Adoption Information: Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC)
On September 27, 2013, the Congolese Ministry of Interior and Security, General Direction of Migration (Direction Generale d’Immigration, referred to as DGM) informed the U.S. Embassy in Kinshasa that effective Sept. 25, 2013, the DGM was no longer issuing exit permits to adopted Congolese children seeking to depart the country with their adoptive parents. These exit permits, along with U.S. immigrant visas, are required for adopted children traveling to the United States from the DRC.
Although the Congolese government is taking steps to address the ongoing exit permit suspension for cases with final adoption judgments, it has also stated that pending legislative changes may suspend or invalidate future adoption decrees. Until there is further clarity, please see the Department of State’s Adoption Alert of June 21, 2018 strongly recommending against the initiation of new adoptions in the DRC at this time.
USCIS Processing Options for DRC Adoptions
The DRC is not party to the Hague Convention on Protection of Children and Co-operation in Respect of Intercountry Adoption (Hague Adoption Convention). If you are a U.S. citizen prospective adoptive parent and you wish to initiate the U.S. immigration process for a non-Hague Convention adoption, you should submit the following forms:
- Form I-600A, Application for Advance Processing of an Orphan Petition
- Form I-600, Petition to Classify Orphan as an Immediate Relative
USCIS processes these forms in accordance with applicable regulations, as they relate to orphans as defined under the Immigration and Nationality Act, Section 101(b)(1)(F).
Issuance of exit permits for Congolese children adopted by foreigners has been suspended since September 25, 2013, and the suspension remains firmly in place. While some children have recently received exit permits, U.S. prospective adoptive parents should still expect significant delays in the DRC intercountry adoption process.
There have also been significant delays in the issuance of DRC passports to adopted children, and visa interviews at the U.S. Embassy cannot be conducted unless the adopted child has a valid Congolese passport.
The inclusion of a child’s name on the Interministerial Adoption Commission’s list indicating the child is eligible to receive the required exit permission from the DRC is separate from that child’s eligibility for orphan classification and immigration. A child’s name may be on the list, but the child may not otherwise be eligible to leave the DRC.
If you have a pending or withdrawn Form I-600, a pending Form I-600 Motion to Reopen or Reconsider or Appeal with USCIS, or a Form I-600 that USCIS revoked or denied, you can confirm the status of your Form I-600 petition with the USCIS office where your case is pending or was adjudicated.
What Are Your Options?
While we cannot predict when or if adopted children will be able to depart the DRC, if you have an approved Form I-600A you may choose to:
- Maintain the validity of a current Form I-600A approval for the DRC, or
- Pursue adoption in another non-Hague Adoption Convention country or a Hague Adoption Convention country.
How Can I Change to Another Non-Hague Adoption Convention Country?
If you have an approved Form I-600A for the DRC and wish to change to another country that is not party to the Hague Adoption Convention, the you must:
- Notify USCIS in writing of your intention; and
- Submit an amended home study that is no more than six months old. Please see the USCIS Universal Accreditation Act (UAA) webpage for information on how the UAA may impact an amended home study.
How Can I Change to a Hague Adoption Convention Country?
If you wish to change to a country that is a party to the Hague Adoption Convention, you must:
- File Form I-800A, Application for Determination of Suitability to Adopt a Child from a Convention Country, along with a Hague-compliant home study and the appropriate fee.
Can I Extend the Validity of an Approved Form I-600A?
If you wish to maintain your Form I-600A approval for the DRC, you can request a one-time, no fee extension of approval for an additional 18 months prior to the expiration of an approved Form I-600A by:
- Requesting an extension of approval with USCIS in writing; and
- Submitting an amended or updated home study as appropriate. See also the USCIS Universal Accreditation Act (UAA) webpage for information on how the UAA may impact an amended home study.
Note: Prospective adoptive parents may also be asked to submit additional documentation.
Filing Options for Form I-600, Petition to Classify Orphan as an Immediate Relative
If you are a prospective adoptive parent, you have different filing options available depending on your where you live.
It is important to note:
1) There is generally no advantage to file Form I-600, Petition to Classify Orphan as an Immediate Relative, abroad or domestically.
2) USCIS and the Department of State do not require prospective adoptive parents living in the United States to file with the U.S. Embassy in Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC).
If you are a prospective adoptive parent living in the United States or abroad, you may:
- File your Form I-600 petition domestically — The USCIS National Benefits Center (NBC) will adjudicate the petition and the U.S. Embassy in Kinshasa will conduct a Form I-604 orphan determination, often in advance of the NBC making a decision on the petition, OR
- Travel to the DRC and file with the U.S. Embassy in Kinshasa—You must have a valid Form I-600A, Application for Advance Processing of an Orphan Petition, approval to file your Form I-600 petition in Kinshasa. The Embassy will conduct the Form I-604 orphan determination and adjudicate the petition if clearly approvable.
Additionally if you are a prospective adoptive parent living abroad, you may:
- File your Form I-600 with the USCIS office that has jurisdiction over your residence abroad—Your Form I-600 will be adjudicated by the USCIS office abroad and the U.S. Embassy in Kinshasa will conduct the Form I-604 orphan determination, often in advance of the USCIS office abroad making a decision on the petition.
For additional information about filing options, please see Filing Instructions for Form I-600, Petition to Classify Orphan as an Immediate Relative.
For questions regarding cases filed with the USCIS National Benefits Center, email NBC.Adoptions@dhs.gov or call 877-424-8374, TTY (800) 877-8339.
Making an Appointment with the Embassy
We recommend contacting the U.S. Embassy in Kinshasa before traveling to the DRC to file your Form I-600 petition because you must have an appointment to file your petition in person at the Embassy. Appointments must be made at least three weeks in advance of the date you wish to select for your appointment. For more information about filing requirements at the U.S. Embassy in Kinshasa, please visit the embassy’s Adoption in the DRC website.
The U.S. Embassy Kinshasa only has the authority to approve petitions on behalf of USCIS if the petitions are found clearly approvable, but does not have authority to issue a formal Request for Evidence, a notice of intent to deny, or a denial. Petitions found to be not clearly approvable due to inconsistencies and errors, or other issues of concern are sent to the USCIS Rome Field Office for final adjudication. Processing times for not clearly approvable cases are similar to processing times for cases filed domestically with the National Benefits Center that receive a Request for Evidence. Accordingly, USCIS would like to reemphasize that there is generally no advantage to filing with Embassy Kinshasa versus filing in the U.S. with the National Benefits Center.
The U.S. Embassy in Kinshasa conducts Forms I-604 orphan determinations as expeditiously as possible; however, the amount of time needed to make a determination can vary depending on factors specific to each case, such as the:
- Proximity of the child’s place of origin to Kinshasa, and
- Availability of officials and persons related to the case to verify information presented in the case.
For additional information on visa services at U.S. Embassy Kinshasa please visit the Embassy’s Visa Services Web page.
Eligibility of an Adopted Child Living in the DRC to Obtain U.S. Citizenship
I adopted a child in the DRC and have an approved Form I-600, but cannot obtain an exit permit for my adopted child to leave the DRC and immigrate to the U.S. Can my adopted child acquire U.S. citizenship while in the DRC, before coming to the U.S.?
No. Children adopted by United States citizen parents generally cannot obtain U.S. citizenship until they enter the United States. See Sections 320 and 322 of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA). In order for an adopted child living in the DRC, to acquire U.S. citizenship, he or she would need to meet the requirements of Section 322 of the INA. To be eligible under this provision, the INA requires that a child adopted from a non-Hague Adoption Convention country such as the DRC, must:
- Meet the definition of an “orphan” under INA Section 101(b)(1)(F), as evidenced by an approved Form I-600 petition;
- Have at least one U.S. citizen parent (by birth or naturalization);
- Have at least one U.S. citizen parent (or U.S. citizen grandparent, if applicable) who meets certain physical presence requirements (specifically s/he has been present in the United States or its outlying possessions for at least five years, which includes at least 2 years after reaching 14 years of age);
- Be under 18 years of age;
- Be residing outside of the United States in the legal and physical custody of the U.S. citizen parent (unless the U.S. citizen parent is deceased);
- Be temporarily present in the United States (through the child’s appearance at a domestic USCIS office) pursuant to a lawful admission, and maintains such status (note there is an exception for adopted children of U.S. Armed Forces members authorized to accompany such member and reside together abroad); and
- Take the oath of allegiance before a USCIS officer in the United States (unless waived for children under the age of 14).
If the child meets the criteria for citizenship under INA Section 322, the adoptive parents must file Form N-600K on behalf of the adopted child and include a copy of a final adoption decree, along with a copy of the Form I-600 petition approval notice and supporting documents (except home study) in order to obtain citizenship for the child. The Form N-600K application must be filed and completely processed before the child’s 18th birthday.
Due to the suspension of exit permits, however, an adopted child living in the DRC would generally not be able to fulfill all the statutory requirements; specifically temporary presence in the U.S. pursuant to a lawful admission. Adopted children may have been issued an IR-3 visa from the Department of State; however, due to the restriction on the issuance of exit permits adopted children would be unable to travel to the U.S. to attend the required USCIS interview.
For similar reasons, children living in the DRC would generally not be able to fulfill all the statutory requirements under INA Section 320, which among other conditions requires that the adopted child be residing in the U.S. in the legal and physical custody of the citizen parent pursuant to a lawful admission for permanent residence.
If I or my spouse are a member of the Armed Services stationed abroad, can my adopted child living in the DRC obtain U.S. citizenship?
Children of U.S. citizen military members who are authorized to accompany and reside with their U.S. citizen military parent abroad pursuant to official orders are not required to be temporarily present in the U.S. to acquire U.S. citizenship under section 322 of the INA. Such children may be able to complete the process to acquire a Certificate of Citizenship abroad. Additionally, a U.S. citizen parent who is a member of the armed forces may count any period of time he or she resided abroad on official orders as physical presence in the United States.
In order to demonstrate the adopted child is authorized to accompany and reside with the U.S. military parent, the adoptive parent(s) should submit a copy of the Permanent Change of Station (PCS) orders specifically naming the child on the orders. If the PCS orders do not specifically name the child, the parent must also include a copy of the service member’s Form DD-1278 (Certificate of Overseas Assignment to Support Application to File Petition for Naturalization) and Form DD-1171 (DEERS Enrollment), naming the child.
The child must be residing with and accompanying the U.S. citizen service member who is on official military orders. A military spouse living with an adopted child in a location or country not listed on the military orders would not satisfy the necessary requirement.
Importantly, even though a child in these circumstances may be able to obtain a Certificate of Citizenship, the child would still need to obtain an exit permit from the DGM to leave the DRC.
Please see additional frequently asked questions at the Department of State website.
Prohibitions on Adoptions Under Congolese Law
Congolese law generally does not allow:
- Adoptions by gay or lesbian individuals or families;
- Adoptions by couples married less than five years;
- Adoptions by families with more than two children in the home;
- Adoptions of more than three Congolese children, even if the children are part of a family group;
- Adoptions by individuals with prior histories of child abuse and/or mental illness;
- Adoptions by single individuals of children of the opposite gender, and
- Adoptions where the adoptive parents are not at least 15 years older than the proposed adoptee.
According to Congolese law, no waivers are available for categories 1, 2, 4, and 5. As far as the Department of State understands, only the President of the DRC may waive the prohibitions against categories 3 and 6 and only the Tribunal pour Enfants may waive requirement 7.
USCIS also understands that while Congolese courts may choose to waive some of these requirements when processing an adoption, other Congolese ministries may not recognize or accept the courts’ waivers. Families who complete adoptions in which the courts have waived requirements may encounter difficulties when seeking documents or approvals from other ministries.
Prohibition on Adoptions by Single Parents
In October 2013, the DGM stopped issuing exit permits to Congolese children adopted by single parents from all countries, unless the adoption was approved by the Ministry of Gender and Family before September 25, 2013.
This prohibition, announced in the October 23, 2013, Department of State DRC adoption alert, is intended to be permanent. The U.S. Embassy in Kinshasa is seeking clarification on the prohibition’s effect on children who were adopted by U.S. families before the suspension. For further information, please see the Department of State’s website adoption.state.gov, and search for or select the Democratic Republic of the Congo from the country list. Please pay attention to the alerts that are posted on the DRC page.