If you plan on adopting a child from overseas, it’s important to know that the US Government considers overseas adoptions to be a private legal matter within the judicial sovereignty of the nation where the child resides. American authorities don’t have the right to intervene on behalf of American citizens in the courts in the country where the adoption is taking place. However, there are many ways that US consulates and embassies can support prospective parents. An American consulate or embassy will provide the information you need about the adoption process in the country where you live. Consular officers can make inquiries on your behalf regarding the status of your case in the foreign court. Additionally, they can help in clarifying documentation requirements if necessary. Consulates and embassies also make sure that you’re not being discriminated against as an American by foreign courts. You can also trust them to provide information about the visa application process for your adopted child. Because children involved in foreign adoptions are considered nationals of their origin country, prospective parents are obliged to follow local laws. One way to achieve this is to deal exclusively with a reputable international adoption agency that has experience handling adoptions in the country where you are living. In the case of private adoptions, you should hire a local attorney with expertise in the matter. Due to the risk of fraud in international adoptions, you must be aware of the pitfalls. The US consulate or embassy will offer you advice regarding problems you might encounter.
Foreign children adopted by American citizens can gain US citizenship if the adoptive parents apply for the child’s naturalization after returning to the United States. In most cases, the adoptive parents merely need to apply for a Certificate of Citizenship from the Bureau of Citizenship and Immigration Services (BCIS) in the Department of Homeland Security following the adoption. However, the adopted child remains a national of their origin country until they return to the United States. Before returning with your adopted child, you will need to petition the BCIS for your child’s immigrant visa. For more information on adoption procedures, obtain the BCIS Form M-249 titled The Immigration of Adopted and Prospective Adoptive Children. Additionally, you can contact the Department of State, Overseas Citizens Services Office of Children’s Issues at (888) 407-4747 to learn about overseas adoption procedures and order the booklet International Adoptions. You can also find this booklet online with useful information for American citizens who plan on adopting a foreign child.
International Child Custody Disputes
There are limits to the assistance that American authorities can provide to parents involved in international child custody disputes. In cases where an American child is abducted overseas by a parent, the US Government’s role is limited to helping the other parent locate the child, monitoring the child’s well-being, and providing general information about child custody procedures and laws in the country where the abduction took place. Additionally, overseas consular officers can issue a US passport to a child involved in a custody dispute if 1) the child appears in person at the American embassy or consulate and 2) there is no court order issued by the relevant foreign court forbidding the child’s departure from the country. US consuls cannot take custody of the child, force the child’s return to the United States, or attempt to influence child custody proceedings in foreign courts. If the parents cannot work out an amicable settlement, the only usual recourse is to take court action in the country where the child resides. Custody decrees originating in the United States are not automatically recognized overseas. On the contrary, foreign courts make custody decisions in accordance with the laws of their country. If you are involved in a custody dispute, you must obtain a foreign attorney to represent you in court. The American consulate or embassy in the country where your child has been taken can provide you with a list of such attorneys.
Parents involved in an international custody battle should learn whether the country they’re in is a party to the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction. Under the Hague Convention, children who have been wrongfully removed may be returned to their place of habitual residence. For further information on the Hague Convention, contact the Office of Children’s Issues in Overseas Citizens Services. This office also has copies of the booklet International Parental Child Abduction containing valuable information about what American citizens can do to prevent their child from becoming a victim of parental child abduction. If you are overseas and would like information on this subject, contact the nearest American consulate or embassy for guidance.
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