Japan International Adoption Process and Cost


You have done your research on which country you want to adopt from internationally and decided that Japan meets everything on your adoption list. But, you are unsure as to the exact process involved or how much it will cost.

Japan International Adoption Process and Cost

Japan is both a forward-thinking country but also closed off in a lot of respects. International adoption from Japan can be difficult and throw you some frustrations through cultural and legal issues. In the 5 years from 2014 – 2018 an average of 19.2 children were adopted from Japan to the U.S.:

Number of children adopted in Japan between 2014 and 2018

2018 14
201722
201621
201519
201420

(Source: U.S. Department of State – Bureau of Consular Affairs)

The two main authorities within Japan which decide whether to approve an adoption are the Family Court and the Child Guidance Centers. These both function at the prefectural level (think of a prefecture in Japan as being similar to a U.S. state).

So, how does one go about adopting their dream child from Japan? Here is a quick breakdown of the process:

  1. Choose an adoption  service provider that is U.S. accredited/approved
  2. Be found suitable and eligible to adopt bu the USCIS
  3. Contact the Japanese authorities to adopt and have a child matched to you.
  4. Adopt the child in Japan
  5. Apply for the child to be classified as an orphan and eligible to immigrate to the US under that status
  6. Apply for an immigration visa for the adoptee.
  7. Bring the adoptee home.

So, that is the procedure in a nutshell. Let’s crack open the nut and have a closer look at each of these steps.

The Japanese Adoption Process

Japan isn’t averse to international adoption. The difficulty lies in the fact that birth parents don’t want to give up their rights over the child and the hesitation of authorities to get involved. However, the Japanese government has been looking at increasing the number of special adoptions as a way to stem the increasing tide of child abuse cases. 

The Japanese Adoption Process

As part of this review, a new law came into effect in April 2018, that looks at advancing special adoptions and also placing private adoption services under the microscope. This leads us to look at the first step in the adoption process: considering which adoption service to use.

1. Choosing a U.S. approved or accredited adoption service

The Universal Accreditation Act of 2012 states that as of 14 July 2014, there must be a primary provider for every intercountry adoption (unless there is an exception). The primary provider is responsible for:

  • Ensuring that the following six services are met:
  1. Identifying a child for adoption and arranging an adoption;
  2. Securing the necessary consent to termination of parental rights and to adoption; 
  3.  Performing a background study on a child or a home study on a prospective adoptive parent(s), and reporting on such a study; 
  4. Making non-judicial determinations of the best interests of a child and the appropriateness of an adoptive placement for the child;
  5.  Monitoring a case after a child has been placed with prospective adoptive parent(s) until final adoption; or 
  6.  When necessary because of a disruption before final adoption, assuming custody and providing (including facilitating the provision of) child care or any other social service pending an alternative placement. (Source: 22 CFR 96.2)
  • Overseeing supervised providers and being responsible for their conduct.
  • The creation and application of a service plan 

If you need further information about an adoption service provider you there are five centers in Japan that you can contact.

2. Be found suitable and eligible to adopt

In order to be found suitable and eligible to adopt a child from Japan, you need to meet the US and Japanese immigration requirements. This needs to be done before you even start looking for a child to adopt. Imagine the heartache of finding a child you want to adopt only to find that immigration law isn’t on your side!

So, to meet US immigration requirements, it is recommended that you file an Application for Advance Processing of an Orphan Petition with the USCIS. Additionally, you can also submit the Petition to Classify Orphan as an Immediate Relative form while sending in the supporting documents for your application. 

Note that it is necessary to have a home study done once you have been matched with a child. This home study must meet the requirements as stipulated in the following Code of Regulations: 8 CFR 204.311 and 22 CFR Part 96.47

3. Contact the Japanese authorities

Now that you have the basics met within the US and have been approved to be eligible to adopt, you need to get the approval of the authorities in Japan. For a child to be adopted in Japan they need to meet the following requirements

  • Be legally recognised as an orphan under U.S. law.
  • Though there are no legal requirements under Japanese law for a child to be deemed an orphan, there does have to be a relinquishing of the child by his or her biological parents.
  • The adoptee has to be aged 6-years old or younger. However, if the child is under 8 years old and has been in the continued care of the adoptive parents since the from the age of 6-years old the adoption can still be approved.

Once you have been found eligible to adopt by both U.S. and Japanese authorities, it’s time to finalize the process! 

4. Adopt the child

In Japan, the Family Court will look at your adoption application and make the decision of whether to approve the adoption or not. There is no requirement for the prospective parents to appear before a judge and the administration of the application could be done in a clerk’s office.

The Court will consider the law regarding international adoption applicable to the particular state that the prospective parents reside in. There will be an interview done with the adoptive parents and a home study will take place this is a trial period conducted by the courts to check the suitability of the parents and the home environment. The trial last six-months and then you will be informed of the first hearing date to consider your adoption application.

Within two or three weeks of the final hearing date, you will be informed as to whether the judge has approved your application. If you are successful the court will issue you a yoshi no kyoka (which is “Permission to Adopt”).

If there is no objection from the biological parents within two weeks of the adoption registration (which will be done at the local ward office) then the process is considered to be finalized.

5. Apply for the child to be classified as an orphan and eligible to immigrate to the US under that status

If you haven’t already submitted the Petition to Classify Orphan as an Immediate Relative form at the beginning of your adoption process, then now is the time to do it. Your adoptee must meet the U.S. requirements of an orphan in order to relocate there. 

When submitting this form you will be required to give the name of your primary provider and you may be asked to supply the contact details of the provider. This is part of the adjudicating process regarding your adoption. To check the orphan status of your child either the USCIS or the U.S. Embassy in Tokyo will complete a “Determination on Child for Adoption” form. 

Apply for the child to be classified as an orphan

The determining of the orphan status of your child can take several months so it is urged that you remain patient while awaiting the results. 

6. Apply for an immigration visa for the adoptee.

Everything has been approved and your child has been legally recognised as an orphan. Everybody is excited and you are all about to celebrate the arrival of your child. But before you celebrate, there is one final step to go. 

You need to get an immigration visa for your child. How does one go about getting that? 

The first step is to apply for a family registry for your child, which is a Japanese birth certificate. Once you get this, your name will be added to the new birth certificate. Then you have to get a passport for your adoptee. 

Then you need to apply for a US immigration visa through the U.S. Embassy in Tokyo. You will be required to submit the medical records of the child, Also, you will have to attend an immigration interview. Before the interview, you will have to submit an Electronic Immigrant Visa Application form through the Consular Electronic Application Center (note you will be asked for a case number, please contact the U.S. Embassy in Tokyo if you are unsure about your case number).  

If you have any questions about the Electronic Immigrant Visa Application form, you can visit the FAQs

Note, that it may not be possible to give the visa to the adoptive parents on the day of the interview, so ask about the processing times when attending the interview. 

7. Bring the child home.

Everything has been signed off, you have the immigration status of your child approved and a passport issued for them. Now, it’s time to truly celebrate!

The child is coming home to your place and his/her new country. Make sure that there is plenty of love and support for the child. Allow them to settle in and acclimatise to the new environment. 

 Bring the child home

So, now what happens?

The Post-Adoption Process

After the adoption has been approved and everything is settled, the adoptive parents need to make sure that the child’s name has been removed from the biological mother’s family registry. A new registry will be set up with the names of the adoptive parents and the child. 

Even though the child is legally recognised as an orphan by U.S. law, and considered to take on the nationality of an American,  they are still considered as a Japanese citizen due to Japanese law recognising that the child didn’t choose to give up his or her Japanese citizenship. 

If you feel that you need support and help, seek out adoption support groups that will give you the assistance and guidance that you need. You can ask your primary provider for information on support groups or you can jump online and find them yourself. Here is a couple to get you started:

Adoptive Family Circles

International Social Service Japan

Never fear asking for help. 

The Cost of Adopting from Japan

Now you know the process of how to adopt a child from Japan, how much will it actually cost you? 

For intercountry adoptions from Japan, you can expect to pay anywhere between $US20,000 (which is the average cost) to $US50,000 (or more). This includes the costs incurred through the Japanese Family Court, adoption service provider fees, administration fees and translation services. 

The cost of adopting from Japan

Note, that the cost is dependent on the service provider you use. However, Japanese law forbids adoption agency from gaining a profit from adoptions. Adoption service providers cannot ask for donations, and if they do you can report them to the authorities. Depending on the health of your child, you could also be met with medical costs associated with the child. 

Also, if you have to travel to Japan, you need to allow for the cost of travelling and staying in Japan. 

Ask for an itemized list of all costs incurred in the process. If there is something in the costings that may concern you, or you suspect it has violated U.S. or Japanese law, then notify the appropriate authorities. The last thing you want is for it to appear as though you are buying the child. 

The timeframe of the process

You are anxious to get your child home as soon as possible. That’s understandable. Yet, how long will it take before you can have your child come home? 

With intercountry adoptions from Japan, you can expect the process to take anywhere between 6 – 18 months. The Family Court will consider the laws in your home state and try to adhere to those laws, yet the court does not set a time limit on how long the process will take.

How long does it take to process an international adoption from Japan

Remember, love is patient! 

How to make a complaint

If you feel that there has been something inappropriate occur during your process (such as misrepresentation, fraud or misconduct) you can make a formal complaint with the U.S. Embassy in Tokyo. Don’t think that the complaint will fall on deaf ears. The U.S. State Department will investigate your case. 

Remember that part of the adoption process is to use U.S. accredited/approved adoption service providers. If you feel that your service provider has been acting unethically, fraudulently or violate the U.S. accreditation standards, you can submit a complaint via the Hague Complaint Registry. The first step, though, is to make a written complaint directly to the service provider. 

What is the difference between “regular” and “special” adoptions in Japan?

Within Japan, there are two types of adoptions: regular and special. Under regular adoptions, any ties to biological or adoptive parents aren’t cut off. Therein lies the problem when it comes to trying to adopt a child under a regular adoption: the biological parents still maintain legal rights over the child.

Even if the child removed from the parent(s) and placed in an institution, the parents still have the final say in what the child can and can’t do. With regard to adoption, the biological parents, or any other legal guardian,  to give their final approval to adopt the child. Because of this unwillingness to sever ties with the birth parent(s), regular adoptions could be ineligible for U.S. immigration visas. 

What's the difference between regular and special adoptions in Japan

In order to increase the adoption rate and help children find better homes, the Japanese government introduced “special” adoptions in 1988. There was also a new law introduced in April 2018 that aims at raising the level of special adoptions. The original law was brought in to align Japan with international adoption standards and provide more protection for children under 6 years old. 

“Special” adoptions seek to cut all ties with the biological and previous adoptive parents, which removes the hurdles associated with parents who stubbornly refused to relinquish their rights over the child. There are stipulations though when it comes to “special” adoptions:

The child must be under the age of six at the time the adoption petition is filed OR under the age of eight and must have been placed under the continuous care and custody of the prospective adoptive parents since before the child’s sixth birthday.  All persons with legal custody of the child, including the natural and adoptive parents, must consent to the adoption, but consent by persons without legal custody is not necessary. 

With “special” adoptions, it has made the process a little easier.

Japan is not a member of the Hague Convention on Adoption does that make a difference to the adoption process?

The main difference in the adoption process with Japan is that being a non-Hague Convention country, you must have the child legally recognised as an orphan as part of the procedures. 

For more information visit the  U.S. Department of State – Bureau of Consular Affairs Non-Hague Visa Process

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