Q&A: Adoption Processing in Ethiopia

Q.  Is the U.S. Government planning to close the Ethiopian adoption program?

A.  The U.S. Government supports the intercountry adoption program in Ethiopia.  We will work closely with the Government of Ethiopia and other stakeholders to preserve and protect this valuable program, while also seeking to improve safeguards and ensure the program’s integrity. 

Q.  Is it true that the Government of Ethiopia is planning to reduce the number of adoptions that it processes?

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 A.  On March 9, 2011, the Department of State reported that Ethiopia's Ministry of Women, Children, and Youth Affairs announced that it intended to decrease its processing rate from approximately 50 cases per day to five cases per day, effective March 10, 2011.  While Ethiopia did slow down processing for a number of months after the announcement, USCIS understands that Ethiopia has since resumed a rate of adoption case processing similar to before the slow-down.  The slow-down appears to have generated the decline in numbers for Fiscal Year (FY) 2011.  Please check the Department of State (DOS) website at www.adoption.state.gov for the most recent updates.

Q. Has the Government of Ethiopia closed some orphanages?

A. In 2011, Ethiopian officials revoked the operational licenses and closed several orphanages in the Southern Nations State. A number of U.S. prospective adoptive parents were in the process of adopting children from these orphanages. Those families should communicate with their adoption service providers (ASPs) to learn about the status of their cases.  The Department of State will post updated information about these closures and any other developments in Ethiopia as the new information is confirmed on www.adoption.state.gov.

Q.  Have any cases been denied in Ethiopia based on findings of fraud?

A.  No cases from Ethiopia have been denied based on findings of fraud.  However, both USCIS and DOS have significant concerns about certain fraud indicators and patterns that suggest possible malfeasance or unethical behavior in some cases.

 Q. What was the result of the November 2011 USCIS trip to Addis Ababa, Ethiopia to review the backlog of not clearly approvable cases that had accrued there?

A.  USCIS sent a team of four officers to U.S. Embassy Addis Ababa from November 7-18, 2011, to work collaboratively with Embassy consular staff in reviewing 65 cases that consular officers had determined were not clearly approvable.  The USCIS team was able to review all of the cases during the visit resulting in 48 approvals, 16 Requests for Evidence (RFEs), and one Notice of Intent to Deny.  Ultimately, all of the families that received RFEs were able to provide additional evidence in response to the concerns, and the petitions were approved.  One case was denied.         

Q. How many cases have recently been forwarded to USCIS Field Office Nairobi from Embassy Addis Ababa as not clearly approvable?

A. Until last year, Embassy Addis Ababa referred very few adoption cases to USCIS Nairobi as “not clearly approvable” – fewer than 10 cases in FY 2010.  From January 1, 2011, to March 7, 2012, USCIS Field Office Nairobi received 105 “not clearly approvable” adoption cases transferred from Embassy Addis Ababa.

Q.  How will I know if my case is transferred to USCIS Nairobi and what do I need to do?

A.   If your case is forwarded, please see the following general steps for what to expect and what may be expected of you:

Step 1 Embassy Addis Ababa will inform you if your case is forwarded to USCIS Nairobi.
Step 2 USCIS Nairobi will confirm that your case has been received.
Step 3 USCIS Nairobi will review your case and all supporting documentation and evidence to identify any potential issues, discrepancies, or concerns with such documentation or evidence and then take appropriate action.
Step 4 If deemed necessary, USCIS Nairobi will send a Request for Evidence (RFE) or take other appropriate action.
Step 5 You will have an opportunity to respond to such RFE or other action by working with your adoption service providers and/or orphanage director to provide the requested documentation or evidence.
Step 6 USCIS Nairobi will review the information you provide, and ultimately, make a determination on your adoption petition.
Step 7 USCIS Nairobi will inform you of the decision, and if your petition is approved, will return it to Embassy Addis Ababa for visa processing.

Q.  How will I know that my case was returned to the National Benefits Center (NBC) as a consular return?

A.    If your case was originally approved by the NBC and the DOS consular section later has concerns with your case, DOS will return the case to the NBC as a consular return.  If State returns your case to the NBC, the following are general steps for what to expect and what may be expected of you:   

Step 1

Embassy Addis Ababa will inform you if your case is forwarded to USCIS National Benefits Center (NBC).

Step 2

Upon receipt of the consular return, USCIS NBC will review your case, the consular return memo, all supporting documentation and evidence to identify the consular officer’s concerns and then take appropriate action.

Step 3

If deemed necessary, USCIS NBC will send a Notice of Intent to Revoke (NOIR) or take other appropriate action.

Step 4

You will have an opportunity to respond to such NOIR or other action by working with your adoption service providers and/or orphanage director to provide the requested documentation or evidence.

Step 5

USCIS NBC will review the information you provide, and ultimately, make a determination on your adoption petition.

Step 6

If USCIS NBC determines that you have provided sufficient information to overcome the issues in the consular return, they will reaffirm the approval of the petition and return it to the Embassy for processing.

Step 7

If USCIS NBC determines that you have not provided sufficient information to overcome the issues in the consular return, they will issue a letter of revocation for the case.

Q.  If I receive a Request for Evidence (RFE), do I need a lawyer to respond?

A. While as an applicant or petitioner, you may be represented by an attorney before USCIS, you are not required to retain a lawyer to respond to a RFE. USCIS anticipates that in a majority of these Ethiopian cases, the issues cited in the RFE can be satisfied through further investigation, clarification or correction of evidence, or gathering of additional evidence.  Your adoption service providers in Ethiopia and in the United States, and/or orphanage representatives, should be able to help you to resolve such issues in most cases.  

Q.  I already began the process of adoption from Ethiopia, can I adopt from a different country now? 

Yes.  If you have already filed or if you 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 are permitted to request one no-fee change of country.  Please click on the Change of Country link for more information.

ADDITIONAL INFORMATION

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