year after the adoption and to report on the welfare of the child. These reports need to be sent directly to the Ministry of the Family's adoption advisory council ( Consejo de Adopción)
NOTE: Documents with a * next to them must be authenticated for use abroad. Learn how to get documents authenticated for use abroad. Additional documents may be requested.
- CONSEJO DE ADOPCIÓN:
Once all the data is evaluated and necessary investigations performed, the case is presented to the Ministry of the Family's Consejo de Adopción for a decision on the parent(s)' eligibility to adopt. At this time they will match the parent(s) with a child available for adoption in Nicaragua.
- FOSTERING PERIOD:
Once the primary application is approved, the prospective parent(s) will enter a mandatory three- to six-month fostering period in Nicaragua with the child. During this period, at least one of the adoptive parent(s) must live with the child and provide all physical and emotional support for the child. Often parent(s) who are not normally resident in Nicaragua choose to stay in an extended-stay hotel in Nicaragua or rent a home. Delays are possible during this time period.
- SECOND CONSEJO DE ADOPCIÓN:
Once that period is successfully completed, the Consejo de Adopción will meet again for a final decision on the adoption. If the adoption is approved by the Ministry of the Family, it will move forward to court approval.
- COURT DECISION:
Once the Ministry of the Family approves the adoption, the decision is then sent to a judge to formally order the final adoption decree, usually within two weeks after the final council approval. The judge has the authority to deny a case when there is a concern for the child's welfare. The Nicaraguan court issues the final adoption decree.
- RECEIVE NEW BIRTH CERTIFICATE AND NICARAGUAN PASSPORT:
When the final adoption decree is issued by the Nicaraguan court, you will be able to obtain a birth certificate (at least two original copies are recommended) from the Central Registry in Managua with the adoptive parent(s) surnames. You should also receive a Decree of Abandonment for the child.
Your child is not yet a U.S. citizen, so he or she will need a Nicaraguan passport. As soon as the new birth certificate has been issued, a passport should be obtained from Nicaraguan Immigration (approximately $20 USD). The normal turnaround time for a Nicaraguan passport is one to two weeks. Expedited same-day passport service is generally available for an extra charge (approximately $20 USD). Parent(s) will also need to obtain an "exit visa" from Nicaraguan Immigration in order to leave the country with the child (approximately $20 USD). The Nicaraguan exit visa is valid for 30 days and parents should wait until after receiving the U.S. immigrant visa before applying for a Nicaraguan exit visa.
- PRIMARY APPLICATION
- Apply for the Child's Immigrant Visa at U.S. Embassy, Managua:
CONTACT THE IMMIGRANT VISA UNIT:
Once you have obtained the final adoption decree from the Ministry of the Family, your child's new birth certificate and Nicaraguan passport, contact the Immigrant Visa unit to receive the Adoption Packet 4 which explains the following next steps in greater detail. The IV unit can be reached at ManaguaConsularIV@state.gov.
COMPLETE PACKET FOUR:
The Adoption Packet 4 includes a detailed list of all the final documents/examinations and where to obtain them. Briefly, the following documents will be required:
I-600A approval notice with a copy of the valid U.S. approved home study
Decree of Abandonment by the Ministry of the Family
Final Nicaraguan adoption decree
Child's valid Nicaraguan passport issued with adoptive parent(s)' surname(s)
Medical examination for the child (certified physician information is provided in the applicant's appointment letter)
Three 2"x 2" color photographs with a white background. Photos should be a frontal picture of the child's face
Unsigned Form DS-230 completed with information regarding the child (not the parent(s))
Copies of your last federal tax return as filed with the Internal Revenue Service, including, if applicable, 1040 A, W-2 forms, 1099 forms, and all IRS Schedules. The U.S. Embassy requires adopting parent(s) to provide a signed, but not notarized Affidavit of Support (I -864 EZ) and proof of current employment
Filing fee for the immigrant visa application
The U.S. passport(s) of the adoptive parent(s)
FILE I-600 PETITION
The I-600 petition must be filed and the associated fees paid either by sending the documentation directly to USCIS in the United States or at U.S. Embassy, Managua at the time of the immigrant visa interview. If filing at the Embassy, fill out the applicant section of the document and the Consular officer will complete the official information section at the interview. Learn how.
SCHEDULE AND ATTEND VISA INTERVIEW:
After the Adoption Packet 4 has been completed, contact the IV Unit again at ManaguaConsularIV@state.gov to schedule your visa interview. Immigrant visa interviews are conducted Monday through Friday from 7:30am to 12:00pm. At the interview, the adoptive parent(s) will be required to present all of the aforementioned documents as well as the child.
If the adoptive parent(s) are missing any documentation, the consular officer will inform them to return with the documentation at a later date. If the visa is approved, the child will receive their passport with their immigrant visa along with their immigration packet, which includes all of the aforementioned certificates and forms, within 1-2 working days. The visa is valid for six months from approval.
- Bring Your Child Home
Once your child has received their passport and immigration packet, they are able to travel to the United States. DO NOT open the immigration packet. This packet will be opened at the port of entry by immigration officials once the adoptive parent(s) and child arrive in the United States.
Child Citizenship Act
For adoptions finalized in Nicaragua by U.S. citizen parent(s) legally resident in Nicaragua: The Child Citizenship Act of 2000 allows your new child to acquire U.S. citizenship automatically when he or she enters the United States as a lawful permanent resident. Learn more about the Child Citizenship Act.
- Traveling Abroad
Applying for Your U.S. Passport
To travel to Nicaragua, a valid U.S. passport is required for entry and exit. 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 also need to obtain a visa. U.S. citizens are allowed to enter Nicaragua for a period of 90 days without a visa. Should you need to stay longer, for example during the fostering period, you can apply for a visa from Nicaraguan Immigration while in country.
To find information about obtaining a visa for Nicaragua, see the Department of State's Country Specific Information webpage.
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's website is a good place to start.
The Department of State provides Country Specific Information for every country in the world on various issues, including 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. Whether there's a family emergency in the United States or a crisis in Nicaragua, registration assists the U.S. Embassy or Consulate in reaching you.
Registration is free and can be done online.
- After Adoption
What does Nicaragua require of the adoptive parent(s) after the adoption?
Nicaragua's Ministry of the Family requires a U.S.-based adoption agency to conduct at least two family visits during the first year after adoption and to report on the welfare of the child. These reports need to be sent directly to the Ministry of the Family's Consejo de Adopción.
We strongly urge you to comply with the regulations of the Ministry of the Family and to complete all post-adoption requirements in a timely manner. Your adoption agency may be able to help you with this process. Your cooperation will help ensure that adoptions remain open to other U.S. citizens in the future.
What resources are available to assist families after the adoption?
Many adoptive parent(s) 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 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
Nicaragua's Adoption Authority
Ministry of the Family (MiFamilia)
De ENEL Central, 100 mts. Al Sur, Managua
Tel: 011 (505) 2270-2644
011 (505) 2278-1620
011 (505) 2278-5637
Embassy of Nicaragua in the United States
1627 New Hampshire Avenue, NM
Washington, D.C. 20009
Tel: (202) 939-6531/32
Consular Section: Tel: (202) 939-6541
Fax: (202) 939-6574
NOTE: Nicaragua also has consulates in Los Angeles, San Francisco, Houston Miami, New York, and other cities.
Office of Children's Issues
U.S. Department of State
2201 C Street, NW
Washington, DC 20520
E-mail: AskCI@state.gov or Adoption USCA@state.gov
U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS)
For questions about immigration procedures, contact the National Customer Service Center (NCSC) at
1-800-375-5283 (TTY 1-800-767-1833).