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Adopting children from outside the United States can be a complicated process because the family must comply with the requirements outlined by the United States Department of Justice and the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). Additionally, the adoptive family must comply with the laws and requirements of the foreign country. Further, it is very important to be familiar with local customs, protocols and the culture of the foreign country. It is important to work with either an agency or an individual/attorney who is experienced in this area of adoption law. The USCIS does require a home study and has specific requirements for content and format. Currently, children from Asia, Korea, Latin America, South America, and Eastern Europe are being placed with loving adoptive families. It is sometimes necessary to travel to the country where the child resides in order to obtain a ruling from that country’s court that the child is eligible for adoption and can leave for the United States.

States generally recognize as valid an adoption that has taken place in a foreign country and is accepted and recognized by the USCIS and the Department of Justice. If the foreign country’s adoption decree contains an adoptive parents surname, the State Department of Health can usually issue a birth certificate upon request. The Department of Health does require proof of adoption, including a copy of the original birth certificate and adoption decree, an English translation of both, and the copy of the approval from the USCIS. Adoptive parents may also request the court to recognize the foreign country’s adoption decree. A court usually must be involved to change the adopted child’s name to the name given by the adoptive parent if that name is different from the adoptive parents surname or is different than the decree from the foreign country.

National Organizations

National Adoption Information Clearinghouse
330 C Street, SW Washington, DC 20447
Phone: (703) 352-3488 or (888) 251-0075
Fax: (703) 385-3206

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS)
1-800-375-5283 (TTY 1-800-767-1833)
USCIS website:

National Council For Adoption
225 N. Washington Street
Alexandria, VA 22314-2561
Phone: (703) 299-6633
Fax: (703) 299-6004

Adoptive Families of America
Minnesota-based nonprofit support organization.
Includes bimonthly magazine and parenting resources.
Adoptive Families magazine website:

The Child Welfare League
440 First Street, NW, Third Floor
Washington, DC 20001-2085
Phone: 202/638-2952
Fax: 202/638-4004

National Council for Single Adoptive Parents
Single adoptive parents help.
Phone (toll-free): 1-888-490-4600

National Adoption Center
1500 Walnut St.
Suite 701
Philadelphia, PA 19102
Phone: 1-800-TO-ADOPT

American Academy of Adoption Attorneys
Resource to locate an adoption attorney.
Box 33053
Washington, D.C. 20033-0053
Phone: (202) 832-2222
AAAA website:

National Resource Center for Special Needs Adoption
16250 Northland Dr.
Suite 120
Southfield, MI 48075
Phone: 248-443-0306
Fax: 248-443-7099

The North America Council on Adoptable Children
970 Raymond Ave.
Suite 106
St. Paul. MN 55114-1149
Phone: 651-644-3036
Fax: 651-644-9848

See also…

Adoption, guardianships, foster parenting