Adopting from Jamaica
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
Jamaica is not party to the Hague Convention on Protection of Children and Co-operation in Respect of Intercountry Adoption(Hague Adoption Convention). Intercountry adoptions of children from non-Hague countries are processed in accordance with 8 Code of Federal Regulations, Section 204.3 as it relates to orphans as defined under the Immigration and Nationality Act, Section 101(b)(1)(F).
There are two types of adoptions in Jamaica - Adoption Licenses and Adoption Orders. An Adoption License allows a Jamaican citizen child to be taken to a "scheduled country" (in this case, the United States) and to be adopted in that country (in this case, the United States). Under Jamaican law, U.S. citizens residing in the United States who are not adopting a relative will only qualify for an Adoption License. An Adoption Order signifies the full and final adoption under Jamaican law and is only available to prospective adoptive parents who are Jamaican citizens or who reside in Jamaica. An Order legally replaces an original birth certificate, as it shows date of birth, (new) parentage, and (new) name. The child's Jamaican passport information may also be changed based on the new parentage and name.
U.S. IMMIGRATION REQUIREMENTS FOR INTERCOUNTRY ADOPTIONS
To bring an adopted child to the United States from Jamaica, 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 orphan under U.S. immigration law in order to be eligible to immigrate to the United States on an IR-3 or IR-4 immigrant visa.
Who Can Adopt
In addition to U.S. immigration requirements, you must also meet the following requirements in order to adopt a child from Jamaica:
Prospective adoptive parents seeking an Adoption License can generally expect to travel to Jamaica at least twice, once to meet with the Child Development Agency (CDA) and again to apply for a visa. However, they are not required to reside in Jamaica, nor are they required to attend the court hearing, though the judge can request their presence. Prospective adoptive parents seeking an Adoption Order are required by Jamaican law to reside with the child under the supervision of a local social worker for at least three months before the court will approve the full adoption. The court may waive the pre-adoption placement requirement if the prospective adoptive parents are Jamaican nationals adopting a relative.
Age of Adopting Parents
Prospective adoptive parents who are not related to the potential adopted child must be 25 years of age or older. If the child is a brother, sister, niece, or nephew of the prospective adoptive parent(s), at least one parent must be 18 years of age or older. There are no laws establishing a required age difference between the adoptee and the prospective adoptive parent when they are related.
While there are no specific income requirements, prospective adoptive parents will have to provide documents relaying their financial status.
Each potential adoption is evaluated on a case-by-case basis by the CDA and the Jamaican Adoption Board. Under Jamaican law, the CDA and the Jamaican Adoption Board have the authority to take prospective adoptive parents’ medical conditions into consideration when evaluating their eligibility to adopt. In practice, however, it is extremely rare for a prospective parent to be denied eligibility due to an existing medical condition.
Who Can Be Adopted
In addition to U.S. immigration requirements, Jamaica has specific requirements that a child must meet in order to be eligible for adoption. In all cases, the CDA will assess the child’s suitability for adoption by conducting visits to the child’s place of residence, as well as interviews and counseling with the child, the birth parents, if applicable, and the prospective adoptive parents.
Relinquishment: If the birth parents have not already relinquished their parental rights or had their rights separated by the state, Jamaica requires the child’s birth parents to provide consent before the adoption can be finalized.
Age of Adoptive Child: Only children between the ages of six weeks and 18 years old are eligible for adoption.
Sibling Adoptions: The Jamaican Adoption of Children Act does not include any provision prioritizing sibling placement in order to preserve sibling unity. However, the CDA and the Adoption Board are concerned about child welfare and are willing to work with prospective adoptive parents to ensure that siblings are placed together.
Special Needs or Medical Conditions: Each child must undergo a medical examination in Jamaica by a registered Jamaican medical practitioner before the Adoption Order or License can be approved. This is separate from the medical examination the child must undergo prior to obtaining an immigrant visa.
Waiting Period or Foster Care: None.
Caution: Prospective adoptive parents should be aware that not all children in orphanages or children’s homes are adoptable. In many countries, birth parents place their child(ren) temporarily in an orphanage or children’s home due to financial or other hardship, intending that the child return home when this becomes possible. In such cases, the birth parent(s) have rarely relinquished their parental rights or consented to their child(ren)’s adoption.
How to Adopt
Jamaica’s Adoption Authority
The process for adopting a child from Jamaica generally includes the following steps:
- Apply to be found eligible to adopt;
- Be matched with a child;
- Adopt [or gain custody of] the child in Jamaica;
- Apply for the child to be found eligible for orphan status;
- Bring your child home.
1. Apply to be Found Eligible to Adopt
In order to adopt a child from Jamaica, you will need to meet the requirements of the Government of Jamaica and U.S. immigration law. You must first submit a pre-adoption application with the CDA to be found eligible to adopt in Jamaica. The pre-adoption application asks for detailed information on the prospective adoptive parents, which the CDA uses to assess the parents’ suitability to adopt under Jamaican law.
Prospective adoptive parents residing in the United States must also submit a home study report from an approved home study provider in the United States. The CDA verifies the contents of the prospective adoptive parents’ home study by writing to the home study agency. This verifies home study authorship and obtains the home study agency's agreement to supervise the placement in the future.
Some prospective adoptive parents may choose to use a licensed adoption service provider in the United States to help with the adoption. Adoption service providers must be licensed by the U.S. state in which they operate. The Department of State provides information on selecting an adoption service provider on its website. However, in Jamaica, the CDA is the only agency legally authorized to provide adoption services.
To meet U.S. immigration requirements, you may also file an I-600A Application for Advance Processing of an Orphan Petition with U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services to be found eligible and suitable to adopt.
2. Be Matched with a Child
Once a prospective adoptive parent is found eligible to adopt from Jamaica, the CDA and the Adoption Board will assist in locating a child suitable for adoption. There are currently eight government child care facilities which the CDA directly manages and supports on behalf of the Government of Jamaica. The CDA also provides oversight and financial assistance to over 40 private homes. The CDA can assist in matching a prospective adoptive parent with a child from either a public or private home.
If the prospective adoptive parent has already identified a child they would like to adopt, the CDA will assess the child’s suitability for adoption. In all cases, the child must be eligible to be adopted according to Jamaica’s requirements, as described in the Who Can Be Adopted section. The child must also meet the definition of orphan under U.S. immigration law.
- Adoption Application: To initiate an adoption in Jamaica the prospective adoptive parents submit the pre-adoption application form to the CDA.
- Role of Adoption Authority: Once the CDA conducts their assessment of the child’s suitability for adoption, the CDA report is forwarded to the independent Jamaican Adoption Board which decides whether the adoption should be approved. The Adoption Board reviews the CDA’s report on the child as well as information on the prospective adoptive parent.
- Role of the Court: If the Jamaican Adoption Board approves the adoption, the case is sent to a family court which will review the relevant case facts and determine if the Adoption License or Adoption Order should be issued. In the Kingston, St. Andrew, Westmoreland, and St. James parishes, special Family Courts exercise jurisdiction over adoptions. In the remaining parishes, the local Resident Magistrate's Court supervises adoptions.
- Time Frame: Prospective adoptive parents seeking an Adoption License can usually complete an adoption in Jamaica in four months. Those seeking an Adoption Order may need more time, as Jamaican adoption regulations require a locally placed child to be supervised by local social workers for at least three months. However, the court may waive the pre-adoption placement requirement if the prospective adoptive parents are Jamaican nationals adopting a relative.
- Adoption Fees: Jamaica does not charge any fees for adoptions. However, each child is required to have an extensive physical before the child is found eligible for adoption by the Adoption Board. This is separate from the medical examination the child must undergo prior to obtaining an immigrant visa. Costs for the pre-adoption medical vary by physician, but can be up to $100 USD. Adoptive parents may have legal representation at the court proceeding, but most do not hire an attorney. Attorney fees will vary.
- Documents Required: The following documents are required to obtain an Adoption License:
- 1. Application form (available from the CDA);
- 2. Home Study – If the prospective adoptive parents are not resident in Jamaica, they should provide a certified original home study plus two additional copies to the Jamaican Adoption Board. These can be sent by the home study provider or the prospective adoptive parent. (In most cases, this can be the same home study conducted in the United States for the Form I-600A or I-600.);
- 3. Medical Examination (examination of both the prospective adoptive parents and the child);
- 4. Letter of Undertaking - The agency that conducted the home study submits a letter agreeing to supervise the placement until a full and final adoption is complete, and beyond, as determined on a case-by-case basis by the CDA;
- 5. Bank Statement; and
- 6. Letter(s) from Employer(s) - The letter(s) should indicate the prospective adoptive parents’ annual income and the nature of employment.
The following documents are required to obtain an Adoption Order:
- 1. Application form (available from the CDA);
- 3. Medical Examination (examination of both the prospective adoptive parents and the child);
- 4. Income Statement;
- 5. Personal References (two); and
- 6. Letter of Undertaking – If the prospective adoptive parents are resident in Jamaica, they should provide a letter of undertaking by the Jamaican agency that conducted the home study to supervise placement. NOTE: Additional documents may be requested.
- Authentication of Documents: You may be asked to provide proof that a document from the United States is authentic. If so, the Department of State, Authentications Office may be able to assist.
4. Apply for the Child to be Found Eligible for Orphan Status
After you finalize the adoption (or gain legal custody) in Jamaica, the Department of Homeland Security, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services must determine whether the child meets the definition of orphan under U.S. immigration law. You will need to file a Form I-600, Petition to Classify Orphan as an Immediate Relative.
5. Bring Your Child Home
Once your adoption is complete (or you have obtained legal custody of the child), there are several documents your child will require before you can apply for a U.S. immigrant visa to bring your child home to the United States:
- 1. Birth Certificate
If you have received a full Adoption Order from a Jamaican court, you can obtain the actual order on security paper from the Jamaican Register General’s Department (RGD). Once an Adoption Order is issued, the child’s previous birth record is sealed and the Adoption Order issued by RGD replaces the original birth certificate.
If you have been granted an Adoption License, the birth certificate will not be amended to include your child’s new name or your name. Instead, you should obtain from the RGD the child’s original birth certificate, which lists the child’s birth parents. The Adoption License will list the same name as that on the child’s original birth certificate, as will the child’s Jamaican passport.
To obtain a Jamaican birth certificate, prospective adoptive parents apply with the Jamaican Registrar General's Department (RGD). Parents may apply in person at any RGD office in Jamaica or by mail, including from the United States, although this is more expensive. Prices also differ based on whether the applicant can provide the RGD with a birth record number and whether the applicant requests express service.
- 2. Jamaican Passport
Your child is not yet a U.S. citizen, so he/she will need a travel document or passport from Jamaica.
The child must appear in person at the Jamaican Passport, Immigration and Citizenship Agency (PICA) unless he or she is less than three years old. The cost of applying for a passport is $2700 Jamaican (about $30 USD) for children up to the age of 18, and $4500 Jamaican (about $50 USD) for those over 18. Two passport photos must be presented along with the Adoption Order or License.
If the adoptive parents have received a full Adoption Order, they must appear with the child for the passport application. If the adoptive parents have received an Adoption License, representatives from the CDA will assist in obtaining the child’s passport and, in most cases, will appear with the child for the passport application without the presence of the adoptive parents.
Passports generally take seven business days to be issued, though, for additional fees, passports can be issued in three business days, or the following business day. For additional information, please visit the PICA website.
There are two Passport Offices able to accept applications in Jamaica: 25 Constant Spring Road, Kingston 10 Tel: 876-754-4742;
Overton Plaza, 49 Union Street, Montego Bay Tel: 876-952-5380
- 3. U.S. Immigrant Visa
After you obtain your child’s new birth certificate and passport and you have filed Form I-600, Petition to Classify Orphan as an Immediate Relative, you then need to apply for a U.S. immigrant visa for your child from the U.S. Embassy Jamaica. 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.
Once the U.S. Embassy Jamaica receives the approved Form I-600 from USCIS, the embassy will contact the prospective adoptive parent via phone or email to schedule the immigrant visa interview and provide instructions on obtaining the immigrant visa medical exam. The cost of the immigrant visa medical examination is $55 USD for children under 15 years and $110 USD for applicants 15 years and older, not including the cost of any vaccine the child may need.
Prospective adoptive parents are encouraged to email the embassy with any questions. The email addresses for the Immigrant Visa section are KingstonIV@state.gov and KingstonIVappointment@state.gov. You can also find instructions for applying for an immigrant visa on the U.S. Embassy Jamaica’s website.
NOTE: After the final interview visa issuance generally takes at least 24 hours, and it will not normally be possible to provide the visa to adoptive parents on the day of the interview. Please plan your travel accordingly.
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 Jamaica
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 Jamaica, 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 Jamaica, 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).
The CDA may, on a case-by-case basis, require the agency that conducted the home study to submit reports to the CDA on a regular basis for up to two years after an Adoption License is issued. Post-adoption reporting is not mandated in cases that receive Adoption Orders.
We strongly urge you to comply with Jamaica’s post-adoption requirements in a timely manner. Your adoption agency may be able to help you with this process. Your cooperation will contribute to that country’s positive experiences with U.S. citizen parents.
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 places to start your support group search:
NOTE: Inclusion of non-U.S. government links does not imply endorsement of contents.
U.S. Embassy Jamaica
148 Old Hope Rd. Kingston 6 Jamaica, West Indies Tel: 875-702-6000 Email: KingstonIV@state.gov Internet: U.S. Embassy in Jamaica
Mailing Address: 30 Munroe Road Kingston, 6 Jamaica
Jamaica’s Adoption Authority
Child Development Agency (CDA) 48 Duke Street Kingston, Jamaica Tel: 876-948-6678 Fax: 876-924-9401
Embassy of Jamaica
Jamaica also has Consulates and Consulate-Generals in Chicago, Miami, and New York City.
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