Adopting from Germany
Notice: As of July 14, 2014, all individuals and agencies facilitating international adoptions must be in compliance with the Intercountry Universal Accreditation Act.
Hague Convention Information
Germany is party to the Hague Convention on Protection of Children and Co-operation in Respect of Intercountry Adoption(Hague Adoption Convention). Intercountry adoption processing in Hague countries is done in accordance with the requirements of the Convention; the U.S. implementing legislation, the Intercountry Adoption Act of 2000 (IAA); and the IAA’s implementing regulations, as well as the implementing legislation and regulations of Germany. Germany is not generally considered a country of origin in intercountry adoption. Only five German orphans have received U.S. immigrant visas since 2007. The information provided is intended primarily to assist in rare adoption cases from Germany, including adoptions of German children by relatives in the United States, as well as adoptions from third countries by U.S. citizens living in Germany.
U.S. IMMIGRATION REQUIREMENTS FOR INTERCOUNTRY ADOPTIONS
To bring an adopted child to the United States from Germany, you must meet eligibility and suitability requirements. The U.S. Department of Homeland Security, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) determines who can adopt under U.S. immigration law. Additionally, a child must meet the definition of Convention adoptee under U.S. law in order to immigrate to the United States on an IH-3 or IH-4 immigrant visa.
Who Can Adopt
There are no residency requirements to adopt a child from Germany. There is no restriction on the nationality or citizenship of the adopting parent. Germany allows non-Germans to adopt a German child. U.S. citizens who are resident in Germany may apply to adopt from other countries through the German intercountry adoption process. These prospective adoptive parents may contact the relevant central authority for the area of their residence in order to initiate the process.
Age of Adopting Parents
The minimum age for an adopting parent is 25 years old. However, in the case of an adoption of a stepchild, the lower age limit of the adopting parent is 21 years. There is no legal upper age limit of an adopting parent. If a child is being adopted in Germany by foreign parents, the court has the right to take age restrictions in the laws of the parents’ home country into consideration. Although there is no statutory limit, pursuant to a recommendation by the Federal Working Group of the State Youth Welfare Offices, the age gap between the adopting parents and the child being adopted should not be greater than 40 years.
Unmarried, single people, as well as one member of an unmarried heterosexual couple, can adopt a child in Germany. Married couples can only adopt together as husband and wife, with the minimum age for one parent being 25 years old and the minimum age of the second parent being at least 21 years old. Same-sex couples may register as a partnership, but partners cannot adopt jointly, as a married couple can. However, one member of a registered partnership may adopt the biological child of his or her registered partner. Also, one member of a registered partnership may adopt alone.
Who Can Be Adopted
Because Germany is party to The Hague Adoption Convention, children from Germany must meet the requirements of the Convention in order to be eligible for adoption. For example, the adoption may take place only if the competent authorities of Germany have determined that placement of the child within Germany has been given due consideration and that an intercountry adoption is in the child’s best interests. In addition to Germany’s requirements, a child must meet the definition of Convention adoptee to be eligible for an immigrant visa that will allow you to bring him or her to the United States.
Relinquishment/Consent: The parents of the child must provide consent to the adoption; this consent cannot be accepted by the court if the child is less than eight weeks of age. If the child is over eight weeks old and under the age of 14, the child’s legal guardian (sometimes, but not always, the parents) must also consent to the adoption on the child’s behalf. If the child is over the age of 14, s/he must personally consent to the adoption, with the concurrence of his/her legal guardian. In the case of children born out of wedlock, the biological father can surrender parental rights and consent to the adoption any time after conception and prior to the child’s birth. In this case, the mother must still wait until the child is eight weeks old to consent to adoption. As an additional requirement in cases where the citizenship of the adopting parent and the child being adopted are different, this consent has to be approved by the family court. However, it does not apply in the case of a domestic adoption subject to German law.
Abandonment: Consent is not required from a parent whose whereabouts are unknown (the court will determine the whereabouts unknown after six months of searching unsuccessfully). In addition, the court may waive the need for parental consent in several circumstances, including those related to the parent’s treatment of the child and the parent’s mental capacity. Ultimately, the courts will look at each case individually to determine if consent of a biological parent is needed.
Age of Adoptive Child: A person can be adopted at any age. Parents must wait until the child is eight weeks of age before consenting to adoption. Adoption of a person who has reached age 18, the age of majority in Germany, must be justifiable.
Sibling Adoptions: Sibling relationships are given consideration in adoption proceedings, but are considered on a case-by-case basis, with particular emphasis given to the positive or negative nature of the relationship between the siblings.
Special Needs or Medical Conditions: On a case-by-case basis, the court may require evidence that an adopting family is aware of and able to cope with a child’s special needs and may require families to submit to follow up assessment.
How to Adopt
WARNING: Germany is party to the Hague Adoption Convention. Do not adopt or obtain legal custody of a child in Germany before a U.S. consular officer issues an “Article 5 Letter” in the case. Read on for more information.
Germany’s Adoption Authority
Bundesamt für Justiz -Bundeszentralstelle für Auslandsadoption-
Adenauerallee 99-103 53113 Bonn Tel: +49 22899 410-5414 or -5415 Fax: +49 22899 410-5402 E-mail:email@example.com Website: website
Because Germany is party to The Hague Adoption Convention, adopting from Germany must follow a specific process designed to meet the Convention’s requirements. A brief summary of the Convention adoption process is given below. You must complete these steps in the following order so that your adoption meets all necessary legal requirements. Adoptions completed out of order may result in the child not being eligible for an immigrant visa to the United States.
- Choose a U.S. accredited or approved adoption service provider
- Apply to USCIS to be found eligible to adopt
- Be matched with a child by authorities in Germany.
- Apply to USCIS for the child to be found eligible for immigration to the United States and receive U.S. agreement to proceed with the adoption
- Adopt (or Gain Legal Custody of child in Germany).
- Obtain a U.S. immigrant visa for your child and bring your child home
NOTE: For residents of Germany who wish to adopt a child and remain in Germany, the process is different. Persons wishing to adopt a child in Germany should contact either one of the following institutions:
Youth Welfare Office (Jugendamt) of each district/major city
Youth Welfare Office (Landesjugendamt) of each German state (Bundesland)
1. Choose a U.S. Accredited or Approved Adoption Service Provider
The recommended first step in adopting a child from Germany is to select an adoption service provider in the United States that has been accredited or approved to provide services to U.S. citizens in Convention cases. Only accredited or approved adoption services providers may provide adoption services between the United States and Germany. The U.S. accredited or approved adoption service provider will act as the primary provider in your case. The primary adoption service provider is responsible for ensuring that all adoption services in the case are done in accordance with The Hague Adoption Convention and U.S. laws and regulations. Learn more about Agency Accreditation.
2.Apply to USCIS to be Found Eligible to Adopt
After you choose an accredited or approved adoption service provider, you must apply to be found eligible to adopt by the responsible U.S. government agency, the Department of Homeland Security, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), by submitting Form I-800A. Read more about Eligibility Requirements.
Once USCIS determines that you are “eligible” and “suited” to adopt by approving the Form I-800A, your adoption service provider will provide your approval notice, home study, and any other required information to the adoption authority in Germany as part of your adoption dossier. Germany’s adoption authority will review your application to determine whether you are also eligible to adopt under German law.
3.Be Matched with a Child in Germany
If both the United States and Germany determine that you are eligible to adopt, and the central authority for Convention adoptions has determined that a child is available for adoption and that intercountry adoption is in that child’s best interests, the central authority for Convention adoptions in Germany may provide you with a referral for a child. The referral is a proposed match between you and a specific child based on a review of your dossier and the needs of a specific child in Germany. The adoption authority in Germany will provide a background study and other information, if available, about the child to help you decide whether to accept the referral or not. Each family must decide for itself whether or not it will be able to meet the needs and provide a permanent home for a particular child. If you accept the referral, the adoption service provider communicates that to the adoption authority in Germany. Learn more about this critical decision.
4.Apply to USCIS for the Child to be Found Eligible for Immigration to the United States and Receive U.S. Agreement to Proceed with the Adoption
After you accept a match with a child, you will apply to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) for provisional approval for the child to immigrate to the United States (Form I-800). USCIS will make a provisional determination as to whether the child meets the definition of a Convention Adoptee and will be eligible to enter the United States and reside permanently as an immigrant.
After provisional approval of Form I-800, your adoption service provider or you will submit a visa application to the Consular Section of the U.S. Consulate General in Frankfurt, Germany, that is responsible for issuing immigrant visas to children from Germany. A consular officer will review the Form I-800 and the visa application for possible visa ineligibilities and advise you of options for the waiver of any noted ineligibilities.
WARNING: The consular officer will send a letter (referred to as an “Article 5 Letter”) to the German Central Authority in any intercountry adoption involving U.S. citizen parents and a child from Germany where all Convention requirements are met and the consular officer determines that the child appears eligible to immigrate to the United States. This letter will inform the German Central Authority that the parents are eligible and suited to adopt, that all indications are that the child may enter and reside permanently in the United States, and that the U.S. Central Authority agrees that the adoption may proceed.
Remember: The consular officer will make a final decision about a child’s eligibility for an immigrant visa later in the adoption process.
5.Adopt or Gain Legal Custody of Child in Germany
Remember: Before you adopt (or gain legal custody of) a child in Germany, you must have completed the above four steps. Only after completing these steps, can you proceed to finalize the adoption or grant of custody for the purposes of adoption in Germany.
- Role of Adoption Authority: Each of Germany’s 16 Federal States has a central adoption agency that oversees intercountry adoptions.
- Role of the Court: The guardianship court (Vormundschaftsgericht) hears an application for an order to change the legal status to that of parent and child and, if appropriate, issues such an order. The court must investigate and review all relevant facts, including information from the adoption agency or public authority involved and the child (as permitted by age).
- Role of Adoption Agencies: Adoption services are provided by public youth welfare agencies as well as private, nonprofit agencies that have been qualified to provide adoption services in international adoptions under Germany’s Adoption Placement Act. The adoption agency is responsible for key aspects of the adoption process, including providing information to the guardianship court on the prospective adoptive parents.
- Adoption Application: For both domestic and intercountry adoption, the prospective adoptive parent(s) must first approach one of four sources for an initial consultation: 1) either one of the youth offices listed above, 2) the German Central Authority for intercountry adoption, 3) the Central Authority in the country of the child’s habitual abode, or 4) an intercountry adoption agency. After a favorable evaluation, the parents will be subject to a home study by their local youth welfare office. The translated home study will be sent to the adoption authority office. When a child has been identified, the adopting parent(s) and the child’s legal guardian sign an agreement before a German court or notary public. Before the family court decides if the adoption may take place and issues the final decree, the adopting parent(s) have to prove that the child will be lawfully admitted into their home country.
- Time Frame: After an investigation and interview, the Jugendamt issues an initial approval valid for two years. There is no specific time frame for the adoption process. It varies from case to case and primarily depends upon the duration of the qualifying process and/or the difficulty of identifying a child for adoption. The paperwork and investigation process generally takes between four and nine months. A foster period is required to adopt a German child. By law the foster period should be “adequate in length.” The court will decide in each case individually whether a parent-child-relationship between the adopting parent and the child to be adopted has been developed.
- Adoption Fees: In the adoption services contract that you sign at the beginning of the adoption process, your agency will itemize the fees and estimated expenses related to your adoption process.
- Documents Required: Both the German Youth Welfare Department (Jugendamt) and the adoption agencies require the following documents at the start of the adoption process:
- 1. An application for adoption;
- 2. Birth certificates;
- 3. Proof of citizenship;
- 4. Resume/curriculum vitae for both parents;
- 5. Police certificate for both parents;
- 6. Identification (passport, photo identification, etc.);
- 7. Marriage certificate (if applicable);
- 8. Termination of previous marriage(s) (death certificate, divorce decree, etc.);
- 9. Medical attestation;
- 10. Proof of parents' income (including bank statements)
- 11. Parents' police certificates; and
- 12. Character references.
NOTE: Additional documents may be requested.
- Authentication of Documents: The United States and Germany are parties to the Hague Apostille Convention. U.S. public documents may be authenticated with Apostilles by the appropriate U.S. Competent Authority.
6.Obtain an Immigrant Visa for your Child and Bring Your Child Home
Now that your adoption is complete (or you have obtained legal custody of the child for the purpose of adopting the child in the United States), there are a few more steps to take before you can head home. Specifically, you need to apply for three documents before your child can travel to the United States:
- 1. Birth Certificate
If you have finalized the adoption in Germany, you will firstneed to apply for a birth certificate for your child so that you can later apply for a passport. Birth certificates are issued by the Standesamt (City Registrar) in the locality where the child was born. Adopting parents need to present the final adoption decree, their marriage certificate, and both of their birth certificates with the application. For any documents not originating in Germany, the document must bear an Apostille from Hague convention countries or an authentication from non-Hague countries. In all cases of unmarried couples, single parents or same-sex relationships documents requirements vary and should be verified with the local authorities prior to application.
- 2. German Passport
Your child is not yet a U.S. citizen, so he/she will need a travel document or passport from Germany. German passports are issued by the Passstelle (Passport Branch) at the local Standesamt (City Registrar). To obtain a German passport, the adopting parents must present the final adoption decree, the child’s German birth certificate in his/her adoptive name, one biometric photograph of the child, and valid proof of identity for both parents. Both parents must provide written consent to the issuance of the passport until the age of 16. Any child over the age of 6 must also be present to be fingerprinted.
- 3. U.S. Immigrant Visa
After you obtain the new birth certificate and passport for your child, you also need to finalize your application for a U.S. visa for your child from the U.S. Consulate General in Frankfurt, Germany. After the adoption (or custody for purpose of adoption) is granted, visit the U.S. Embassy for final review of the case, issuance of a U.S. Hague Adoption Certificate or Hague Custody Certificate, final approval of Form I-800, and to obtain your child’s immigrant visa. This immigrant visa allows your child to travel home with you. As part of this process, the consular officer must be provided the “Panel Physician’s” medical report on the child if it was not provided during the provisional approval stage. Read more about the Medical Examination.
Child Citizenship Act
For adoptions finalized abroad prior to the child’s entry into the United States: A child will acquire U.S. citizenship upon entry into the United States if the adoption was finalized prior to entry and the child otherwise meets the requirements of the Child Citizenship Act of 2000.
For adoptions finalized after the child’s entry into the United States: An adoption will need to be completed following your child’s entry into the United States for the child to acquire U.S. citizenship.
Please be aware that if your child did not qualify to become a citizen upon entry to the United States, it is very important that you take the steps necessary so that your child does qualify as soon as possible. Failure to obtain citizenship for your child can impact many areas of his/her life including family travel, eligibility for education and education grants, and voting. Read more about the Child Citizenship Act of 2000.
Applying for Your U.S. Passport
U.S. citizens are required by law to enter and depart the United States on a valid U.S. passport. Only the U.S. Department of State has the authority to grant, issue, or verify U.S. passports. Getting or renewing a passport is easy. The Passport Application Wizard will help you determine which passport form you need, help you to complete the form online, estimate your payment, and generate the form for you to print—all in one place.
Obtaining a Visa to Travel to Germany
In addition to a U.S. passport, you may also need to obtain a visa. A visa is an official document issued by a foreign country that formally allows you to visit. Where required, visas are affixed to your passport and allow you to enter a foreign nation. To find information about obtaining a visa for Germany, see the Department of State's Country Specific Information.
Staying Safe on Your Trip
Before you travel, it is always a good practice to investigate the local conditions, laws, political landscape, and culture of the country. The Department of State provides Country Specific Information for every country of the world about various issues, including the health conditions, crime, unusual currency or entry requirements, and any areas of instability.
Staying in Touch on Your Trip
When traveling during the adoption process, we encourage you to enroll with the Department of State. Enrollment makes it possible to contact you if necessary. Whether there is a family emergency in the United States or a crisis in Germany enrollment assists the U.S. Embassy or Consulate in reaching you.
Enrollment is free and can be done online via the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP).
Post-Adoption/Post-Placement Reporting Requirements
While there are no post-adoption/post-placement reporting requirements in Germany, the placing agency must offer consultation and support after the adoption is finalized upon the request of the adopting parents. This may include, but is not limited to, the provision of contact information for and liaison with local and national adoption networks and support groups. In general, the German authorities also encourage agencies to facilitate contact between adopting families and birth parents and assist with the provision of updates on the child’s development, pictures, etc.
Many adoptive parents find it important to find support after the adoption. There are many public and private nonprofit post-adoption services available for children and their families. There are also numerous adoptive family support groups and adoptee organizations active in the United States that provide a network of options for adoptees who seek out other adoptees from the same country of origin. Take advantage of all the resources available to your family, whether it is another adoptive family, a support group, an advocacy organization, or your religious or community services.
Here are some good places to start your support group search:
NOTE: Inclusion of non-U.S. Government links does not imply endorsement of contents.
U.S. Consulate General Frankfurt
Immigrant Visa Unit Giessener Strasse 30 60435 Frankfurt Am Main Tel: (069) 7535-0 Internet: U.S. Consulate General Frankfurt
Germany’s Adoption Authority
Bundesamt für Justiz -Bundeszentralstelle für Auslandsadoption- Adenauerallee 99-103 53113 Bonn Tel: +49 22899 410-5414 or -5415 Fax: +49 22899 410-5402 E-mail:firstname.lastname@example.org Website: Germany's Adoption Authority
Embassy of Germany
Germany also has consulates in: Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, Houston, Los Angeles, Miami, New York, and San Francisco.
Office of Children’s Issues
U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS)
For questions about immigration procedures:
National Customer Service Center (NCSC) Tel: 1-800-375-5283 (TTY 1-800-767-1833) Internet: USCIS
For questions about filing a Form I-800A or I-800 petition: National Benefits Center Tel: 1-877-424-8374 (toll free); 1-816-251-2770 (local) Email: NBC.Adoptions@DHS.gov