I've got a green card in the U.S. -- can I adopt from overseas?

One of both parents need to be U.S. citizens for a smooth adoption and immigration process.

Question

My husband is a U.S. citizen, and I have been a lawful permanent resident of the U.S. since 2007. We want to adopt a child from overseas and bring the child here. Can we do this even if I’m not a U.S. citizen?

Answer

The fact that you’re not a U.S. citizen won’t prevent you and your husband from adopting a child from overseas. You just need some kind of legal status in the U.S.—which you have with your green card—and you and your husband must do the adoption together. (He will be the one to sign all the application forms.) You’ll have to meet all the other requirements for international adoption as well. (See “How to Bring Your Adopted Child to the U.S.”)

It would be much more difficult to adopt a child from overseas on your own if you were not married to a U.S. citizen. The law allows adoptive parents who are lawful permanent residents of the U.S. to petition to bring their adopted child to the U.S., but only if they

  1. adopted the child when he or she was under the age of 16
  2. have had legal custody of the child for at least two years before applying, and
  3. have lived with the child for at least two years before applying.

So, unless an adoptive parent has some preexisting relationship with the child, it would be hard to get the child a green card. The lawful permanent resident parent would find it difficult to live overseas with a child for two years because permanent residency can be legally abandoned by leaving the country for long periods of time. The child might find it hard to get a visa or continuing legal status to come live with the adoptive parent in the United States.

Another difficulty in bringing an adopted child to the U.S. before either parent has become a U.S. citizen is that even if the parent or parents have the required two years of custody and residence, a visa for the child would not be immediately available under today’s visa processing conditions. The category of visa for children of lawful permanent residents, called “F2A,” is in high demand, and currently a waiting list exists for these visas. It might take a couple years after the petition is approved for the visa to become available.

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