Immigrant Visa Process

Children adopted from other countries must first obtain a U.S. visa before they can travel or move to the United States. Visas are issued at the U.S. Embassy or Consulate in the foreign country where a child resides. Since a child being adopted abroad by a U.S. citizen parent(s) will usually be brought to live in the United States, that child will need an immigrant visa.

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.

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

Most U.S. citizen prospective adoptive parents, however, are unable to live abroad to satisfy the two-year requirement. In such cases, children being adopted obtain an immigrant visa in one of two ways: one process applies to children in Hague Adoption Convention countries, and a separate process applies to children in countries that are not party to the Hague Adoption Convention. To learn which process to follow, check the State Department's list of Convention countries.

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 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. 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 is complicated, but you are not on your own. Your adoption agency 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 National Visa Center at (603) 334-0700 (7:00 a.m. EST to 12:00 a.m. EST) or e-mail: NVCINQUIRY@state.gov. 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