This section provides an overview of the intercountry adoption process. The process varies greatly, as it is governed by the laws of the countries where the adoptive parents and the child reside (which in the case of the United States means both federal and state law), and also in which of these locations the legal adoption is finalized. Additionally, if the child’s home country is a party to the Hague Adoption Convention, the Hague processes of both countries must be followed. Prospective adoptive parents should consider all of these factors when evaluating what to expect.
“The child, for the full and harmonious development of his or her personality, should grow up in a family environment, in an atmosphere of happiness, love and understanding. … [I]ntercountry adoption may offer the advantage of a permanent family to a child for whom a suitable family cannot be found in his or her State of origin.”
-Hague Adoption Convention, Preamble
Every child benefits from a loving home in deeply profound ways. Intercountry adoption has made this permanently possible for hundreds of thousands of children worldwide. When children cannot remain with a relative, and new parents within their communities cannot be found, intercountry adoption opens another pathway to children to receive the care, security, and love that a permanent family can provide.
Some additional resources:
Child Welfare Information Gateway – A service of the Children’s Bureau, Administration for Children and Families, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services
Medline Plus – A service of the U.S. National Library of Medicine and the National Institutes of Health
A Healthy Beginning: Important Information for Parents of Internationally Adopted Children (PDF 167KB) – a brochure from the American Academy of Pediatrics.
Who Can Adopt?
To adopt a child from another country and bring that child to live in the United States, you must first be found eligible to adopt under U.S. law. The federal agency that makes this determination is U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), part of the Department of Homeland Security. You may not bring an adopted child (or a child for which you have gained legal custody for the purpose of immigration and adoption) into the United States until USCIS determines that you are eligible to adopt from another country.
You must meet certain requirements to bring a foreign-born child whom you’ve adopted to the United States. Some of the basic requirements include the following:
- You must be a U.S. Citizen.
- If you are unmarried, you must be at least 25 years old.
- If you are married, you must jointly adopt the child (even if you are separated but not divorced), and your spouse must also be either a U.S. citizen or in legal status in the United States.
- You must meet certain requirements that will determine your suitability as a prospective adoptive parent, including criminal background checks, fingerprinting, and a home study.
In addition to qualifying to adopt under U.S. law, you must also meet your home state’s requirements for prospective adoptive parents. Learn more about individual state requirements on the Child Welfare Information Gateway website.
Foreign Country Requirements
Each country has its own requirements for adopting parents. These are explained in the Country Information section of this website.