Notice on Ethiopian Intercountry Adoptions and the Indictment of International Adoption Guides, Inc.
On Feb. 11, 2014, the Department of Justice announced that a grand jury in South Carolina indicted four current and former employees of International Adoption Guides Inc. (IAG), an adoption services provider, for allegedly conspiring to defraud the United States in connection with adoption services in Ethiopia. IAG is a South Carolina company that identified children in Ethiopia for adoption and arranged for their adoption by parents in the United States. For more information, see the Department of Justice’s news release.
How This Affects Pending Intercountry Adoption Cases from Ethiopia
USCIS takes its role in intercountry adoption very seriously and strives to protect birth families, prospective adoptive parents and, most importantly, adoptive children.
All processing of pending immigration applications, petitions and visa applications for Ethiopian children adopted through IAG will continue with an appropriate level of scrutiny.
In the adjudications process for all intercountry adoption cases, we follow criteria established by federal statutes and regulations to determine:
- Whether the prospective adoptive parents are suitable and eligible to adopt a child; and
- Whether a child is eligible for immigration to the United States through classification as an adopted child.
Orphan applications and petitions associated with IAG will be adjudicated on their own merits to determine the prospective adoptive parent’s eligibility and suitability to adopt, as well as the child’s eligibility for U.S. immigration benefits.
Mere association with IAG will not by itself warrant a denial.
In every intercountry adoption case from countries like Ethiopia that are not party to the Hague Adoption Convention, the U.S. government conducts an investigation abroad in connection with each Form I-600, Petition to Classify Orphan as an Immediate Relative.
In this investigation, the USCIS officer or consular officer carefully reviews information about the orphan and how he or she became available for adoption. The officer documents the results of this investigation by completing Form I-604, Determination on the Child.
During the Form I-604 investigation, the officer determines whether the child meets the definition of an orphan under U.S. immigration law. The officer also investigates possible fraud or allegations of fraud, such as child-buying, that could impact the child’s eligibility.
In most cases, the Form I-604 investigation begins with a review of adoption documentation, but can also include interviews and field investigations.
How to Continue With Your Adoption
The Department of State has announced that if the government of Ethiopia takes adverse action against IAG, the U.S. Embassy in Addis Ababa will request guidance on whether certain families will be able to continue with their adoptions. These families include:
- U.S. families who received referrals through IAG; and
- have adoptions currently pending with the Federal First Instance Court; or
- have recently received adoption decrees.
How to Change the Country From Which You Intend to Adopt
If you have already filed or still have a valid approval of a Form I-600A, Application for Advance Processing of an Orphan Petition that specifies Ethiopia as the country from which you intend to adopt, you can request a one-time, no-fee change of country.
Please visit our Change of Country page for more information.
Information for Families Who Have Already Adopted a Child from Ethiopia
We understand that some families that have completed adoptions in Ethiopia with the assistance of IAG may have concerns about whether fraudulent activities occurred and how IAG’s actions could impact their family. At this time, we are not aware of any facts in the case that could result in the return of a child to his or her birth family.
Families may seek to obtain information from USCIS records about their intercountry adoption through a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request.
For directions on how to submit a FOIA request, please visit the Request Records through the Freedom of Information Act or Privacy Act page.
How to Find More Information
If you have general questions or concerns about adoptions from Ethiopia, please email the Office of Children’s Issues at the Department of State at AskCI@state.gov.
If you have specific questions about an adoption from Ethiopia that IAG facilitated, you should contact the Office of Children’s Issues through the email address IAGadoptioncases@state.gov.
If you have already filed a Form I-600, Petition to Classify Orphan as an Immediate Relative, or a Form I-600A, Application for Advance Processing of Orphan Petition, with USCIS:
- You may call the USCIS National Benefits Center at 1-877-424-8374 Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Central time, TTY (800) 877-8339 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
If you believe you have been a victim of a crime involving the named individuals or International Adoption Guides, please call 1-800-837-2655 and leave your contact information.