SwazilandLast Updated: November 2012
Hague Adoption Convention Country?NO
Alerts & Notices
Swaziland not processing cases during government review March 1, 2010
- Hague Convention Information
Swaziland 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).
On February 24, 2010, the Deputy Prime Minister of Swaziland informed the U.S. Embassy in Swaziland that it will not process intercountry adoptions while the Department of Social Welfare completes a review of its adoption procedures. The Swaziland High Court will only process adoptions that were filed with the High Court prior to February 24, 2010. The U.S. Embassy in Swaziland does not know when the Department of Social Welfare expects to complete its review.
Intercountry adoption in Swaziland is governed by the Adoption of Children Act of 1952. Under this law, an adopted child cannot be removed from Swaziland within one year of adoption unless permission has been obtained, in writing, from the Deputy Prime Minister. This permission is routinely granted for intercountry adoptions.
U.S. IMMIGRATION REQUIREMENTS FOR INTERCOUNTRY ADOPTIONS
To bring an adopted child to the United States from Swaziland, 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. 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 Swaziland:
- Residency: None.
- Age of Adopting Parents: Adoptive parents must be at least 25 years old and at least 25 years older than the child if the prospective adoptive child is over 16 years of age.
- Marriage: Prospective adoptive parents may be single, divorced, or married. Regardless of marital status, they must be able to demonstrate that they can provide a safe and loving family environment.
- Income: There are no specific published income requirements for prospective adoptive parents. The Department of Social Welfare will determine whether the prospective adoptive parents have adequate resources to raise the child(ren) based upon information in their Socio-Economic Report (the Swazi version of the home study).
- Other: Prospective U.S. adoptive parents are required to undergo a thorough home study (referred to as the Socio-Economic Report by the Swazi Department of Social Welfare) by an approved social service or adoption agency and be deemed eligible to adopt. To locate an approved social service or adoption agency, prospective adoptive parents should contact the Department of Social Welfare at 268-2404-2723.
Same-sex couples are prohibited from adopting Swazi children.
- Who Can Be Adopted
In addition to U.S. immigration requirements, Swaziland has specific requirements that a child must meet in order to be eligible for adoption:
- Relinquishment: If one or both of the child’s parents are alive and can be found, they must provide written consent to the adoption.
- Abandonment: A child whose parents are both confirmed dead, or who has been abandoned and the identity of the birth parent(s) is unknown, is eligible for adoption. In the case of the parents’ death, government-issued death certificates must be obtained to document the child’s status as an orphan.
- Age of Adoptive Child: The child must be under 18 years of age. (In order to be eligible for an IR-3 or IR-4 orphan immigrant visa, a Form I-600 petition must be filed on behalf of an adopted child before s/he reaches the age of 16.)
- Sibling Adoptions: Swaziland requires all children from a sibling group to be adopted together.
- Special Needs or Medical Conditions: The Department of Social Welfare will make a determination via the Socio-Economic Report that the adoptive parent(s) have the capacity to care for a child with special needs.
- Waiting Period or Foster Care: The Department of Social Welfare generally waits at least six months before making newborns or very young babies eligible for intercountry adoption in order to ensure that the child has truly been abandoned.
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 due to 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) have rarely relinquished their parental rights or consented to their child(ren)’s adoption.
The Government of the Kingdom of Swaziland goes to great lengths to ensure that children are truly orphans, sometimes taking up to a year to ensure that all potential relatives of an alleged orphan, no matter how distant, are contacted to determine whether they are interested in, or able to, assume the parental role.
- How To Adopt
Swaziland’s Adoption Authority
Department of Social Welfare, Office of the Deputy Prime Minister
The process for adopting a child from Swaziland generally includes the following steps:
- Choose an adoption service provider
- Apply to be found eligible to adopt
- Be matched with a child
- Adopt the child in Swaziland
- Apply for the child to be found eligible for orphan status
- Bring your child home
- Choose an Adoption Service Provider
The recommended first step in adopting a child from Swaziland 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 Swaziland. Prospective adoptive parents apply to adopt directly to the Department of Social Welfare. Prospective adoptive parents must hire a local attorney to assist them with some steps in the adoption process. Find the U.S. Embassy in Swaziland’s attorneys list here. The U.S. Embassy assumes no responsibility for the professional ability or integrity of the persons or firms whose names appear on the list.
To facilitate adoptions of Swazi orphans by prospective adoptive parents residing in the United States, the Government of Swaziland has authorized the U.S. adoption agency, Hawaii International Child (HIC). Prospective adoptive parents not residing in Hawaii should also use HIC as their placement agency/liaison with the Swazi Department of Social Welfare, but will also have to select a licensed social worker in their state of residence to complete the home study report and any post-placement or state pre- or post-placement adoption requirements. Currently, U.S. citizens residing permanently in Swaziland may use a local attorney and are not required to use HIC to adopt a Swazi child.
- Apply to be Found Eligible to Adopt
In order to adopt a child from Swaziland, you will need to meet the requirements of the Government of Swaziland and U.S. immigration law. You must submit an application to be found eligible to adopt to the Department of Social Welfare.
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.
- Be Matched With a Child
If you are eligible to adopt, and a child is available for intercountry adoption, the Department of Social Welfare in Swaziland 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 Swaziland’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.
- Adopt the Child in Swaziland
The process for finalizing the adoption (or gaining legal custody) in Swaziland generally includes the following:
- ROLE OF THE ADOPTION AUTHORITY:
- The Department of Social Welfare ensures that each prospective adoptive child has a thorough medical exam, including HIV and TB tests;
- If a child has been abandoned, the Department of Social Welfare will place a notice with a photograph of the child in the local newspapers to determine whether any family exists who might wish to claim the child;
- Once the Department of Social Welfare completes its report on the child’s origin, and the prospective adoptive parents submit all legal documents including the child’s original birth certificate and proof that the child is an orphan eligible for intercountry adoption, the Department of Social Welfare takes the case to the Swazi High Court. Prospective adoptive parents are represented by a local attorney. HIC hires the lawyer for their adoptions. Local adoptive parents may consult the aforementioned attorneys list for a fairly comprehensive listing of attorneys operating in Swaziland;
- If applicable, before departing Swaziland, prospective adoptive parents may obtain a letter from the Department of Social Welfare, signed by the Deputy Prime Minister, waiving the requirement that the adopted child remain in Swaziland for 12 months after the final adoption.
- ROLE OF THE COURT: After Department of Social Welfare completes the home study and the Deputy Prime Minister approves the adoption, the case is turned over to a local lawyer to present to the High Court for final approval and issuance of the adoption decree. The adoption decree terminates all rights and obligations existing between the child and any prior legally-recognized parents. The decree also confers the surname of the adoptive parent on the adopted child and a new birth certificate will be issued.
- ROLE OF ADOPTION AGENCIES: The Department of Social Welfare handles the entire process on the Swazi side. The only Swazi government authorized U.S. adoption service provider at this time is Hawaii International Child (HIC).
- ADOPTION APPLICATION: The adoption application is initiated through an authorized U.S.-accredited adoption agency, currently only HIC.
- TIME FRAME: Once an eligible child has been identified, the process takes approximately eight weeks in Swaziland for the adoption to be considered full and final.
In cases involving a newborn, the Department of Social Welfare normally waits three to six months to ensure that the child is truly abandoned before identifying the child as eligible for intercountry adoption. During the eight week time frame, the prospective adoptive parents are required to be in Swaziland to bond with the child. Applying for a Swaziland passport for the child (necessary for the U.S. immigrant visa application) can take an additional week.
- Adoption Fees: The U.S. Embassy in Swaziland discourages the payment of any fees that are not properly receipted, such as donations or expediting fees that may be requested from prospective adoptive parents.
The Department of Social Welfare does not charge any fees for processing adoptions, nor does the High Court. Appropriate lawyers’ fees will apply. All paperwork submitted to the Court or to the Department of Social Welfare must get a “revenue stamp” Emalangeni (10 U.S. $1.50) and the fee for a passport is Emalangeni 150 (U.S. $25).
- Documents Required:
- A formal letter to the Department of Social Welfare requesting permission to adopt. The letter should explain the reasons the prospective adoptive parents wish to adopt a child from Swaziland and how the family plans to care for the child if adoption is approved;
- Fill out the Department of Social Welfare Adoption request forms (available at the Department of Social Welfare;
- U.S.-based home study and Department of Social Welfare Socio-Economic Report;
- Identification documents of prospective adoptive parents, including birth certificates and proof of marital status;
- Financial position documents of prospective adoptive parents;
- General Practitioner’s report that parents are in good general emotional and physical health;
- Police clearance;
- Educational background of prospective adoptive parents;
- Pictures of adoptive family and future home;
- Letters of recommendation (three to five letters from friends and two to three letters from family members);
- Legal document establishing the appointment of a guardian to care for the child, should something happen to adoptive parents. This can take the form of a legal document filed with the Swazi Department of Social Welfare stating the desire of the prospective adoptive parents to appoint someone to care for the child in the event that they are unable to do so.
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.
- ROLE OF THE ADOPTION AUTHORITY:
- Apply for the Child to be Found Eligible for Orphan Status
After you finalize the adoption (or gain legal custody) in Swaziland, 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.
- Bring Your Child Home
Once your adoption is complete, you need to obtain 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: Once your adoption is finalized in Swaziland, the Department of Social Welfare will apply for a new birth certificate for your child on your behalf. Your name will be added to the new birth certificate. Swazi regulations require the Department of Social Welfare to submit the application for a new birth certificate for your child on your behalf. This certificate can be provided in one day, but typically takes at least three days.
- Swazi Passport: Your child is not yet a U.S. citizen, so he/she will need a travel document or passport from Swaziland. The Department of Social Welfare will apply for your child’s Swazi passport on your behalf once they have your child’s new Swazi birth certificate.
- 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. 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. Approved panel physicians are located in Johannesburg, Cape Town, and Durban, South Africa. Please note that your adopted child will travel to South Africa on a Swazi passport. Prospective adoptive parents should check the latest entry/exit requirements for Swazi citizens traveling to South Africa with their nearest South African Embassy or Consulate before traveling.
The U.S. Embassy in Swaziland does not conduct immigrant visa interviews or make decisions in immigrant visa cases. All immigrant visa applications, including those of adopted children, are reviewed at the U.S. Consulate General in Johannesburg, South Africa. Form I-600 petitions filed at the U.S. Embassy in Swaziland will be forwarded to the USCIS office in Johannesburg, South Africa. The U.S. Embassy in Swaziland will work with adoptive parents and their adoption agency to ensure that each case is processed in the most expeditious manner possible in accordance with laws and regulations.
American citizens are required to make appointments with the Consular Section at the U.S. Embassy in Swaziland but are also advised to call in advance (+268-2404-6441/5) to enable prompt response to their inquiry. The Consular Section is open for appointments for American Citizen Services Wednesdays from 2:00 p.m. to 4:30 p.m.
U.S. Embassy in Swaziland accepts payments for consular services by cash in either U.S. dollars, South African Rand, or Swazi Emalangeni. Payments are only accepted at the Consular Section and should not be paid to a third party.
Applying for a Visa at the U.S. Consulate General in Johannesburg, South Africa: All U.S.immigrant visas for citizens of Swaziland are processed by the Consular Section at the U.S. Consulate General in Johannesburg, South Africa. Before traveling, please review the Consular Information Sheet for South Africa and be sure to comply with the Government of South Africa’s entry requirements, which stipulate that travelers to South Africa must have at least two blank pages in their foreign passport upon entry.
Once the Consular Section recieves a family’s approved Form I-600 petition, it will contact the family concerning their next steps. Immigrant visa applicants must complete a series of forms before the immigrant visa interview may take place. Once the family is documentarily ready for the interview, they must call the Consular Section to schedule an appointment for the immigrant visa interview. A consular officer conducts the immigration interview and, if the immigrant visa application is approved, issues the visa. A consular officer must see the adopted child before the immigrant visa may be issued. All adoption cases must include full judicial documentation which constitutes irrevocable release of the child for immigration and adoption as well as permission to depart the country by the court which granted adoption.
Consulate General of the United States of America
P.O. Box 787197, Sandton, 2146
Johannesburg, South Africa
1 Sandton Drive, Sandhurst (opposite Sandton City Mall)
Johannesburg, South Africa
Tel: (27 11) 290-3000
Fax: (27 11) (011) 884-0396
Note: Visa issuance after the final interview now generally takes at least 24 working hours and it will not normally be possible to provide the visa to adoptive parents on the day of the interview. Adoptive parents should not make final travel arrangements before they receive the visa.
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 to use a valid U.S. passport to enter or depart the United States. 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 Swaziland
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 Swaziland, 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 Swaziland, 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
The Department of Social Welfare does not have post-adoption requirements in writing, but does strongly encourage families to provide regular updates on the welfare of their Swazi-origin child(ren). HIC currently assists families to do this, and organizes annual trips for the Department of Social Welfare to travel to the United States to visit adopted Swazi children. The failure of adoptive families to comply with the Department of Social Welfare’s request could jeopardize the Swaziland’s willingness to cooperate with the United States on future adoptions.
We strongly urge you to comply with Swaziland’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 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
U.S. Embassy in Swaziland
Central Bank Building
Mahlokohla Street, Mbabane
U.S. Consulate General in Johannesburg
1 Sandton Drive
(across from Sandton City Mall)
Swaziland’s Adoption Authority
Department of Social Welfare
Ministry of Health and Social Welfare
Embassy of Swaziland
Embassy of the Kingdom of Swaziland
1712 New Hampshire Avenue, N.W.
Washington, D.C. 20009
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-600A or I-600 petition:
National Benefits Center
Tel: 1-877-424-8374 (toll free); 1-816-251-2770 (local)