Nigeria International Adoption Process and Cost

Nigeria is a country in West Africa, thriving in tourism with its beautiful rainforests, savannahs, and waterfalls. In the entertainment industry, conversely, it boasts of Nollywood, which is the second-largest movie producers in the world. Nigeria is also the home of many influential post-colonial writers such as Wole Soyinka, Chinua Achebe, and Joseph Conrad. Hence, being a country that excels in various fields, prospective adoptive parents will likely have an exciting journey with a kid adopted from Nigeria. Coming from a lineage of outstanding forefathers, Nigerian adoptees are sure to thrive, especially if nurtured in a loving home.

Nigeria International Adoption

The duration of international adoption in Nigeria is more or less approximately 12 to 24 months. Moreover, it should cost adoptive parents an amount of approximately $20,000 to $50,000, depending on the adoptee’s specific situation, the adoption agency, and the travel expenses. Furthermore, the procedure for adoption in Nigeria follows these steps:

1. Choosing an accredited or approved adoption service provider to act as a primary provider;

2. Applying for eligibility and suitability to adopt;

3. Applying to Nigeria’s authorities to adopt, and to be matched with a child;

4. Obtaining legal custody of the child for purposes of emigration and adoption;

5. Applying for the child’s eligibility to immigrate as an orphan (Form I-600); and

6. Applying for an immigrant visa for the child.

Nigeria is not a party to the Hague Adoption Convention but is with the Universal Adoption Act. Thus, this means that the adoption process still ensures that there is no violation of the children’s rights. Ultimately, it ensures that the adoption is done in the adoptee’s best interest. Below is how to make sure that the adoption is in line with these orders.

What to Know Before Proceeding with the Adoption Process

Who are eligible to be adopted?

a. Children under 16 or 17

As mandated by the Adoption Act of 1965 of Nigerian law, a child must be below the age of 16. However, according to the Child Rights Law, on the other hand, a child must be below 17. This means that the specific law governing the adoption will depend on the jurisdiction in which the adoption takes place.  

However, it is important to note that age is critical for petitioning a child for immigration. For instance, the US law requires a child to be under 16 at the time the petition is filed. Nonetheless, a 16-17-year-old sibling of a younger child who is adopted by the same parents is permitted.

NOTE: The age of the available children should vary depending on the adoption agencies. Many adoption agencies may only allow for the adoption of children who are at least five years old. Younger children may be available as well, those that have special needs.

b. Children who are legally relinquished by their birth parents: 

The circumstance, in cases where their birth parent/s is still living, is subject to investigation. In the US, the consulate strictly allows birth parents to relinquish their children to relatives living in the US. The purpose of this is to afford the children easy immigration to the US.

c. Children who are abandoned: 

Abandonment of a child in Nigeria is often poorly documented. Thus, such cases may require a full investigation to confirm the abandonment.

Nigeria International Adoption

d. Children with special needs: 

Adoption decrees that are issued in Nigeria shall specify any special needs or address the general health of the child. Moreover, the home study should match any specifications of special needs that are observed by the Nigerian court.

Special needs may be defined as developmental and emotional needs, minor and correctable to moderate and severe.

e. Sibling groups

There are no specific guidelines regarding the adoption of siblings in Nigeria.

NOTE: Waiting Period or Foster Care

Prospective adoptive parents may have physical and temporary legal custody of the adoptive child. The duration may be for American applicants, for instance, at least three consecutive months. These three months should be immediately prior to petitioning the court for an adoption decree. Also, the applicants cannot have the child reside with another family member in lieu of living with them. This shall be fulfilled even if a Power of Attorney is in effect. The U.S. Consulate has seen waivers issued to parents who claimed to the court that meeting this requirement was a burden.

Who are eligible to adopt?

In order to qualify to adopt in Nigeria, prospective adoptive parents should meet the following requirements:

a. Age of Adoptive Parents

Prospective adoptive parents should be at least 25 years of age and 21 years older than the child. For married couples, at least one parent should be able to meet the age requirements. This is for the states of Abia, Akwa-Ibom, Anambra, Bayelsa, Cross River, Ebonyi, Enugu, Imo and Rivers.

b. Marital Status

Married couples and single individuals are allowed to adopt. However, a single individual shall not be allowed to adopt a child of the opposite sex. Some cases will be permitted should there be extraordinary circumstances.

c. Citizenship

Most states require that married couples should adopt jointly and should be Nigerian citizens, except for Lagos and Ogun states. Cases, where only one parent is a citizen, dictate that only one name be listed on the Nigerian birth certificate. The other parent’s name, therefore, should be left blank.

Consequently, if the adoptive father is Nigerian, the adoptive non-Nigerian mother would be considered Nigerian by Nigeria by marriage. They can be citizens of another country, for instance, the United States, but they should retain their Nigerian citizenship.

Adoption for non-Nigerian citizens is rare but is possible in some states like Lagos.

d. Residency

There is no specific minimum residence requirement to be eligible to adopt in Nigeria. However, prospective adoptive parents may be required to stay in Nigeria for a minimum of 3 months to two years. The purpose of this is to allow them to bond with the child before petitioning a court to adopt. Each state should determine the length of time for the required bonding period.

e. Gender

Same-sex married couples are explicitly not permitted to adopt children in Nigeria. Similarly, lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) individuals may not be able to adopt children from Nigeria. At present, it is unclear whether the Government of Nigeria and Nigerian law permit adoptions by LGBT parents. Also, there’s a pending bill that explicitly prohibit such adoptions in Nigeria.

f. Minimum Income

Prospective adoptive parents should be able to prove financial stability and adequate income to care for an additional child. However, Nigeria does not have any minimum income requirements for intercountry adoptions.

g. Existing Family Size

Nigeria does not have a standard set limiting the size of family adoption applicants already have. However, the size of the family shall be a factor for fair delays in the adoption process. The delays should be within the process of matching with an adoptee that is conducted by the Nigerian adoption authority. Also, the already existing number of family members shall be documented in the submission of dossier, particularly in home study.

h. Previous Criminal Record

Nigeria does not set a criminal standard for international adoption. However, applicants who have criminal histories should be prepared with an explanation. Aside from that, they should also obtain a certified disposition by the court in their home study.

i. Health

There are no requirements except health report in the home study for the adoption process in Nigeria. The report should certify that health is sufficient to raise an adopted child. However, prospective adoptive parents should preferably currently be healthy physically and mentally. Severe health histories may not be allowed, depending on a case-by-case basis.


Certain factors could keep prospective adoptive parents from adopting in general or from Nigeria in particular. The reason for this is that each country has its own rules as to who can adopt. Before applying, prospective adoptive parents should consult with their primary service providers regarding any sensitive issues that may be applicable. Sensitive issues should possibly include a history of divorce, mental health issues, or criminal history.

What are the documents to be prepared?

These are generally some of the required authenticated documents prospective adoptive parents should prepare:

  • Birth certificates
  • Marriage certificates
  • Divorce decrees (if applicable)
  • Proof of Nigerian citizenship
  • Proof of non-Nigerian citizenship
  • Financial documentation or proof of financial assets
  • Police reports

The Adoption Process

1. Choosing an accredited or approved adoption service provider to act as a primary provider.

Prospective adoptive parents should choose an accredited or approved adoption service provider to the primary provider in the case. Their services include:

  • Ensuring that all six adoption services defined at 22 CFR 96.2 are provided consistent with applicable laws and regulations. The service are the following:
    • Identifying a child for adoption and arranging an adoption;
    • Securing the necessary consent to termination of parental rights and adoption;
    • Performing a background study on a child or a home study on a prospective adoptive parent/s, and reporting on such a study;
    • Making non-judicial determinations of the best interests of a child and the appropriateness of an adoptive placement for the child;
    • Monitoring a case after a child has been placed with prospective adoptive parent/s until final adoption; or
    • When necessary because of a disruption before final adoption, assuming custody and providing (including facilitating the provision of) childcare or any other social service pending an alternative placement.
  • Supervising and being responsible for any supervised providers, and otherwise complying with the requirements regarding the provision of adoption services using other providers.
  • Developing and implementing a service plan in accordance with 22 CFR 96.44.

2. Applying to be found suitable and eligible to adopt.

Prospective adoptive parents should be able to meet the requirements of the Government of Nigeria as enumerated earlier. Other than those, they should also meet the requirements of the immigration law.

For instance, to meet US immigration requirements, the applicants may choose to file a Form I-600A. This form is an Application for Advance Processing of an Orphan Petition. The application for this should require supporting documentation, such as an approved home study. The home study should be prepared by a person authorized under 22 CFR 96, unless an exception applies.

Conversely, if the adoptee is already identified, they may also choose to file the Form I-600. This form is a Petition to Classify Orphan as an Immediate Relative. Form I-600A is a requirement for Form I-600. 

3. Applying to Nigeria’s authorities to adopt and to be matched with a child

Nigeria International Adoption

Once the applicants are found suitable and eligible to adopt, Nigeria will then require an adoption application. The application is meant to be sent to the Ministry of Women Affairs of Social Development. Specifically, the application should be sent in the state that applicants are adopting.

The adoption authority in Nigeria will review the applicant’s adoption dossier. Then, if an appropriate match is found, they may provide the applicants with a referral to a child. The home study should match any specifications of special needs that are observed by the Nigerian court. Thus, applicants are encouraged to consult with medical professionals and their adoption service provider. This is in order to understand the needs of the specific child. However, the applicants should primarily decide whether they will be able to meet the needs of the child. 

4. Obtaining legal custody of the child for purposes of emigration and adoption

The application is submitted to the registrar of the magistrate court of the state where the child is located. The court then assigns an officer to represent the child in the adoption proceedings. The guardian ad litem is the social welfare officer in charge of the area where the child resides. It could also be a probation officer or other person qualified in the opinion of the court. The role of the guardian ad litem is to investigate the circumstances of the adoption and file a report to the court. The guardian ad litem represents the child’s interests. Then again, the magistrate questions the applicants and grants the adoption order giving legal custody to them.

What should prospective adoptive parents do?

Prospective adoptive parents should inform the social welfare officer at least three months before the court order is made. The child then maybe in the physical care and legal custody of the applicants in Nigeria before the adoption order. Specifically, it should be at least three consecutive months immediately preceding the adoption order. The social welfare officer conducts a visit to determine whether the applicants are capable of caring for a child. Then, the social welfare officer submits a recommendation in writing to the court. The magistrate shall meet the prospective adoptive parents in court to confirm their suitability. Lastly, the magistrate shall issue or deny the adoption order.

After the adoption order has been issued, the applicants should obtain a new birth certificate for the child. The new birth certificate shall list them as the child’s parents. In some states, the applicants are compelled to obtain the court’s permission to remove the child from Nigerian jurisdiction. This is either temporarily or permanently. In addition, the social welfare officer may be required to submit a letter to the Nigerian immigration office. The letter should state that the adoptive parents are now the legal parents of the child. This letter permits the adoptive parents to apply for a passport to take the child out of Nigeria.

5. Applying for the child to be found eligible to immigrate as an orphan.

As mentioned earlier, with the valid and approved Form I-600A, the adoptive parents may file the Form I-600 petition. This can be filed for the US, in USCIS National Benefits Center, or at the U.S. Consulate in Lagos, Nigeria. Then, the USCIS or the consular section in Lagos shall complete a Form I-604, Determination on Child for Adoption.

Conducting the Form I-604 determination is a critical part of the non-Convention adoption process. It can take roughly four weeks to complete, depending on the circumstances of the adoption case. 

6. Applying for an immigrant visa for the child.

Once the adoption is complete, the adoptive parents should apply for three documents before the child can travel:

Birth Certificate

The new birth certificate will contain the adoptive parents’ names. The birth certificate shall then be used to obtain a Nigerian-issued international passport. However, if custody has been granted in a foreign country, the birth certificate will not include the adoptive parents’ names.

Nigerian birth certificates are issued by the National Population Commission (NPC). The NPC has offices co-located within most local government authority (LGA) offices throughout the country. Applicants should go to the LGA office with jurisdiction in the area where the adoption occurred. Birth certificates from NPC are normally filled by hand and can have spelling mistakes or other problems. Thus, applicants are encouraged to check the accuracy of documents, as is critical for visa regulations.

Nigeria Passport

Nigerian passports should be obtained from the Nigerian Immigration Service office of the jurisdiction in which the adoption occurred. The application for a passport may take a week or more depending on conditions. 

Immigrant Visa

Lastly, the adoptive parents shall have to apply for an immigrant visa for the child. This immigrant visa shall allow the child to travel home with the adoptive parents. As part of this process, applicants must provide the consular officer with the Panel Physician’s medical report on the child.

The Adoption Cost

Below is a list of expenses expected for international adoption in Nigeria. It is important to take note that the costs provided are but rough estimations. The costs, especially the total amount, can vary on a case-by-case basis. For instance, the travel cost is estimated for a 90-day temporary residency in Nigeria of a couple. Therefore, it can cost more or less in actual depending on the length of stay.

Agency fees$10,000 – $20,000
Documentation fees Inclusions:Birth certificate Passport Medical exam of the child for immigration Immigrant visa Form I-600A and Form I-600 (additional biometric services fee) $1,500 – $2,000
Court and/or attorney fees$2,000 – $3,500
Travel expensesAir fareAccommodation In-country transportation Meals $20,000 – $25,000

Related Questions

Should a married couple travel to Nigeria together for the international adoption process?

Nigeria does not specify the number of adults required to travel to Nigeria. Hence, at least one may have to travel to attend to the legal procedures. However, it is mandatory that at least an adoptive parent be present. Sending proxy for the adoption process is strictly not allowed, even if there is a power of attorney. Service providers or adoption agencies should not act and decide on behalf of the adoptive parents.

What happens after the finalization of a Nigerian international adoption?

Nigerian law has no post-adoption requirements for adoptive parents. However, adoptive parents should confirm any post-adoption requirements with their service providers. Some agencies require a home visit after the placement of the child to a new country. Others also require annual or regular reports documenting the child’s development. Other than that, the child should also receive a certificate of citizenship after placement.

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Eni Gordove

is a freelance writer who has a degree in Bachelor of Arts major in Political Science. She has also taken Bachelor of Laws, making her adept in domestic and international adoption regulations and processes.

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