Questions & Answers: Information for U.S. Citizens in the Process of Adopting a Child from Haiti
On Jan. 12, 2010, Haiti experienced an earthquake of devastating proportions. This set of questions and answers provides information for United States citizens that have adopted a child or are in the process of adopting a child from Haiti prior to Jan. 12, 2010.
Questions and Answers
Q. I am in the process of adopting a child from Haiti, what can I do to bring the child to the United States?
A. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary Janet Napolitano has authorized the use of humanitarian parole for the following categories of orphans in Haiti:
Category 1 Cases
Description: Children being adopted by U.S. citizens prior to Jan. 12, 2010, who have been legally confirmed as orphans available for inter-country adoption by the Government of Haiti (GOH) through an adoption decree or custody grant to suitable U.S. citizen adoptive parents.
- Evidence of availability for adoption MUST include at least one of the following:
- Full and final Haitian adoption decree; or
- GOH custody grant to prospective adoptive parents for emigration and adoption; or
- Secondary evidence in place of the above.
- Evidence of suitability MUST include one of the following:
- Approved Form I-600A, Application for Advance Processing of an Orphan Petition; or
- Current FBI fingerprints and security background check; or
- Physical custody in Haiti plus a security background check.
Please note, some of the children in this category will receive immigrant visas and others will receive humanitarian parole, depending on the completeness of the cases. Those who enter with immigrant visas will enter as aliens lawfully admitted for permanent residence. Those who enter with humanitarian parole will need to have their immigration status finalized after arrival through an application for adjustment of status.
Category 2 Cases
Description: Children who have been identified by an adoption service provider or facilitator as eligible for intercountry adoption, were matched to prospective American adoptive parents prior to Jan. 12, 2010 and meet the below criteria.
• Significant evidence of a relationship between the prospective adoptive parents and the child; AND of the parents’ intention to complete the adoption, which could include the following:
- Proof of travel by the prospective adoptive parents to Haiti to visit the child;
- Photos of the child and prospective adoptive parents together;
- An Adoption Service Provider (ASP) “Acceptance of Referral” letter signed by the prospective adoptive parents;
- Documentary evidence that the prospective adoptive parents initiated the adoption process prior to Jan. 12, 2010, with intent to adopt the child (filed Form I-600A, Application for Advance Processing of an Orphan Petition, and/or Form I-600, Petition to Classify an Orphan as an Immediate Relative, completed a home study, located an ASP to work with in Haiti, etc.).
• Evidence of the child’s availability for adoption, which would include the following:
- IBESR (Haitian Adoption Authority) approval;
- Documentation of legal relinquishment or award of custody to the Haitian orphanage;
- Secondary evidence in place of the above.
• Evidence of suitability MUST include one of the following:
- Approved Form I-600A, Application for Advance Processing of an Orphan Petition; or
- Current FBI fingerprints and security background check.
If the child you have adopted or are adopting meets these criteria, please send U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) detailed information about the adoption case at HaitianAdoptions@dhs.gov. This e-mail address is dedicated to collecting information about adoption cases still pending in Haiti. Please include the name of the prospective adoptive parent in the subject line of the e-mail. Once we have your information, we will contact you with further information.
Q. How do I request Humanitarian Parole for the child I am in the process of adopting?
A. If you want to request humanitarian parole for a specific child you are in the process of adopting from Haiti, please send the request to HaitianAdoptions@dhs.gov. Please include the name of the prospective adoptive parent in the subject line of the e-mail. You do not need to file Form I-131 or submit a fee for these cases.
Q. If parole is authorized, how will my child depart Haiti?
A. Adoptive parents are responsible for all travel costs for their child. The adoptive parents may purchase tickets for their child and escorts on any commercial airline or private charter flight departing Haiti to Miami, Florida. However, the U.S. government will continue to assist, to the extent possible, in coordinating travel on private charter flights as they are available.
Q. Can I arrange for my adoptive child to travel to any airport in the United States?
A. DHS is issuing travel authorizations for adoptive children to enter the United States only at the Miami, Fla. airport, where the children will be met by DHS officials and if necessary, processed by the Department of Health and Human Services. Airlines should not board children traveling to any other airport in the United States, if the child is traveling with these travel authorizations.
Q. Will my adoptive child be allowed to travel on military flights to the United States?
A. Since commercial air service from Haiti resumed on February 19, the U.S. military is no longer providing air transport for adoptive children to the United States.
Q. Can I go to Haiti to bring my adoptive child home?
A. Since all children authorized for parole must be approved by the Haitian Prime Minister, parents should wait until they receive notification from the U.S. government that their child is ready to travel before finalizing travel arrangements. USCIS continues to encourage adoptive parents to review the Department of State travel warning before making a decision about traveling to Haiti.
Q. Will there be any delay now that my child is traveling through the airport?
A. Haitian authorities have resumed normal operations at the Port-au-Prince airport and continue to carefully examine all documents for minors leaving Haiti to prevent trafficking in children. The U.S. Embassy continues to work closely with the Haitian authorities to ensure that orphans who receive humanitarian parole may travel without interruption.
Q. If humanitarian parole is authorized, may I travel to pick up a specific child?
A. The Department of State (DOS) Travel Warning urges U.S. citizens to avoid travel to Haiti. Communications and transportation in Haiti are extremely limited and nearly all available resources are dedicated to the immediate search and rescue of Haitians. Updates to the DOS travel warnings for Haiti are available online at http://www.travel.state.gov/travel/cis_pa_tw/tw/tw_4632.html
Once a child receives a visa or is authorized for humanitarian parole, we encourage you to work with your U.S. adoption agency and the orphanage staff in Haiti to identify an escort to bring the child to the United States.
Should you intend to travel to Haiti, USCIS strongly urges you to contact USCIS through Haitianadoptions@dhs.gov before traveling to ensure that all the paperwork necessary for your child to be paroled into the U.S. has been completed and that, if you have not been fingerprinted, you are fingerprinted in the U.S. Getting fingerprinted in Haiti may delay the processing of your case.
Q. Many documents were destroyed in the earthquake. What kind of secondary evidence can be submitted in the place of primary documents?
A. Secondary evidence may include, but is not limited to, copies of records or correspondence referring to the existence of the destroyed or missing document, as maintained by an Adoption Service Provider or the prospective adoptive family, as well as affidavits of individuals with knowledge of the document or event.
Q. I am a prospective adoptive parent in the process of adopting a child in Haiti, but the adoption was not finalized prior to the earthquake. If DHS authorizes humanitarian parole for a child who was not legally adopted in Haiti, how will I obtain the legal authority to take the child into my home?
A: If you received an order from the Government of Haiti granting custody of the child to you, then the child may be paroled into your custody upon verification of the order, your identity and that of the child after the child’s arrival in the United States.
If you have not received a formal order granting you custody from the Government of Haiti, then the child may be placed in your care but some additional procedures must be followed first. These procedures are intended to protect children and ensure that those without final adoptions are placed with families that are able to care for them. These additional procedures may take a little time, but they are critical for keeping children safe. Children who cannot be placed with prospective adoptive parents will be well cared for. The Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) within the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has contracts with organizations around the country to care for unaccompanied children who are not U.S. citizens. For more information on this process, please review Information for Prospective Adoptive Parents available on the U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services website.
Whether you become a sponsor or not, you will need to adopt the child under the adoption laws of your place of residence in order for the child to acquire permanent residence in the United States. More information regarding the process for finalizing the adoption in the U.S. will be provided on the USCIS website once available. If your child is over the age of 14, please contact us immediately by forwarding an email to HaitianAdoptions@dhs.gov. To ensure that your request is processed correctly, please follow the instructions below:
1. In the subject line of your email type: "Child in U.S. – Over age 14"
2. In the body of the e-mail be sure to include:
- Your full name
- Your home address
- Your child's name
- Your child's date of birth
- Information about how to best contact you
Q. I am a prospective adoptive parent in the process of adopting a child from Haiti. What should I do if my Fingerprint Clearance has expired?
A. USCIS will review each prospective adoptive parent’s request for humanitarian parole on a case-by-case basis. If we determine that your fingerprint clearance(s) has expired, you do not need to take any action. USCIS will electronically rerun your prints. (Please do not send a request for updated fingerprint to HaitianAdoptions@dhs.gov.) If you have not been fingerprinted by USCIS at any stage of your adoption process, please send an e-mail message to HaitianAdoptions@dhs.gov and we will arrange a fingerprint appointment for you. Please include “FP Request” in the subject line of the e-mail.
Q. Is there any other way I can help orphans in Haiti?
A. We understand that some Americans want to respond by offering to open their homes. We certainly appreciate this generous impulse, but note that it can be extremely difficult to determine whether children are truly orphans. Children may be temporarily separated from their parents or other family members, and their parents or other relatives may be looking for them. In the first instance, we believe it is most important to focus on re-uniting separated children with their relatives. Some individuals may wish to assist by contributing to a reputable relief or humanitarian organization working in that country. More information can be found at the following Web sites:
Q. I have heard the Government of Haiti has stopped allowing orphans to leave Haiti. What will happen to my child if I am still in the process of adoption?
A. The United States government is working closely with the Government of Haiti to establish an efficient and transparent procedure to allow eligible children to depart quickly while also ensuring the best possible protection of unaccompanied and separated children.
The government of Haiti has not stopped allowing orphans to leave Haiti. USCIS is continuing to process cases that meet the DHS Secretary’s criteria for category 1 and 2, however we are unable to issue travel letters for each child to depart until we receive approval from the Government of Haiti (GOH). Once approval is received, we are able to issue travel documents to authorized children.
Q. Once the children in an orphanage have been screened, and evaluated, should the orphanage director bring the children to the U.S. Embassy?
A. We recommend against attempting to enter the U.S. Embassy, particularly with a group of children, without first scheduling an appointment in advance. There is a possibility that you may be turned away and scheduled to come back another day.
USCIS is proactively scheduling appointments at the U.S. Embassy in Port-au-Prince to screen Haitian children who were adopted or were in the process of being adopted by U.S. citizens prior to the January 12 earthquake. Whenever possible, we will schedule all children from the same orphanage/facility, at the same time.
To obtain more information on the process, please review the How to Schedule an Appointment for an Orphan Screening at the U.S. Embassy in Port au Prince fact sheet at www.uscis.gov.
Q. What are the medical screening requirements for adopted children from Haiti?
A. Before internationally adopted children come to the United States, they are usually required to go through a medical exam. However, due to the lack of available medical screening facilities and the burden of emergent medical needs in Haiti as a result of the January 12 earthquake, we anticipate that many children arriving as humanitarian parolees will not have completed their medical exams before they depart Haiti. Medical examinations are not required as a part of the humanitarian parole program.
As a result, it is important that all arriving adoptive children from Haiti undergo a medical screening process soon after arrival to screen for infectious diseases and other general health concerns. Additional guidance regarding medical exams for adopted children from Haiti is available from the Department of Heath and Human Services, Centers for Prevention and Disease Control Web: Information on Haiti Earthquake.
Q. If my child is traveling from Haiti, are there any specific provisions I should know when he or she arrives in the United States?
A. Please note that a U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officer must inspect all individuals traveling to the United States when they arrive at a port of entry. For more information on the process for obtaining the legal authority to take into your home your child or the child you are in the process of adopting, please review the questions above or the Information for Prospective Adoptive Parents available on the U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services (HHS) website.
Q. I submitted the original adoption decree and other documents to the USCIS field office in Port-au-Prince. How do I get these documents back after my child arrives in the United States?
A. To request the return of original documents submitted to establish eligibility for an immigration benefit, please fill out Form G-884, “Return of Original Documents,” which is available to download from the forms section on USCIS’ Web, http://www.uscis.gov/forms.