Before Your Child Immigrates to the United States

If the child you adopted or intend to adopt in the United States is residing abroad, the child will need an immigrant visa to enter the United States. Visas are issued by the U.S. Department of State (DOS) at the embassy or consulate in the foreign country where your child resides.

The type of visa your child is issued will determine what steps you need to take for the child to acquire U.S. citizenship.

If your adopted child is already in the United States, visit the Other Adoption Related Immigration page.


Visa types for Hague Adoptions:

  • IH-3 visa:  Issued for children with final adoptions from a Hague Convention country.
  • IH-4 visa:  Issued when a child is coming to the United States from a Hague Convention country to be adopted.

Visa types for Orphan (Non-Hague) Adoptions:

  • IR-3 visa: Issued when a full and final adoption is completed abroad:
    • Requires that the parent (if unmarried), or at least one parent (if married) physically see and observe the child prior to or during the adoption proceedings.
  • IR-4 visa: Issued to a child that:
    • is coming to the United States to be adopted.
    • was adopted abroad by only one parent (if married).
    • was not seen by the parent(s) prior to or during the adoption.

Visa types for the Family-Based Petition Process:

  • IR-2 visa: Issued to a child:
    • who was adopted before the child’s 16th birthday (or 18th birthday if the sibling exception applies); and

    • who was in the legal custody of and jointly resided with the adoptive parent(s) for at least 2 years (among other requirements).

Child Citizenship

For more information go to the U.S. Citizenship for an Adopted Child page.

Children with IR-3 and IH-3 visas automatically acquire citizenship if:

  • they are admitted to the United States as lawful permanent residents prior to their 18th birthday; and

  • they reside in the United States in the legal and physical custody of the U.S. citizen parent.

We will automatically send your child’s Certificate of Citizenship to your U.S. address without requiring additional forms or fees if your child is under age 14 and was admitted with an IR-3 or IH-3 visa.

Children with IR-4 and IH-4 visas:

  • do not acquire automatic citizenship after admission to the U.S., but instead become Permanent Residents.
  • will automatically receive a permanent resident card (Green Card).
  • will generally automatically acquire citizenship on the date of their adoption in United States if the adoption occurs before the child’s 18th birthday.

Children with IR-2 visas that are:

  • under 18 years old automatically acquire U.S. citizenship after admission to the United States if they reside in the United States with their parents.
  • over 18 years old become permanent residents and receive a Green Card.

Children with IR-2 visas who did not automatically acquire U.S. citizenship can apply for naturalization when eligible.

Children of U.S. Armed Forces Members or U.S. Government Employees (or their Spouses)

Under certain circumstances, children of U.S. armed forces members or U.S. government employees (or their spouses) may acquire citizenship even though they are residing outside the United States. For more information, see USCIS Policy Manual Volume 12, Part H, Children of U.S. Citizens, Chapter 4, Automatic Acquisition of Citizenship after Birth (INA 320)

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