Questions & Answers: U.S. Suspends Processing New Nepal Adoption Cases Based on Abandonment
Q. Why is the United States government suspending adoptions from Nepal?
A. The Department of State and U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) have decided to suspend processing of new adoption cases from Nepal that involve children who are claimed to have been found abandoned, because documents presented in support of the abandonment of these children in Nepal have been found to be unreliable and circumstances of alleged abandonment cannot be verified because of obstacles in the investigation of individual cases.
Q: Adoptive parents have received immigrant visas for their Nepali children from the U.S. Embassy in Kathmandu as recently as a few weeks ago. What has changed since then?
A. A review of recently processed cases established a disturbing pattern indicating that available documentation cannot be relied upon to make determinations that a child reported abandoned qualifies as an orphan under U.S. immigration law.
Q: Does the suspension apply to all cases or only to cases in which a child was allegedly found abandoned?
A. The suspension applies only to cases where a child is alleged to have been found abandoned.
Q. When is the suspension going into effect?
A. The suspension is effective as of August 6, 2010, for all new adoption cases involving children from Nepal who have been reported abandoned.
Q. What is a “new” adoption case that will be covered by the suspension?
A. The suspension applies to cases in which the Government of Nepal has not issued an official referral letter to prospective adoptive parents to propose a match with a specific child from Nepal who has been reported abandoned. If the Government of Nepal has issued the referral letter prior to August 6, 2010, the case will be considered in the pipeline of existing cases and will continue to be processed. If no such referral letter has been issued prior to August 6, 2010, the case will be suspended.
Q. Based on what authority is the U.S. government suspending adoptions from Nepal?
A. The Department of State has concluded that the documentation presented for children reported abandoned in Nepal is unreliable. Without reliable documentation, such children cannot meet the definition of orphan under U.S. immigration law. Based on this determination and obstacles in the investigation process the U.S. government has suspended the processing of new adoption cases that involve children who are reported abandoned.
Q. What evidence does the U.S. government have to support the suspension?
A. The Department of State’s ongoing interactions with the Government of Nepal and the review of numerous cases, including field visits to orphanages and police stations, led them to conclude that information regarding how children arrive at orphanages is consistently inadequate and that documents presented to establish that a child was found abandoned are unreliable. Investigations of abandonment cases have been hampered by the unavailability of officials involved in reports of abandonment, and police and orphanage officials’ refusals to allow consular officers access to police and orphanage records.
Q. Has the U.S. government made any effort to address the problems with the Government of Nepal?
A. The U.S. government, in cooperation with other countries that are active in intercountry adoptions, has consistently encouraged the Government of Nepal to ratify and implement the Hague Adoption Convention. Nepal is a signatory to the Convention. We have also urged the Government of Nepal to implement the recommendations made by the Hague Permanent Bureau Intercountry Technical Assistance Program (ICATAP) as a first step toward fulfilling its commitment as a signatory to the Convention. We believe that the Hague Adoption Convention incorporates the best practices in intercountry adoption, which are intended to protect the rights of the children and the families involved in intercountry adoption.
Q: Will there be any exceptions to the suspension?
A. No. Prospective adoptive parents who the Government of Nepal has matched with a child reported abandoned after August 6, 2010, will not receive a decision on a petition for that child.
Q. Are there any cases in Nepal that do not involve children reported abandoned?
A. Not at the present time. However, in the case of a relinquishment by known birth parent(s), the application would be processed under normal procedures. DNA evidence may be necessary to establish the relationship between the birth parent(s) and child.
Q. When will adoptions from Nepal resume?
A. We are unable to predict when adoptions involving children who are reported abandoned in Nepal will be able to resume. We encourage the Government of Nepal to implement sufficient protections to ensure the integrity of the intercountry adoption process.
Q. What will happen to families who are already matched with a child from Nepal?
A. The suspension applies to abandonment cases in which the prospective adoptive parents have not yet been matched with a child from Nepal. The Government of Nepal’s Ministry of Women, Children and Social Welfare issues an official “referral letter” to inform prospective adoptive parents of a proposed match. If the Government of Nepal has issued the official referral letter prior to August 6, 2010, the case will be processed to conclusion. In light of concerns regarding the validity of documents supporting abandonment cases in Nepal, the cases will be carefully investigated and only those in which there is sufficient credible evidence to conclude a child has been found abandoned will be approved.
If consular officials at the U.S. Embassy in Kathmandu determine that a case is not clearly approvable, they are required to forward the Form I-600, Petition to Classify an Orphan as an Immediate Relative, to the USCIS office in New Delhi for review. USCIS and the Department of State will process each case individually, based on the evidence presented and the results of the investigation. If additional information is required to complete the processing of any particular case, USCIS will request additional evidence specific to the facts of that particular case, and the prospective adoptive parents will have an opportunity to respond.
Q. How many cases are in the “pipeline”?
A. Based on information provided by the Government of Nepal, we estimate that there are approximately 80 cases in which U.S. families have been matched with a child in Nepal, but in which the Form I-600 petition has not been adjudicated or a visa has not been issued.
Q. Can a family that has begun the process of adopting in Nepal decide to adopt a child from a different country now?
A. Yes. If prospective adoptive parents have already filed or received approval of a Form I-600A, Application for Advance Processing of an Orphan Petition, that specifies Nepal as the country from which they intend to adopt, they are permitted to request one no-fee change of country. If the prospective adoptive parents have already filed a Form I-600 on behalf of a Nepali child, they may withdraw the petition. Upon withdrawal of the petition, the prospective adoptive parents may request a change of country and file another Form I-600 petition on behalf of a different child, as long as their Form I-600A approval remains valid.
Q. What are other countries that process adoptions of Nepali orphans doing?
A. Belgium, Canada, Denmark, France, Germany, Israel, Italy, Norway, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, and the United Kingdom have recently suspended adoptions in Nepal based on similar concerns.
Information for Pending Pipeline Adoption Cases in Nepal
Q. A significant change has occurred in my household and I need to update my approved Form I-600A, Application for Advance Approval of Orphan Petition. How do I change this?
A. If a significant change occurs in your household, you will need to notify USCIS before a decision is made on your Form I-600, Petition to Classify Orphan as an Immediate Relative. (See examples of a ‘significant change’ below)
To notify USCIS of this change you must send the following:
- A cover letter (signed by you)
- A written request for an updated Form I-600A approval notice
- A fully completed and amended home study with the signature of the home study preparer
If your Form I-600A remains approved, you will receive an updated Form I-171H or Form I-797 approval notice that reflects any changes.
PLEASE NOTE: Your Form I-600A approval is no longer valid after a change in marital status. You must file a new Form I-600A with fee and appropriate documentation. See question below for more information.
Q. What is considered a significant change?
A. A significant change may include, but is not limited to:
- A change to your place of residence
- An update in your criminal history, abuse history, or other derogatory information
- A change in marital status
- A change of financial resources
- An additional member residing in your household (i.e. children, dependents, or adults)
- Characteristics of the child requested (i.e. gender, age, special needs, etc.)
Q. How does a change of marital status affect my approved Form I-600A?
A. If your marital status changes after approval of the Form I-600A or Form I 600, you cannot submit a request for an updated approval notice. In this situation, you must submit a new Form I-600A, with a new filing fee, along with the updated or amended home study. If you are newly married, your spouse must also sign the new Form I-600A.
Q. In what circumstance may I request an extension of my Form I-600A approval?
A. There are a few situations where an extension of Form I-600A approval would be beneficial:
- The initial approval will expire before you file a Form I-600.
- You have already filed a Form I-600 but you were approved to adopt more than one child and you have not yet filed all of the Forms I-600 for all of your adoptive or prospective adoptive children.
- You are in the process of adopting a child and a birth sibling* becomes available for adoption during the process.
* The term birth sibling means a brother or sister by birth, rather than on the basis of a common adoption – that is, the siblings must have at least one birth parent in common. Also, in this situation it may also be necessary to simultaneously request a significant change. Please keep in mind that the current suspension of Nepali adoptions still applies to all children who are claimed to have been found abandoned, even those who may be birth siblings of a child who has previously immigrated to the United States.
Q. How do I request an extension for my approved Form I-600A?
A. You must submit a written request for an extension of your approved Form I-600A, along with a fully completed and updated home study.
No specific form or filing fee is required, however you are only permitted one extension. You must submit the request before the approval expires, but no earlier than 90 days before the expiration of the I-600A. Your extension will expire 18 months from the expiration date of the original Form I 600A approval.
|Initial Form I-600A|
|July 1, 2008||January 1, 2010||January 1, 2010||July 1, 2011|
Q. Where do I send my significant change request and/or request for extension?
A. If you reside in the United States, please submit requests to the National Benefits Center:
National Benefits Center
PO Box 8025
Lee’s Summit, MO 64002
If you reside overseas, the requests must be made with the USCIS office abroad having jurisdiction over your home. If you intend to move to the United States when your adoption is completed, you may make the request with the NBC. Click here to see all USCIS offices overseas.
Q. Do my fingerprint clearances have to remain valid throughout the Form I-600 adjudication?
A. Fingerprint clearances are valid for 15 months and must be valid for all adult household members during certain stages of the adoption process, such as:
- When the Form I-600A is adjudicated,
- When a Form I-600A extension request or significant change request is adjudicated, and
- When the Form I-600 is approved.
If your fingerprint clearances expire before the completion of the stages listed above, you may request additional fingerprint appointment(s). If you have already taken advantage of the one-time, no-fee re-fingerprinting, the NBC will request the necessary biometrics fees if necessary.
Additionally, if you make a significant change or extension request and your fingerprints are not valid, the NBC will issue a request for evidence notifying you of the issue.
Q. USCIS states that an extension request requires an updated home study and a significant change request requires an amended home study. What is the difference between the two types of home studies?
Amended Home Study
An amended home study is a home study that reviews a significant change to the household after the family was approved in a previous home study. The new review of the significant change is incorporated within the body of the home study.
An amended home study does not require updated record checks of you or the adult household members unless the significant change is the addition of an adult to the household. Any new household member must submit to all required checks.
If the significant change is a new criminal record for you or an adult household member, that person must submit to all required checks again. An amended home study must also contain an evaluation of the significant change and a continued recommendation to adopt.
PLEASE NOTE: USCIS does not accept amended home studies that are an attachment or addendum to the original home study. You must always submit a copy of the original home study.
Updated Home Study
An updated home study is a fully completed home study that must:
- Include newly conducted background checks on you and all adult household members;
- Include a continued recommendation to adopt; and
- Cannot be more than 6 months old
Q. Does my Form I-600A approval need to be valid at the time I file Form I-600 with the U.S. Embassy Kathmandu?
A. Yes. In accordance with immigration law, the Form I-600A must be approved and valid at the time a Form I-600 is filed with the U.S. Embassy Kathmandu. (See Title 8 Code of Federal Regulations 204.3(g))
Q. Can the U.S. Embassy Kathmandu make a determination on my significant change or extension request?
A. No, only the USCIS office with jurisdiction over your place of residence may adjudicate a Form I-600A (or any changes to its approval). (See Title 8 Code of Federal Regulations 204.3(g))
If you reside in the United States, you must submit requests to the National Benefits Center.
If you reside overseas, you must make requests to the USCIS office abroad having jurisdiction over your home. If you intend to move to the United States when your adoption is completed, you may make the request with the NBC.
Q. What if my child does not match the description of the child my Form I‑600A was approved for?
A. If this occurs, you must make a significant change request as outlined in the above questions. The U.S. Embassy Kathmandu cannot make a determination on the Form I-600 without an amended Form I-600A approval from the NBC.