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International Adoptions from Tonga

Our blog post today brings us to the beautiful Polynesian country of Tonga as we discuss the possibilities of adopting a child from its sunny shores.

Tonga is not a Hauge Country. In other words, international processes when adopting from there are not governed by the Hague Convention. This means that, if you are a citizen of the United States of America, you can only adopt a Tongan child under the Non-Convention, or Orphan Process.


The Non-Convention Process can only be used if the foreign-born child, residing in a non-Convention country, is considered an orphan. A foreign-born child might be considered an orphan if they have a sole surviving parent who is unable to care for the child, and who has, in writing, irrevocably released the child for emigration and adoption. And, of course, if the child does not have any parents because of death or abandonment, they are also considered an orphan.

The steps for the Orphan Process include:

  1. Determining whether the child is an orphan.

  2. Completing an overseas investigation through USCIS verifying that the child is an orphan.

  3. Undergoing a home study completed by someone authorized to complete adoption home studies in your home State.

  4. Being found eligible to adopt by filing Form I-600, Petition to Classify an Orphan as an Immediate Relative, if you have already identified the child you would like to adopt, or have already adopted the child. Please note this form must be filed before the child’s 16th birthday.

  5. Having the adoptive child found eligible to be adopted by filing Form I-600A, Application for Advance Processing of Orphan Petition. Please note this form must be filed before the child’s 16th birthday.

Each of these steps is fleshed out and made specific by the laws of the adoptive country, as you will see below.


There are a few additional requirements for adoption under Tongan law:

  1. Prospective adoptive parents must reside with the adoptive child for at least six months before submitting the application for adoption.

  2. Only illegitimate children may be adopted. This means that the biological mother must be unmarried, and must show proof that she cannot support the child being placed for adoption.

  3. Adopted children must be under the age of 21.

  4. Though not formally required, almost all Tongan adoptions involve direct relinquishments of children by their birth mothers to the adoptive parents, and almost all are arranged either between relatives, by close friends, or through religious institutions.


The first step is to choose an Adoption Service Provider. Wasatch International Adoption, located in Ogden, Utah, is the licensed adoption service provider in this state. Furthermore, they have an adoption program tailored specifically for Tongan families living in the U.S. who have a relative or friend living in Tonga who wants to place their child with a family member. For more information, click here.

The second step is to apply and be found eligible to adopt. This is achieved by filing Form 1-600A with the U.S. Government, Department of Homeland Security, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services. For more information, click here.

The third step is to be matched with a child. In a Tongan adoption, prospective adoptive parents are responsible for identifying the child whom they wish to adopt. They must then lodge an application for adoption letters with the office of the Registrar of the Supreme Court. Again, the child must meet the definition of an orphan under U.S. Law.

The fourth step is to adopt the child (or gain legal custody) in Tonga. As stated above, prospective adoptive parents must apply for adoption letters with the Registrar of the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court will then appoint a Guardian Ad Litem to compile a report with recommendations on whether or not the letters of adoption should be granted. If the application is granted, the Supreme Court will hand legal custody of the child over to the adoptive parents, issue an amended birth certificate listing the adoptive parents as the legal parents, and issuing the letters of adoption signed by the Chief Justice of Tonga.

The timeframe from physically meeting a child to receiving an adoption order is six to eight months. It must also be noted that at least one adoptive parent must travel to Tonga in order to commence adoption process. That parent should plan to stay in Tonga for approximately 2 to 3 months. A US$17.00 fee per child must be paid to the Tongan government, up to a maximum of less than US$25.00 if adopting more than one child.

Documents for the adoption include:

  • An independent home study report conducted by the local Social Welfare agency, addressed and sent directly to the Chief Justice in Tonga

  • Application for adoption

  • Evidence that the adoption is in the best interest of the child

  • Child’s original birth certificate

  • Prospective adoptive parents’ marriage license (if married)

  • Prospective adoptive parents’ birth certificates

  • Prospective adoptive parents’ financial information

  • Death certificate(s) of birth parents of child (if deceased)

  • Consent to adoption from biological mother (if living)

  • Sworn affidavits of applicants for letters of adoption and sworn affidavits of the child’s biological parents

  • Two letters of support/ recommendations from the prospective adoptive parents’ neighbors or friends stating the suitability of applicants for adopting

  • Fee of US$5.00 for the application for adoption

  • Once the application is approved, the applicants must pay a second fee of US$12.00 for the Letter of Adoption

The fifth step is to apply for the child to be found eligible for adoption. After you finalize the adoption (or gain legal custody) in Tonga, the U.S. Government, Department of Homeland Security, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services must determine whether the child is eligible under U.S. law to be adopted. This is achieved by filing Form I-600 with the U.S. Government, Department of Homeland Security, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services. For more information, click here.

The sixth and final step is to bring your child home. In order to do so, you must have your adopted child’s birth certificate, their Tongan passport, and a U.S. Immigrant Visa for them.

If you are interested in adopting a child from Tonga, don’t let the process overwhelm you. Contact us today to set up a free consultation, and we can help you get started on this lifechanging journey.


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