Immigrant Visa Process

Last Updated: August 11, 2014

Children adopted from other countries must first obtain a U.S. visa before they can travel to or move to the United States. Visas are issued at the U.S. Embassy or Consulate in the foreign country where a child resides. In some locations, visa issuance will take place at the U.S. Embassy or Consulate in a neighboring country. Children being adopted abroad by a U.S. citizen who will be brought to live in the United States will need an immigrant visa. U.S. citizens who live abroad and are adopting a child abroad should review the information on U.S. Citizens Adopting While Residing Abroad as there may be different procedures they need to follow to comply with their country of residence’s adoption laws.

Child's Eligibility

Children being adopted abroad must be found eligible to immigrate under the U.S. Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) in order to reside in the United States. Because adoption laws vary from country to country, it is sometimes possible to adopt a child abroad who does not qualify for immigration under U.S. law; such children cannot immigrate to the United States.

There are two main processes for seeking immigration benefits for a child adopted abroad: 

  1. The Convention process applies to adoptions by U.S. citizens of children from a country that is party to the Hague Convention of 29 May 1993 on Protection of Children and Co-operation in Respect of Intercountry Adoption (Convention).
  2. The non-Convention process applies to children adopted by U.S. citizens from countries not party to the Convention.

To learn which process to follow, check the Department of State’s list of Convention countries.

A child adopted while under the age of 16, who has been in the legal custody of and has resided with his or her adoptive parent(s) outside of the United States for at least two years may have a third option. Under the INA, such a child may be the beneficiary of a U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) Form I-130 petition (Petition for Alien Relative) and receive an immigrant visa in the IR-2 category.

Visa Process Steps: Convention and Non-Convention Countries

To review the immigrant visa process for adoption cases, select one of the following:

Notes on the Immigrant Visa Process

To begin the immigrant visa petition process, prospective adoptive parents submit forms and documents to USCIS. After USCIS reviews the paperwork, a case is assigned to the U.S. Embassy or Consulate in the country where the child resides. In some locations, visa issuance will take place at the U.S. Embassy or Consulate in a neighboring country. All children adopted abroad require an immigrant visa interview at a U.S. Embassy or Consulate before coming to reside permanently in the United States. The Embassy or Consulate schedules the final visa interview once all required documents have been provided. The Department of State is committed to processing immigrant visas for adopted children expeditiously. Keep in mind, however, that the time required to issue your child's visa will depend on the specific circumstances in his or her country of residence. To learn more about the immigrant visa process, review our How to Adopt web page and overviews of the Convention and non-Convention visa processes.

Getting Help

The immigrant visa process can be complicated, but you are not on your own. Your adoption service provider or an immigration attorney can help. The Department of State also responds to public inquiries on obtaining immigrant visas for adopted children. Before making an inquiry, please review the visa section on travel.state.gov and the website of the relevant U.S. Embassy or Consulate abroad. To ask a question about immigrant visas, contact the Visa Office's Public Inquiries Division at 202-663-1225. Remember that information about a specific visa case is confidential and generally cannot be given to third parties.

For questions about other adoption matters, please contact the Office of Children's Issues