The Universal Accreditation Act

The Intercountry Adoption Universal Accreditation Act (PDF)(UAA) went into effect on July 14, 2014. As of that date, unless a limited exception applies, the UAA requires:

  • All agencies or persons providing adoption services in orphan intercountry adoption cases be accredited or approved in compliance with the Intercountry Adoption Act and Department of State (DOS) accreditation regulations. (Supervised providers, exempted providers, public domestic authorities, and public foreign authorities do not require accreditation or approval.)
  • An accredited or approved adoption service provider (ASP) must act as the primary provider in every case.

The UAA applies the same accreditation requirements and standards in Hague Convention adoptions to ASPs providing adoption services on behalf of prospective adoptive parents (PAPs) in orphan (or non-Hague) intercountry adoptions.

The UAA assures families pursuing an intercountry adoption that, regardless of which country they intend to adopt from, the ASP they choose will comply with the same ethical standards of practice and conduct.

Impact on Form I-600A and Form I-600 Adjudications

As of July 14, 2014, unless a limited exception applies, the UAA impacts Form I-600A applications and Form I-600 petitions in a variety of ways, including:

Home study preparation

All home studies submitted to support a Form I-600A, Application for Advance Processing of an Orphan Petition, or Form I-600, Petition to Classify Orphan as an Immediate Relative, must be conducted by a person authorized to conduct them under 22 CFR Part 96. (See the definition of home study preparer in 8 CFR 204.301.) The ASP is also responsible for ensuring the child’s country of origin receives the same home study that they provide to PAPs or USCIS, under 22 CFR 96.47(d).

Home study elements

All home studies, including home study updates and amendments, must comply with the requirements in 8 CFR 204.311. These differ from the prior requirements in effect for orphan cases before July 14, 2014, under 8 CFR 204.3(e).

Definitions

Certain definitions in 8 CFR 204.3(b) no longer apply in orphan cases. (See 8 CFR 204.301 for the new definitions of "adult member of the household," "home study preparer," "suitability as adoptive parent(s)," officer," "adoption," and "applicant," which includes both a married U.S. citizen and their spouse.)

Duty of disclosure

A Form I-600A applicant or Form I-600 petitioner, their spouse, and any adult member of the household have a duty of disclosure in completing Form I-600A (if filed) and Form I-600 during the home study process and throughout the adoption process. This ongoing duty continues while any Form I-600A is pending, after any Form I-600A is approved, while any Form I-600 is pending, and until there is a final decision admitting a child to the United States with a visa, or until final approval of the Form I-600 for PAPs who reside outside the United States and do not intend to immediately seek an immigrant visa for their child. (See 8 CFR 204.311(d) and 8 CFR 204.309(a).)

Identifying a primary provider

A Form I-600 petitioner must identify a primary provider unless a limited exception applies.

Under 22 CFR Part 96, a primary provider is responsible for:

  • Ensuring that all six adoption services defined at 22 CFR 96.2 are provided, consistent with applicable laws and regulations;
  • Supervising and being responsible for supervised providers, where used (see 22 CFR 96.14); and
  • Developing and implementing a service plan in accordance with 22 CFR 96.44.

Only accredited agencies or approved persons can act as primary providers.

Form I-600 petitioners must also submit evidence that they are working with a primary provider, unless a limited exception applies. If just one accredited agency or approved person is providing adoption services in a case, then that agency or person must be the primary provider, per 22 CFR 96.14(a). If more than one accredited agency or approved person is providing adoption services, the primary provider must be the agency or person that has child placement responsibility, per 22 CFR 96.14(a).

Evidence of a primary provider may include, but is not limited to:

  • A letter from the accredited or approved adoption service provider stating it is the primary provider:
    • If only one accredited agency or approved person is involved in providing adoption services, a letter or other documentary evidence demonstrating that ASP has provided one or more adoption services;
    • If more than one accredited agency or approved person is providing adoption services, a letter or other documentary evidence demonstrating that ASP has child placement responsibility; or
  • A copy of the service plan (detailing the six adoption services); or
  • A copy of the contract between the PAP and the accredited or approved ASP demonstrating it is the primary provider.
Applicants and Petitioners Acting on Their Own Behalf

Form I-600A applicants and Form I-600 petitioners may still act on their own behalf in adoption cases, as long as the laws of both the state where they reside and the country where they seek to adopt permit them to.

Although Form I-600A applicants and Form I-600 petitioners do not need accreditation or approval to act on their own behalf, their actions must comply with applicable law. Unless a limited exception applies, they will still need an accredited agency or approved person to be the primary provider in their case. A primary provider helps ensure that orphan adoption services are provided with the same standards of practice and ethical conduct as Hague Adoption Convention cases. You may also refer to the DOS UAA FAQ on this issue (#4: “On or after July 14, 2014, do I have to use an accredited or approved provider, or can I act on my own behalf in the intercountry adoption process?”).

When to Use an Accredited ASP

The UAA allows for grandfathering in certain situations. ASPs providing adoption services in UAA-grandfathered cases do not need to be accredited or approved to continue providing adoption services in these cases.

However, ASPs must be accredited or approved to provide any adoption services on or after July 14, 2014, in cases that are not UAA-grandfathered.

If you. . . Then...

Filed Form I-600A or Form I-600 before July 13, 2013.

Your case is UAA-grandfathered, and your ASP does not need accreditation or approval.

Initiated the adoption process in a foreign country with the filing of an appropriate foreign application as determined by the secretary of state before July 13, 2013

See the Department of State’s interpretive guidance on this provision.

Your case is UAA-grandfathered, and your ASP does not need accreditation or approval.

Filed Form I-600A or Form I-600 (not in connection with a UAA-grandfathered case) on or after July 14, 2014.

Your ASP does not need accreditation or approval for adoption services provided before July 14, 2014, but they must have accreditation or approval for adoption services provided on or after July 14, 2014.

Examples

If you. . . Then your application or petition is...

Filed Form I-600A, Form I-600, or initiated the adoption process before July 13, 2013.

UAA-grandfathered. An unaccredited or unapproved ASP can provide any adoption services, even after July 14, 2014.

Did not file Form I-600A, Form I-600, or initiate the adoption before July 13, 2013.

Not UAA-grandfathered. The UAA applies to any adoption services you receive on or after July 14, 2014.

Increasing the Number of Children You May Adopt

Your Form I-600A approval is only UAA-grandfathered for the number of children you were approved to adopt before July 14, 2014.

As of July 14, 2014, if you have not already filed Form I-600 petitions for the number of children you were approved to adopt, then you may still seek to increase the number of children that you are approved to adopt. However, the UAA applies to any increase after July 14, 2014. The only exception is for additional birth siblings you want to adopt at the same time as a child whose case is UAA-grandfathered.

Otherwise, the UAA applies to additional children you are approved to adopt beyond the number approved before July 14, 2014.

The table below gives examples of UAA-grandfathered Form I-600A scenarios:

If you have a UAA-grandfathered Form I-600A approval before July 14, 2014, for: Then...

Two children

You may file up to two Form I-600 petitions, and the UAA will not apply to either petition.

Two children and, after July 14, 2014, USCIS approves you to adopt an additional non-birth sibling.

Your Form I-600A approval will remain UAA-grandfathered for two children, but the UAA will apply if you adopt an additional non-birth sibling. You may file three Form I-600 petitions. The UAA will only apply to the non-birth sibling’s petition.

Two children and, after July 14, 2014, you identify a birth sibling of one of the children before that birth sibling immigrates to the United States.

You may file three Form I-600 petitions. The UAA will not apply to any of your petitions.
Two children and, after both children have immigrated to the United States, you identify a birth sibling of one of your children, and you want to adopt that child as well. You will need to file a new Form I-600A application to adopt the third child. The UAA will apply to the adoption of the third child.
Filing a Second Form I-600A

If you previously extended your UAA-grandfathered Form I-600A approval, USCIS will allow you to file a second, UAA-grandfathered Form I-600A application (with fee), and its timely one-time, no-fee extension, if you:

  • Are unable to file all the corresponding Form I-600 petitions before your extended Form I-600A approval expires; and
  • File the second, one-time Form I-600A application (with fee) before your extended Form I-600A approval expires.

However, if your originally-extended, UAA-grandfathered Form I-600A approval expires before you file a second Form I-600A application, then your second Form I-600A application will not be UAA-grandfathered and must comply with the UAA’s requirements.

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