Suitability and Home Study Information

If you are a prospective adoptive parent (PAP), USCIS must find you suitable and eligible to adopt before you can complete either the Hague Adoption Convention process or the orphan (non-Hague) process. USCIS will review the evidence in the record to make a suitability determination, including your application or petition, your home study, and the results of criminal background and security checks. The family-based adoption process, unlike the Hague or orphan processes, does not require a USCIS determination of your suitability.

You must submit a home study to USCIS if you want to adopt through the orphan or Hague processes. A home study is a process where a licensed or authorized home study preparer screens and prepares PAPs for adoption. The primary purpose of the home study is to help USCIS determine whether you are suitable and eligible to adopt a child. A home study concludes with a report that makes recommendations about a PAP’s suitability to adopt.

Home studies must comply with all applicable laws and policies in:

  • Your place of residence (U.S. state or territory or foreign country);

  • The child’s country of origin; and

  • The United States (federal laws governing adoption and immigration, including applicable DHS and Department of State regulations).

This webpage provides an overview of USCIS home study-related requirements. For more information, see USCIS Policy Manual Volume 5, Part B on adoptive parent suitability determinations. This webpage also contains sample wording for informational purposes.

Authorized Home Study Preparers

USCIS does not conduct the required home study. Only licensed or authorized persons or agencies may conduct home studies. The home study preparer (other than a public domestic or public foreign authority) must hold any license or other authorization required under the law of the jurisdiction where the home study preparer conducts the home study. The home study preparer must include a statement of their authority to conduct home studies.

The sample wording used in the table below represents a fictional case and is for informational purposes only. For more information, see USCIS Policy Manual Volume 5, Part B, Chapter 4 on authorized home study preparers.

Sample Provider Wording
Type of Provider Sample Wording

Exempted provider

Prepared by Anne Marie Davis, LCSW (license #17895, expires Dec. 31, 2023), who is authorized by State Y under LAW 12345(e) to conduct home studies.

In accordance with 22 CFR Part 96, American Adoptions Services Inc. (State Y license #99451, expires Nov. 10, 2024) is an agency accredited and approved to conduct intercountry adoption home studies, and has reviewed and approved the home study for Mr. and Mrs. Smith and met the conditions in 22 CFR 96.47(c).

Supervised provider

Prepared in Country X by Anne Marie Davis, LCSW (license #17895, expires Dec. 31, 2023), who is authorized by State Y under LAW 12345(e) to conduct home studies. Anne Marie Davis is a supervised provider for American Adoption Services Inc., based on an agreement signed on July 26, 2020, with American Adoption Services Inc. In accordance with 22 CFR Part 96, American Adoptions Services Inc. (State Y license #99451, expires Nov. 10, 2024) is an agency accredited and approved to provide adoption services in an intercountry adoption. American Adoption Services Inc. supervised, reviewed, and approved the home study for Mr. and Mrs. Smith conducted by Anne Marie Davis, meeting the conditions in 22 CFR 96.47(c).

Accredited agency or approved person

Prepared by Anne Marie Davis, LCSW (license #17895, expires Dec. 31, 2023), who is authorized by State Y under LAW 12345(e) to prepare home studies. Anne Marie Davis is employed by American Adoption Services Inc. In accordance with 22 CFR Part 96, American Adoption Services Inc. is an agency accredited and approved to conduct intercountry adoption home studies.

Public domestic authority

Prepared by Anne Marie Davis, a licensed social worker under the authority of the Department of Social Services Child Welfare Division of State Y.

Public foreign authority

Prepared by Anne Marie Davis, a licensed social worker under the authority of the Department of Social Services Child Welfare Division of Country X.

Home Study Validity and Updates

The home study, or the most recent update, cannot be more than 6 months old at the time of submission to USCIS. This means that no more than 6 months can have passed since the home study preparer signed and dated the home study. If a home study will be more than 6 months old at the time of submission to USCIS, it must be updated. If a home study is valid at the time of submission, USCIS will consider it valid until the suitability application approval expires or unless there is a significant change that was not previously assessed.

USCIS requires a home study update when any of the situations on our Updated Home Studies and Significant Change webpage apply, such as a significant change in the PAP’s household, including but not limited to a change in residence, family composition, marital status, criminal history, or financial resources.

For more information, see our Suitability-Related Changes webpage and USCIS Policy Manual Volume 5, Part B, Chapter 4 on home study updates.

Home Study Requirements

The home study must meet all criteria established by law and policy. Home studies must address all required information, but USCIS does not require a specific format.

The table below provides an overview of the main USCIS home study requirements. The sample wording used below is based on a fictional case. The language samples are for informational purposes only and do not represent what a complete home study would look like. For detailed information on required assessments, statements, content, and supporting documentation, see USCIS Policy Manual Volume 5, Part B, Chapter 4 on home studies.

Overview of Home Study Requirements
USCIS Requirement The home study preparer must Sample Wording
Visits and interviews Conduct at least 1 interview in person and at least 1 home visit with the PAP, conduct at least 1 interview with each additional adult member of the household (AMH), and observe any children in the home, when possible.

I first interviewed Bradley and Alice Smith at my office in City W, State Y, on Dec. 1, 2020. I first interviewed them together for about half an hour, and then met with each of them separately for about 15 minutes each. I then interviewed them again at their home in City Z, State Y, on Dec. 8, 2020.

Their daughters, Ngoye and Emma Smith, were present during the home visit and I observed their interaction with their children. Adult member of the household Jennifer Jones was also present during the home visit and I interviewed her separately for 30 minutes.

Household member information Assess the impact of each household member (PAP, AMH, and child in the home) on the suitability of the PAP’s household.

There are 2 children in the home. Their daughter Emma Smith was born on March 1, 2019 in City Z, State Y.  Their daughter Ngoye Smith (formerly Ngoye Fredericks A#123-456-780) was born on Oct. 23, 2013, in City A, Country B.  Ngoye was initially adopted by Alice Smith and her prior spouse on June 15, 2015. After Alice’s prior spouse passed away, she subsequently married Bradley Smith and he became Ngoye’s stepfather. Bradley then officially adopted Ngoye on Nov. 15, 2019, as verified by the adoption decree.

Jennifer Jones was born Jan. 25, 1965, in City Z, State Y.  She is Alice’s mother and has been living with Bradley and Alice since 2017. Jennifer moved in with Bradley and Alice after her husband passed away.

Family history Assess the PAP’s family and parenting history.

Bradley Smith was born to Robert Smith and June Smith on Aug. 10, 1988, in City Z, Country X, as his birth certificate verifies. Bradley resided in Country X until 1998, when his family moved to the United States for his father’s work. He was raised in a traditional, 2-parent home in City Z, State Y. Bradley lived in Country A for a period of 6 months when he was 19 years old.

Bradley is an only child. Bradley describes his father as hard-working, smart, funny, and patient. He was a businessman during Bradley’s childhood. He describes his mother as hard-working, loving, and boisterous.  She was a homemaker and part-time salesperson at a local retail store.  Bradley describes his childhood relationship with his parents as close and loving. Bradley stated that his parents instilled the following values in him: respect, love, and family connection. His parents are both now retired and live in City Z, State Y. He sees them at least once a week and continues to have a positive relationship with them.

Alice Smith (Jones) was born to Edward and Jennifer Jones on Feb. 11, 1989, in State Y. She has 1 younger sister. Alice describes her parents as warm, supportive, and loving. Alice’s father died in 2017. Alice’s mother has lived with her and Bradley since.

Bradley and Alice are mindful of the ways that parenting a child through adoption differs from parenting biological children. Bradley and Alice appear to be patient, calm and resourceful parents.  Bradley and Alice have talked to their children about adding to their family through adoption, and their daughters are looking forward to having another sibling.

Living accommodations Assess the suitability of the PAP’s living accommodations for adopted child(ren).

Bradley, Alice, Ngoye, and Emma have recently moved into a newly developed residential area that was built within a top-rated school district. The development has a diverse population, including a family from Country X.

The home consists of 2,500 square feet of living space. The first level of the home contains an open foyer, living room, formal dining room, office, half-bath, eat-in kitchen, and family room with a fireplace. The second level of the home contains a laundry room, primary bedroom and bath, 3 additional bedrooms, and 1 shared bathroom. One of the additional bedrooms belongs to Ngoye and Emma, and 1 has been decorated as the nursery for their new sister from Country X. Jennifer has her own room, bathroom, and living area in the finished basement of the home with a separate entrance. The home also has an attached 2-car garage and a large fenced-in backyard.

Each level of the home is fully equipped with smoke alarms, carbon monoxide detectors, and fire extinguishers. This home also has access to public utilities, shopping, local fire and police departments, medical services, major roadways, and recreational and cultural activities.

This home exceeds the State X requirements for safe and suitable accommodations for a child.

PAP immigration status Ask the PAPs about their citizenship and immigration status. If the applicant’s spouse resides in the United States and does not have lawful permanent resident status, the home study preparer should address any impact this may have on the stability of the home so USCIS can evaluate if the family’s situation is sufficiently stable to be found suitable.

Bradley was born to Robert Smith and June Smith on Aug. 10, 1988, in City Z, Country X, which was verified by the home study preparer who viewed a copy of his birth certificate.  A copy of this certificate is maintained in the couple’s file at the agency.  The home study preparer also viewed Bradley’s U.S. Permanent Resident card, AXXXXXXXXX.  The card expires on May 5, 2025.

Alice Smith was born in the United States and is a U.S. citizen.

Financial resources Assess the PAP’s ability to financially support adopted child(ren). According to the 1040 Income Tax Form submitted by Bradley and Alice Smith for 2020, their adjusted gross income was $100,000. They have monthly expenses of $2,400, including a mortgage and debts. This leaves more than sufficient monthly income to care for an additional child. The Smiths meet or exceed State Y financial guidelines for adoption. The Smith home is valued at $220,000 with a mortgage remaining of $150,000. The family has savings of $10,000 and an IRA/401K worth $40,000. Bradley has a life insurance policy worth $125,000 and Alice has a policy worth $100,000.
Physical, mental, emotional, and behavioral health Assess the physical, mental, emotional, and behavioral health of all household members (PAPs, AMHs, and children in the home, as applicable).

Bradley Smith was examined by his physician, Dr. John Rhoades, on Feb. 22, 2020.  Alice was examined by her physician, Dr. Johanna Gonzalez, on Feb. 25, 2020. Bradley and Alice were found to be in good physical and mental condition and free of communicable diseases. Their physicians indicated they have no history of physical, mental, emotional, or behavioral health issues. I reviewed these reports, and the above findings are as stated. It is my assessment that Bradley and Alice are emotionally, physically, and mentally stable and will provide a loving home for any child placed in this family. No referrals to medical or mental health professionals were made.

Emma and Ngoye Smith are both friendly, polite, and curious. The children are in good physical, mental, and emotional health and do not have any special needs. They were found to be in excellent physical, mental, emotional, and behavioral health by Dr. Mark Johnson on March 1, 2020. They do not have any behavioral concerns or criminal history and appear to be well-adjusted.

Jennifer Jones is a charming lady who is very outgoing, loves people, and enjoys spending time with her grandchildren. She loves to play cards and read and volunteers at the local food bank 3 days a week. Jennifer Jones was found to be in excellent physical, mental, emotional, and behavioral health as determined by Dr. Samuel Green on Nov. 15, 2020.

Criminal history and history of abuse or violence Assess if any household member (PAPs, AMHs, and children in the home, as applicable) has a criminal history or history of abuse or violence as an offender, including child abuse or neglect, sexual abuse, family or domestic violence, substance abuse, and criminal activity, and if so, its impact on suitability.

A computer search of State Y, USA, state criminal archives revealed no record for Bradley Allen Smith, Alice Erin Smith (Jones), or Jennifer Jones.  In response to my direct questions, Bradley, Alice, and Jennifer each stated they do not have any history, whether in the United States or abroad, of arrest, conviction, sexual abuse, child abuse or neglect, or family violence as an offender, even if such history did not result in an arrest or conviction. Bradley, Alice, and Jennifer individually replied “No” to the following questions:

  1. Have you ever been arrested or convicted, whether in the United States or abroad?
  2. Do you have a history of sexual abuse, child abuse or neglect, or family violence as an offender, whether in the United States or abroad?
  3. Have you ever been investigated for any of these offenses, whether in the United States or abroad?
  4. Have you ever transferred or received permanent custody of a child outside of the state or local authorities or outside of the state or local process?

Bradley and Jennifer replied “No” to the following question:

  1. Do you have a history of alcohol, drug, or substance abuse, whether in the United States or abroad?

Alice indicated that she has no history of drug abuse, but that she did drink frequently while she was in college.

Bradley, Alice, and Jennifer are aware that a single incident counts as a “history” of crime, abuse, or violence.

Child abuse checks

Ensure a check has been done with any available child abuse registries for any state, territory, or foreign country in which a PAP or any AMH has resided since their 18th birthday.

Assess if the PAP or any AMH has been involved in a child custody transfer, and if so, if it rose to the level of an unregulated child custody transfer or other child abuse or neglect.

To comply with USCIS home study requirements, I checked the appropriate child abuse registries for each state or country where Bradley, Alice, and Jennifer have lived since their 18th birthday.

A search of State Y’s child abuse and neglect registry on Oct. 26, 2020, for Bradley Smith revealed no record. Bradley lived in Country A for a period of 6 months when he was 19 years old.  On Oct. 28, 2020, I verified that Country A does not have a child abuse registry.

A search of State Y’s child abuse and neglect registry on Oct. 26, 2020, revealed no record or reports on Alice Smith (Jones). On Oct. 28, 2020, I checked all appropriate child abuse registries in Country B, where Alice previously resided. No records were found under either her maiden name or married name.

A search of State Y’s child abuse and neglect registry on Oct. 26, 2020, for Jennifer Jones revealed no record.

Bradley Smith and Alice Smith have never been involved in an unregulated child custody transfer. Neither has Jennifer Jones.

Evidence of rehabilitation

Only make a favorable finding if the person has achieved appropriate rehabilitation, if the PAP or any household member has a criminal history or a history of any kind of abuse or violence as an offender.

This includes making a referral to an appropriate licensed professional for an evaluation and written report.

Alice Smith states that she drank alcohol excessively in the past. Alice disclosed to the home study preparer that during her college years she began experiencing a significant amount of stress and began frequently drinking alcohol. After some time, she realized that her alcohol use was affecting her school performance and sought counselling. Alice has not drunk alcohol since college. She has learned to cope with stress in healthy ways.

Alice completed a psychological evaluation with Dr. Thomas Brown, Psy.D., licensed clinical psychologist. A copy of the evaluation is on file with the agency. Dr. Brown obtained background information from Alice that included marital history, family history, employment, and parenting. He has determined that Alice uses appropriate techniques for managing stress such as meditation, journaling, and confiding in her close friends. She is a capable parent of 2 children, and he highly recommends her to be an adoptive parent.

Prior home studies Evaluate the relevance of any prior home studies on suitability.

In response to my direct question, Bradley and Jennifer indicated that they had never previously had a home study completed or began a home study process related to an adoption or for any form of foster or custodial care of a child that was not completed.

In response to my direct question, Alice indicated that she previously had a home study completed for an intercountry adoption. Alice previously adopted 1 child from Country B in June 2015 with a former spouse. Baby Town Adoption Agency initiated the prior home study on Dec. 3, 2013, and completed it on March 17, 2014.

In response to my direct questions, Bradley, Alice, and Jennifer responded “No” to the following questions:

A. Have you ever been denied as a PAP or been the subject of an unfavorable home study?

B. Have you ever begun a home study process in relation to an adoption or to any form of foster or other custodial care of a child that was not completed?

Preparation and training Ensure the PAP receives the required number of hours of preparation and training unless an exemption applies. The home study should summarize training provided and plans for any future training and preparation.

Bradley and Alice have experience parenting their adopted daughter, Ngoye, and mentor other families that are new to adoptive parenting. They also received 10 hours of in-person training from ABC Adoption Agency in accordance with 22 CFR 96.48. This covered topics such as race, losses, trauma, sexual abuse, and discipline. They also watched a 1-hour video presentation on trust and adoption and reviewed several books about intercountry adoption and parenting, including “Tools for Adoptive Families” and “Child-Centered Adoptive Parenting.”

ABC Adoption Agency will provide post-placement monitoring until the adoption is finalized. This includes home visits at 1 month, 3 months, and 6 months. ABC Adoption Agency will provide post-placement reports in accordance with the requirements of Country X for 1 year.

Country-specific requirements Assess the PAP’s suitability specific to each country from which they may adopt.

Bradley and Alice have been advised that they must meet all requirements to adopt a child from Country X. The requirements for Country X are:

  • Married for over 2 years
  • Between the ages of 30 and 50
  • Physical and mental stability
  • Net worth of at least $80,000

Bradley and Alice Smith appear to meet the requirements of Country X

State-specific requirements Prepare the home study according to the requirements that apply to a domestic adoption in the state if the PAP’s actual or proposed residence is in the United States. Bradley and Alice meet the following pre-adoption requirements for State Y found in Y’s Child Welfare Code Parts 1502.01-22. They have resided and maintained a dwelling with the State of Y for at least 6 consecutive months before this home study report; Bradley and Alice are at least 15 years older than the children or 25 years old; they each have a medical statement signed by a qualified medical professional indicating they are in good physical and mental health and that their health will not adversely affect the quality of care of an adopted child; and they have more than 3 satisfactory references. The Smiths’ family home, including the room the adoptive child will occupy, meets all of State Y’s standards found in Child Welfare Code Part 1502.10.  Bradley and Alice Smith meet the state requirements for education.
Special needs-specific requirements Assess the PAP’s ability to care for a child with special needs if the PAP seeks to adopt a child with special needs. Both Bradley and Alice have experience working with children having various special needs through their volunteer work with a community program for children with developmental disabilities. It is my opinion that the Smiths have demonstrated the appropriate preparedness, willingness, and ability to parent a special needs child.
Specific recommendation for adoption Make specific recommendations for adoption based on their assessment of the PAP’s suitability and address any potential problem areas in their assessment. The Smiths are recommended to adopt a child from Country X, age 0-4 years old, with minor medical needs limited to the following: low birth weight, webbed fingers or toes, club foot, or issues that can be assisted with orthopedic intervention.
Duty of disclosure Advise the PAP and any AMH of the ongoing duty of disclosure throughout the intercountry adoption process.

At the initial interview on Dec. 1, 2020, I advised Bradley Smith, Alice Smith, and Jennifer Jones of the duty of disclosure in 8 CFR 204.311(d). I also discussed this issue during the home visit on Dec. 8, 2020. They stated that they understand that they must answer all questions truthfully and must disclose any criminal history, whether the event occurred within the United States or abroad, even if the event did not lead to any conviction, or if any conviction was expunged, sealed, pardoned, or otherwise ameliorated. I also discussed with them the obligation to disclose any other relevant information such as physical, mental, or emotional health issues, or behavioral issues. They also indicated that they understand this duty is ongoing, and that they must disclose to USCIS and to me any additional events that might occur before any child they adopt is admitted into the United States.

I also advised Bradley, Alice, and Jennifer of 8 CFR 204.311(c)(13) and (14) and 204.311(j) concerning any history of substance abuse, sexual abuse, child abuse or neglect, or family violence as an offender.

Review, signature, and attestation Discuss who prepared the home study. If an accredited agency did not conduct the home study, an accredited agency must review and approve it. This requirement does not apply to public domestic or public foreign authorities.

I, Anne Marie Davis, certify under penalty of perjury that I personally, and with the professional diligence reasonably necessary to protect the best interests of any child whom the applicant might adopt, conducted this home study. This included personal interviews, the home visit, and all other aspects of the investigation needed to prepare the home study. The factual statements in the home study are true and correct to the best of my knowledge, information, and belief. I have advised the applicants of their ongoing duty of disclosure, specifically noting that they must disclose new events or information that may require them to submit an updated or amended home study. This home study was conducted in accordance with 8 CFR 204.311 and is a true and accurate copy of the home study provided to the PAPs and USCIS.

Or

I, Anne Marie Davis, certify under penalty of perjury that I personally, and with the professional diligence reasonably necessary to protect the best interests of any child whom the applicant might adopt, supervised this home study. This included personal interviews, the home visit, and all other aspects of the investigation needed to prepare the home study. The individual who conducted the home study was Lilia Ann Fitzgerald. The factual statements in the home study are true and correct to the best of my knowledge, information, and belief. Ms. Fitzgerald has advised the applicants of their ongoing duty to disclose new events or information that may require them to submit an updated or amended home study. This home study was conducted according to 8 CFR 204.311 and is a true and accurate copy of the home study provided to the PAPs and USCIS.

Submitted by:

Anne Marie Davis, LCSW, Licensed Clinical Social Worker Program Director, Baby Town Adoption Agency, State Y, USA. License #6677

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