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Orphan Process

You May Immigrate an Adopted Child Through the Orphan Process if:

  • You Are a U.S. citizen.
  • You establish that you will provide proper parental care to the child
  • You establish that the child whom you have adopted or plan to adopt is an “orphan” as defined in U.S. immigration law
  • You establish that either:
    • You (and your spouse, if married) have adopted the child abroad, and that at least 1 of you personally saw and observed the child before or during the adoption proceedings

      OR
    • You will adopt the child in the United States after the child arrives in the United States (you must have permission to bring the child out of his or her own country and to the United States for adoption)

Who is an Orphan?

Under U.S. immigration law, an orphan is a foreign-born child who:

  • does not have any parents because of the death or disappearance of, abandonment or desertion by, or separation or loss from, both parents

    OR
  • has a sole or surviving parent who is unable to care for the child, consistent with the local standards of the foreign sending country, and who has, in writing, irrevocably released the child for emigration and adoption

You must file an orphan petition before the child’s 16th birthday, or before the child’s 18th birthday if the child is a birth sibling of another child whom you have also adopted and who immigrated (or will immigrate) as:

  • an orphan based on a Form I-600 petition filed before the sibling’s 16th birthday

    OR
  • an “adopted child” as defined in Section 101(b)(1)(F) of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) provided the actual adoption took place before that sibling’s 16th birthday

Overseas Investigation

As part of the processing of your case, USCIS (or, in some cases, the Department of State) will conduct an investigation overseas to verify that the child is an orphan. The purpose of the investigation is to:

  • Confirm that the child is an orphan as defined in the U.S. immigration law
  • Verify that you have obtained a valid adoption or grant of custody
  • The child does not have an illness or disability that is not described in the orphan petition
  • Determine whether the child has any special needs that were not fully addressed in your home study
  • Determine whether there are any facts showing that the child does not qualify for immigration as your adopted child

Hague Adoption Convention Cases

If the child you seek to adopt habitually resides in a country that is a party to the Hague Adoption Convention, you probably will not be able to use the Orphan process. Instead you must follow the Hague Adoption Process to adopt the child and bring the child to the United States. For information on the Hague Process, go to our Hague Process page. For a list of Hague Convention Countries visit the Department of State Adoption page.

You may be able to use the Orphan process if you adopted the child before April 1, 2008, or if your case is “grandfathered” because you filed a Form I-600A or Form I-600 before April 1, 2008. For more information, see the “Grandfather I-600A Cases” link to the left under “After Approval.”

Home Study:  Establishing Proper Parental Care

To establish your ability to provide proper parental care, you must submit a home study completed by someone authorized to complete an adoption home study in your home State (or anywhere in the United States, if you adopt the child while residing abroad).

The home study preparer must complete the home study according to the standards established in DHS regulations.  For more information on home study requirements go to our Orphan Home Study Guidelines page.

Filing a Petition for Your Child

You can have USCIS review both your suitability as an adoptive parent and the child’s status as an orphan at the same time. If you have already identified a child you want to adopt (or you have already adopted the child), you may file Form I-600, Petition to Classify an Orphan as an Immediate Relative.

Submit your home study with your Form I-600 and any other relevant evidence that you are suitable as an adoptive parent. Submit evidence that the child is an orphan and that you have adopted or intend to adopt the child. 

Advance Processing

You may also begin the orphan process before you identify a particular child for adoption. You do so by filing FormI-600A, Application for Advance Processing of Orphan Petition. Submit the home study with the Form I-600A. If USCIS approves your Form I-600A, the finding that you are suitable as an adoptive parent will make it unnecessary to address this issue again when you file a Form I-600 for a particular child. Once a particular child has been identified, you would then file a Form I-600 for that child.  

If you do not file Form I-600A, then you must complete all requirements of the I-600A when filing Form I-600. 

Advanced Processing If You Have Not Selected a Country

You may apply for Advance Processing of an Orphan Petition without knowing the country of prospective adoption. However, if your Form I-600A is approved, you may not adopt a child from a Hague Convention Country if your Form I-600A was filed after April 1, 2008. For information go to our Hague Process page. For a list of Hague Convention Countries visit the Department of State Adoption page.

Where to file Form I-600A and Form I-600

Before Traveling Abroad

  • Verify that your Approval Notice is valid
  • Verify that your fingerprints are still valid
  • Contact the appropriate USCIS overseas office or U.S. embassy or consulate for details on processing times

After the Orphan Petition is Approved

Apply to a U.S. embassy or consulate for a visa for your child. The Department of State officer who decides the visa application must determine whether your child is “inadmissible” under any provision in section 212(a) of the Immigration and Nationality Act. For children, the most common ground of inadmissibility is medical inadmissibility due to certain diseases, lack of required vaccinations, or other medical issues. If your child is inadmissible, you may be able to obtain a waiver of inadmissibility by filing Form I-601, Application for Waiver of Ground of Inadmissibility.

Visa Issuance and Acquisition of U.S. Citizenship

Go to the Before Your Child Immigrates to the United States page for information about the type of visa your child will receive and about how and when your child may become a U.S. citizen under the Child Citizenship Act.

Last Reviewed/Updated: 06/25/2014