There are three ways U.S. citizens in Las Vegas, Nevada can adopt children from foreign countries: 1) Hague Process, 2) Orphan Process, or 3) Immediate Relative Process. The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) plays a central role in determining whether foreign children may immigrate to the United States.
Below our Las Vegas immigration attorneys answer frequently-asked-questions about how U.S. citizen or green card-holder parents in Nevada can adopt children from foreign countries. Click on a topic to go directly to that section.
The Hague Process is employed when a child habitually resides in a country that is a party to the Hague Intercountry Adoption Convention. This Convention refers to an international treaty that protects the best interest of children, birth parents, and adoptive parents involved in intercountry adoptions. Currently, there are more than 70 countries included in this Convention.
Nevadans seeking to adopt from a country that is a party to the Convention are required to follow the Hague process. Countries that are party to the Convention are mandated to have an officially designated Central Authority to ensure that the adoption process is monitored and safeguarded. The Central Authority in the U.S. is the Department of State.
There are generally eight steps involved with the Hague Process adoptions:
- Picking a Hague Accredited ASP (Adoption Service Provider);
- Obtaining a Hague adoption home study from an authorized individual;
- Applying to USCIS to determine that he/she is eligible for intercountry adoption;
- After USCIS approves the application, the applicant works with the ASP to receive a proposed adoption placement;
- Filing a “petition” with USCIS to have the child found eligible to immigrate to the U.S.;
- Adopting the child, or taking custody of the child to eventually adopt the child in the U.S.;
- Procuring an immigrant visa for the child; and
- Bringing the child to the U.S. for admission with the correct Nevada visa.
The child may immigrate immediately after the adoption has occurred or may immigrate to the U.S. in order for the adoption to take place here. Keep in mind that after an applicant have achieved a favorable home study, he/she is further mandated to meet the following criteria:
- Be a U.S. citizen;
- Habitually reside in the U.S.;
- If the applicant is married, his/her spouse must also sign the appropriate paperwork and intend to adopt any child whom he/she adopt;s
- If the applicant is unmarried, he/she must be at least 24 years old when he/she initially files the paperwork.
Once this criteria has been met, the applicant may apply to the Central Authority of the other country for a specific adoption placement. For a child to be a Hague Convention Adoptee, the child must meet the following requirements:
- Be under 16 years of age at the time of filing the paperwork;
- Habitually reside in a Convention country;
- Determined to be qualified for intercountry adoption by the Central Authority of that country and have procured all the required adoption consents;
- If married, the applicant's spouse has to also sign the necessary documentation and adopt the child;
- If unmarried, the applicant must be at least 25 years old when completing the documentation.
Note that if an adopting parent's case was filed before April 1, 2008, he/she is permitted to continue the adoption process under the current orphan regulations as long as the laws of that child's origin permits for continuation under the current law.1
Also note that prospective adoptive parents may need to get fingerprinted in order to adopt internationally. Nevada has two immigration offices that offer fingerprinting: The Las Vegas Immigration Office, and the Reno Immigration Office.
The Orphan Process is used only when the Hague Process in inapplicable. In this situation, a prospective adoptive parent in Nevada may immigrate an adopted child if:
- The adopting parent is a U.S. citizen: If married, his/her spouse must also sign paperwork certifying that he/she will also adopt the child. If the adopting parent is not married, he/she must be a minimum of 25 years old when he/she files the initial documentation.
- The adopting parent pledges that he/she will provide the appropriate parental care to the child.
- The adopting parent pledges that the child is an “orphan” as defined by U.S. law.
- The adopting parent pledges that either: He/she has adopted the child abroad and that he/she saw the child in person before or during the adoption proceeding, or he/she plans to adopt the child in the U.S. after the child has arrived in the country.
As stated above, the child must be legally considered an orphan. "Orphan” is defined as a foreign-born child who does not have any parents because they have died or disappeared; or has a sole parent who cannot care for the child and who has in writing irrevocably released the child for emigration and adoption.
This petition must be filed prior to the orphan reaching 16 years old. Otherwise, it must be filed prior to the child's 18th birthday if the child is a birth sibling of another child whom the adopting parent has also adopted and who immigrated as either an orphan or an “adopted child” under the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA).
While a the adopting parent's case is under review, USCIS will probably investigate abroad to verify that the child is actually an orphan. The purpose of this investigation will be to:
- Ensure that the child is an orphan as defined by U.S. law;
- Ensure that the prospective adoptive parent has procured a valid adoption or grant of custody;
- Ensure that the child does not suffer from an illness or disability that has been omitted from the petition;
- Decide whether the child has any special needs that were omitted from the petition;
- Decide whether there are any additional facts that show the child is ineligible for immigration as the adopting parent's adopted child.
After the application gets approved, the prospective adoptive parent in Nevada must apply with a U.S. Embassy or Consulate in order to get a visa for the child. A Department of State officer will decide whether the child is admissible. Either way, the child can immigrate to Nevada right after the adoption has occurred or can immigrate to Nevada for the adoption to take place in the U.S.2
The third option is for individuals who are U.S. citizens or obtained a green card in Nevada, to petition for his/her adoptive child through an Immediate Relative Petition. The relevant application is USCIS form I-485.
There are several differences between the Hague and Orphan Process and the Immediate Relative Process:
- The Immediate Relative Process is not just for children who have been or are planning on being adopted by U.S. citizens;
- The adopting parent must provide proof of a full and final adoption and meet custody and residency requirements before the adoption leads to immigration benefits; and
- Adopted children are allowed to petition for their parents and siblings.
Under this Process, an adopted child is deemed to be the child of the adopting parent in Nevada if:
- The parent adopted the child prior to the child turning 16 years old; and
- The parent maintains legal and physical custody of the child for at least two (2) years while the child was still a minor.
Children who are immediate relatives do not have to wait for a visa number to become available in order for them to immigrate.3
Looking to adopt from another country? Call a Nevada immigration lawyer...
Immigration through adoption is a very detailed area of immigration law that requires hours of paperwork, indefatigable patience, and of course, infinite love. Though in the end, all the painstaking work is completely worth it. It is therefore in your best interest to consult with professionals who have the proper experience, background, and skills in these matters. For a consultation on how our Las Vegas NV immigration attorneys may help set you on the path to becoming adoptive parents, please telephone us at 702-DEFENSE (702-333-3673).
Note that a child immigrating to the U.S. may result in dual citizenship in Nevada.