Zambia International Adoption Process and Cost


Zambia is one of the countries with the highest number of orphans. Out of a population of about 17 million, there are approximately 1.2 million orphans and vulnerable children. As a prospective adoptive parent, we bring you the details on the process and cost of international adoption from Zambia.

Zambia is a Hague Adoption Convention country. The adoption process must, therefore, conform to both the Zambian adoption requirements and the United States immigration laws. To ensure you adhere to the Hague Convention conditions, you must enroll the services of a U.S Accredited or Approved Adoption Service Provider.

The time frame for International adoption from Zambia is difficult to estimate. After dossier submission, it can take about 12 to 24 months to receive a referral. This period may vary considerably based on the age of the child’s gender, and other factors such as your time of application.

After receiving and accepting a referral, there is a mandatory 3-month fostering period for Zambian citizens. However, if you’re a non-Zambian adopting from Zambia, you’ll have to stay with the child in the country for a 12-month fostering duration. Zambian court may accept a “Certificate of Urgency” for an exception.

Like most intercountry adoptions, the average total cost for international adoption from Zambia is in the range of $20,000-$40,000. The cost varies from district to district. Fostering fee is about 50 Zambian Kwacha (ZK) while Adoption Lawyer’s fee is between 5,000 ZK to 25,000 ZK.

Children Available For International Adoption

Zambian children available for inter-country adoptions stay in orphanages where they’re cared for before being placed with suitable adoptive families.

Poverty linked to social-economic factors as well as the HIV/AIDS pandemic are the main reasons why many orphans and vulnerable children need caring adoptive parents. 

Children available for adoption are not more than 12-18 months at the time of referral. These include boys and girls as well as siblings. Prospective adoptive parents who desire to adopt siblings must be willing to accept children of up to 8 years.

Also available for adoption are children with correctable special needs such as cleft lips and palate, heat conditions or limb differences, etc. Children with special medical needs include those suffering from HIV or Hepatitis A or Hepatitis B

Before starting an adoption process, prospective adoptive parents are required to complete a Consultation Appointment with the Zambia Program Manager. This can be done either through physical appearance or through a phone call.

All children ready for adoption have to be tested in Zambia for the following:

  1. HIV ( ELISA)
  2. Hepatitis A and B
  3. Tuberculosis (TB)- Mantoux testing method)
  4. Venereal Disease Research Laboratory Test (VDRL Test)

International Adoption From Zambia-Who is Eligible to Adopt?

For U.S citizens, both the U.S government as well as the Zambian government must find you eligible to adopt.

The following conditions must be met by prospective adoptive parents planning to adopt from Zambia:

  • Prospective adoptive parents can either be single or married. The law does not permit adoption by lesbians, bisexuals, gay or transgender couples or persons
  • There should evidence to demonstrate that prospective adoptive parent(s) has/have the financial capacity to care for the child. This will be captured from the Home Study reports and attached financial documents.
  • Prospective Adoptive parent(s) should not be less than 25 years old. If married, one parent must be at least 25 years old and at least 21 years older than the child to be adopted. Where the child and the adoptive parent are related, one parent should at least be 21 years old.
  • Zambian citizens who are adoptive parents must stay with the child in Zambia for a mandatory 3-month fostering period.  Foreigners will be required to travel and stay with the child during the fostering period for a duration of 12 months. It’s only after a “Certificate of Urgency” is presented to the magistrate’s court that there can be an exception.
  • Married couples should demonstrate that they are in a stable relationship. By the time their dossier document is received in Zambia, they should have been married for not less than 1 year.
  • While single women can are allowed to adopt, single males, as well as same-sex couples, are not eligible as prospective adoptive parents.
  • It’s mandatory for adoptive parents who are Zambian citizens to say in Zambia for a period of 3-months  during fostering phase. For non-Zambians, this period is 12 months.  This period should be followed by about 2-5 more months for the completion of the adoption process in Zambian High Court, and to facilitate the processing of the child’s travel documents.
  • The prospective adoptive parent(s) should be in good physical, emotional, and mental health condition
  • Adoptive parents must not have criminal records

International Adoption From Zambia-The Process

As  a Hague Convention country, international adoption from Zambia must adhere to the following:

International Adoption from Zambia, therefore, must follow the following 6 steps:

  1. Research and Choose Suitable Adoption Service Provider (ASP)
  2. Applying  to be found eligible to adopt from Zambia
  3. Be matched with a child
  4. Adopting  the child in Zambia
  5. Apply so that the child is found eligible for orphan status
  6. Bring your child home

1.  Research and Choose Suitable Adoption Service Provider

You need to first undertake research to identify and choose U.S Accredited or Approved Adoption Service Provider within the United States.

The service provider has to be duly licensed to operate within the State in which it’s operating. The U.S through its Department of State website provides a Search Link to help in identifying and selecting a suitable adoption service provider for Zambia international adoption.

For your chosen ASP to be able to provide adoption services in Zambia, it has to be registered with Zambian’s Commissioner of Juvenile Welfare.

Currently, there are no U.S Agencies authorized to undertake adoption services within Zambia. Therefore, the only legal Authority mandated to facilitate international adoption from Zambia is the Ministry of Community Development, Mother and Child Health (MCDMCH).

It’s recommended that prospective adoptive parents hire suitable Zambian Adoption Attorney. This is to ensure that all legal requirements are fulfilled accordingly for a smoother and successful adoption process.

The  U.S Embassy in Lusaka cannot recommend the services of any specific law firm or attorney. However, the Embassy’s website has a list of Zambian Attorneys who are ready to partner with U.S citizens planning for international adoption from Zambia.

2. Applying  to be found eligible to adopt from Zambia

Before you can adopt from Zambia, you’ve to fulfill both the country’s requirements as well as the immigration law of the United States.

You are required to file an application through Form I-600A, Application for Advance Processing of an Orphan Petition with U.S Department of Homeland Security, U.S Citizenship and Immigration Services so that you’re found eligible to adopt.

Further, you must also submit your application to the Zambian Ministry of Social Welfare, Mother and Child Health. The Zambian authority will determine whether you qualify to adopt a Zambian child/children.

There is no official form required to submit your application. As a prospective adoptive parent, you’re required to submit your written application to the ministry’s Social Welfare Department and attach all the supporting documents.

Your application must specify your requirements and expectations with regard to the age and gender of the child you wish to adopt. Further, you’re required to explain the reasons for choosing to adopt from Zambia.

Zambia Adoption Application-Required Documents

The Department of Social Welfare, Ministry of Community Development, Mother and Child Health will require the following documents to assess your suitability to adopt Zambian child:

  • A copy of your valid passport
  • Police clearance document from your country
  • Bank Statement
  • Evidence of being suitable to adopt from your country. This is through an approved Form-I-600A together with the Home Study report.

Important Note: For faster response, you can use a courier service with a pre-paid and pre-addressed mailing envelope.

Foreign prospective adoptive parents living in Zambia will have to be interviewed by a designated Zambian  Adoption Social Worker who will also conduct a home study.

However, The Home Study report prepared in  Zambia will have to be approved by the chosen U.S Accredited or Approved  Service Provider. This is to ensure that all the U.S. immigration requirements are fulfilled.

3. Be Matched with a child

After being found eligible to adopt, if a suitable child is available, Zambia’s Central Adoption Authority will provide you with a referral. This will be accompanied by an “Effective Date Notice” which is an approval that you are eligible to adopt.

Before accepting the referral, adoptive parents need to assess if they can fulfill all requirements of the child including the provision of a permanent.

The child must fulfill Zambia’s international adoption requirements, and meet the definition of an orphan status as detailed under the U.S. immigration laws.

Prospective adoptive parents may decide to decline the referral. Upon acceptance, the adoption process will continue. The Department of Social Welfare may, therefore, ask the prospective parent(s) to visit the child’s orphanage several times.

The purpose of the visits is to enable the parents to bond with both the child and the child’s guardian from the Social Welfare Department.

At this stage, the adoptive parents can submit an application to the Department of Social Welfare for the child’s adoption. Their application should contain personal details of the child such as name, date, and place of birth, and gender.

In case you are matched with a child not residing in Lusaka, Zambia, it will be important that you collaborate with the particular District Welfare Office with jurisdiction within that region.

Before being matched with a child, prospective adoptive parents are not advised to travel to Zambia for the adoption process.

Important Note:

  • “Effective Date of Notice” can only be issued with the District Social Welfare Head Office in Lusaka, Zambia
  • U.S citizens are cautioned not to independently identify a child for adoption without involving the Ministry of Social Welfare. The child identified without the involvement of the Zambian adoption authority will not be eligible for adoption. It’s therefore against the Zambian adoption law.

4.  Adopting  the child in Zambia

This is the final stage of the adoption process and involves the following:

a. Adoption Authority:

The Ministry of Community Development-Mother and Child oversees the intercountry adoption process in Zambia.

b. Zambia Court:

 Zambia Magistrate courts are mandated to issue adoption and custody orders as per recommendations from District Officers under the Ministry of Social Welfare.

When Officers are satisfied that the prospective adoptive parents are suitable and that it will be in the best interest of the child, they recommend adoption for the court’s consideration.

c. Application for Adoption:

After the mandatory 3-month fostering period (12 months for non-Zambian citizens), the adoption application which is filed after the child match acceptance is reviewed by the Department of Social Welfare.

Upon approval, the Department of Social Welfare forwards its recommendations to the magistrate’s court within the district where the child resides.

The prospective parents are then summoned and where applicable, the child’s caretaker may also be summoned by the court for a confidential hearing. Both parents must attend the hearing in person.

A Social Worker (guardian ad litem) assigned to be responsible for the child will investigate all that is in the child’s best interest, and report his/her findings before the court during the adoption hearing.

When satisfied, the court will issue an adoption order which has to be recorded with the Registrar’s Office. The details of the child will then be entered accordingly into the register as a legally adopted child.

C1. Time Frame:

There is a mandatory continuous fostering period of 3 months for Zambian prospective adoptive parents and 12 months for non-Zambian prospective adoptive parents (foreigners). The fostering phases  may be waived where a court receives and accepts a “certificate of urgency”

C2. Required Adoption Documents:

Prospective adoptive parents or their legal representative (Adoption Lawyer) will be required to present the following documents:

  • Copies of  the following: passports, marriage certificates, and birth certificates
  • Police Clearance document
  • Evidence of Financial ability to care and provide a permanent home for the child. The home study report will be required for this assessment
  • Approved I-600A Form as proof the adoptive parents have found suitable to adopt by the U.S government authority.
  • Other documents may be requested by the court where applicable.
C3. Authentication of Documents: 

Authentication that the documents presented are indeed from the United States may be demanded. The U.S Department of State through its Authentification Office will assist in ensuring that the documents are authenticated accordingly.

5. Apply for the child to be found eligible for orphan status

After your successful adoption in Zambia, you need to submit your application to the Department of Homeland Security, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) so that your child is found to comply with the definition of an orphan as per the U.S. immigration law.  You’ll be required to use  Form I-600, Petition to Classify Orphan as an Immediate Relative.

You must have your Form I-600 form approved in the U.S before you can apply for the child’s immigration visa. However, if you have got an approved and valid form I-600A record, you can file your petition in The  United States Embassy in Lusaka, Zambia. You must ensure that you comply with Zambia’s documentation requirements.

6. Bring Your Child Home

Having completed your adoption in Zambia, it’s now time to apply for the following documents before finally bringing your child home:

6.1. Adopted Child’s Birth Certificate

After receiving the court’s adoption order, you can now apply for your adopted child’s birth certificate and adoption decree. As the adoptive parent, your name can appear as the child’s legal parent.

Upon successful issuance of the Adoption Decree and the birth certificate, the two documents can now be used to when applying for the child’s Zambian passport.

6.2. Zambian Passport  for The Child

Since your child is not yet qualified as a U.S citizen, he/she will need a valid  Zambian passport as a traveling document.

The child’s new birth certificate and the adoption decree must be presented during the passport application at Zambia’s Passport Offices. Your legal representatives in Zambia can facilitate the application on your behalf.

While the normal duration for passport processing is 21 days, the process can be expedited to 1 week after application submission with the required fee.

Note. For inquiries regarding both birth certificate and passport, you can contact the  U.S. Embassy in Lusaka through email: consularlusaka@state.gov.

6.3. U.S. Immigrant Visa for the Adopted Child

After getting the child’s birth certificate, Zambian passport, and submitting Form I-600, it’s time to submit your application for your child’s U.S. immigrant visa processing.

 This application is done from The U.S Embassy, Lusaka, Zambia. Details on immigration visa applications are available at the U.S. Embassy, Lusaka website.

It’s the U.S immigrant visa that will enable the child to travel with you home. Before it’s processing the Consular Officer will require the child’s medical report from a Panel Physician.

When submitting your application in the U.S Embassy, Lusaka, you should submit your I-600 form together with all required documents.

In case your I-600 petition had already been approved USCIS, contact the U.S. Embassy in Lusaka through the email: consularlusaka@state.gov  to schedule an interview for your child’s immigrant visa.  

Important Note:

  • After form I-600 petition has been approved and visa interview successfully conducted, it takes at least 48 hours for an immigration visa to be issued.
  • The immigration visa is never issued to the adoptive parent on the interview day
  • Before making travel arrangements, it’s important that the adoptive parents verify the visa processing times. This can be done by sending an email to consularlusaka@state.gov  or by calling the Embassy on the telephone number: 260-35700, extension 7260

The Costs For Zambia International Adoption

The total average for international adoption from Zambia is between $20,000 to $40,000. Various factors such as the age of the child, gender, adoption district, and other individual expenses determine the total cost.

The table below shows cost estimates for various adoption expenses

The table below shows cost estimates for various adoption expenses

Cost/Fee Description **Cost Estimates inZambian Kwacha **Cost Estimate in USD (1 Zambian Kwacha=0.068 USD)
1. Child Fostering Fee 50 $ 3.42
2. Adoption Court Fee 110 $ 7.52
3. New Zambian Passport 500 $ 34.19
4. Certificate of Adoption/Registration Fee 105 $ 7.18
5. Court Fee 200 $ 13.67
6. Adoption Lawyer Fee 5,000-25,000 $ 341.86- $ 1,709.30
7. Police Clearance Fee 85 $ 5.81
8. Other costs to consider: Travel expenses, Agency fee, Documentation & Authentication fee, etc    

**the costs are estimates and may vary based on current rates and the prevailing kwacha-USD exchange rates.

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Meshack Sewe

Meshack, is a tech-savvy Creative Copywriter, Poet, & Entrepreneur who is very passionate about Adoption and Humanitarian activities. He has served as both Program Officer, and Program Manager with two Non-Governmental Organizations focusing on orphaned children and vulnerable girls

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