Nigeria

Last Updated: June 2013

Hague Adoption Convention Country?

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Hague Convention Information

Nigeria 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).

Individuals who are not Nigerian citizens are not legally allowed to adopt in Nigeria.  When a married couple is adopting, both must be Nigerian citizens.  Only U.S. citizens who also have Nigerian citizenship are allowed to adopt children in Nigeria.  Nigerian adoption laws are complex and vary from state to state.  At the national level, adoptions are regulated by the Nigerian Child Rights Law or the Adoption Act of 1965.  Depending on where the adoption takes place, the specific law and regulations governing the adoption may differ.

In general, prospective adoptive parents who intend to adopt a specific child must first obtain temporary custody of the child.  Prospective adoptive parents are advised to obtain information on adopting in individual states through the state social welfare office.  Please note that the only legal way to do an adoption in Nigeria is to work with the respective state social welfare office (usually named the State Ministry of Women's or Family Affairs).  Prospective adoptive parents should not attempt to process their adoption through local officials who may attempt to circumvent the legal process.  Adoption decrees must state that they are full and final in order for an immigrant visa to be issued to the child. The U.S. Consulate General in Lagos (U.S. Consulate) only issues IR3 classification immigrant visas.  Oftentimes, adoption decrees from Nigerian courts put stipulations on the adoption, such as not allowing the child to travel beyond the jurisdiction of the court or requiring periodic visits to the child by the social welfare office of the respective Nigerian state.  These stipulations may prevent the consular officer from issuing an immigrant visa or cause a delay in the processing of the immigrant visa.

Prospective adoptive parents must be available to be questioned in court by the magistrate considering the adoption.  Proxy adoptions are not valid in Nigeria. Adoptive parents who complete adoptions by proxy without fulfilling state requirements risk having their I-600 petitions returned to USCIS for revocation.

Document and identity fraud related to adoptions is a serious concern in Nigeria.  The U.S. Consulate requires that most adoptions be investigated in person in the state where the adoption took place to verify the authenticity of the information provided in the adoption decrees and I-600 petitions.  For security reasons, U.S. government personnel are frequently restricted from traveling to certain parts of the country.  As a result, investigations and the in-country visa application and approval process can cause adoption processing in Lagos to take six to 12 months to complete, after the initial approval of the I-600 by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).

U.S. IMMIGRATION REQUIREMENTS FOR INTERCOUNTRY ADOPTIONS

To bring an adopted child to the United States from Nigeria, 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

In addition to U.S. immigration requirements, you must also meet the following requirements in order to adopt a child from Nigeria:

  • Residency:  Nigerian law requires that a parent-child relationship be established before the court decision can be considered final.  Each state determines the length of time it takes to establish the parent-child relationship, which can range from a few months to two years.
  • Age of Adopting Parents:  In Abia, Akwa-Ibom, Anambra, Bayelsa, Cross River, Ebonyi, Enugu, Imo and Rivers, prospective adoptive parents must be at least 25 years of age and 21 years older than the child.  For married couples, at least one parent must meet the age requirements.
  • Marriage:  Both single individuals and married couples may adopt. Note that a single person will not be allowed to adopt a child of the opposite sex except in extraordinary circumstances.  In most states, married couples must adopt jointly.  If married, both members of the couple must be Nigerian citizens.  In the case of single-parent adoption, only the adopter’s name should be listed on the Nigerian birth certificate and the other parent’s name should be left blank. Lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) individuals or married same-sex couples in the United States who are known by the Nigerian court to be LGBT may not be able to adopt children from Nigeria.  It is unclear whether the Government of Nigeria and Nigerian law permit such adoptions at present; if it passes, a proposed bill will explicitly prohibit adoptions by LGBT parents in Nigeria.
  • Income:  Nigeria does not have any income requirements for intercountry adoptions.
  • Nigerian Citizens:  Nigerian law states that non-Nigerians may not adopt in Nigeria. While the law is sometimes inconsistently applied, the U.S. Consulate strongly advises that non-Nigerian citizens are not eligible to adopt children from Nigeria.  U.S. citizens who adopt in Nigeria without having Nigerian citizenship risk having their I-600 petitions returned to USCIS for revocation.
Who Can Be Adopted

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

  • Relinquishment:  Adoptions of children who are allegedly relinquished by their parent, who is still living, are subject to investigation as the U.S. Consulate has found that parents in Nigeria may relinquish their children to relatives living in the United States strictly in order to afford the children the ability to immigrate to the United States.
  • Abandonment:  Abandonment of a child in Nigeria is often poorly documented and may require a full investigation by the U.S. Consulate to confirm the abandonment.
  • Age of Adoptive Child:  According to Nigerian law, a child must be below the age of 16 (according to the Adoption Act of 1965) or 17 (according to the Child Rights Law) in order to be adopted.  The specific law governing the adoption will depend on the jurisdiction in which the adoption takes place.  Important note: U.S. law requires a child to be under the age of 16 at the time the petition is filed to qualify for a U.S. immigrant visa, unless the child is the natural sibling of another child who was adopted by the same parents while under the age of 18. 
  • Sibling Adoptions:  There are no specific guidelines regarding adopting siblings in Nigeria.
  • Special Needs or Medical Conditions:  Adoption decrees issued in Nigeria will generally specify any special needs or address the general health of the child to be adopted.  The U.S. home study should match any specifications of special needs that are observed by the Nigerian court.
  • Waiting Period or Foster Care:  Prospective adoptive parents must have physical and temporary legal custody of the adoptive child for at least three consecutive months immediately prior to petitioning the court for an adoption decree.  An applicant cannot have the child reside with another family member in lieu of living with the applicant, even if a Power of Attorney is in effect.  The U.S. Consulate has seen waivers issued to parents who claimed to the court that meeting this requirement was a burden.

Caution: Prospective adoptive parents should be aware that not all children in orphanages or children’s homes are eligible for adoption.  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 it becomes possible.  In such cases, the birth parent(s) have not relinquished their parental rights or consented to their child(ren)’s adoption. In Nigeria, many orphanages or organizations claiming that they arrange adoptions are for-profit enterprises which operate without licensing or oversight.  The U.S. Consulate advises all prospective adoptive parents to get clear information about any orphanage or adoption agency in Nigeria before entering into an adoption process with the organization.

How To Adopt

Nigeria’s Adoption Authority

The Magistrate Court (from the state where the child resides)

The Process

The process for adopting a child from Nigeria 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 (or gain custody of) the child in Nigeria
5.  Apply for the child to be found eligible for orphan status
6.  Bring your child home

1.  Choose an Adoption Service Provider  

The recommended first step in adopting a child from Nigeria 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.

2.  Apply to be Found Eligible to Adopt

In order to adopt a child from Nigeria, you will need to meet the requirements of the Government of Nigeria and U.S. immigration law.  You must submit an application to be found eligible to adopt with the social welfare office in the state where the child resides in Nigeria.

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 central adoption authority in Nigeria will provide you with a referral.  Each family must decide for itself whether or not it will be able to meet the needs of and provide a permanent home for a particular child.   

The child must be eligible to be adopted according to Nigeria’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 or Gain Legal Custody of Child in Nigeria

The process for finalizing the adoption (or gaining legal custody) in Nigeria generally includes the following:

  • Role of Adoption Authority:  The social welfare office of the state where the child is located is considered the adoption authority.  The application for adoption originates from this office.  Prospective adoptive parents should not attempt to begin the adoption process through any other local officials.  The government office that adjudicates local adoptions in Nigeria is the magistrate court of the state where the child is located.
  • Role of the Court:  In most Nigerian states, the adoption process begins when an application for an adoption order is made in accordance with local requirements and submitted to the registrar of the competent court.  The court then assigns a guardian ad litem for the child to represent him/her in the adoption proceedings.  The guardian ad litem is the social welfare officer in charge of the area where the juvenile resides, or a probation officer or some other person suitably qualified in the opinion of the court of assignment.  The guardian ad litem investigates the circumstances related to the proposed adoption and files a report to the court.  The guardian ad litem represents the child's interests until the magistrate questions the prospective adoptive parents and grants the adoption order giving legal custody to the adoptive parents.

    The guardian ad litem investigates the circumstances relevant to the proposed adoption and reports in writing to the court.  Prospective adoptive parents must inform the social welfare officer of their intention to adopt at least three months before the court order is made.  For at least three consecutive months immediately preceding an adoption order, the child must have been in the physical care and legal custody of the applicant parents in Nigeria.  An applicant cannot have the child reside with another family member in lieu of living with the applicant, even if a Power of Attorney is in effect.

    The social welfare officer visits the home of the adoptive parents until the officer is satisfied that the juvenile is settled and the prospective adoptive parents are capable of looking after him or her.  Then, the social welfare officer submits a positive recommendation in writing to the court.  The magistrate will meet the adoptive parents in court to confirm their suitability and will issue or deny the adoption order.

    After the adoption order has been issued, adoptive parents should obtain a new birth certificate for the child listing them as the child's parents.  In some states, after the adoption has been granted, the adoptive parents must obtain the court's permission to remove the child from Nigerian jurisdiction, either temporarily or permanently.  In addition, the social welfare officer might be required to submit a letter to the Nigerian immigration office, stating that the adoptive parents are now the legal parents of the child.  This letter permits the adopting parents to apply for a passport to take the child out of Nigeria.

    Note:  Proxy adoptions are not valid in Nigeria.  Adoptive parents who complete adoptions by proxy risk having their I-600 petitions returned to USCIS for revocation.
  • Role of Adoption Agencies:  The U.S. Consulate is not aware of any legally recognized Nigerian agencies that assist adopting parents or any licensed Nigerian adoption agencies.  Prospective adoptive parents can seek assistance from a Nigerian attorney to facilitate the adoption process.  The U.S. Consulate maintains a list of attorneys that have identified themselves as willing to provide legal services to U.S. citizens but cannot make any endorsements based on an assessment of the quality or the type of services the attorney provides.
  • Adoption Application:  The application is submitted to the registrar of the competent court.
  • Time Frame:  Adoption procedures can take a few months to more than a year depending on the child's state of origin and the evidence presented.
  • Adoption Fees:  Fees, including fees to an agency or the orphanage, attorney fees, court costs and costs to get official paperwork, such as a birth certificate, are estimated to run into the hundreds of dollars per child.  The U.S. Consulate estimates that a standard adoption in Nigeria would cost approximately $500 in fees not including fees paid for the I-600, I-600A or the immigrant visa.
  • Documents Required:  The paperwork involved in Nigerian adoptions is extensive and time-consuming to locate.  Prospective adoptive parents are advised to consult with a Nigerian attorney about the document requirements of the state from which they are adopting.

The following is a list of some of the required documents:

    • Birth certificates
    • Marriage certificates
    • Divorce decrees (where applicable)
    • Proof of Nigerian citizenship
    • Proof of U.S. citizenship
    • Financial documentation – proof of financial assets
    • Police reports

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 Orphan Status

After you finalize the adoption (or gain legal custody) in Nigeria, the Department of Homeland Security, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services must determine whether the child meets the definition of orphan under U.S. immigration 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 Nigeria, 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.

Birth certificates in Nigeria are issued by the National Population Commission (NPC).  The NPC has offices co-located within most local government authority (LGA) offices throughout the country and applicants must go to the LGA office with jurisdiction in the area where the adoption occurred in order to obtain the birth certificate.  Birth certificates from NPC are documents which are normally filled by hand and can commonly including spelling mistakes or other problems. Applicants are encouraged to check the accuracy of documents obtained in Nigeria as visa regulations require that the spelling and other biographical information be consistent across official documents.

Nigeria Passport

Your child is not yet a U.S. citizen, so he/she will need a travel document or passport from Nigeria.

In some states, after the adoption has been granted, the adoptive parents must obtain the court's permission to remove the child from Nigerian jurisdiction, either temporarily or permanently.  In addition, the social welfare officer might be required to submit a letter to the Nigerian immigration office, stating that the adoptive parents are now the legal parents of the child.  This letter permits the adopting parents to apply for a passport to take the child out of Nigeria.

Applicants can apply for a Nigerian passport in the Nigerian Immigration Service office of the jurisdiction in which the adoption took place or where they reside.  There is a fee for obtaining a passport.  The Nigerian passport may take a week or more to obtain depending on conditions. Applicants are encouraged to check the accuracy of documents obtained in Nigeria as visa regulations require that the spelling and other biographical information be consistent across official documents.

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 a U.S. immigrant visa for your child from the U.S. Consulate General in Lagos.  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.  

Most applications for an immigrant visa for an adopted child at the U.S. Consulate will undergo full field investigations in the state where the adoption took place to verify the authenticity of the information provided in the adoption decrees, I-600 petitions and supporting documents.  This investigation also serves to verify that the child is an orphan as defined by U.S. immigration law and may include both documentary reviews and interviews with persons connected to the child's case.  For security reasons, U.S. government personnel are frequently restricted from traveling to certain parts of the country, causing these investigations to take an average of six months.

You can find instructions for applying for an immigrant visa on the U.S. Consulate General, Lagos’ website.

Visa issuance after the final interview generally takes 72 hours and the U.S. Consulate General in Lagos strongly advises that applicants do not book any travel plans until they have their visa(s) in hand.

Note:  Although the U.S. Embassy is in Nigeria’s capital (Abuja), immigrant visa cases are reviewed only at the U.S. Consulate General in Lagos.

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 Nigeria
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 Nigeria, 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 Nigeria, 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

Nigerian law has no post-adoption requirements for adoptive parents. Parents should confirm any post-adoption requirements with their legal representatives.

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. Consulate General, Lagos
2 Walter Carrington Crescent
Victoria Island, Lagos
Nigeria
Tel: [234](1) 460-3400
Email:  LagosIV@state.gov

U.S. Embassy in Nigeria
Abuja, Nigeria
Plot 1075 Diplomatic Drive
Central Business District, Abuja, FCT
(Off Independence Avenue/Near the Ministry of Defense)
Tel:  [234] (9)461-4262
Fax:  [234] (9)461-4171
Email:  Consularabuja@state.gov
Website:  nigeria.usembassy.gov

Nigeria’s Adoption Authority
Magistrate Court (where child resides)

Embassy of the Republic of Nigeria
3519 International Court, N.W.
Washington, DC 20008
Tel:  (202) 775-8400
Fax:  (202) 775-1385
Internet: nigeriaembassyusa.org  

Nigeria also has consulates in Atlanta and New York City.

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