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The Universal Accreditation Act of 2012

The Intercountry Adoption Universal Accreditation Act of 2012 (UAA) went into effect on July 14, 2014. Unless an exception applies, as of that date, the UAA requires that an accredited or approved adoption service provider (ASP) act as a primary provider in every “orphan” intercountry adoption case described under section 101(b)(1)(F) of the Immigration and Nationality Act, and that all agencies or persons that provide adoption services on behalf of prospective adoptive parents in such a case be accredited or approved, or be a supervised or exempted provider, in compliance with the Intercountry Adoption Act and Department of State accreditation regulations. 

The affected forms are:

Under the UAA, the same accreditation requirement and standards that previously only applied in Hague Adoption Convention cases also apply to ASPs providing adoption services on behalf of prospective adoptive parents in an “orphan” (or non-Hague) intercountry adoption case. 

The UAA assures families pursuing an intercountry adoption that regardless of the country from which they intend to adopt, the ASP they choose will need to comply with the same ethical standards of practice and conduct.

Impact on Form I-600A and Form I-600 Adjudications

Unless an exception applies, beginning July, 14, 2014, the UAA will impact Form I-600A applications and Form I-600 petitions in a variety of ways, including:

  • Home study preparation. All home studies submitted to support a Form I-600A or Form I-600 must be conducted by a person authorized under 22 CFR 96 to conduct home studies for Hague Adoption Convention cases (see definition of home study preparer in 8 CFR 204.301). Under 22 CFR 96.47(d), the adoption service provider is also responsible for ensuring that the same home study that he or she provides to prospective/adoptive parents or USCIS is also submitted to the child’s country of origin in a timely manner.
     
  • Home study elements. All home studies, including home study updates and amendments, must comply with the Hague Adoption Convention home study requirements in 8 CFR 204.311, which differ from the home study requirements in effect for orphan cases before July 14, 2014, in 8 CFR 204.3(e).
     
  • Definitions. 8 CFR 204.3(e) and certain definitions in 8 CFR 204.3(b) no longer apply in orphan cases (see 8 CFR 204.301 for the new definitions of “adult member of the household,” “home study preparer,” “suitability as adoptive parent(s),” officer,” “adoption,” and “applicant,” which includes both a married U.S. citizen and his or her spouse).
     
  • Duty of disclosure. Under 8 CFR 204.311(d) and 8 CFR 204.309(a), a Form I-600A applicant or Form I-600 petitioner, his or her spouse, and any adult member of the household have a duty of disclosure in completing Form I-600A (if filed), Form I-600, during the home study process, and throughout the adoption process. This ongoing duty continues while any Form I-600A is pending, after any Form I-600A is approved, while any Form I-600 is pending, and until there is a final decision admitting a child to the United States with a visa.
     
  • Identifying a primary provider. A Form I-600 petitioner must identify a primary adoption service provider. Under 22 CFR 96, a primary provider is responsible for:
  1. Ensuring that all six adoption services defined at 22 CFR 96.2 are provided consistent with applicable laws and regulations;
  2. Supervising and being responsible for supervised providers, where used (see 22 CFR 96.14); and
  3. Developing and implementing a service plan in accordance with 22 CFR 96.44.

Only accredited agencies or approved persons can act as primary providers.

New versions of Form I-600A and Form I-600 will not be available until after July 14, 2014, the date the UAA goes into effect. Applicants and petitioners should continue to use the most current edition of both forms. Additional information regarding the availability of the new Form I-600A and Form I-600 will be provided as soon as it is available.

Applicants and Petitioners Acting on Their Own Behalf

Form I-600A applicants and Form I-600 petitioners may still act on their own behalf in adoption cases if permitted under the laws of the state in which they reside and the laws of the country from which they seek to adopt.

Although Form I-600A applicants and Form I-600 petitioners do not need accreditation or approval to act on their own behalf, their actions need to comply with applicable law, and they will still need an accredited agency or approved person to act as the primary provider in each case. A primary provider helps to ensure that orphan adoption services are provided with the same standards of practice and ethical conduct as Hague Adoption Convention cases. See below for Information on How the UAA Impacts Requests for Extensions, Change of Countries, Increased Number of Children, and Multiple Form I-600A filings.

When to Use an Accredited ASP

The UAA allows for grandfathering in certain situations. ASPs that provide adoption services in these UAA grandfathered cases do not need to be accredited to continue providing adoption services in these cases.

However, ASPs must be accredited in order to provide any adoption services on or after July 14, 2014, in cases that are not UAA grandfathered.

The following tables explain when you will be required to use an accredited ASP. 

Action Taken

Is Accreditation Required?

You filed Form I-600A or Form I-600 before July 13, 2013.

No. The case is UAA grandfathered, and accreditation is not required.

You have initiated the adoption process in a foreign country with the filing of an appropriate foreign application as determined by the Secretary of State before July 13, 2013.

See the Department of State website for interpretive guidance on this provision.

No. The case is UAA grandfathered, and accreditation is not required.

You file(d) Form I-600A or Form I-600 (not in connection with a UAA-grandfathered case) on or after July 13, 2013.*

* This is also includes a filing date on or after July 14, 2014.

Accreditation is not required for adoption services provided before July 14, 2014.

But accreditation is required for adoption services provided on or after July 14, 2014.

Examples: 

If you file Form I-600A or Form I-600

Then your application or petition will

Before July 13, 2013, with a home study prepared by an unaccredited ASP

Be grandfathered under Section 2(c) of the UAA.

An unaccredited or unapproved ASP can provide any adoption services, even after the UAA goes into effect on July 14, 2014.

On or after July 13, 2013, with a home study prepared by an unaccredited or unapproved ASP, and your case is not UAA grandfathered

Not be grandfathered under Section 2(c) of the UAA.

In this situation, USCIS may rely on a home study prepared by an unaccredited provider if it was completed before the new accreditation requirements go into effect on July 14, 2014.

After this date, if you need an updated or amended home study or other adoption services, you will need to work with an accredited or approved ASP, an exempted provider, or an ASP that provides services under a supervisory agreement with an accredited ASP.

 

Information on How the UAA Impacts Completed Home Studies, Requests for Extensions, Change of Countries, Increased Number of Children, and Multiple Form I-600A filings

Completed Home Studies

Home studies and other adoption services completed prior to July 14, 2014, are not subject to the UAA.  Therefore, a home study completed prior to July 14, 2014, generally will not need to comply with the new home study requirements. However, unless your case is UAA grandfathered, any required home study update or amendment (completed on or after July 14, 2014) must comply with the new home study requirements at 8 CFR 204.311 and be prepared by a person authorized under 22 CFR Part 96 to conduct home studies.  

If USCIS issues a Request for Evidence asking you to correct a deficiency in a home study that was completed prior to July 14, 2014, (as opposed to an update or amendment), your corrected home study will not need to comply with the new home study requirements. 

Extensions  

You may continue to request extensions of an approved Form I-600A application – regardless of whether or not the approval is UAA grandfathered.

Beginning July 14, 2014, any newly prepared home study or home study update or amendment submitted with the extension request must meet UAA requirements. It must also be prepared by a person authorized under 22 CFR Part 96 to conduct home studies, unless your case is UAA grandfathered.  [Note: A UAA-grandfathered Form I-600A approval for which you timely request extension remains UAA grandfathered.]

Please visit our Web page on Extensions and Validity Periods for more information. 

Change of Country Requests

You may continue to request to change your intended country of adoption from one non-Convention country to another non-Convention country.

Beginning July 14, 2014, any newly prepared home study or home study update or amendment submitted with the change of country request must meet UAA requirements. It must also be prepared by a person under 22 CFR Part 96 to conduct home studies for Hague Adoption Convention cases.  [Note: The UAA does not apply to UAA-grandfathered Form I-600A approvals for which you timely request a change of country.]

Please visit our Web page on Change of Country for more information. 

Requests to Increase the Number of Children Approved to Adopt

A UAA-grandfathered Form I-600A approval is grandfathered only for the number of children you were approved to adopt before July 14, 2014.

Beginning July 14, 2014, you may still seek to increase the number of children that you are approved to adopt provided that you have not already filed Form I-600 petitions for the number of children you were approved to adopt. However, the UAA will apply to any such increase on or after July 14, 2014. The only exception is for additional birth siblings who are adopted at the same time as a child whose case is UAA grandfathered.

Otherwise, the UAA will apply to additional children you are approved to adopt beyond the number approved before July 14, 2014.

The table below gives examples of UAA-grandfathered Form I-600A scenarios: 

If before July 14, 2014, your UAA-grandfathered Form I-600A approval is for:

Then:

Two children,

The Form I-600A approval will be UAA grandfathered only for two children.  You may file two Form I-600 petitions, and the UAA will not apply to either petition. 

 

Two children and after July 14, 2014, USCIS approves you to adopt one additional non-birth sibling,

The Form I-600A approval will remain UAA grandfathered for two children, but the UAA will apply to the adoption of the additional non-birth sibling.  You may file three Form I-600 petitions.  The UAA will not apply to two of the three petitions.

 

Two children and in the course of adopting the two children, you identify a birth sibling and want to adopt that child too,

You may request that USCIS amend your UAA-grandfathered Form I-600A approval for an additional child, provided that the two original children have not yet immigrated to the United States.  You may file three Form I-600 petitions, and the UAA will not apply to any of the three petitions.

 

Two children and after both children have immigrated to the United States, you identify a birth sibling of one of the children and want to adopt that child too,

The UAA did not apply to your two previously filed Form I-600 petitions. However, you will need to file a new Form I-600A application to adopt the third child. The UAA will apply to the adoption of the third child.

 

Filing a Second Form I-600A Application

If you previously extended your UAA-grandfathered Form I-600A approval, USCIS will allow you to file a second UAA-grandfathered Form I-600A application (with fee), and its timely one-time, no-fee extension, if you:

  • Are unable to file all of the corresponding Form I-600 petitions before your extended Form I-600A approval expires; and
  • File the second one-time Form I-600A application (with fee) before your extended Form I-600A approval expires.

However, if your originally extended UAA-grandfathered Form I-600A approval expires before you file a second Form I-600A application, then your second Form I-600A application will not be UAA grandfathered and must comply with the UAA requirements.

Filing Multiple Form I-600A Applications

If you file multiple Form I-600A applications, then each application filed before July 13, 2013, will be considered UAA grandfathered only for the number of children you were approved to adopt before July 14, 2014. See Requests to Increase the Number of Children Approved to Adopt above for more information.

The table below gives two examples of filing multiple Form I-600A applications: 

I filed my…

Are my forms UAA grandfathered?

Original Form I-600A application in 2010 and was approved to adopt two children. My Form I-600A approval was extended and I completed the adoption of one child.

I filed my second Form I-600A application before July 13, 2013, and it was approved for two children.

Yes, your original Form I-600A approval is UAA grandfathered and you may file one additional Form I-600 petition on the basis of this approval, provided that you file the Form I-600 petition before the Form I-600A approval expires.

Yes, your second Form I-600A approval is UAA grandfathered and you may file two Form I-600 petitions on the basis of this approval, provided that the petitions are filed before the Form I-600A approval expires.

Original Form I-600A application in 2010 and was approved to adopt two children. My Form I-600A approval was extended and I completed the adoption of one child.

After July 13, 2013, but before July 14, 2014, I filed a second Form I-600A application before my extended Form I-600A approval expired. USCIS approved my second Form I-600A and approved me to adopt two children in total.

Yes, both your original and second Form I-600A approvals are UAA grandfathered and you may file a total of two more Form I-600 petitions on the basis of these approvals.

More Information

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Last Reviewed/Updated: 12/22/2014