ZambiaLast Updated: July 2012
Hague Adoption Convention Country?NO
Alerts & Notices
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- Hague Convention Information
Zambia 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). Prospective adoptive parents, including those considering adoption of a Zambian family member, are advised to carefully consider whether that child will meet the definition of orphan under U.S. immigration law.
Zambia is in the process of reviewing its child welfare-related laws, including those pertaining to adoption. This review is a lengthy process, and prospective adoptive parents should be aware that adoption procedures may be amended at any time.
U.S. citizens living outside Zambia may find it particularly challenging to adopt a Zambian child. Currently, there are no registered U.S. adoption agencies authorized to work in Zambia. Prospective adoptive parents may wish to hire a local attorney to assist with local adoption procedures. Please note that the U.S. Embassy in Lusaka, Zambia cannot represent prospective adoptive parents before the Zambian government or courts or act as a liaison for parents during the adoption process.
Zambian courts do not issue custody/guardianship orders for the purpose of finalizing adoptions abroad. Both prospective adoptive parents, if married, must physically appear before the court in order to adopt a child, though the court may subsequently permit one parent to return home while the other stays behind to conclude the process.
U.S. IMMIGRATION REQUIREMENTS FOR INTERCOUNTRY ADOPTIONS
To bring an adopted child to the United States from Zambia, 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 these U.S. requirements, you must also be found eligible to adopt by Zambia. Zambia requires that prospective adoptive parents meet the following:
- Residency: Based on the Zambian Adoption Act, prospective adoptive parents must foster a child in Zambia for three months (the fostering phase). The fostering period for a “foreign” (non-Zambian) child is 12 months. This requirement is only reduced at a magistrate’s discretion upon presentation of a “certificate of urgency.”
- Age of Adopting Parents: Prospective adoptive parent(s) must be at least 25 years of age. If the prospective parents are a couple, at least one parent must be 25 years of age and at least 21 years older than the child. If prospective adoptive parents are related to the child, the age requirement is 21 years of age.
- Marriage: Prospective adoptive parents may be married or single. There is no provision in the law for gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgendered couples or individuals to adopt.
- Income: Prospective adoptive parents must be able to demonstrate adequate finances. An acceptable home study, a requirement of both U.S. and Zambian law, will usually suffice.
- Other: Adoption by gay, lesbian, transgendered or same-sex persons or couples is not permitted under Zambian law.
- Who Can Be Adopted
In addition to U.S. immigration requirements, Zambia has specific requirements that a child must meet in order to be eligible for adoption:
- Relinquishment: The relinquishing Zambian parent(s) must file a Consent to Adopt form in court. In cases where Zambian authorities have deemed that there is no competent legal guardian of the child, an Affidavit to Dispense with Consent to Adopt form is filed.
- Abandonment: None.
- Age of Adoptive Child: Zambian children eligible for intercountry adoption must be under 21 years of age, unmarried, and declared a child in need of care by the Department of Social Welfare. Please 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 sibling under the age of 16).
- Sibling Adoptions: None.
- Special Needs or Medical Conditions: None.
- Waiting Period or Foster Care: The prospective adoptive parents (and their lawyer, if applicable) must file a petition for temporary legal guardianship with the local magistrate and bear the responsibility of preparing all court-related documentation. Once approved, the mandatory fostering phase begins. Parents must foster the child in Zambia for a minimum of three months, though the court or the Department of Social Welfare may require a longer fostering 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 due to financial or other hardship, intending that the child return home when this becomes possible. In such cases, the birth parent(s) have rarely relinquished their parental rights or consented to their child(ren)’s adoption.
Note: Prospective adoptive parents considering adoption of a Zambian family member are advised to carefully consider whether that child will meet the definition of orphan under U.S. law, which differs significantly from the criteria for adoption under Zambian law. Zambian authorities may issue an adoption decree based on customary practice of adopting a family member to afford that child better educational opportunities, for instance. Before a consular officer can issue an immigrant visa to an adopted child, however, you must demonstrate that the child’s sole surviving parent is incapable of providing proper care for the child as measured according to local, Zambian, conditions. This fact could result in a situation where your adopted child is unable to immigrate to reside with you in the United States.
- How To Adopt
Zambia's Adoption Authority
Ministry of Community Development, Mother and Child Health
Note: Prospective adoptive parents may contact Social Welfare Officers and Juvenile Inspectors of the Provincial and District Social Welfare Offices to apply for adoption.
The process for adopting a child from Zambia 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 Zambia
- 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 Zambia is to select a licensed adoption service provider in the United States that can help you with your home study. 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.
U.S. adoption agencies must be registered with the Commissioner of Juvenile Welfare in order to provide adoption services in Zambia. Currently, there are no registered U.S. adoption agencies licensed to work in Zambia. The only entity legally permitted to facilitate adoptions in Zambia is the Ministry of Community Development, Mother and Child Health.
While not mandatory, prospective adoptive families may wish to hire an attorney to assist them with Zambian legal requirements. The U.S. Embassy in Lusaka maintains a list of attorneys who will work with U.S. citizens. The Embassy cannot recommend the services of any specific attorney.
- Apply to be Found Eligible to Adopt
In order to adopt a child from Zambia, you will need to meet the requirements of the Government of Zambia and U.S. immigration law. You must submit an application to be found eligible to adopt with the Department of Social Welfare of the Ministry of Community Development, Mother and Child Health of Zambia.
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.
In addition, prospective adoptive parents must apply to the Zambian Ministry of Social Welfare, Mother and Child Health for permission to adopt. Prospective adoptive parents should write to the Social Welfare Department, including the documentation listed in the “Documents Required” section below. Sending the request by courier and including a pre-paid, pre-addressed envelope will facilitate response. There is no official application form. Your application takes the form of a letter with supporting documentation. You are required to document, in writing, your intent to adopt and your expectations regarding the gender, age, and health of the child, and reasons for choosing to adopt in Zambia. You should provide a letter of reference, copy of your passport, police clearance, and bank statement. Currently, an approved Form I-600A with a valid home study may be accepted by the Department of Social Welfare, Ministry of Community Development, Mother and Child Health as evidence of suitability to adopt.
If foreign prospective adoptive parents are resident in Zambia, Zambian social workers will interview them and conduct a home study. However, a home study prepared in Zambia must be approved by a licensed U.S. adoption service provider in order to fulfill U.S. immigration requirements.
- Be Matched with a Child
If you are eligible to adopt, and a child is available for intercountry adoption, the central adoption authority or other authorized entity in Zambia will provide you with a referral, and an “Effective Date of Notice”, which is approval that you may adopt. 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 Zambia’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.
After the prospective adoptive parents have accepted the match, the Department of Social Welfare may ask them to visit the child’s orphanage several times in order to bond with the child and the child's guardian from the Department of Social Welfare. At this stage, the prospective adoptive parents may file the adoption application with the Department of Social Welfare. The application will contain the child's biographic information (name, gender, date of birth, place of birth).
It is not advisable for prospective adoptive parents to travel to Zambia for the purposes of adoption before being matched with a child. It is possible that you may be matched with a child who resides outside of Lusaka, requiring you to work closely with the District Social Welfare Office having jurisdiction over that region. Note: Only the Social Welfare Headquarters Office in Lusaka can issue an “Effective Date of Notice.”
Note: U.S. citizens are cautioned against independently identifying a child for adoption without the involvement of the Ministry of Social Welfare, as children identified outside of the Zambian government process may not ultimately be eligible for adoption under Zambian law.
- Adopt or Gain Legal Custody of Child in Zambia
The process for finalizing the adoption in Zambia generally includes the following:
- Role of Adoption Authority: Intercountry adoptions are overseen by the Ministry of Community Development, Mother and Child Health.
- Role of the Court: Zambian magistrate level courts issue adoption and custody orders based on recommendations made by district level officers from the Ministry of Social Welfare. If these officers are satisfied that the prospective adoptive parents are suitable to adopt and that the adoption is clearly in the best interest of the child, they are likely to recommend adoption to the courts.
- Role of Adoption Agencies: None
- Adoption Application: After the three-month fostering period is completed, the Department of Social Welfare reviews the adoption application filed at the acceptance of the match. If approved, the Department of Social Welfare sends its recommendation to the magistrate's court serving the district of the child's place of residence. A summons will be served on the prospective adoptive parents, prospective adoptive child, and any person caring for the child (if applicable). The hearing is confidential. Note that both prospective adoptive parents must appear in person for this hearing. The child is assigned a guardian ad litem (social worker) who will represent the child’s interests before the court, investigate what is in the child’s best interests, and report his/her findings to the court at the adoption hearing. Once the adoption order is issued, it must be recorded with the Registrar General’s Office and the child’s details must be entered into the register as an adopted child.
- Time Frame: There is a mandatory three-month continuous (foster) care requirement (fostering phase) prior to finalizing an adoption. In practice, the three-month period is sometimes waived upon court acceptance of a “certificate of urgency.”
- Adoption Fees:
Government of Zambia fees include:
- Fostering fee – 50,000 kwacha (approximately U.S. $12.00);
- Adoption court fee – 110,000 kwacha(approximately U.S. $24.00);
- Zambian passport fee – 500,000 kwacha (approximately U.S.$111.00);
- Registration/certificate of adoption – 105,000 kwacha (approximately U.S. $24.00);
- Costs as may be determined by the court – 200,000 kwacha (approximately U.S. $45.00);
- Police clearance application fee – 50,000 kwacha (approximately U.S. $10.00); U.S. based prospective adoptive parents may be able to present their U.S. police clearance in lieu of this requirement;
- Attorney’s fees – 5,000,000 to 25,000,000 kwacha (approximately U.S. $1,000-$5,000).
Note: Court fees may vary from district to district.
Prospective adoptive parents are encouraged to work with an attorney to prepare legal paperwork. If a parent chooses to work with an attorney, please be aware that hourly fees vary widely, just as they do in the United States. The U.S. Embassy in Lusaka maintains a list of attorneys who will work with U.S. citizens.
Note: The U.S. Embassy in Lusaka is not aware of any fees prospective adoptive parents have to pay to the orphanage where the child resides or to adoption facilitators at Social Welfare, and would discourage any fees that are not properly receipted, including “donations” or “expediting” fees that may be requested from prospective parents. There is no provision under Zambian law for payment of fees to social welfare workers.
- Evidence of adequate finances (home study information will often suffice);
- Police clearances (available at Police Headquarters);
- Copies of birth certificates, passports, and marriage certificates of prospective adoptive parents;
- Approved Form I-600A (this can serve as evidence that the adoptive parents were vetted for suitability by U.S. authorities)
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.
- Apply for the Child to be Found Eligible for Orphan Status
After you finalize the adoption in Zambia, 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 .
You must have an approved Form I-600 Petition to Classify Orphan as an Immediate Relative before an immigrant visa may be issued. You may file your Form I-600 petition in the U.S. or at the U.S. Embassy in Lusaka provided you have a valid, approved I-600A on record. Take note of the Zambian adoption documentary requirements in Section 6 below.
- Bring Your Child Home
Once your adoption is complete, 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 and Adoption Decree
If you have finalized the adoption in Zambia you will first need to apply for a new birth certificate and adoption decree for your child. Your name will be added to the new birth certificate.
After the adoption court order has been granted, the adoptive parents must apply to the Registrar General for two documents: a new birth certificate for the adopted child and the adoption decree; these documents are not issued automatically. The new birth certificate will show the child’s new adopted name and the name(s) of the adoptive parent(s). The adoption decree signifies the successful completion of the adoption process; the court order alone does not suffice. Equipped with these two documents, the adoptive parents may apply for the child’s Zambian passport in the adopted name.
Your child is not yet a U.S. citizen, so he/she will need a travel document or Passport from Zambia.
A Zambian passport in your adoptive child’s new name can be obtained at passport offices in Lusaka, Ndola, and Livingstone. To apply for a Zambian passport, you will need to submit the child’s new birth certificate, your adoption decree, and a passport application. Officially, processing time for passport applications is 21 days; however, passports are usually issued within a week of submission of the application with a receipted, fee-based expedite request. Delays still can occur.
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 U.S. Embassy in Lusaka. 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 the U.S. Embassy in Lusaka’s website .
After your adoption is finalized, and you have obtained the child's new birth certificate and passport, contact the U.S. Embassy at email@example.com . If you are filing the petition at the U.S. Embassy in Lusaka, rather than with USCIS in the United States, schedule a time to submit your Form I-600 petition and supporting documents. If USCIS has already approved your I-600 petition, contact the U.S. Embassy at firstname.lastname@example.org to schedule your child's immigrant visa interview.
Note: Visa issuance after the I-600 petition has been approved and after the visa interview generally takes at least 48 hours. It will not normally be possible to provide the visa to adoptive parents on the day of the interview. Adoptive parents should verify current processing times by contacting email@example.com or calling 260-35700, extension 7260, before making final travel arrangements.
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 Your Visa
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 Zambia, 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 Zambia, 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
What does Zambia require of the adoptive parents after the adoption?
Zambia does not have any post-adoption requirements.
What resources are available to assist families after the adoption?
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
Zambia’s Adoption Authority
The Department of Social Welfare of the Ministry of Community Development, Mother and Child Health, oversees adoptions. Prospective adoptive parents may contact the Department of Social Welfare office of the Commissioner for Juvenile Welfare to begin the adoption process.
Commissioner for Juvenile Welfare
Ministry of Community Development, Mother and Child Health
P.O. Box 31958
Tel: (26)-021-123-5343, (26)-021-122-3319, (26)-021-123-6967
Fax: (26)-021-123-6968, (26)-021-123-5343
Email: firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com
Lusaka Provincial Social Welfare Office
Boma House Church Road
P.O. Box 30281
Luapula Provincial Social Welfare Office
Northern Provincial Social Welfare Office
Northwestern Provincial Social Welfare Office
Provincial Community Development Centre
Zambian Registrar General
Department of National Registration, Passport and Citizenship
Corner of Independence and Dedan Kimathi Road
P.O. Box 32311
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)