Adopting children from all over the world has become something U.S. residents and citizens have been doing more and more when starting or expanding their families and providing safe, loving homes to children in need. Over 20,000 inter-country adoptions are taking place per year in addition to the more than 200,000 foreign-adopted children already living in the U.S. The Department of Homeland Security - U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) is proud to play a key role in this family-building process.

There are two ways to bring an adopted child into the United States. The fastest and easiest way is to adopt an orphan who automatically becomes eligible to enter the United States as an immediate relative. Only U.S. citizens are eligible to immigrate a child as an orphan.  The second way is to adopt a child and reside with that child for two years prior to petitioning for the child. U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents may immigrate a child with whom they have lived for two years.

Prospective adoptive parents may find the services of an adoption agency helpful for guidance and assistance with the immigration of orphans and adoptive children. We cannot recommend specific agencies, but we strongly advise prospective adoptive parents to seek out a reputable agency with established foreign adoption experience and/or competent legal representation in their efforts to bring foreign-born orphans into the United States.

Specific Country Conditions are noted on the Department of State, Bureau of Consular Affairs, Overseas Citizens Services, Office of Children Issues website:  

These materials alert prospective adoptive parents to some serious problems that may develop or already exist in foreign adoption cases. For example, corrupt adoption practices can happen anywhere in the world. For example, corrupt adoption practices can happen anywhere in the world. The adoption of a foreign-born orphan does not automatically guarantee the child's eligibility to immigrate to the United States. The adoptive parent needs to be aware of U.S. immigration law and legal regulatory procedures. An orphan cannot legally immigrate to the United States without CIS processing.

Adopting Older Children - “Aging Out” of Eligibility to Immigrate Through Adoption.

If you are considering adopting an older child, you should be aware of the age limits on eligibility for adoptions and immigration, regardless of whether or not your state laws permit the adoption of older children (or even adults).

U.S. law allows the adoption and immigration of children who are under 16 years of age, with two exceptions:

  • Siblings of a child adopted by the same parents may be adopted if under 18 years of age; and
  • Orphans over the age of 16 may be adopted, as long as the I-600 petition was filed on their behalf before their 16th birthday (or in the case of an orphan who is the sibling of a child adopted by the same parents, before their 18th birthday).

There are two ways to immigrate an adopted child. Please review the differences, as they are important to your successful adoption.

(1)  Immigration/Adoption of child based on 2-years residence through submitting Form I-130. If you adopt a child before the child turns 16 (or 18, as described above), and you live with the child for two years (cumulatively, not necessarily continuously) as the child’s primary caregiver, then you may file an I-130 petition for an alien relative. The petition may be filed after the 16th (or 18th) birthday, and the two years may culminate after the 16th (or 18th) birthday. (Please note that, generally, all qualifying criteria must be established BEFORE the child may enter the U.S. )

(2)  Immigration/Adoption of an orphan through submitting Form I-600: If you adopt or intend to adopt a child who meets the legal definition of an orphan, you may petition for that child at any time prior to the child’s 16th (or 18th, as described above) birthday, even if the adoption takes place subsequently (and in many cases, the adoption does not occur until the child comes to the U.S.). Back to Top