If you’re considering expanding your family through intercountry adoption, you can complete the adoption process in the U.S. However, your foreign-born child must have an IR-4 Visa that allows them to enter the U.S. and live with you.
As a prospective adoptive parent, it’s essential to understand the IR-4 Visa requirements and application process to enable you to navigate the adoption process smoothly.
The IR-4 Visa allows children from non-Hague Convention countries who are to be adopted by U.S. citizens to enter the United States before their adoption process is complete.
Under this visa, you can obtain guardianship of the child from a foreign country and bring them into the U.S. to await formal adoption approval.
If the child is from a Hague Convention country, you should apply for the IH-4 Visa instead. The adoption and visa application processes for children from non-Hague countries differ from those in countries that are party to the Hague Adoption Convention.
Additionally, the IR-4 Visa is similar to the IR-3 Visa as they both apply to children adopted from non-Hague convention countries. However, unlike the IR-3 Visa, which only allows children whose adoption process is complete to enter the country, the IR-4 Visa enables you to be with your child in the U.S. while awaiting the lengthy adoption process.
When the adoption is complete, your child can remain in the U.S. indefinitely as a Green Card holder and be eligible to apply for U.S. citizenship.
To be eligible for the IR-4 Visa, you and your prospective adopted child must meet the following requirements:
- The child must be under 16 years old or under 18 if they are the birth sibling of another child you are adopting or have adopted.
- The child must be classified as an “orphan” and meet other adoption criteria outlined in the U.S. Immigration and Nationality Act (INA).
- The child has to be from a non-Hague convention country.
- If you are married, you and your spouse must sign the forms and adopt the child together.
- If you are unmarried, you must be at least 25 years old.
- You must be willing to obtain guardianship of the child in a foreign country and then adopt them in the U.S.
- You must have permission from the authorities of the foreign country to bring the child out of that country to the U.S. for adoption.
- You must have plans for the child to live with you in the U.S.
- You must have a valid U.S. address.
- You must establish that you will provide proper parental care to the child.
- You must pass the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) eligibility test.
One advantage of the IR-4 Visa is that you are not required to have met the child physically before you can apply for the visa.
To apply for the IR-4 Visa, you will need to go through the non-Hague adoption process, also called the Orphan process.
This process requires you to file Form I-600A, Application for Advance Processing of an Orphan Petition, and Form I-600, Petition to Classify Orphan as an Immediate Relative.
You can apply through the Orphan process by either filling both files separately or together. If your Orphan petition is approved, you can apply for an immigrant visa.
If you are yet to identify a child for adoption, first file Form I-600A, which allows the USCIS to determine your suitability and eligibility as an adoptive parent. You must also submit a home study completed by someone authorised to conduct an adoption home study, either along with your Form I-600A or within one year of filing the form.
The USCIS will conduct background and criminal checks on you and all adults over 18 in your household before approving your petition.
After your petition is approved and you have identified a child for adoption, file Form I-600, which determines whether the child qualifies as an orphan under U.S. immigration law. You can file this form with the USCIS or The U.S. Department of State (DOS) at a U.S. embassy or consulate. The body you file with will conduct the orphan determination.
To be considered an orphan, the foreign-born child should:
- Have no legal parents due to the death, disappearance, abandonment, desertion, separation from, or loss of each parent; or
- Have a sole parent who is incapable of providing proper care, consistent with local standards of the foreign country for the child, and who has irrevocably released the child (in writing) for emigration and adoption.
If you have already identified the child you want to adopt and have not yet filed Form I-600A, you can petition for a “combo filing.”
A ‘combo filing’ involves requesting the USCIS to determine both your suitability and eligibility as an adoptive parent and the child’s qualification as an orphan by filling out both Form I-600A and Form I-600 at the same time.
Once your Form I-600 is approved, you can apply for an immigrant visa for the child by filing Form DS-260, Online Immigrant Visa. You will need to schedule and attend an interview at a local U.S. Embassy or Consulate.
If your application is successful, the DOS will grant the child an IR-4 Visa, allowing them to enter the U.S.
You’ll generally pay the following fees when applying for the IR-4 Visa:
- Form DS-260 processing fees: $325
- Form I-600A and Form I-600 filing fees: $775
You may incur additional costs if you have to translate documents or take a medical exam.
The estimated processing time for the IR-4 visa is usually 6 to 12 months. What often takes the most time is conducting the home study and background and criminal checks.
Intercountry adoption presents unique challenges that you must consider, such as satisfying complex immigration requirements. If you intend to increase your chances of having a successful outcome, it’s advisable to get help from an immigration lawyer.
An immigration lawyer can explain the adoption procedure to you and advise you on the right immigration route to take. They can also help you identify potential challenges that could cause a delay in the process and help you resolve them.