Adoption Information: Ethiopia

Intercountry adoptions are not currently possible between Ethiopia and the United States.

On January 9, 2018, the Ethiopian Parliament passed an amendment to its Revised Family Code that removed all references to adoption of Ethiopian children by foreigners effective February 14, 2018. As a result of this change to Ethiopian law, we strongly recommend against initiating an adoption in Ethiopia at this time.

Ethiopian officials informed the U.S. Embassy in Addis Ababa that only intercountry adoption cases filed with the Federal First Instance Court of Ethiopia prior to February 14, 2018, will be considered by the court. The Ethiopian government stated it will allow certain adoption cases that were in process prior to the enactment of the new legislation to proceed under the old law.

If you have a question about whether your adoption case is considered by the Ethiopian government to be “in process,” please contact the Department of State’s Office of Children’s Issues at or the U.S. Embassy in Addis Ababa at For information about how to proceed if your case is in process, please contact the Office of Children’s Issues or your adoption service provider. If your case is pending with the USCIS National Benefits Center (NBC), please contact the NBC directly at

For the latest information on Ethiopia, see the Department of State Ethiopia Country Information page, as well as the latest Department of State Adoption Notices for Ethiopia.

Pre-Adoption Immigration Review (PAIR) Overview

The Pre-Adoption Immigration Review (PAIR) process has been in effect for U.S. citizens wishing to adopt and bring a child from Ethiopia to the United States using Form I-600, Petition to Classify Orphan as an Immediate Relative, since Sept. 1, 2013. After a family receives a match for a particular Ethiopian child, the PAIR process helps identify potential irregularities that may impact the child’s eligibility to immigrate early in the adoption process, which significantly reduces the chances that eligibility issues will be discovered for the first time after the adoptive parents have become the legal parents of the child.  Under this program, Ethiopia’s Ministry of Women and Children’s Affairs (MOWCA) requires a USCIS-issued PAIR letter for all cases filed with Ethiopian courts on or after Sept. 1, 2013. Cases filed with Ethiopian courts before Sept. 1, 2013, do not need a PAIR letter.

The PAIR Process

The PAIR process in Ethiopia is as follows:

  1. USCIS reviews the prospective adoptive parent’s (PAP’s) suitability and eligibility to adopt.
  2. The USCIS National Benefits Center (NBC) reviews the child’s eligibility to immigrate to the United States before the PAPs establish a permanent legal parent-child relationship with the child.
  3. The U.S. Embassy in Addis Ababa conducts an orphan determination.
  4. If the determination is favorable, the NBC issues the PAPs a PAIR letter.
  5. The PAPs (or their representative) include the PAIR letter in the adoption dossier they provide to the Ethiopian Federal First Instance Court (FFIC) to initiate the adoption.
  6. The FFIC forwards the dossier, including the PAIR letter, to MOWCA for review.
  7. If the review is favorable, MOWCA makes a best interest determination.
  8. Once the FFIC receives MOWCA’s best interest determination, it makes a final decision on the adoption.
  9. Once MOWCA receives the final adoption decree, MOWCA issues a vital records letter for the Ethiopian authorities to issue the child a birth certificate and passport.
  10. The adoptive parents (or their representative) submit these final documents to the U.S. Embassy and apply for an immigrant visa.*

For additional information on the PAIR process, see our Ethiopia PAIR Filing Guidance for Prospective Adoptive Parents page and the Department of State Ethiopia Country Information page.

*PAPs who reside abroad may wish to complete the Form N-600K process instead of applying for an immigrant visa. See U.S. Citizenship for an Adopted Child for more information.

Background Information

In 2011 and 2012, the Ethiopian and U.S. governments noticed an increase in irregularities in intercountry adoption cases. These irregularities ranged from incomplete or inconsistent paperwork to serious concerns regarding how children became available for adoption. At the time, such concerns were only uncovered after the adoption or grant of legal custody and had the potential to delay or even prevent the child’s immigration to the U.S. This left adoptive parents and children in incredibly difficult situations, especially if the adoptive parents were waiting in Ethiopia.

Also in 2011, the Ethiopian government slowed its internal processing of adoption cases to provide more scrutiny and oversight. As a result, USCIS saw a significant increase in the number of “not clearly approvable” cases filed with the Department of State and later sent to USCIS for review.

In response, the U.S. government worked closely with the Ethiopian government to develop the PAIR process. The PAIR process ensures greater consistency and eliminates delays associated with the transfer of “not clearly approvable” cases. The PAIR process also provides MOWCA with the assurance that the child will likely be eligible to immigrate to the United States if the Ethiopian court approves the adoption.

Both the U.S. and Ethiopian governments are committed to protecting the best interests of children and ensuring that all parties have all available information when considering whether intercountry adoption is in the child’s best interest. The PAIR process preserves and protects the intercountry adoption program in Ethiopia by providing additional safeguards to ensure the program’s integrity.

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