International Adoption: Why "Readoption" in the U.S. Is Necessary
International adoption is long, complicated process and once children are home, many families ask, “I already have a final adoption decree from my child’s birth country, so why do I need to ‘readopt’ in the United States?” The fact is, readoption is critical for your child's security.
IR-3 Visa v. IR-4 Visa: What's the Difference?First, children with the IR-4 visa must be readopted according to Federal law. Your child becomes a Permanent Resident upon entry to the United States and you will automatically receive a green card in the mail, but your child will not become a U.S. citizen until you readopt in a U.S. court. The other types of adoption visas are the IR-3 and IR-2 visas. Readoption is not required for these visas.
Regardless of Visa Type, You Should Still ReadoptSchool officials and other bureaucrats may refuse to recognize the foreign birth certificate as an official document. Life is much easier when you have a state birth certificate. In order to get the state birth certificate, you need a readoption order from your state court. Some states may require readoption regardless of the type of visa issued because they do not recognize adoption in other countries as valid. Your child may have inheritance problems if you die without a will. (Please hire a good estate lawyer to do your will.) If the foreign documents are lost or destroyed, you will be in much better shape if you have the readoption decree, because you will be able to go to the court and get a copy of not only the decree, but all the foreign legal and immigration documents that were filed with your readoption petition. Think of the court as a safety deposit box. I know a family who didn't readopt and lost all their child's documents in a house fire; it has been very difficult to get U.S. documents for this child. If you were not permitted to change your child's name as part of the foreign adoption, you may do so as part of the readoption process. You may also be able to change the birth date, if necessary and recommended by a physician. A readoption also may protect families from legal changes overseas that might retroactively affect adoptions finalized in the foreign country. This is rare but it can happen, especially in unstable countries. For example, the Democratic Republic of the Congo is considering legislation that would nullify already completed adoptions. Even if your child entered on an IR-3 visa, you should finalize everything in the United States to protect your family's legal status. You need to protect your kid from deportation. If your child someday gets into trouble with the law and does not have his or her Certificate of Citizenship from USCIS, deportation becomes a possibility. A U.S. passport, by the way, is insufficient for USCIS. The State Department may treat him as a U.S. citizen when he is traveling abroad, but when it comes to internal immigration matters your child will be treated only as a permanent resident. Therefore, it is critical to get your child the Certificate of Citizenship.
The ProcessAfter you provide your attorney with the home study and certain foreign and immigration documents, your attorney will draft the petition to "domesticate," or recognize, the foreign adoption and file it with the court. A hearing will be set, typically not more than a few weeks after the petition is filed. Your attorney will provide notice of the hearing to anyone required under state law, such as your adoption agency. The hearing: your family may not need to appear at the hearing, but most decide to attend anyway. It is not an adversarial hearing, it is a happy occasion and judges love to finalize adoptions. Go go get some great family photos to help you remember! For Florida adoptions, your attorney will provide you with copies of the Final Decree and will help you fill out the forms to order the state birth certificates. Your attorney should also provide a roadmap for you to get all the other documents you will want: a social security card, a U.S. passport and a certificate of citizenship.
ConclusionThe readoption process is not complicated and probably should not cost more than $1,500 (including filing fees). Indeed, considering everything you have already been through, readoption is simple and affordable.