When you’re interested in adopting a child from outside the United States, you need to be concerned with the United States’s immigration rules, the foreign state’s rules on allowing adopted children to be sent to the United States, and the terms of any adoption treaties between the two countries. Where the child lives can make all the difference in how easy or difficult the immigration process can be.
The first thing you’ll need to know is whether the country where the child is living (is “habitually resident”) is a party to an international treaty called the Hague Convention on Protection of Children and Cooperation in Respect of Intercountry Adoption (the ”Hague Convention”).
If, like the United States, the child’s country is a partner to the Hague Convention, the U.S. immigration agencies require you to follow certain steps to bring your adopted child to the United States. There are no exceptions and no shortcuts. You might find complying with the Hague Convention rules to be slightly more complicated than the other ways of bringing an adopted child to the United States. (See How to Bring Your Adopted Child to the U.S.)
Whether your child’s country is a party to the Hague Convention or not, that country might have its own rules that make international adoption relatively easy, difficult, or impossible. One way to learn about any particular country’s rules on international adoption is to look at the country information pages of the U.S. State Department’s website on intercountry adoption.
The child’s country might have created restrictions on who can adopt and how. For example, even though the Hague Convention does not require it, for adoption from a country like China, which is a party to the Hague Convention, at least one adopting parent must travel to China to sign the required adoption documents (and the other parent must be there too, or give the traveling spouse a power of attorney). China also has rules on the age of the adopting parents, their marital status and history, their income, their physical and mental health, and their criminal history.
Aside from restrictions that might be placed on you, there may be local rules concerning which children can be adopted. Typically these concern how to identify children that have truly been abandoned or relinquished by their biological parents. There may be an age limit or a preference for children with special needs.
Unfortunately, it might not be possible to bring an adopted child from the country you would like. Russia, for example, has banned the adoption of Russian children by U.S. citizens since 2013.
If you have your heart set on adopting a child from a particular country, check the State Department’s website mentioned above or work with your international adoption services agency to see whether it’s possible and what you need to do.