If you’re adopting and decided that an international adoption would suit you best, you’re no doubt excited to get on with it. But how will choosing that type of adoption affect the timeframe for getting that precious new addition to your family?
International adoptions are complex and often lengthy processes involving multiple legal requirements. The duration of an international adoption process depends on the following:
- The country involved
- The child’s age and health
- Your eligibility and qualifications
While international adoptions depend on several things, the average timeline is around three years. However, to comprehend why the timeline is so long, you must understand the process and legal considerations involved in international adoption.
Choosing a Country and Agency
First, you will choose a country of origin and an agency. Finding a reputable agency that fits your needs and preferences is essential. Therefore, you should carefully research different countries and agencies.
Once you choose a country, you must meet its eligibility requirements for adoption. These requirements might include income, education, age, health, marital status, and criminal background checks. For example, to adopt a child from China, an applicant must be at least 30 years of age.
Working closely with your adoption agency is important because each nation’s eligibility requirements differ.
Complete a Home Study
Before you can be approved for adoption, you must undergo a home study. This study is a comprehensive assessment of suitability and includes interviews, background checks, and home visits. The home visits may be conducted by social workers or licensed adoption agency representatives. The home study process usually takes several months to complete.
Once the home study is complete and you are found eligible, you can file an adoption application. The application is usually filed through the adoption agency or the country of origin’s government. Your application should include extensive documentation of your eligibility, including:
- Birth certificates
- Marriage certificates
- Medical records
- Financial statements
- Criminal background checks
The application process can also take several months, depending on the documentation required.
Wait for a Referral
After you file your adoption application, you must wait for a referral from the agency or the government of the country of the child’s origin. A referral is a proposal for a specific child who is available for adoption. The child should match your preferences and eligibility criteria.
This process can take several months or years, depending on the availability of children and your preferences.
Accept the Referral
You can accept or decline the referral when it comes. To begin the legal process of adopting your child, you must accept the referral. Usually, to accept the referral, you must obtain legal guardianship or a custody order from the country of origin. You will also need to get a visa, complete medical exams, and comply with any other legal requirements.
The legal process can take years, depending on how complex the country’s legal requirements are.
Travel to the Country of Origin
After the legal process is complete, you can travel to meet with the child in their birth country and finalize the adoption. You might be required to spend weeks or months in the country of origin. While you are there, you may need to complete further legal procedures, like getting a passport or registering the child with their country’s embassy.
The timeframe of this international adoption step depends on the country’s specific requirements.
Once you finalize all the legal requirements of the country of origin, you can bring your child home. However, you may still need to comply with post-adoption requirements. You might have to submit periodic reports to the agency or country of origin, which can be time-consuming.
United States Immigration
All children internationally adopted must go through a United States immigration process. The immigration process depends on the child’s country of origin. There are three immigration processes available, including:
- Hauge process: If the child is from a country party to the Hague Convention, you will use the Hauge process. Under this process, you must file Form I-800A before finalizing the adoption.
- Orphan process: If you are a United States citizen and are adopting a child from a non-Hauge Convention country, you must follow the Orphan process. Under this process, you will need to file Form I-600. Once your Orphan petition is approved, you must apply for a visa for your child.
- Petition for alien relative: When adopting a relative, you must file a Form I-130.
Talk to a Family Law Attorney for Help
Are you trying to adopt internationally? If so, you should retain an experienced San Antonio adoption attorney. The attorneys of Higdon, Hardy & Zuflacht, L.L.P. can help keep your adoption process moving so you can get your child home where they belong.