South Korea International Adoption Process and Cost

South Koreans have gained the recognition of the world through their immensely colorful and creative contemporary art forms such as K-Pop and K-Drama. It is also through this that their traditional culture became relatively known around the globe; for instance, their speech culture which is classified into formal and non-formal speech. Their formal speech is naturally applied to express respect to people who are basically a stranger to the speaker, are older, or are higher in position or status. This display of their rich culture would undeniably catch anyone’s attention.

Like most countries, South Korea’s international adoption process requires an application, home study for the adoptive parents or family, referral, court hearing, and child placement. The duration of the entire process varies from agency to agency, but it will roughly be around 24 to 30 months long. Moreover, the cost will also vary, but an estimated cost for the adoption process in South Korea is roughly $35,000 to $45,000, including the country fees and the agency processing fees, but not including the travel expenses.

South Korea International Adoption Process and Cost

What is the long process duration for? What requirements do applicants need to qualify in order to be eligible for the adoption?If the entire process is still one great puzzle to ponder, here is a step-by-step and detailed walk-through.



This stage will require hopeful adoptive parents to send in an application to the agency, which will also be taken care of by local partnering child welfare centers. All adoptions in South Korea are also overseen by the Ministry of Health, Welfare, and Family. The application will cost around $350 to $500 dollars depending on the agency.

In order to get the application approved, though, families must qualify for the requirements set by the country and the agency. Below is a compilation of specific requirements in order to qualify a family, couple, or a single hopeful parent eligible to adopt in South Korea. Note that requirements can still vary from agency to agency, though. Also, these pointers are to be checked along the home study process, but it is best that applicants are aware of these beforehand to be ready.

Eligibility Pointers

  • Age. Adoptive parents must be 25-44 years old. Home study approval must be given before the adoptive parents turn 45. (Home study details will be provided below.)

If parents are beyond the age range of 25-44, up to 49 years old will be considered for the following conditions:

  1. Applicants must have already previously adopted from South Korea.
  2. At least one parent is of South Korean heritage.
  3. The home study report must be approved and completed before the applicants’ 50th birthday.
  4. At least one parent is a South Korean adoptee.
  • Marriage. Couple applicants must be at least three years in the marriage. Family applicants must also have no more than four children currently at home. For some agencies, there must be no more than a 10-year age difference between the couple.

Note: South Korea is a highly conservative country; hence, it must be noted that same-sex couples might find it difficult to apply for adoption in this country.

  • Health. Applicants must be strictly or must have no serious physical and mental health concerns, including weight restrictions. However, medical history can be considered on a case-by-case basis, depending on the agency.
  • Criminal Record. Applicants must have a clean criminal history, especially of domestic violence and child abuse. However, for some agencies, a minor record may be considered on a case-by-case basis.
  • Income. All international adoption programs require proof that the applicants are financially stable. Some agencies, in fact, specify a minimum income requirement, which is roughly at least $35,000 plus an additional $10,000 for every child that already in the home.
  • Education. Applicants must have at least a high school diploma and, depending on the agency, post-secondary education certificate.


In line with the application of the family to adoption, social workers from the partnering welfare center will then conduct a home study. It’s primary aim is to evaluate the capability and suitability of the family to adopt. Also, this is where they gather relevant information about the family that will help the welfare care center match the family with a child. The matching process intends to find out whether the family can accommodate the child’s needs.

Additionally, home study includes educating and preparing the prospective family for the actual adoption.

South Korea International Adoption Process and Cost

Moreover, as mentioned above, the home study report must be approved and completed before the applicants turn 45 or 50 if considered. The process will take 3 to 6 months and will cost roughly around $4,000 to $6,000, depending on the agency or the social worker that will conduct the home study. (A detailed summary of the overall adoption process cost is provided below.)

What makes the home study take that long to finish? The following are the elements of the home study process.

Home Study Elements

  • Preliminary briefing. This stage is basically one which the applicant gets to know or better understand the adoption process and know about the facilitating agency and/or institutions, of course, with the aid of an agency official or a social worker representative.
  • Training. Applicants are to be trained in order for them to grasp the needs of the children in the foster or welfare care who are waiting for families. It is also in this stage that applicants will be briefed regarding adoption issues they might theoretically encounter along the journey.
  • Interview. A couple of interviews are going to be conducted, which are also to be reflected in the Home Study Report. It entails information about each parent’s family background, education, employment, current, and past relationships, social relationships such as within the neighborhood and support systems, daily life, parenting potentials and methods, religion/belief system if necessary, and feelings about adoption and readiness for adoption.
  • Home visitation. The social worker will have to assess whether the prospective family’s home is safe, secured, and child-friendly to ensure that the child that is to be homed in the place will be free from harm and any hazard.
  • Health examination. Physical and mental examinations are required by most agencies to ensure that prospective parents are physically and mentally healthy and ready to take care of a child, especially for first time hopeful parents. Minor health issues can be considered, nonetheless.
  • Income statement. Prospective parents must prove that they can handle their finances well, and their income is enough to provide for the family, especially for the child. Proof for financial stability may vary, but it is best that applicants have their income tax forms or paycheck copies available in case needed.
  • Background check. This is the stage when criminal history, if any, is traced. Again, as mentioned above, most agencies require clean criminal history, especially of domestic violence and child abuse. However, minor records may be considered on a case-by-case basis.
  • Autobiographical narrative. An autobiographical statement is basically an applicant’s written life story. This will help in the report by providing information about the applicant and the family in the actual applicant’s perspective. Some agencies have representatives are aids to help with the writing of this statement.
  • References. As in job application, international adoption also requires an applicant’s reference. This is aimed to build up the applicant’s reliability, especially that he or she is going to parent a child. References are best to be people who know the applicant for long and are not blood-related.


Once the home study is completed, a home study report will have to be submitted to USCIS (US Citizenship and Immigration Services). Facilitating agencies will guide the applicants upon the application for the approval of the report. There is nothing much here other than that, but the applicants will have to wait for 1 to 4 months for a referral of a child.

Who exactly are these children that prospective parents are signing up for adoption? Below are specific details about the children in the welfare and foster care in South Korea who are waiting for permanent homes to welcome them.

South Korea International Adoption Process and Cost

About the Children

  • Age. Children are generally 6 to 16 months at the time of referral and 18-30 months at the time of placement. This varies, however, depending on the agency.
  • Status. The children are legally or voluntarily relinquished by their biological parents.
  • Health. The children may have minor or correctible needs, which are not considered as “special needs” in the US, to lifelong needs. However, most of the conditions of the majority of the children are just minor and correctible needs. 

These are the following:

  1. born prematurely,
  2. born with low birth weight,
  3. hospitalized after birth for a condition that is already resolved,
  4. prenatally exposed to alcohol or tobacco,
  5. minor heart conditions that don’t require surgery,
  6. skin conditions,
  7. potential hereditary medical history,
  8. minor to moderate developmental delays.

Matching a family with a child will require not only a background check of the family but also the assessment of the information of the child, whether the family can efficiently attend to the child’s basic and special needs. Documents that are available include the social history of the child’s birth family, medical record of the child’s regular monthly check-up (especially for infants), and even a compilation of updated photos of the child throughout the adoption process as the process could take that long to finish.

After the completion of the referral acceptance, the applicants will then have to compile an Acceptance Dossier to be sent to South Korea. Facilitating agencies offer help upon the compilation of the documents.


South Korea’s international adoption process will require the applicants to travel to the country twice. The first trip will be a court hearing, which will be 8 to 15 months after the completion of the acceptance dossier. This trip will have a duration of 5 to 6 days. Moreover, this will require both parents to visit the country to attend the court. It is best for you to plan ahead and know the international travel requirements to avoid hassle along the way.

The second trip will similarly have a duration of 5 to 6 days. However, it will not necessarily require both parents. At least one parent will make the trip, although some agencies will require an additional adult together with one parent. This trip will occur 2 to 3 months after the first trip.

Furthermore, the second trip will tackle the visa processing of the child. The US Embassy in Seoul will issue an IR-3 (immediate relative) visa for the child, and then the adoption will be finalized. This trip is also going to be intended when the child will be brought home by the applicants. After their return to the US, the USCIS will then give the child’s Certificate of Citizenship.

Post Placement

After the return of the new family to the US, a social worker will have to write post-placement reports which are required on the 1st, 3rd, 6th, and 12th month after the placement of the child. This is the post-final requirement of the adoption process!


 A rough estimation is given above as to how much will an entire adoption process in South Korea cost. However, below is a breakdown of the cost into specific details, classified into agency fees, country fees, and third-party fees. Remember, the cost will vary greatly from agency to agency depending on the type of adoption, services provided, international program selected, and more. However, if the costs below appear great, it must not be so much of a worry; there are institutions who offer financial assistance to hopeful international adoptive parents.

 Agency Fees

Application/Registration $350-$500
Pre-adoption  Training (mandatory under Hague Convention) $250 per person or $325 per couple
Home Study (first time applicants) $2,000-$4,000
Home Study – Non-first time applicants (4 years first time application) $1,500
Home Study Reassessment $500
Home Study Reassessment– Non-first time applicants $350
Home Study Update (for applicants who are changing programs or have major events happening in their life within the adoption process; depends on the agency) $500-$800
Supervision $500
Program fees and service fees (for services granted in the US) $5,000-$6,950
Placement reports after the finalization of the adoption $500-$1,500
Further visits and reports post placement (1st, 3rd, 6th, and 12th months) $350
Deposit (for urgent expenses to be made by the agency; refundable) $1,000
TOTAL $10,700-$15,800

Country Fees

Country Program Fees$4,500
Personnel and administrative fees, training and education
Communication expenses
Foreign Program Fees$500
Personnel and administrative fees, training and education
Legal processes
Communication expenses
Basic needs provision: food, clothes, shelter
Medical care expenses
Foster care costs
Welfare care costs 
Paper Chase and Translation$2,000
Acquiring, translating, and copying documents
Certificate of adoption and other court documents

If both the agency and country fees were totaled, the adoption process would cost roughly around $37,500 to $42,300. These totals take into account that the prospective parents are a couple and are first time applicants. Non-first time applicants will apparently pay lesser fees for re-application provided that the re-application is within four years of the previous placement. This is still depending on the agency, nevertheless. Hence, given the costs above, re-applicant couples are going to pay an estimated total amount of $36,850 to $41,650. Lastly, prospective parents who are single will pay a lesser amount for the home study; hence, the total cost will be roughly $37,350 to $42,050.

 Third-Party Fees

USCIS Appeal (I-600A)$775
USCIS Biometrics$85 per person
Psychological Examination$500-$2,000
Document Groundwork $400-800
Professional Assessment of Child Referral$400-800
Passport$110 per adult
Overseas travel expenses (per person above 2)$1,700
Accommodation expenses (per trip)$600-1,500
Transportation expenses in-country$200-300
Background Checkvaries depending on the state
Finalizationvaries depending on the state

Other than the agency and the country fees, the applicants will also have to pay, personally or with the help of the agency, third party fees listed above. A total is not provided as some of these expenses greatly vary from state to state.


Can prospective parents choose the gender of the child they want to adopt? 

Prospective parents CANNOT choose the gender of the child they want to adopt. Moreover, more boys are available in the listing such that girls are oftentimes domestically adopted because it is what many South Korean families prefer. Hence, applicants must be open to adopting a child of either gender.

Is sibling group adoption allowed in South Korea? 

Sibling group adoption is allowed in South Korea. This does not guarantee anyone, however, that they can avail of the option. This will depend on the agency, on the Ministry of Health, Welfare and Family, which oversees the entire South Korea adoptions, and of course, the availability of sibling groups. If available and permitted, apparently, there will be additional fees per child. And then, a more thorough home study will be required to ensure that the prospective parent/s or family can provide all the care due to the children.

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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