The U.S. government has worked closely with the government of Ethiopia to develop the Pre-Adoption Immigration Review (PAIR) process for Ethiopian adoptions. PAIR will preserve and protect the valuable intercountry adoption program in Ethiopia by providing more safeguards to ensure the program’s integrity.
Effective Sept. 1, 2013, the government of Ethiopia will require all adoption cases filed by United States prospective adoptive parents to undergo the U.S. PAIR process. Ethiopia’s Ministry of Women, Children and Youth Affairs (MOWCYA) will require a PAIR letter issued by USCIS in order to make a best interest determination. Prospective adoptive parents must include the PAIR letter in the adoption dossier they submit to the Ethiopian Federal First Instance Court (FFIC) to initiate the adoption. The FFIC will then forward the dossier, including the PAIR letter, to MOWCYA for review. The new PAIR letter requirement will not affect adoption cases filed with Ethiopian courts before Sept. 1, 2013.
BACKGROUND INFORMATION ON PAIR IN ETHIOPIA
The PAIR Process Will Protect Prospective Adoptive Parents & Promote the Best Interests of Children
The Ethiopian and the U.S. governments are committed to protecting the best interests of children and ensuring that prospective adoptive parents and courts have all available information when considering whether intercountry adoption is in the child’s best interest.
In the past two years, the governments in both countries have noticed an increase in irregularities uncovered in Form I-600 petitions being adjudicated after the adoption or grant of legal custody has been finalized. These irregularities have included anything from incomplete or inconsistent paperwork to serious concerns regarding the entry into care of children. In 2011, the Ethiopian government slowed its processing of adoption cases to provide more scrutiny and oversight. Since then, USCIS has seen a significant increase in the number of “not clearly approvable” cases sent by the U.S. Embassy in Addis Ababa to USCIS – 195 in fiscal year 2012. Irregularities uncovered after the adoption or grant of legal custody is finalized can delay or prevent the immigration of a child to the U.S., which can leave adoptive parents and children in difficult situations especially if the adoptive parents are waiting in Ethiopia.
In response to the new requirements of Ethiopia, the implementation of the PAIR process will identify any irregularities early in the adoption process and significantly reduce or eliminate the discovery of these problems after a final adoption has been granted. The PAIR process allows USCIS to review the child’s eligibility to immigrate to the United States in every case before prospective adoptive parents establish a permanent legal relationship to the child. The Department of State will still conduct an investigation in Ethiopia; however, the USCIS National Benefits Center (NBC) will be the only U.S. government agency conducting PAIR review. This change will eliminate delays associated with the transfer of “not clearly approvable” cases from the Department of State to USCIS for review and ensure greater consistency. In addition, the PAIR process will provide Ethiopia’s MOWCYA with the assurance that the child will likely be eligible to immigrate to the United States if the adoption is approved by Ethiopian courts.