Chapter 2 - Eligibility, Documentation, and Evidence (Orphan Process)
A prospective adoptive parent (PAP) is eligible to adopt if the PAP meets the following requirements:
The applicant is a U.S. citizen;
If married, the applicant’s spouse must:
Intend to also adopt the child; and
Be in lawful immigration status if residing in the United States.
Establish that they will provide proper parental care.
To apply to have the suitability determination processed in advance, the PAP must file an Application for Advance Processing of an Orphan Petition (Form I-600A), in accordance with the form instructions and include all applicable supplements and evidence.
PAPs typically file the suitability application before the petition to determine the child’s eligibility to immigrate based on adoption. If the PAP has already identified a child for adoption, the PAP may apply for the suitability determination at the same time as the petition to determine the child’s eligibility (known as a combination or concurrent filing).
To submit a combination filing, the PAP should file the supporting documentation and evidence for the suitability determination (in addition to the documentation relating to the identified child), with the petition to determine the child’s eligibility.
The PAP must submit evidence in accordance with the form instructions. The following is a summary of the evidence the PAP must provide.
The applicant must submit proof of U.S. citizenship. Examples of such proof include a birth certificate, an unexpired U.S. passport, a certificate of naturalization, or a certificate of citizenship. If such primary evidence is unavailable, USCIS may consider secondary evidence.
If the applicant is married, they must submit evidence that their spouse is a U.S. citizen, noncitizen U.S. national, or is otherwise in a lawful immigration status, provided the spouse resides in the United States. Examples of evidence of U.S. citizenship or U.S. national status include a birth certificate, an unexpired U.S. passport, a certificate of naturalization, or a certificate of citizenship. Examples of evidence of lawful immigration status may consist of a Permanent Resident Card (Form I-551), a foreign passport with an I-551 stamp, a foreign passport with an unexpired visa and a valid admission stamp, a valid Arrival/Departure Record (Form I-94), or other evidence of lawful status in the United States.
If married, the PAP must submit a copy of their marriage certificate.
If previously married, the PAP must include evidence of the termination of any prior marriages. Examples of such proof include, but are not limited to, a divorce decree, annulment decree, other legal termination of the marriage, or death certificate of previous spouse.
If the suitability application or combination filing indicates that the child will be coming to the United States for adoption, the PAP must establish that any pre-adoption requirements of the state of the child’s intended residence have been or will be met. USCIS considers an orphan to be coming to the United States for adoption if:
Neither parent personally saw and observed the child before or during the adoption;
The PAP will not complete the adoption outside the United States (and will therefore need to complete the adoption in the United States); or
In the case of a married couple, only one of the adoptive parents adopts the child outside of the United States (therefore, the spouse will need to adopt the child in the United States).
For those residing in the United States, USCIS schedules biometrics collection at an Application Support Center (ASC). Persons residing outside of the United States must submit biometrics at a USCIS international field office, U.S. embassy, consulate, or military installation.
USCIS considers biometric based background check results to be valid for a period of 15 months. The PAP or additional adult member of the household (AMH) may need to update their biometrics during the intercountry adoption process.
USCIS submits biometrics to the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) for criminal history background checks. On occasion, the FBI is unable to provide USCIS with a criminal history based on biometrics submitted. When this happens, the FBI refers to the biometrics as “unclassifiable.” If USCIS receives two consecutive sets of unclassifiable biometrics, USCIS issues a Request for Evidence (RFE) to the PAP or adult household member for police clearances for all residences (domestic or foreign) for the last 5 years. If a U.S. state record is available, it is required in place of a clearance from a local police department:
When an arrest record is needed to provide information about a conviction;
To document that there were no arrests; or
To document that an arrest did not lead to court action.
Police clearances are not available from certain countries. If a police clearance is generally available, but a country is unable to provide one, the PAP or adult household member must provide a letter from the appropriate foreign authority stating that it is not available.
Like other criminal history results, police clearance letters are also valid for a period of 15 months from the date of issuance. If more than one letter is submitted, the date of the earlier letter becomes the validity period start date.
6. Home Study
The PAP must submit a valid, original home study to USCIS within 1 year of filing the suitability application. If the PAP makes a combination (or concurrent) filing, the PAP must submit the home study with the filing.
The PAP may need to update the home study during the intercountry adoption process. The home study, or the most recent update of the home study, cannot be more than 6 months old at the time of submission to USCIS.
This means that no more than 6 months 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, the PAP must ensure that it is updated by the home study preparer before submission.
[^ 1] The applicant refers to the person who is filing the suitability application or the petitioner who is filing a combination or concurrent filing. For information on combination filings, see Section B, Filing, Subsection 2, Combination Filings [5 USCIS-PM B.2(B)(2)].
[^ 2] If the spouse is not a U.S. citizen, noncitizen U.S. national, or a lawful permanent resident, the officer should evaluate the impact of this status on the stability and suitability of the home. For example, a U.S. citizen who ordinarily resides outside the United States could be temporarily assigned to a job in the United States and the U.S. citizen’s spouse may be eligible for a valid nonimmigrant status during the term of the U.S. citizen's temporary assignment to the United States. Generally, the lack of LPR status of the spouse would not preclude a favorable suitability determination. Similarly, USCIS factors a spouse who resides outside the United States into the suitability determination.
[^ 6] See Petition to Classify Orphan as an Immediate Relative (Form I-600). See Volume 1, General Policies and Procedures, Part B, Submission of Benefit Requests, Chapter 6, Submitting Requests, Section D, Filing Periods Ending on Weekends or Federal Holidays [1 USCIS-PM B.6(D)] for more information on filing timeframes.
[^ 10] For more information on biometrics collection, see Volume 1, General Policies and Procedures, Part C Biometrics Collection and Security Checks, Chapter 2, Biometrics Collection [1 USCIS-PM C.2].
[^ 12] The physical condition of certain hands or fingers may make it difficult to collect a useable set of fingerprints. For example, a person could have a medical or skin condition or may have worked with chemicals that damaged the surface of their fingers. If the FBI deems a person’s fingerprints unclassifiable, that person must provide a second set of biometrics unless USCIS grants an exemption.
[^ 13] The term police clearance means official evidence of a record of arrests, lack of arrests, or confirmation that an arrest did not result in court action from a local police department or from a state agency responsible for maintaining arrest records.
[^ 16] USCIS requires an original home study (not a photocopy) with original signature.
[^ 17] If the PAP does not submit the requisite home study within 1 year of filing the suitability application for an orphan case, USCIS must deny the suitability application. See 8 CFR 204.3(h)(5). USCIS applies the definition of day at 8 CFR 1.2 to deadlines for submitting the home study or any related documentation or evidence. See Volume 1, General Policies and Procedures, Part B, Submission of Benefit Requests, Chapter 6, Submitting Requests, Section D, Filing Periods Ending on Weekends or Federal Holidays [1 USCIS-PM B.6(D)] for more information on filing timeframes.
[^ 18] For examples of reasons that require a home study update and home study update requirements, see Chapter 5, Action on Pending or Approved Suitability Determinations [5 USCIS-PM B.5]. If the PAP submits an updated home study, the PAP must include a copy of the original home study that is being updated, including any prior updates.
[^ 19] See Volume 1, General Policies and Procedures, Part B, Submission of Benefit Requests, Chapter 6, Submitting Requests, Section D, Filing Periods Ending on Weekends or Federal Holidays [1 USCIS-PM B.6(D)] for more information on filing timeframes.