Changes In International Adoption & Immigration Overview

Fall 2009 Philadelphia Regional Immigration Conference
Sponsored by the Chester County Bar Association, West Chester, Pennsylvania.

DATE OF PRESENTATION: October 30, 2009

Prepared by C.J. Lyford, Esquire
632 Germantown Ave.
Lafayette Hill, PA 19444

For purposes of this talk I will define it as involving two aspects that are intended to go together and hopefully work in tandem

1. The adoption by a U.S. citizen (USC) of a child who is born outside of the U.S. and is not a USC. (Child may live outside of the U.S. or may be living in the U.S.)

2. So that the child will be entitled to immigrate to the U .S. and become a USC.

It is essential that these work together, otherwise, for example, the applicable foreign country law could allow a child to be adopted but the child will not meet U.S. immigration requirements. As a result, the child may end up being legally adopted under foreign law but not able to permanently live with the parents in the U.S.


It is a complicated process largely because it involves three different sets of laws:

  • U.S. immigration law,
  • Law of the foreign country/child’s country of origin, and
  • Law of the applicable U.S. state (usually the state where the adoptive family resides)

For the adoption (and the child’s U.S. immigration through the adoption) to be successfully accomplished, the requirements of all three sets of law must be met. The implementation of the Hague Convention on Intercountry Adoptions (HAC) in the U.S. on April 1, 2008, has further complicated the international adoption process. It affects, amongst other things, adoptions from other countries that are also parties to the HAC, such as China, Columbia, Thailand, India, Mexico, Guatemala, Cambodia, Hong Kong, Philippines, and Poland.* It has made international adoption more complicated and has affected every aspect of the adoption including the filing process, increased documentation and requirements involving the adoption agencies, parent and child qualifications, etc.


There were two and now are, because of the HAC, three different ways to adopt a child abroad and immigrate the child to the U.S.:

  • I-600 Orphan Petition process
  • I-800 Hague Convention process
  • Two year adopted child process. (This has been dramatically affected by the HAC but will not be addressed in any detail today).


  • Whether the prospective adoption parent (PAP) is a U.S. Citizen?
  • Whether or not the child’s country of origin is a “Hague Convention Country” (HAC)?
  • I-600 Orphan Definition versus I-800 HAC Definition.
  • I-600 versus I-800 process.
  • Whether adoption is final abroad under law of foreign country.
  • Whether the adoption is final abroad under U.S. immigration law.
  • Different immigrant visa categories.
  • Readoption and Registration of Foreign Adoption.


Department of State website re international adoption:

*Although some of the major adoption countries are not Hague Countries: Russia, Korea, Kazakhstan, Haiti, Liberia and Ethiopia.

Client Reviews

What CJ Lyford accomplished was simply amazing. My daughter, who I adopted in a foreign court while living abroad, was sworn in as a US citizen just hours before aging out of eligibility for N-600K. The Field Office Director told us that this was one of the most memorable cases in which he'd been...


CJ was absolutely amazing from beginning to end helping us get our adopted son his American Citizenship! Excellent, punctual and great to work with! We are beyond grateful!


We had a very unique immigration case - CJ was making sure we had the right documents and researched similar cases. It was a long road but we were prepared and there were no surprises. The long wait paid off. Surely would recommend her expertise and professionalism.


CJ Lyford helped us with the US part of the adoption of our daughter from Malaysia. She gave us information which led us choose a different route which was simpler and quicker than the one we had previously been led. She made contact with the officials to set up appointments that where convenient...


C.J. has a pleasure to work with, and as an attorney myself, I have very high standards. She was also the most reasonably priced, considering the high level of service provided.


I am very pleased with the help that Ms. Lyford was able to provide. I adopted while living abroad and faced challenges in finalizing the adoption in the US and obtaining my daughter's US citizenship. Ms. Lyford was with us from the beginning, laying out a workable roadmap to get where we needed to...


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