News and Events


USCIS Filing Fees for Many Form Will Increase on December 23, 2016

Don’t delay in filing. The USCIS filing fee costs for many forms will be increasing on December 23, 2016. Of note for adoptive parents is that the N-600 Application for a Certificate of Citizenship is increasing from $550/$600 to $1170. See here for a list of forms and fee increases.

Two Changes Have Recently Been Made to Federal Laws That Will Benefit Many Internationally Adopted Children:

“Accuracy for Adoptees Act” that allows the amendment of the child’s Certificate of Citizenship (COC) and other U.S. government documents to reflect a change in the child’s birth date ordered by a state court. Some children who are adopted abroad are given dates of birth that may not be accurate. With sufficient evidence, an action can be brought in most states to change the child’s date of birth. However, as the U.S. government was not required to change its records or documents to reflect the amended date of birth, the child ended up with inconsistent state and U.S. government issued documents. As a result of this Act, this is no longer the case. See link.

Elimination of the “Preadoption Visitation” requirement for both parents in I-600 Orphan Petition adoptions.* Previously in an adoption involving two adopting parents, both parents had to travel to see and observe the child before or during the adoption abroad, or else the child would enter the U.S. on an IR4 visa. This meant in most cases that the child would have to be readopted in the U.S. before the child would become a U.S. citizen pursuant to the Child Citizenship Act of 2000 (CCA), even if the adoption was final under the law of the foreign country. As a result of the elimination of this requirement, the child will now enter the U.S. on an IR3 visa and become a U.S. citizen without having to be readopted. *This is part of the “Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2014” signed into law on 1/17/2014. See link.

Giving Thanks to Our Veterans

On Veterans Day we honor and give thanks to all who have served in the U.S. Armed Services. Do you know that immigrants have served in the U.S. Armed Forces since the Revolutionary War? Between 1999 and 2010, 80,000 non-citizens enlisted in the military representing 4% of the recruits. See here. They have been and will continue to play an important role in protecting our country and our way of life. For their service, many have been able to become U.S. citizens under special expedited provisions. See link.

Some Important Proposed Laws That You Should Know About Regarding Adoption and Immigration

Children in Families First Act of 2013 (CIFF)

This bill was introduced on September 2013 and is sponsored by U.S. Senators Blunt and Landrieu and U.S. House of Representatives Granger and Bass. If passed, it will help improve the international adoption process so that more children get permanent homes.

Don’t Forget Comprehensive Immigration Reform.

Unfortunately it is still stalled in the U.S. House of Representatives. However it’s still a possibility and needs your support! See: Third House Republican Signs On To Immigration Reform Bill.

HB 162 Was Introduced in the PA House of Representatives on January 16, 2013.

This bill would allow Pennsylvania-born adopted adults to obtain a copy of their original birth certificate. More Information is available on this link.

The Senate Has Passed S.744, Its Bill Re Comprehensive Immigration Reform — Now Is the Time to Ask Your House Representative to Do the Same

The current U.S. immigration system is not working and needs to be changed. Now that Bill 744 has been passed by the Senate, it is the House of Representatives’ turn to act on immigration reform.

At a minimum the reform should be comprehensive and include an increase in the number of high-skilled and lower-skilled work visas, expansion of investment visas, certain improvements to the family based immigration system and Child Citizenship Act, and a path for citizenship for those who were brought here illegally as children, in a similar manner to what is set forth at S.744. However the reform will not be complete unless it addresses the large number of undocumented individuals who are in the U.S. As a result, it must include a system that will allow these individuals to get legal status, and eventual citizenship, provided that they meet certain qualifications. (Senate bill 744 creates a probation period of at least 13 years during which those who came illegally must pay a series of fines and back taxes, undergo background checks, work continuously, etc.)

Comprehensive immigration reform will strengthen the U.S. and improve our economy.* It should be supported by Democrats and Republicans. Please make sure that your Representative knows this and how important it is to take the opportunity to pass a bill supporting it.

* “No Republican [or Democrat] would vote for legislation that stifled economic growth, promoted illegal immigration, added to the welfare rolls, and failed to ensure a secure border. Yet they essentially will do just that if they fail to pass comprehensive immigration reform—and leave in place a system that does all of those things”.** [emphasis added.]: Excerpt from Bush, Jeb and Clint Bolick, “A Republican Case for Immigration Reform”, Wall Street Journal, June 30, 2013

Comprehensive Immigration Reform and S.744 Is Good for Foreign-Born Adoptees

The Senate Immigration Reform bill, S.744, contains many positive and noteworthy provisions. However, do you know that it contains some very important changes involving U.S. citizenship that will benefit many foreign-born adopted children? For example, many adult adoptees who were too old to benefit from the Child Citizenship Act (CCA) will qualify for automatic citizenship under the CCA under Landrieu Amendment 1222. Other significant adoption-related Amendments are also under consideration.

For many reasons, comprehensive immigration reform will benefit everyone. Please contact your Senators and House Representatives, both Democratic and Republican, and ask them to make it a reality!

Intercountry Adoption Universal Accreditation Act of 2012 Signed Into Law

On January 14, 2013, the president signed the Intercountry Adoption Universal Accreditation Act of 2012 (UAA). Under the new law, all agencies who have intercountry adoption programs will be subject to the accreditation provisions of the Intercountry Adoption Act of 2000 (IAA), the U.S. law implementing the Hague Adoption Convention. The effective date is July 14, 2014.

Adoption Tax Credit Renewed

The Adoption Tax Credit was signed into law on January 2, 2013, as part of the American Taxpayer Relief Act of 2012. The maximum credit for 2013 is not confirmed but will probably be about $12,970 per child. Answers to Frequently Asked Questions.

The Full Effect of the Russian Ban on Adoptions Is Far From Clear

However, Russia is reportedly allowing the children whose adoptions were finalized before the ban went into effect to leave Russia with their adoptive parents.

Law Prohibiting the Adoption of Russian Children by U.S. Citizens Has Been Signed into Law

On December 28, 2012, President Vladimir Putin signed into law Russian Federal Law No. 186614-6, which, effective January 1, 2013, prohibits the adoption of Russian children by U.S. citizens. According to the Department of State (DOS) website, the Russian government has provided no details on how the law will be implemented. See link.

Proposed Bill to Ban Adoptions From Russia

On December 26, 2012, the Russian upper chamber of Parliament approved legislation which if approved by President Putin will ban adoptions of Russian children by United States citizens. The bill is now awaiting the decision of President Putin. The adoption ban was proposed in retaliation to an American law that imposes certain sanctions against Russians who are accused of human rights abuses. This ban would not only violate the bilateral agreement on adoption that came into effect between Russia and the U.S. in November 2012, but would leave thousands of Russian children in orphanages! See link. Also see news

Nominate a Candidate for the American Immigration Council’s Immigrant Youth Achievement Award

Do you know a young immigrant or naturalized U.S. citizen between the ages of 14 through 25 who has made a positive impact in the community or world by doing something exceptional or unusual? The American Immigration Council (AIC) is now accepting nominations for their 2013 Immigrant Youth Achievement Award. The winner will receive the award worth $1000 at the AIC annual awards ceremony in Washington, D.C. in April 2013. Your nomination must be received by AIC no later than February 1, 2013. You can get more information about the Award, read about past winners and download the application here.

Immigrant from Nepal Named U.S. Army’s Soldier of the Year for 2012

Sgt. Saral Shrestha came to the U.S. to further his education, attended college in the U.S. and then joined the Army in 2009 through the Military Accessions Vital to the National Interest program (MANVI), a special pilot program that allows  foreign nationals who are legally present  in the U.S. (includes permanent residents and certain temporary visas) and have special medical and language skills, to join the military and subsequently apply for U.S. citizenship. This program was on hold but is now being renewed. The Army plans to recruit 1,500 soldiers annually for the next two years, with a focus on dentists, surgeons, and trained psychologists.

PA Voter Identification Requirement Has Been Put On Hold

The Pennsylvania law requiring that you have acceptable photo identification to vote this November has been put on hold. Therefore you will be able to vote even if you do not have the required identification at least for this coming election. However, it will eventually be implemented and you will need the identification in later elections! See Huffpost note.

USCIS Has Approved Its First Group of Requests for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA)

On September 12, 2012, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) announced that its first adjudications of requests for DACA have been completed!

USCIS Begins Processing Applications for “Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals” (DACA) And Employment Authorization

On August 15, 2012, the USCIS began processing these applications. Do not forget that this program is temporary (only for two years), may be canceled at any time, and will not lead to permanent resident status or citizenship in the U.S. Also, if you are not able to show economic need your application for DACA may be approved but you may not be able to get employment authorization or a social security number. You may also be eligible for other options that will give you immigrant status, such as Special Immigrant Juvenile status. Make sure that you are entitled to apply and that applying is in your best interest. Feel free to contact C.J. Lyford to fully evaluate your situation before you proceed.

Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court Refuses to Block the Pennsylvania Voter Identification Law So Check to Be Sure That You Have an Acceptable Photo Identification Document.

See link. The battle is not over but be prepared. If you are a U.S. citizen who lives in Pennsylvania, make sure that you have an acceptable photo identification document so that you can vote in the upcoming November 2012 election. Here is a detailed list of the acceptable photo identification documents. If you do not have what is required, find out what you need to do because it will take some time. You may be entitled to get a document to vote, free of charge at one of the Penndot Driver License Centers.

USCIS Publishes Important New Information Re “Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals”

On August 3, 2012, USCIS issued revised “Frequently Asked Questions” (FAQ) and other information re the recently announced deferred action program, referred to as “deferred action for childhood arrivals”, that provides further details about this program. This confirms that it will not accept affirmative applications until August 15, 2012, and any applications submitted before this date will be rejected. A new application form will be made available. The cost for the application and the application for employment authorization will be $465. See link.

Challenge to the Pennsylvania Voter Identification Law Goes to Court

On July 25, 2012, the first trial began challenging the PA law that requires that all persons have an acceptable photo identification document to vote in the upcoming November 2012 election. The court’s decision is expected to be issued during the week of August 13, 2012.

If You Are an Adult Who Was Born outside of the U.S. And Adopted by a U.S. Citizen as a Child, Make Sure That You Are a U.S. Citizen

Since 2001, many foreign born children who are adopted by U.S. citizens become citizens automatically because of the Child Citizenship Act. Unfortunately, the Act does not apply to the many individuals who were adopted years ago and are now adults, and whose parents did not apply for their naturalization. If you have a green card, you are not here illegally. However, until you are a U.S. citizen, the possibility of deportation/removal and other problems exist should you commit certain crimes or activities and on occasion adult adoptees have been deported back to their countries of birth. See for example at Adopsource (includes a recent story about an adult adoptee from India, as well as others.) You should have your case carefully reviewed to make this determination and if you are not a citizen, discuss your next steps.

The Current Tax Credit Will Sunset on December 31, 2012

If Congress does not take action, the credit will revert back to $6000 and will only apply to special needs adoptions. Go to Adoption Tax Credit Advocates to find out more and how you can help.

“Deferred Action” Program for Some Persons Who Entered the U.S. As Children

On June 15, 2012, the Obama administration announced that certain persons who entered the U.S. as children and meet specific criteria may be eligible for “deferred action” for a period of two years, subject to renewal, and work authorization. While this program is not the same as the DREAM Act and does not give the individual permanent residency status it is a positive step forward and may offer important protection for many individuals currently in the U.S.

* If you are in removal proceedings, have a voluntary departure order or otherwise face imminent removal and think that you may be qualified, please contact an experienced immigration attorney immediately.

Federal Adoption Tax Credit.

Don’t forget to consider the federal adoption tax credit when making your adoption plans and/or doing your income tax! The amount and whether it is “refundable” changes every year so you will have to check. By the way, if you were eligible in an earlier year, you may be able to amend your past tax returns. Some background information and guidance from the IRS.


Help Remove Barriers to International Adoption

You can make a difference by signing a petitioner to “Make A Child’s Right To A Family Our Priority” that will be presented in Washington DC on May 17, 2013., an organization dedicated to removing barriers to international adoption.

What you can do to help:

  1. You can sign the petition online.
  2. Join The Step Forward for Orphan’s March on May 17.
  3. View and share the movie STUCK an award-winning documentary, produced by Both Ends Burning that uncovers the real-life stories of children and parents navigating through the international adoption system.

Upcoming Webinar on the Adoption Tax Credit on March 19, 2013, 8 PM EST

NCAC (North American Council on Adoptable Children) will be presenting a webinar on the U.S. federal adoption tax credit on March 19, at 8 pm eastern standard time. Participants will learn the steps they need to take to file for the credit. The focus will be on filing for 2012, but will also cover applying for the credit for adoptions as far back as 2005. During the session, participants will be able to type in questions that they would like answered. More information.

On February 6, 2013, at 10 a.m. EST, the Department of State will host a conference regarding the criteria and conditions for agencies who perform intercountry adoptions programs to become accredited Adoption Service Providers as set forth by the Universal Accreditation Act of 2012 (UAA), See below regarding UAA. (RSVP for acceptances only at Dial in information: 888-363-4749 and Access Code: 627-6702#.)

Two Upcoming Webinars on Adoption Assistance Programs and Benefits:
September 25 and November 8, 2012

NCAC (North American Council on Adoptable Children) will be presenting two free webinars regarding Adoption Assistance Benefits on September 25, 2012 (Benefits and Eligibility) and November 8, 2012 (Advocating for Improvements in Adoption Assistance programs) at 3 pm EST (noon pacific, 1 pm mountain) See recorded trainings for more information and to register.

Free Voter ID Information Session on August 21, 2012, at 1 PM

Attend a free Voter ID information session on Tuesday August 21, 2012, at 1 pm at the Chestnut Hill Hotel, Bombay Room, 8229 Germantown Ave., Philadelphia 19118. For more information, call Mary Zell at 215-248-0180 or by e-mail at (Hosted by the Chestnut Hill Community Association and Chestnut Hill Center for Enrichment).

On October 19, 2011, C.J. Lyford was a speaker at the Montgomery County Bar Association on the topic “ Practical Aspects of Immigration: Changes to International Adoption as a result of the Hague Adoption Convention”.

On July 22, 2011, C.J. Lyford presented “Potential Minefields as a Result of the Hague Adoption Convention” at the Pennsylvania Bar Institute Conference in Philadelphia at a seminar “Immigration Law for the General Practitioner.”

C.J. Lyford and Sondra Miller-Wein co-chaired the 14th Annual Celebrate American Creative Writing Contest for 5th grade students re the topic “Why I am glad that American is a Nation of Immigrants”. The winner for the Philadelphia chapter was Zoe K. of Seven Generations Charter School in Emmaus, PA.

Here is her entry:

I Am Immigration

I am how we live in one country, then another

I am the reason a lot of us are here

I am a way to escape torture or death

I am an escape route if war is where you live

I am immigration

I am the way our country survives

I am the path to freedom

I am the way to find your next lover

I am what gives people hope for a better life

I am immigration

I am a passage to a better job

I am a pathway for families to be established

I am why we were born

I am why America is America

I am immigration

On December 2, 2010, 9 pm EST, C.J. Lyford spoke about Changes in International Adoption at a RESOLVE. TeleSeminar.

On November 7, 2010, C.J. participated in RESOLVE’s “2010 Ask the Expert: A Family Building Expo,” at 1225 State Road in Princeton, New Jersey, from 9:30 am until 11:30 am. More information can be found on the RESOLVE website.

On October 15 and 16, 2010, FRUA (Families for Russian and Ukrainian Adoption), in partnership with Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia’s International Adoption Health Program, held its 7th Annual Education Conference. This conference focused on the educational and developmental issues facing international adoptees. More information is available on FRUA website.

On October 30, 2009, C.J. Lyford was a presenter at the Fall 2009 Philadelphia Regional Immigration Conference held by the Chester County Bar Association in West Chester, Pennsylvania. C.J. spoke on the topic, “Changes in International Adoption.”

C.J. Lyford and Sondra Miller-Wein were appointed Co-Chairpersons for the Philadelphia Chapter of the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA) for the 13th Annual Celebrate American Creative Writing Contest for 5th grade students re the topic “Why I am glad that American is a Nation of Immigrants.” The contest is sponsored by the American Immigration Council and AILA.

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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