Determine Whether the Hague Convention Applies to the Adoption
While international adoption has never been easy from an immigration standpoint, it became considerably more difficult after the US ratified the Hague Convention on Protection of Children and Co-operation in Respect of Intercountry Adoption, which became effective on April 1, 2008. Under the Hague Convention new procedures apply to all adoptions by US citizens of children who are habitually residents of a convention country. A list of convention countries appears on the US Department of State website at http://adoption.state.gov/hague/overview/countries.html. All such cases must now proceed through a "Central Authority" in the US and in the sending country, and the home study must be conducted by an approved or accredited home study preparer.
Obtain a Home Study Report
In general terms, international adoption requires that prospective parents, at least one of which must be a US citizen, demonstrate that they will be suitable parents. This involves obtaining a home study report from an authorized entity. The entity that prepares the home study report will look at every aspect of the prospective parent's lives, from their financial situation, to their history with substance abuse or criminal issues, to their mental health. Single parents are permitted to adopt, but in most cases they must be 25 years of age or older.
Demonstate That the Child is an Orphan
In most cases, the prospective parents will also have to demonstrate that the child to be adopted is an "orphan" within the meaning of the law. "Orphans" qualify for immigration benefits if they have been abandoned by or separated from both parents, or the sole surviving parent has irrevocably released the child for immigration and adoption. In general, the law requires that the adopted child be under 16 years of age in order to qualify for immigration benefits.