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Three Processes for International Adoption

Updated: May 8, 2021

Today, we want to provide an overview of the processes governing international adoptions set forth by the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) and international agreements.

There are three different processes for adopting a child internationally: the Convention Process, the Non-Convention (or Orphan) Process, and the Immediate Relative/ Family-Based Petition Process.

Convention Process

Governed by the Hague Convention, this process applies when both the country where the adoptive child lives and the country where the adoptive parents live are members of the Convention. For a complete list of Convention countries, you can follow this link:

The steps involved in a Convention adoption include:

  1. Choosing a Hague Accredited Adoption Service Provider.

  2. Obtaining a home study from someone authorized to complete Hague adoption home studies.

  3. Submitting Form I-800A, Application for Determination of Suitability to Adopt a Child from a Convention Country, as well as all applicable supplements, to determine whether the adoptive parents are eligible to adopt.

  4. Submitting Form I-800, Petition to Classify Convention Adoptee as an Immediate Relative, to have the child found eligible to immigrate to the U.S before adopting or taking custody of the child.

  5. Working with an adoption service provider to obtain a proposed adoption placement once USCIS approves your application.

  6. Obtaining an immigrant visa for the child.

  7. Bringing the child to the U.S.

It should be noted that, unless the child and prospective adoptive parents are relatives, regulations implementing the Convention generally prohibit prior contact between prospective parents and the child’s parents/ legal guardians. Further, Form I-800 must be filed before the child’s 16th birthday in order for the child to be eligible for adoption. If the process involves siblings and the younger child is under 16, older siblings are allowed to join in the petition provided they are not older than 18 years of age at the time Form I-800 is filed.

We will provide a more detailed discussion of the Convention process and each of these steps in a future post. However, if you do have any questions about this process, please don’t hesitate to contact us now.

Non-Convention, or Orphan Process

In order to qualify for this process, the foreign-born child must be considered an orphan and must reside in a non-Convention country. If the child you would like to adopt habitually resides in a Convention country, you probably will not be able to use the Orphan process.

Under U.S. immigration law, this means that the child does not have any parents because of the death or disappearance of, the abandonment or desertion by, or the separation or loss of both parents. A foreign-born child might also 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.

Steps for the Orphan process include:

  1. Determining whether or not 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.

  5. Having the child found eligible to be adopted by filing Form I-600A, Application for Advance Processing of Orphan Petition.

Again, the forms must be filed before the child’s 16th birthday. We will further discuss this process in a future post as well.

Immediate Relative/ Family-Based Petition Process

While the Convention and Orphan processes are only available to U.S. citizens, lawful permanent residents can use the family-based petition process.

U.S. citizens can file a petition to adopt:

  • Their child (unmarried and under the age of 21)

  • An unmarried son or daughter over the age of 21

  • A married son or daughter

  • Siblings

Permanent residents may file a petition to adopt:

  • Their child (unmarried and under the age of 21)

  • An unmarried son or daughter over the age of 21

Under this process, the adoptive child:

  1. Must have been adopted before their 16th birthday (or before their 18th birthday if they are being adopted with a sibling who is under 16), and

  2. Must have been under the legal custody of and jointly residing with the adoptive parent for at least two years while the child was under the age of 16. However, it must be noted that the legal custody/ joint residency

    1. Must have been the result of a formal grant of custody;

    2. Can have occurred before the adoption; and

    3. Does not have to be a continuous two years.

Additionally, the adoptive parents may have to file form I-130, Petition for Alien Resident, family-based petition under INA 101(b)(1)(E) to have the USCIS recognize the family relationship and establish eligibility for adjustment of status.

In general, the family-based process cannot be used in Hague countries. However, there are exceptions including if the adoption occurred prior to the country becoming a Hague country; if the adoptive parent was not a U.S. citizen at the time of the adoption; or if the child is/was not habitually residing in a Hague country.

Again, we will address this process in greater detail in a future post.

There is nothing more powerful than the family. Let us help you complete yours today. Call us today at (385) 334-4030 or send an email to to set up your free consultation.


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