Intercountry adoptions are heavily regulated and often involve a lengthy wait. The parental rights of the birth parents are terminated in the child’s country of birth before the child is matched with an adoptive family. Families should first identify the country from which they want to adopt, and then identify an adoption agency that can serve as the primary provider.
The Hague Adoption Convention on the Protection of Children and Cooperation in Respect of Inter-Country Adoption enabled standardization of and cooperation among Hague Countries. Referred to as the Hague Convention, countries that have signed the Convention are called Convention Countries. The Hague Convention is designed to protect children from abduction and trafficking as well as ensure that children leaving the country are free for adoption. There has been a sharp decline in international adoptions in the United States since signing the Hague Convention in 2008.
The Adoption Law Center works with families, agencies, and immigration attorneys to help make adoption as painless as possible. The type of visa the child has when he or she enters the U.S. determines the adoption procedure. There are several legal mechanisms for ensuring your adoption is legally secure and that your child is recognized as a United States citizen. We recommend families file a Petition for Readoption, which results in both a Final Decree of Adoption issued by a U.S. court and a Certificate of Foreign Birth, which is comparable to a Tennessee birth certificate.
Some families choose to Petition for Recognition of a Foreign Decree of Adoption, which also requests that the court order Tennessee Vital Records to issue a Certificate of Foreign Birth. The advantage of filing a Petition for Recognition of Foreign Decree of Adoption is the adoptive family usually does not have to appear. However, most families are glad to have the opportunity to celebrate the adoption once more and get some fun pictures with the Judge.
If an adoption decree was entered in the child’s birth country comparable to a U.S. adoption decree, the child will be issued an IR-3 or IH-3 visa. IR means Immediate Relative. IH indicates a Hague Convention Country. These children are granted U.S. citizenship automatically. A readoption is not required under the law in these cases. However, the Adoption Law Center strongly advises a readoption. Enrolling in school and obtaining health insurance or a passport is possible without a Certificate of Foreign Birth, but it is certainly much easier with it. The U.S. adoption decree also provides security for families in case the foreign nation does not maintain proper birth and adoption records or if the records are destroyed or difficult to access.
Readoption is an abbreviated process because the child has already been legally adopted in their country of birth. Your attorney will ask you to provide copies of the following documents: your child’s birth certificate, abandonment or termination of parental rights orders, and adoption decree. We will also need a copy of the certified translation of these documents. The home study and waiting period are not required. These cases can be heard shortly after filing the petition since there is no Respondent that must be served or given an opportunity to answer the petition.
A less common practice is for the child to enter the U.S. on an IR-4 or IH-4 visa, which means the prospective adoptive parents have an Order of Guardianship issued in the foreign country or the adoption was finalized in the foreign country, but the parents did not actually see the child prior to the adoption. If the child entered the U.S. on an IR-4 or IH-4 visa, a readoption in Tennessee is required.
Families can apply for a Certification of Citizenship, or N-600 without legal representation. Here is the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) form. You will need to submit the following documents:
- U.S. Readoption decree;
- Foreign adoption decree with certified translation;
- Foreign birth certificate with certified translation;
- U.S. Certificate of Foreign Birth;
- The child’s original passport, entry visa, and Lawful Permanent Resident Card;
- Form I-600/I-800 Approval Notice;
- Birth certificates and passports for the adoptive parents (or certificate of naturalization if not U.S. born);
- Marriage certificate and evidence of prior marriage termination(s) if applicable;
- Evidence of physical residence, such as a lease or mortgage statement; and two passport photos of the child.
We encourage families to apply for a passport while they wait the year or more for a determination.
The Adoption Law Center has relationships with many international adoption agencies and lawyers that specialize in this complex area of law. If we can’t help you, we’ll point you in the right direction! Contact us now at 615-543-8640 or [email protected]!