Family Law

Is It Hard to Adopt Internationally?

By Melissa Heinig, Attorney
Learn more about the process of adopting a child from a foreign country.

Each year, there are hundreds of thousands of children searching for a forever home throughout the world. If a couple chooses to expand their family through adoption, one of the first questions they will need to answer is whether to adopt domestically or internationally. If adopting from a foreign country is the best fit for your family, you may begin researching and become overwhelmed by the rules, regulations, and paperwork required to complete the adoption. Continue reading for more information on international adoption.

What Are the Requirements for Adoption?

The requirements for international adoption will vary depending on the laws in the adoptee’s foreign country, but some of the most common include:

  • marital requirements—some countries will not allow single parents to adopt
  • age requirements—typically, parents must be between the ages of 23 and 55
  • parents must be in good physical and mental health
  • neither parent can have a criminal record
  • parents must be financially stable, and/or
  • parents will need to meet housing requirements.

Parents should understand that the time frame for international adoption may be less than domestic adoption, but averages 24 months to complete.

How Much Will an International Adoption Cost?

The cost for adoption—domestic or international—is expensive, but the specifics will vary depending on your situation. For example, with international adoption, parents must budget funds for:

  • visas for each parent and the adoptee child
  • the cost of a home study, where a professional observes the potential parents’ home to ensure it’s suitable for a child
  • filing fees, and
  • international travel to the child’s home country.

Parents should expect the cost for international adoption to vary between $20,000 and $50,000, but there are options to help with these costs, such as:

  • loans from private banks
  • home equity loans
  • credit cards
  • grants, and/or
  • assistance from family and friends through crowd-funding websites.

Couples who adopt may also qualify for a federal tax credit for each child adopted. The adoption credit for 2016 is $13,640 per adopted child. Couples should meet with a CPA or an attorney to determine if they qualify for this credit.

The Hague Convention

Parents will need to decide which country they would like to work with for the adoption. Once parents make this decision, they will need to determine whether the country participates in the Hague Adoption Convention.

The United States signed the Hague Adoption Convention (HAC) in 1994. Countries that participate in the HAC do so to protect the best interest of the children, to prevent child abduction, and to eliminate illegal child trafficking. Currently, 95 countries take part in the HAC. If the country you’re working with is a signatory to the HAC, you must follow the rules and regulations of both your home country and the foreign country during the adoption process.

The availability to adopt from these convention countries changes often. One example is the country of Fiji, which participates in the HAC, but does not currently allow United States citizens to adopt.

What Are the Next Steps for International Adoption?

After a couple chooses a foreign country to work with, the next step is to select an adoption agency. Adoption agencies will:

  • assist parents with forms
  • disclose all agency fees parents will need to pay
  • perform a home study
  • assist with matching the parents to a child
  • help parents ensure the child is legally available for adoption
  • make sure the adoption is a proper fit, and/or
  • assist with finalizing the adoption.

If the adoptive country has signed on to the HAC, the adoption agency must be accredited or approved before it can perform intercountry adoptions. If the agency is not properly accredited or approved, parents risk spending time and money on an adoption that will fail. Parents should thoroughly research the proposed agency in advance, to ensure it is legitimate and accredited.

Next, the agency will complete a home study—an evaluation that ensures the adoptive family can meet the child’s needs. The home study will involve checking each prospective parent’s medical, financial, and criminal backgrounds. All types of adoptions require a home study, and parents will need to pay a fee to the agency that conducts the study.

Next, the prospective parents will need to submit the proper forms to the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). First, you need to meet your own country’s requirements to adopt internationally. These requirements will vary, and your adoption agency or adoption attorney can assist you with this step.

Once USCIS approves these initial forms, parents will wait to receive notice that the child’s home country has found a child that is legally available for adoption. After this exciting moment, parents will need to complete additional USCIS paperwork to confirm that the child meets immigration standards for adoption into the United States. USCIS will give the parents provisional approval for the child to come to the U.S., but parents will have to work with the adoption agency to complete the adoption and obtain a visa for the child. Finally, the parents will travel to the child’s home country and bring the child home.

Although the process is expensive and time consuming, international adoption has a priceless reward—creating your forever family. For more information on international adoption, visit the U.S. Department of State’s website on Intercountry Adoption.

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