The term "orphan" often conjures up images from the popular musical "Annie," about a young girl who lives in an orphanage before she's adopted by a wealthy man. But in the context of international adoption, the word orphan has a specific meaning in the law. If you're seeking to adopt an orphan from another country, you'll have to follow a specific process while adhering to the laws of both the United States and the country where the child resides.
The following is an overview of the process of bringing a foreign-born orphan to the United States, one of three main types of international adoption.
U.S. Immigration Law: What it Means to be an Orphan
If you're a U.S. citizen adopting a child from outside the United States, the manner in which you complete the adoption will depend on the status of both the child and the country where they live. Under U.S. immigration law, an orphan is a foreign-born child who:
If the child you'd like to adopt lives in a country that has signed onto the Hague Adoption Convention, you probably won't use the orphan process described in this article. Instead, you'll most likely use the Hague Process, which provides more safeguards for the parties involved.
Eligibility to Bring a Foreign-Born Orphan to the United States
If you're a U.S. citizen, you may immigrate an adopted orphan to the United States if you establish your ability and intent to properly care for the child (determined through the "home study" process). Other requirements include proof that the child is indeed an "orphan" in accordance with U.S. law and the establishment that either:
If you're single, you must be at least 25 years old when you file the Petition to Classify Orphan as an Immediate Relative (Form I-600). If you're married, your spouse must also sign Form I-600.
The Process for Bringing a Foreign-Born Orphan to the United States
There are a number of steps involved in the orphan adoption process, including investigations into the status of both the child and the prospective adoptive parent(s). These steps include the following:
Before you travel abroad to the child's country of origin, make sure you verify the validity of your Approval Notice and biometrics data (fingerprints). You'll also want to contact the appropriate U.S. officials (USCIS, embassy, or consulate) to get details on processing times.
Considering Bringing a Foreign-Born Orphan to the United States? Get Legal Help
If you want your orphan adoption to have a happy ending, you'll want to ensure that you've gone through the proper channels. International adoption involves not only U.S. immigration and family laws, but also laws pertaining to the child's country of residence. Don't go it alone; contact an experienced adoption law attorney licensed in your state for help today.