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International Adoption

Adopting a foreign national child is not uncommon in the US. Americans adopt foreign national children for a wide range of good and well intentioned reasons. Regardless of the reason in a given case, however, the prospective parents will have to navigate US immigration laws in order to ensure the child's legal status. The failure to do this successfully may well jeopardize the child's right to lawful permanent residence and/or citizenship. What follows is a brief summary of the process.

In general terms, international adoption requires that prospective parents, at least one of which must be a US citizen, demonstrate that they will be suitable parents. This involves obtaining a home study report from an authorized entity. The entity that prepares the home study report will look at every aspect of the prospective parent's lives, from their financial situation, to their history with substance abuse or criminal issues, to their mental health. Single parents are permitted to adopt, but in most cases they must be 25 years of age or older.

In most cases, the prospective parents will also have to demonstrate that the child to be adopted is an "orphan" within the meaning of the law. "Orphans" qualify for immigration benefits if they have been abandoned by or separated from both parents, or the sole surviving parent has irrevocably released the child for immigration and adoption. In general, the law requires that the adopted child be under 16 years of age in order to qualify for immigration benefits.

While international adoption has never been easy from an immigration standpoint, it became considerably more difficult after the US ratified the Hague Convention on Protection of Children and Co-operation in Respect of Intercountry Adoption, which became effective on April 1, 2008. Under the Hague Convention new procedures apply to all adoptions by US citizens of children who are habitually residents of a convention country. A list of convention countries appears on the US Department of State website at http://adoption.state.gov/hague/overview/countries.html. All such cases must now proceed through a "Central Authority" in the US and in the sending country, and the home study must be conducted by an approved or accredited home study preparer.

The successful completion of this new process requires the guidance of experienced professionals familiar with international adoption procedures as well as the complex requirements of US immigration law.

The immigration attorneys of NPZ Law Group are skilled at helping businesses of and families of all types and sizes realize their immigration needs. To discuss your adoption needs with an experienced immigration lawyer, please contact our law firm today.

USCIS Interim Memo for Comment: Guidance for Determining if an Adoption is Valid for INA Purposes

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