If an orphan is approved, the beneficiary (the child) of the petition is considered to be an immediate relative of a U.S. citizen. This means the child can get an immigrant visa right away without being placed on a visa waiting list.
An IR-3 visa will be given for a child adopted abroad, or an IR-4 will be given for a child to be adopted in the United States. To qualify for an IR-3, the child must also have been seen by both adoptive parents prior to or during the adoption proceedings. An orphan who has not been fully adopted, or whose adoptive parents did not see him/her prior to the adoption’s finalization, may receive an IR-4 visa. Any child who enters the U.S. on an IR-4 immigrant visa must be re-adopted after he/she enters the U.S., in accordance with applicable laws of the state in which the family resides. Thus, before an IR-4 visa can be issued, the consular officer must be sure that the pre-adoption requirements by the child’s future state of residence have been met. The adoptive parent(s) should determine in advance the requirements of their state of residence. This information is available through the state social services agency or many adoption practitioners.
However, the child must still qualify for an immigrant visa just like any other immigrant. For example, the orphan cannot get a visa if he or she is considered to be inadmissible to the United States. One reason for an orphan being inadmissible to the United States is when he or she has a contagious disease of public health significance. Waivers for certain grounds of inadmissibility may be sought. If an orphan petition is approved, an application for an immigrant visa may be made at an American embassy or consulate having jurisdiction over the child’s residence.
Before the immigrant visa interview, a medical examination of the child must be conducted by a designated physician.
If the physician or the consular official notes that the child has a serious disease or disability, the parents will be notified and asked if they wish to proceed with the child’s immigration. If significant health problems are uncovered, parents may be asked to sign an affidavit (Form DS-1981) acknowledging their desire to continue with the case given the medical condition of the child. Prospective adoptive parents should not rely on this medical examination to detect all possible disabilities or illnesses. You may wish to arrange an additional private medical examination if there are concerns about the child’s health.
The consular section will schedule the final visa interview once all the required documents have been provided and the file is complete.
- Immigrant visa fees
- An I-600 or I-600A approval notification by the USCIS.
- A completed I-600 petition (if it was not previously approved by the USCIS).
- The child’s birth certificate.
- The child’s passport (from the child’s country of nationality).
- The completed and signed medical examination report.
- 3 passport size photographs
- The visa application (Form DS-230, Parts I and II) signed by the parent or guardian on behalf of the child in the presence of the consular officer. Information on the form should pertain to the child and not the adopting parents.
- Evidence of orphan status
- Evidence of adoption or legal custody for purposes of emigration and adoption, as well as evidence of whether the adopting parents saw the child prior to or during adoption proceedings (if applicable).
- For children not yet adopted, not seen by both adopting parents, or who will reside in states requiring re-adoption, the I-864, Affidavit of Support, with accompanying documentation (job letter, tax returns, etc.); for children with a full and final adoption overseas where both adopting parents saw the child prior to or during the adoption and no state re-adoption requirements must be met, the I-864 is not required. Parents may wish to submit additional financial information on their ability to support the child, but they will generally not be required to do so;
- (Rare) For children over the age of 16 at the time the visa application (not the I-600A or I-600) is submitted, police, military or prison records may be required.
Meeting with the consular officer prior to the interview allows parents to obtain a list of the visa requirements and necessary forms and provides an opportunity to discuss any questions or concerns. In addition, if time permits, an early meeting may allow the consular officer to see the child for whom the visa is necessary. “Visual inspection” of the child is a requirement. It may be more convenient for all parties involved for the prospective adoptive parents to not be distracted with the child(ren) during the final visa interview. Some consular sections schedule special times to handle orphan petitions, facilitating the workflow and ensuring availability of consular staff and facilities for the adoptive parents and children.
At the time of interview, the consular officer must review the I-600 petition, verify the child’s status as an orphan, establish that the prospective parent(s) have legal custody, survey the child’s medical condition, and confirm that the child has the required travel documentation.
Questions concerning legal custody or proper documentation for the child must be resolved in accordance with the laws of the country of the child’s nationality or residence. Since requirements vary from country to country, the consular section can be helpful in explaining requirements in their local area. Nevertheless, the adoptive parent(s) or the adoption agent is/are responsible for meeting these requirements. The child’s ability to qualify for an immigrant visa as an orphan is determined by U.S. laws. An adoption by a court decree or comparable order by a competent authority does not automatically qualify a child for an immigrant visa for entry into the United States.
While the physician conducts the medical examination, the consular officer must complete the I-604 Report on Overseas Orphan Investigation. This report consists of a review of the facts and documents to verify that the child qualifies as an orphan. In addition, the consular officer ensures that the adoptive parents are aware of any medical problems that the medical examination may have uncovered. Only when this report is completed can the consular officer finally approve the I-600 petition and/or immigrant visa.
Parents should consult with the embassy or consulate regarding requirements that the child be present at the time of visa application; in many cases, the consular officer will need to see the child prior to approval of the visa. Consular officers do not generally require that adopting parents be present at the time of visa application, but parents may be required by local government authorities to be present for the adoption, escort the child out of the country, or to provide documentation to escorts that will bring the child to the United States.
Please note that some documents submitted to the embassy must be included in the immigrant visa packet and will not be returned. Therefore, adopting parents should obtain extra originals or certified copies of the adoption decree and the child’s new birth certificate for their personal use in the future, including for a U.S. passport and Social Security number application.
Cases Referred to the USCIS
The authority to approve petitions rests with the USCIS. This authority has been delegated to consular officers only in limited circumstances and then only when the case is “clearly approvable.” Occasionally, the I-604 Report does not confirm that the child is an orphan as defined by the INA. In such a case, the consular officer would provide the adoptive parents or their agent with an opportunity to submit additional information. If the outstanding questions can be answered, the case can be completed. If an issue cannot be resolved, the consular officer cannot approve the petition and must refer the petition to the appropriate USCIS office for adjudication. When a petition has been referred to the USCIS, questions about the status of the case must be addressed to the appropriate office of that agency. Since different USCIS offices can have jurisdiction, it is important to understand to which USCIS office the petition has been referred. Several scenarios may occur:
- The USCIS reviews the documentation and approves (or re-affirms) the petition. The USCIS will then notify the embassy or consulate and the consular officer will continue processing the visa application.
- The USCIS reviews the documents and requests that the consular officer conduct a field investigation to ensure that no fraud or illegal activity was involved. The embassy or consulate conducts the investigation and reports its findings to the USCIS for a final decision.
- The USCIS can deny the petition. If the USCIS denies the petition, the adoptive parents can appeal the denial to the USCIS Associate Commissioner for Examinations, Administrative Appeals Office for a legal ruling. Alternatively, adoptive parents can discuss other options with the USCIS office having jurisdiction over their case.*
*In rare and exceptional circumstances, children deemed ineligible for admission to the United States may qualify for “humanitarian parole” and gain entry. Only the USCIS has the authority to grant humanitarian parole.
Orphan’s Admittance to the United States
If all the documentation for the orphan is in order and there are no legal bars to visa issuance, the orphan will be provided with an immigrant visa consisting of a packet of supporting documentation and either a cover sheet or visa placed in the child’s passport. Both should be hand-carried with the child (not packed in the luggage) when they travel to the U.S. and should be presented to the immigration inspectors at the port of entry. Do not open the envelope of supporting documents.
The immigrant visa is valid for 180 days from the date of issuance. This means that the adopted children have 180 days to use the immigrant visa to travel to the United States.
Orphans are issued IR-3 or IR-4 visas:
- IR-3 visas are for orphans who have had a full and final adoption overseas by both adopting parents, both parents physically saw the child prior to or during local adoption proceedings, and the state where they reside does not require re-adoption in the U.S.
- IR-4 visas are for orphans whose prospective adopting parents’ have legal custody for purposes of emigration and adoption and have satisfied any applicable state pre-adoption requirements.
Naturalization: Orphans under the age of 18 and admitted to the U.S. based on a properly issued IR-3 visa automatically acquire U.S. citizenship as of the date of admission to the United States. The USCIS Buffalo office reviews IR-3 packets and automatically sends Certificates of Citizenship to eligible children without requiring any additional forms or fees. Look at Child Citizenship Act of 2000 for further details.
Orphans admitted to the U.S. based on a properly issued IR-4 visa become legal permanent residents and will automatically be processed to receive an alien registration card (“green card”). They will automatically acquire U.S. citizenship (assuming they’re under the age of 18) as of the date of their full and final adoption in the United States. To obtain proof of their citizenship once the adoption is complete, beneficiaries must file the N-600 form and any necessary fees with a USCIS office.
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