An official website of the United States government

March 3, 2022

General Information

The Department of State and its embassies and consulates abroad do not become directly involved in the adoption process, except as it relates to the issuance of visas or the possible defrauding of American citizens by agencies or intermediaries abroad.  Visit the Department of State’s Bureau of Consular Affairs website for further adoption information.

If the adopting parents follow established procedures for foreign adoption they may be temporarily frustrated by the vagaries of transnational bureaucracies, but in the long run they will find that avoiding so-called short cuts will ultimately save time, effort and heartache.

Why Adopt?

“The child, for the full and harmonious development of his or her personality, should grow up in a family environment, in an atmosphere of happiness, love and understanding. … [I]ntercountry adoption may offer the advantage of a permanent family to a child for whom a suitable family cannot be found in his or her State of origin.”

-Hague Adoption Convention, Preamble

Every child benefits from a loving home in deeply profound ways.  Intercountry adoption has made this permanently possible for hundreds of thousands of children worldwide.  When children cannot remain with a relative, and new parents within their communities cannot be found, intercountry adoption opens another pathway to children to receive the care, security, and love that a permanent family can provide.

Some additional resources:

Child Welfare Information Gateway – A service of the Children’s Bureau, Administration for Children and Families, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services

Medline Plus – A service of the U.S. National Library of Medicine and the National Institutes of Health

A Healthy Beginning: Important Information for Parents of Internationally Adopted Children (PDF 167KB) – a brochure from the American Academy of Pediatrics.

“My Administration remains committed to helping every child find a loving home.”  – President Barack Obama, Presidential Proclamation of National Adoption Month 2012.

Who Can Adopt?

To adopt a child from another country and bring that child to live in the United States, you must first be found eligible to adopt under U.S. law.  The federal agency that makes this determination is U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), part of the Department of Homeland Security.  You may not bring an adopted child (or a child for which you have gained legal custody for the purpose of immigration and adoption) into the United States until USCIS determines that you are eligible to adopt from another country.

National Requirements

You must meet certain requirements to bring a foreign-born child whom you’ve adopted to the United States.  Some of the basic requirements include the following:

  1. You must be a U.S. Citizen.
  2. If you are unmarried, you must be at least 25 years old.
  3. If you are married, you must jointly adopt the child (even if you are separated but not divorced), and your spouse must also be either a U.S. citizen or in legal status in the United States.
  4. You must meet certain requirements that will determine your suitability as a prospective adoptive parent, including criminal background checks, fingerprinting, and a home study.

State Requirements

In addition to qualifying to adopt under U.S. law, you must also meet your home state’s requirements for prospective adoptive parents.  Learn more about individual state requirements on the Child Welfare Information Gateway website.

Foreign Country Requirements

Each country has its own requirements for adopting parents.  These are explained in the Country Information section of this website.

Frequently Asked Questions

What Can you do to avoid adoption problems?

Contact the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services early in the proceedings. Ask for a copy of the INS Form M-249, “The Immigration of Adopted and Prospective Adoptive Children”.

Contact the U.S. embassy or consulate in the country from which you desire to adopt a child to ascertain if there are any particular problems of which you should be aware.

Demand an accounting of the services for which you are paying an agency or intermediary.

Find out if adoption agencies/intermediaries must be licensed in your state, and if so, whether the one you are working with is licensed. You might also check the Better Business Bureau or the Consumer Affairs or similar office of your District Attorney or Attorney General’s office.

Does an adopted child acquire U.S. citizenship? 

U.S. citizenship can be acquired either by birth or by naturalization. In order to acquire U.S. citizenship a child born abroad must be related by blood to the U.S. citizen parent(s) upon whose citizenship the child’s claim to citizenship is based. The Department of State has consistently held that an alien child adopted by U.S. citizen parents does not acquire United States citizenship merely by adoption. Application may be made to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) for expeditious naturalization of an adopted child.

Are there any international agreements on adoption?

The only existing international agreement on adoption is the Hague Convention on Jurisdiction, Applicable Law and Recognition of Decrees to Adoption of 11/15/65 which entered into force on 10/24/78 in the United Kingdom, Austria and Switzerland. The United States, however, is not as yet a party to the Convention. The Organization of American States Tercera Conferencia Especializada Interamericana Sobre Derecho Internacional privado (CIDIP III) has prepared the Inter-American Convention on the Adoption of Minors. The draft Convention provides in part that the courts of a nation in which the adopting parents are habitually resident may grant an adoption decree and that the adopted child’s country should not prevent the child from leaving the country after an adoption is granted in the absence of public order or police reasons. The Convention is not yet in force in any country.

The Adoption Authority of Ireland: The government office responsible for adoptions in Ireland is the Adoption Board, (An Bord Uchtala), Shelbourne House, Shelbourne Road, Ballsbridge, Dublin 4, tel: + 353 1 2309 300, fax: +353-1-667-1438.