Chapter 3 - U.S. Citizens Residing Outside the United States
Options for a child to obtain U.S. immigration status based on adoption by a U.S. citizen prospective adoptive parent (PAP) who resides outside of the United States depend on many factors, including:
Whether the family will continue to reside outside the United States or will reside in the United States before the child turns age 18;
The laws of the country where the PAP resides; and
The laws of the country where the child resides (if different from the PAP’s country of residence).
Before initiating an adoption or legal custody, the PAP should contact the competent authority (for non-Hague countries) or Central Authority (for Hague Adoption Convention countries) in the country where the PAP resides and where the child resides (if different). These authorities may provide more information to assist the PAP in understanding the process a U.S. citizen residing in that foreign country may be required to follow regarding the adoption and immigration of the child.
A domestic adoption or legal custody of a child in the child’s country of origin alone does not convey U.S. immigration status to the child or enable the child to travel to the United States. If a U.S. citizen PAP residing outside of the United States wishes to secure lawful U.S. immigration status for the PAP’s adopted child, the PAP generally may use one of the U.S. immigration processes (Hague Adoption Convention, orphan, or family-based).
The following table explains which U.S. immigration process a PAP who resides outside of the United States generally may pursue, based on whether the child resides in a country that is a party to the Hague Adoption Convention.
If child resides in…
U.S. immigration processes generally available
Hague Adoption Convention country
This table does not address the process to obtain U.S. citizenship for the child.
Additional Considerations for Children from a Hague Adoption Convention Country
Generally, a U.S. citizen who adopts a child from a Hague Adoption Convention country must use the Hague Adoption Convention process. The U.S. Hague Adoption Convention process is generally available to any U.S. citizen residing outside the United States.
The Hague Adoption Convention requires a determination of the U.S. citizen PAP’s habitual residence. If the PAP resides in a Hague Adoption Convention country, the Central Authority of the PAP’s country of residence generally determines whether it considers the PAP to be habitually resident in that country for the purpose of adoption under the Hague Adoption Convention process.
If the Central Authority of that country determines the PAP is habitually resident in the country where the PAP resides, and it is the receiving country for the purposes of adoption of a child from another Hague Adoption Convention partner country, the PAP generally must follow the Hague Adoption Convention process of the country where the PAP is habitually resident.
The PAP may also be able to simultaneously pursue the U.S. Hague Adoption Convention process to immigrate the child to the United States if the PAP is able to obtain the required Convention documents from the Central Authority in the child’s country of origin. However, if the PAP is not able to obtain the required Convention documents, the U.S. Hague Adoption Convention process may not be available.
[^ 1] For information about the competent or central adoption authorities in each country and to determine if a particular country is party to the Hague Adoption Convention, see the U.S. Department of State’s webpage, Country Information.
[^ 2] A lawful permanent resident of the United States may follow the family-based process, if otherwise eligible.
[^ 3] The same processes that are available to PAPs who reside in the United States are generally available to PAPs who reside outside of the United States. For more information on applicability of adoption processes, see Chapter 2, Adoption Processes [5 USCIS-PM A.2].
[^ 4] For information on how to secure U.S. citizenship for the adopted child of a U.S. adoptive parent residing outside the United States, see Part F, Citizenship for Adopted Children [5 USCIS-PM F]. For more information, see Volume 12, Citizenship and Naturalization, Part H, Children of U.S. Citizens [12 USCIS-PM H].
[^ 5] For information on citizenship for adopted children, see Part F, Citizenship for Adopted Children [5 USCIS-PM F]. For more information, see Volume 12, Citizenship and Naturalization, Part H, Children of U.S. Citizens [12 USCIS-PM H]. For information on the naturalization process for children who reside outside of the United States, see Volume 12, Citizenship and Naturalization, Part H, Children of U.S. Citizens, Chapter 5, Child Residing Outside of the United States (INA 322) [12 USCIS-PM H.5].
[^ 6] The petitioner may encounter issues, however, if the child was adopted before the completion of the Hague Adoption Convention process. See Part D, Child Eligibility Determinations (Hague), Chapter 3, Required Order of Immigration and Adoption Steps [5 USCIS-PM D.3].