Rwanda International Adoption Process and Cost


Rwanda is a geographically small country in Central Africa, known for being the “land of a thousand hills,” because of its beautiful scenery. It is home to more than 12 million Rwandans. In the past, there were many children who are up for international adoption.

Rwanda International Adoption

However, international adoption was banned between 2003 and 2008 during the term of former minister of the Ministry for Gender and Family Promotion, Valerie Nyirahabineza. She found out about the four Norwegians who allegedly contracted hospitals to sell 400 Rwandan children.

In 2010, the ministry has suspended the acceptance of new international adoption applications. And even if the country ratified the Hague Adoption Convention in 2011, it was only in 2017 that it has lifted the ban on international adoption.

Prior to the ban, duration to finalize international adoption from Rwanda is about 12 to 15 months. The length depends on the families effort to complete their paperwork and their age and gender preferences. The country processes also affects the time frame. Currently, it’s taking longer as Rwanda has the local adoption program of Tumurere Mu Muryango. Moreover, it should cost adoptive parents an amount of approximately $39,000 or more depending on the adoptee’s specific situation, the adoption agency, and the travel expenses. Furthermore, the process for adoption in Rwanda follows these steps:

1. Submission of application for adoptive parents’ adoption eligibility;

2. Child matching;

3. Adoption processing in Rwanda;

4. Application for the child’s eligibility for adoption in the United States;

5. Immigration requirement processing to bring the child home; and

6. Post-adoption report submission.

Now that Rwanda is already a Hauge Convention country, below is an overview of its international adoption process.

What to Know Before Proceeding with the Adoption Process

Who are eligible for adoption?

The Rwandan government recently phased out orphanages due to their “Let’s raise them in families or the Tumurere Mu Muryango program.”

Previously, children who are up for adoption are only those who are living in approved orphanages. In the meantime, only those who aren’t placed through the program are available for international adoption.

Lambert Hategikimana, NCC’s Acting Director of the Child Protection Unit, in his interview with “The New Times” said the following:

The convention requires us to have the child adopted internationally only if local solutions have been exhausted. That means that the child has no parents, no family, no available local foster care or no local adoption. That way, a fit parent from another country could apply to raise them.

Meanwhile, children who are candidates for adoption from a Convention country must qualify as a Convention adoptee in order to immigrate to the United States. These are the following conditions:

  • The child meets the age requirement as set by the Convention;
  • A married U.S. citizen couple will adopt the child, or an unmarried 25-years old U.S. citizen, with the intent of caring for the child as one’s own and approved by USCIS;
  • The governing agency of the child’s country of origin has determined that the child is eligible for intercountry adoption and has declared that the child has not yet been adopted before or been placed in the custody of the prospective adoptive parents;
  • The child’s birth parents or single parent and any other legal custodian whose consent is necessary for adoption to have freely given their written irrevocable consent to the termination of their legal relationship with the child and to the child’s emigration and adoption; and
  • If the child’s last legal custodians were two living birth parents who signed the irrevocable consent to the adoption and who admitted to being incapable of providing proper care for the child.

Who are eligible to adopt?

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

  • Age of Adoptive Parents 

The age for the prospective adoptive parents should be between 25 to 50 years old, and at least one of them should be 30 years old. However, a judge can waive this age requirement.

  • Marital Status

The prospective adoptive parents must have been married for at least five years, and whose record of a previous divorce will not exceed a single record. In some fortunate cases, singles will be approved, but only females.

  • Citizenship

Either of the prospective adoptive parents must be a U.S. citizen.

  • Residency

The Rwanda government does not impose residency requirements for foreign adoptive parents.

  • Gender

Same-sex married couples are strictly not allowed to adopt children from Rwanda.

The same goes for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) individuals wishing to adopt. At present, it is unsure whether the Government of Rwanda and Rwandan law permit adoptions by LGBT parents.

  • Minimum Income

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

  • Existing Family Size

Rwanda sets families with only two or fewer children as the standard limiting size of family adoption applicants. 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 Rwandan adoption authority. Also, the already existing number of family members shall be documented in the submission of dossier, particularly in home study.

  • Previous Criminal Record

Rwanda sets a criminal standard for international adoption. Applicants with records of criminal history as in child abuse, domestic violence, and under the influence of drugs and alcohol are deemed not eligible to adopt.

NOTE:

Certain factors could keep prospective adoptive parents from adopting in general or from Rwanda in particular. The reason for this is that each country has its own rules as to who can adopt. These rules and requirements are subject to change and may be waived by a judge. 

In addition to the requirements mentioned above, under the Guidelines on International Adoption of Rwanda approved in 2018, preferred adoptive parents are the following:

  • In cases where a child has siblings, the prospective parent who intends to adopt all of them.
  • Any prospective parent who lives in a country that accepts dual nationality.
Rwanda International Adoption

What are the documents to be prepared?

Previously, the Ministry of Gender and Family Promotion is in charge of receiving the documents. After the ratification of the Hague Adoption Convention, the National Children Commission takes the part.

Documents from the Rwandan government are written in French that prospective adoptive parents would need English translations of the following: 

(1) adoption documents

(2) birth certificates of prospective adopted child’s parents

(3) marriage certificate of prospective adopted child’s parents if applicable

(4) death certificates of prospective adopted child’s parents

Below are the required documents, which should be certified by a notary public as well as by the Rwandan Embassy in the United States:

  • birth certificates of adoptive parents
  • original birth certificate of the prospective adopted child
  • marriage certificate of prospective adopted child’s parents
  • divorce decrees (if applicable)
  • waiver of age limit certificate of prospective adoptive parents (if applicable)
  • declaration of the adoptive parents’ spouse and adult children consenting to the adoption
  • The Act of Adoption from Vital Statistics Office
  • authorization letter for departing Rwanda
  • legal judgment document (a court order approving the adoption, which is prepared by the local court having jurisdiction where the child is located)
  • recommendation for Rwandan Embassy in Washington, DC
  • home study report
  • certificate of good behavior/police record
  • certificate of complete identification
  • household composition
  • proof of income
  • adoption acceptance letter from U.S. Embassy Consular Office

The Adoption Process

1. Submission of application for adoptive parents’ adoption eligibility

Hopeful adoptive parents must apply for adoption eligibility to bring a Rwandan adoptee to the United States. The agency that decides on this matter is the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).

If the sending country for adoption is under the Hague Adoption Convention, just like Rwanda, the adoption process must begin by filing Form I-800A. This form allows prospective adoptive parents to demonstrate that they are eligible to adopt and capable of providing appropriate care to a child. The form seeks to ask for relevant information about your personal life. It also requests supporting documentation, such as proof of citizenship and proof of marital status (if applicable).

It is important to remember not to accept any adoption placement before USCIS has approved Form I-800A. During this time, you must also refrain from any contact with parents, legal custodians, or other individuals or entities responsible for the care of the child who may also be eligible for adoption.

Aside from meeting the U.S. requirements for adoptive parents, you need to meet the requirements of Rwanda.

Prospective parents must send the required documents to the National Children Commission (formerly, it was to the Ministry of Gender and Family Promotion) for initial approval before commencing the adoption process in Rwanda.

Also, prospective adoptive parents must get in touch with the local Rwandan court having jurisdiction over their prospective adoptee’s residence in the form of a petition. Upon approval of the adoption, the adoption decree is filed at the local vital records registry for the child’s place of residence.

2. Child matching

Once you’re found to be eligible to adopt and a child is available for international adoption, the central adoption authority in Rwanda will provide you with a referral to a child. It will also include a description of the child, history, and even medical test results. Each prospective adoptive parent will then have the opportunity to decide whether they can meet the needs of the child being matched with them.

3. Adoption processing in Rwanda

The adoption is complete once the adoption certificate is given by the National Children Commission following Court’s approval. You are then entitled to legal custody of the child.

Aside from meeting the U.S. requirements for adoptive parents, you need to meet the requirements of Rwanda.

The adoption processing (or gaining legal custody) in Rwanda include the following entities below. Their roles are as follows:

  • Role of the adoption authority: The National Children Commission gives the adoption certificate.
  • Role of the court: The court issues the final adoption approval to the prospective adoptive parents who initially received the adoption approval from the USCIS.
  • Role of adoption agencies: They provide consulting services to families filing to adopt in Rwanda. However, it is noted that adoption officials at the National Children Commission have expressed to the US Embassy that they prefer to work directly with parents rather than through third party agencies or lawyers. 

Other matters:

  • Adoption application: Send complete dossier, including a home study report to the National Children Commission, with a cover letter requesting permission to adopt.
  • Time frame: Expect at least six months to complete the Rwandan adoption and subsequent U.S. immigration procedures. 
  • Adoption fees: There is no Rwandan government fee associated with intercountry adoptions. However, adoptive parents would have to pay attorneys’ fees and other adoption-related fees.

4. Application for the child’s eligibility for adoption in the United States

The next step is to determine whether the child is eligible to be adopted under U.S. Law. Once the child is declared to have been found eligible, the prospective adoptive parents are prepared for their international adoption journey by undergoing a 10-hour adoption training as mandated by the Hague Convention. At present, several agencies have developed such kind of training online.

5. Immigration requirement processing to bring the child home; and

Rwanda International Adoption

In less than three months from the time you receive your referral, you can expect to travel to Rwanda. Once your international adoption is finalized by the court, you will travel to Rwanda to pick up your child. The duration of your stay in Rwanda can range from 10 days to 3 weeks. Finally, you will have to travel to Kenya to complete the U.S. visa process for your child.

Before going home to the U.S. with your child, there are several documents that you need to apply in order for the child to travel to the U.S.

These are the following:

  • Birth Certificate

The new birth certificate will contain the adoptive parents’ names. The birth certificate shall then be used to obtain a Rwandan-issued international passport. 

  • Rwanda Passport

A passport will be needed since the child is not yet a U.S. citizen, as well as other official travel documents.

  • 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. A parent who has an approved Form I-800A may file their Form I-800 either at the USCIS district office closest to their place of residence in the U.S. or in person at the U.S. Embassy in Kigali. Walk-in hours for American Citizen Services at the U.S. Embassy in Kigali may be found on the Embassy website.

6. Post-adoption reports submission

Post-adoption reports must be submitted six months after international adoption from Rwanda have been completed. It’s the partner provider’s duty to coordinate with the adoptive parents. Also, an annual progress report must be given for the next two years.

The National Children Commission also would accomplish post-adoption reports to be submitted to the Ministry on Gender and Family Promotion.

NOTE: 

Prospective adoptive parents are advised to fully research any adoption agency or facilitator they plan to use for adoption services. For U.S.-based agencies, it is suggested that prospective adoptive parents contact the Better Business Bureau and/or the licensing authority in the U.S. state where the agency is located or licensed.

The Adoption Cost

International adoption from Rwanda would cost adoptive parents an estimated average of $39,000. These fees include the cost of lawyers, agency fees, as well as travel costs. 

Below is an estimated breakdown of expenses. 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 one, the travel cost is highly dependent on the length of stay.

ExpensesCosts
Agency fees$5,000 – $8,000
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) 
$1,000 – $2,000
Court and/or attorney fees$2,000 – $3,000
Travel expenses
Inclusions:
Air fare
Accommodation 
In-country transportation 
Meals 
$20,000 – $25,000
Post-adoption applications and fees (if applicable)$1,000 – $2,000

Related Questions

What happens when your adopted child did not qualify to become a citizen upon entry to the United States? 

It is essential for adoptive parents to take the necessary steps so that the child does qualify as soon as possible. Failure to do so can impact many areas of the child’s life, such as education eligibility, education grants, and voting.

Would there be repercussions for failure to submit post-adoption reports?

Yes, it may be indirect to the adoptive parents who failed to do so. However, it will greatly impact the partner adoption service provider as it seeks another approval in the future. Also, the intercountry adoption between the United States and the prospective adoptive children’s originating country may be severed. Therefore, the strict compliance of adoptive parents who got international adoption approval to submit post-adoption reports is a must for the benefit of the children who are on the placement waiting list.

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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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