International Adoption Eligibility


You want to adopt a child overseas, but wonder whether you will be allowed to. Do you meet the requirements for international adoption? The international adoption eligibility requirements are in a constant state of change depending on the state, placement agency and country of adoption.  

International adoption eligibility considers a variety of factors such as:

  • Marital status
  • Age
  • Income
  • Your family environment
  • If you have been divorced
  • Any criminal background
  • Medical history

The US has strict criteria that prospective adoptive parents must meet before they can start the process of international adoption. Also, each country has its own set of rules and eligibility requirements. 

So, before you sign any papers, you need to know if you definitely will be allowed to adopt. Read on to find out if you meet the legal requirements to start an intercountry adoption.

Eligibility requirements of the United States 

The process for a US resident to adopt internationally is done through the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). The first step in the journey to international adoption is the filing of an application with the USCIS, who then consider your eligibility.  

Within the US, the requirements are that:

  1. You must be a US citizen
  2. If you are single you need to  be at least 25 years old 
  3. If you have been divorced more than twice, then your application will be looked at on an individual basis. 
  4. If either of the prospective adoptive parents suffers from chronic illness or has a history of health issues, then the adoption will be looked at on a case-by-case basis. (If you suffer from a disability, you are still able to adopt within US legal requirements, however, some countries may have regulations against allowing disabled people from adopting).
  5. Just as with any physical health issues, mental health issues will also be considered on a case-by-case basis.
  6. If you are pregnant at the time of applying for international adoption, or if you currently have a child under 6 months old, you will be required to fill in a Concurrent Family Building Application.
  7. If either or both of the prospective adoptive parents have had a criminal history, then this will be looked at on an individual level by both the USCIS the prospective adoptive country.
  8. Any history of drug or alcohol abuse will also be considered individually by the US and the adoptive country’s requirements.
  9. Your income and assets will also be looked at and it is required that any adoptive parents meet the minimum income requirements (which is 125% or higher of the poverty level for the household size), though some countries may have different rules regarding income levels. The US requirement is:

Poverty Guidelines 48 Contiguous States and the District of Columbia

Persons in family/household Poverty guideline
2$21,137
3$26,662
4$32,187
5$37,712
6$43,237
7$48,762
8$54,287

For families/households with more than 8 persons, add $5,525 for each additional person.

( Source: U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services )

Though the above is the eligibility requirements for prospective adoptive parents according to the USCIS, there may be specific requirements that you need to meet according to your particular state. To see if there are any state-side regulations that may affect your eligibility, you can check out the Child Welfare Information Gateway’s State Laws section to see if there are any further requirements you need to meet before you can begin your adoption.

Remember, it is all about doing the groundwork before you start on the amazing ride of international adoption. 

Eligibility requirements of the United States

Now you know the US requirements to be allowed to start the adoption process but, hang on, what are the laws of other countries? Sure you may have all the boxes ticked within the US, but your chosen country may have you rubbing out some of those ticks and your heart and hopes will sink.

We don’t want that! Time to look outside the US and see what the rules and regulations in some of the prospective countries you may consider to adopt from.

What the requirements are outside of the US

The rules and regulations around international adoption are always in a constant state of flux, so. A great resource for keeping your finger on the pulse regarding it pays to keep up with any changes that can affect your eligibility to adopt from a particular country any revisions of the rules in your chosen country of adoption is the Country Information section on the US Department of State – Bureau of Consular Affairs website.

Here we will look at a handful of the more popular countries that people choose to adopt from and what their eligibility requirements are for any prospective adoptive parents. You need to be aware that some countries will require one or both parents to live in the country for a set time as part of the adoption process, so you need to be prepared to relocate temporarily.

China

China doesn’t require prospective parents to live in China prior to the adoption, however at least one of the parents must travel to China to submit and process the appropriate paperwork in front of the Chinese authorities. If only one of the parents of a married adoptive couple is traveling to China, then they need to have with them a notarized power of attorney from the other spouse. 

WIth regard to age, the minimum is 30 years old for single adoptive parents with married couples being allowed to be over 50 years old. Also, there can be no more than a 50 year age gap between the adoptive parents and the adoptee (with the age gap being reduced to a 45-year difference for single white females).

Chinese international adoption requirements

China will only allow adoptions with adoptive parents who are married (for at least 2 years) in a heterosexual relationship and to single white females. Lesbians, homosexuals, gay, bi-sexual, transgender, or intersex individuals and those within same-sex marriages can not adopt in China. If you have been divorced at least two times, then you are not permitted to adopt under Chinese regulations.

When looking at the income of the prospective parents, China requires that each individual within the family (including the adoptee) must have an annual income of $10,000. For single adoptive parents, China expects them to have a net worth of at least $100,000 (for married couples the net worth has to be at least $80,000).

Adoptive parents (either married or single) need to have graduated high school or have a minimum of high school level education. 

China expects prospective parents to be physically and mentally fit. Anyone who has any of the following conditions will be unable to adopt, however, there are certain exceptions:

  •  AIDS, HIV, or any contagious infectious disease,
  •  mental disability or disorder (Schizophrenia, depression, anxiety)
  •  is blind (in either one or both eyes),
  • suffers from hearing loss or loses language functionality, 
  • has any impairment in their limbs, is paralysed or suffers from deformation (either in bodily or facial), 
  • is in need of long-term treatment for a serious disease

China also stipulates that if your Body Mass Index is greater than 40 then you may not adopt. If a prospective parent suffers from depression, neurosis, anxiety or a similar mental illness, China may provide an exemption if you can prove that you are seeking treatment. Also, if you have had an organ transplant within the ten years but are living a normal life, then maybe you will be permitted to adopt.

When it comes to considering the family size of the adoptive parent, it is required that a single parent will have no more than two children in the house under 18 years old and the youngest being at least six years.

If you have a criminal record, then you will be unable to adopt a child in China. 

Colombia

There is no expectation for you to live in Colombia before the adoption process, but it is required that the parents reside in Colombia during the two stages of the process (an administrative and a judicial stage). Parents (either married or single) need to be 25 years old with an age gap of no more than 15 years between the parent and the adoptee.

If couples are in their first marriage, then they have to have been married for 2 and a half years (with an expectation of being married for at least 3 years if the couples are in their second marriage). If either spouse has been divorced more than three times, then the couple will not be allowed to adopt.

Similar to China, Colombia does not allow adoptions to LGBT individuals.

Though there are no set income requirements that prospective parents have to meet, it is expected that the income of the household is enough to be able to take care of the adoptee.

The adopted child is unable to travel to the US so everything needs to meet Colombian law before the child can move to the US. 

With health, the parents should not have any serious medical or mental issues and there is a requirement for the parents to go for a psychological evaluation to ensure that they are capable of caring for the child.

Adoptive parents can not have a criminal record and it’s desirable for them to have graduated from college. 

Also, prospective parents need to show that they can provide a safe family environment and it is a requirement that they go for adoptive parental training and education.

Dominican Republic

The Dominican Republic requires both adoptive parents to live with the child in the country with this period being determined by the age of the adoptee. At least 60 days for children 12 years old or younger and 30 days or more for adoptees over the age of 12.

The parents have to be between 30 to 60 years old with the age difference between the parents and the child being no more than 15 years.

You can only adopt if you are in a heterosexual marriage and have been married for at least 5 years. If you are single or in a de facto relationship, you will not be allowed to adopt.

India

Though India doesn’t expect parents to live in the country as part of the adoption process, some agencies may ask parents to reside with the child for a week as a way to a connection between the prospective parents and the adoptee.

Parents need to be married with a strong relationship that has lasted for at least 2 years. Those in a same-sex relationship are unable to adopt. Females cannot be adopted by single males. 

You need to be between 25 years old and 45 years old if you wish to adopt a child who is four years old or younger. For children between the ages of four and eight, the parents need to at least 29 years old and no older than 50. If the adoptee is older than eight, then the adoptive parents must be between 33 years old to 55 years old.

India requires families to have fewer than four children in order to adopt a child from India with adoptive parents having to show that they are financially capable of looking after the child. 

India international adoption requirements

South Korea

South Korea states that parents need to be no younger than 25 years old and no older than 44. With a requirement that both parents being younger than 45 years old. There may be exception granted regarding the age of the parents if one of the parents is an adoptee, Korean-American or the parents have adopted from South Korea previously. It is expected that the parents are in South Korea at the time of the adoption.

Single parents can not adopt from South Korea and couples must be married for at least three years prior to the adoption process. The income of the parents has to be higher than the US poverty guidelines and they must show that they are financially capable of providing for the child.

Neither prospective parent can convictions regarding child abuse/neglect, drug use, domestic violence, sexual assault or a substance/alcohol dependency.

Poland

Poland has no residency requirements for prospective adoptive parents nor is there any age restrictions. It is expected that the age gap between the parents and the adoptee be no more than 40 years.

Couples and single parents are able to adopt but those in same-sex marriages or civil unions can not adopt.

It is preferred to match Polish adoptees with parents who have Polish heritage.

Ukraine

Similar to Poland, there is no expectation for the prospective parents to live in Ukraine as part of the adoption. Adoptive parents must be at least 21 years old and be at least 15 years older than the adoptee. Relatives of the adoptee are excluded from the age gap requirement.

Ukraine will only allow married couples to adopt with the exception that a single parent needs to be related to the child. Same-sex couples are not allowed to adopt.

Ukrainian international adoption regulations

If you have either a complete or partial physical or mental disability you can not adopt in Ukraine. 

Japan

Japan requires parents to be in the country for the entire adoption process (which can take anywhere between 6 to 18 months). At least one parent needs to attend court during the finalization of the adoption.

Adoptive parents must be at least 20 years of age with special adoptions stipulating a minimum age of 25 years. Special adoptions require the parents to be married whereas a regular adoption allows single parents to adopt. Japan doesn’t forbid the adoption to same-sex couples as long as the marriage is considered legal.

There is no minimum income requirement, but prospective parents will need to provide proof of income and their finances.

Do your homework

As you can see the eligibility requirements for prospective adoptive parents varies from country to country though you may see some similarities between countries such as the marital status of the adoptive parents, physical and mental health requirements and income expectations.

Research is necessary to make sure that you not only meet the requirements within the US but also those of your chosen adoptive country. By taking the time now to check that you meet the necessary regulations will save you a lot of grief and disappointment.

Does being a Hague convention country or non-Hague convention country affect my eligibility?

The Hague Convention established guidelines for intercountry adoption. These were designed to ensure that the best interests of the child and the adoptive parents are at the forefront of any decision made regarding the adoption.

When it comes to the adoption process there are requirements for Hague convention countries to meet for the child to be considered a Hague Convention adoptee. This has no effect on your eligibility as a prospective parent, but you must ensure your potential adoptee meets the six elements of the Convention:

Hague convention adoption country regulations
  1. The child resides in a Hague Convention country
  2. The adoptee is under 16 years old
  3. The child isn’t married
  4. Prospective adoptive parents must be married US citizens or at least 25 years if they are an unmarried citizen of the US.
  5. There is free, irreversible consent given by the child’s birth parent(s), guardian, legal custodians to end their legal relationship with the adoptee.
  6. You must use accredited adoption services if possible. There can be no fraud or misrepresentation or barred contact in the case of the adoption.

For non-Hague convention countries, the requirement in regards to the adoptee is that the child must be defined to be an orphan. Also, the child needs to meet the following regulations:

  1. The adoptee has to be under 16 years old
  2. The child is unmarried
  3. Prospective parents must be either married or unmarried US citizens. Unmarried US citizens need to be at least 25 years old. 
  4. The child has no parents or has a sole parent who is unable to look after the child and the parent(s) have given written consent for the adoption.
  5. If possible, you need to use accredited adoptive services together with the case and there can be no fraud, misrepresentation or forbidden contact.

When considering intercountry adoption, it pays to check if you are adopting from a Hague convention or non-Hague convention country. These regulations are designed to protect the adoptee from being a victim of child trafficking as well as protecting you. You can get more information by checking out “Understanding the Hague Convention”.

Can I appeal a decision regarding my eligibility to adopt?

You went through your checklist making sure that you meet the requirements as prospective adoptive parents but are surprised to find that you aren’t eligible to adopt. What happened and can you appeal the decision?

It could be a simple case of you forgetting to provide some necessary information regarding your health or income. Maybe you got confused by all the paperwork that you needed to fill out. Perhaps you failed to meet a submission deadline which screwed up the processing of your application.

Whatever it was, mistakes happen. By you and by the system. 

If you think you have a right to appeal the rejection of your intercountry adoption have a talk with a lawyer who is familiar with international adoption and its requirements. You can find a list of lawyers that may be able to help by visiting LegalMatch.com.

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