Adopting from Zimbabwe
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
Zimbabwe is not party to the Hague Convention on Protection of Children and Co-operation in Respect of Intercountry Adoption (the 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).
Zimbabwe’s adoption authority, the Ministry of Public Service, Labour and Social Welfare, prefers to place Zimbabwean children with parents of the same race. The Minister of Labour and Social Services must approve all interracial adoptions. In addition, the Zimbabwean government discourages intercountry adoptions and may make additional demands before finalizing an adoption for parents who are not citizens of Zimbabwe. Some of these additional demands include counseling for the prospective adoptive child and prospective adoptive parents, and requiring prospective adoptive parents to submit a completed home study report which includes visits by a Zimbabwean social worker to their place of residence. The home study that prospective adoptive parents submit to USCIS with their Form I-600A or I-600 normally suffices.
NOTE: Prospective adoptive parents not living in Zimbabwe must obtain a residency waiver from the Ministry of Public Service, Labour and Social Welfare before their adoption application is approved.
Adoptions where the birth parent(s) relinquish a child directly to the prospective adoptive parents are referred to as “nominated” or “directed” adoptions. Nominated or directed adoption is legal in Zimbabwe. However, this type of adoption may not meet the guidelines for immigration to the United States. Prospective adoptive parents involved in nominated or directed adoption should contact the U.S. Embassy in Harare before formalizing an adoption agreement to ensure that appropriate procedures have been followed that will make it possible for the Embassy to issue a U.S. immigrant visa to the adopted child.
U.S. IMMIGRATION REQUIREMENTS FOR INTERCOUNTRY ADOPTIONS
To bring an adopted child to the United States from Zimbabwe, 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. 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 Zimbabwe:
Prospective adoptive parents must be either citizens or legal residents of Zimbabwe. If the prospective adoptive parents do not live in Zimbabwe, they must request a waiver of the residency requirement from the Ministry of Public Service, Labour and Social Welfare.
Age of Adopting Parents
Married prospective adoptive parents must be at least 25 years older than the prospective adoptive child. Single women must be at least 21 years older. There are no other age restrictions for prospective adoptive parents. Please note, however, that an unmarried U.S. citizen must be at least 25 years of age when the Form I-600 Petition to Classify Orphan as an Immediate Relative is filed. If the unmarried U.S. citizen was not 25 years of age at the time of the actual adoption, the unmarried U.S. citizen must wait until his or her 25th birthday to file the petition. Form I-600 filing instructions.
Prospective adoptive parents adopting as a couple must be married. The Ministry of Public Service, Labour and Social Welfare must approve any exception to this requirement. With approval, single women may adopt any child eligible for adoption, but single men may only adopt family members. Income: Prospective adoptive parents must prove financial stability.
Adoption by gay, lesbian, or same-sex couples is not permitted. The approval of the Minister of Social Welfare is required for all interracial adoptions. All prospective adoptive parents must have a clean criminal record.
Who Can Be Adopted
In addition to U.S. immigration requirements, Zimbabwe has specific requirements that a child must meet in order to be eligible for adoption:
Relinquishment: Written consent to the adoption must be provided by each of the prospective adoptive child’s birth parents, who is living and can be located. The Ministry of Public Service, Labour and Social Welfare determines whether a child is eligible for adoption.
Abandonment: A child whose birth parents are deceased, or who was abandoned, is available for adoption at the determination of the Ministry of Public Service, Labour and Social Welfare. Death certificates are normally required in cases where the birth parents are deceased, to demonstrate the child’s orphan status. If the child was abandoned, evidence of abandonment may be required.
Age of Adoptive Child: The prospective child must be under 18 years of age. A waiver from the Ministry of Public Service, Labour and Social Welfare is required for children over the age of 18. Please note that in order for a child to meet the definition of orphan under U.S. immigration law, a Form I-600 petition must be filed while the child is under the age of 16 (or under the age of 18 if adopted or to be adopted together with a natural sibling under the age of 16).
Sibling Adoptions: None.
Waiting Period or Foster Care: The waiting period is normally a minimum of six months.
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
Zimbabwe’s Adoption Authority
Ministry of Public Service Labour and Social Welfare
The process for adopting a child from Zimbabwe generally includes the following steps:
1.Choose an adoption service provider 2.Apply to be found eligible to adopt 3.Be matched with a child 4.Adopt the child in Zimbabwe 5.Apply for the child to be found eligible for orphan status 6.Bring your child home
There are two tracks to adoption in Zimbabwe:
Track One – If the prospective adoptive parents have not yet identified a child, they may first file a general Application to Adopt at the Ministry of Public Service, Labour and Social Welfare headquarters in Zimbabwe. Once the application is approved, the Ministry of Public Service, Labour and Social Welfare will help to identify an appropriate child. The Ministry may recommend a particular child for adoption.
Track Two – If the prospective adoptive parents have identified the child they wish to adopt, they must visit the Social Services Office in their district to open a case file and file an application to adopt the child.
Note: Not every child in a Zimbabwean orphanage is eligible for adoption, and there is no central registry for identifying eligible children. Only by receiving authorization to adopt the child from the Ministry of Public Service, Labour and Social Welfare can the prospective adoptive parents conclude that the child is eligible for adoption.
1. Choose an Adoption Service Provider
The recommended first step in adopting a child from Zimbabwe is to decide whether or not to use a licensed adoption service provider in the United States that can help you with your 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.
Although anyone may submit documents on behalf of the prospective adoptive parent(s), they may not act on behalf of the prospective adoptive parent. This means the prospective adoptive parents must be present in Zimbabwe during all of the key steps in the adoption process, including identification of the child, obtaining documentation, and all administrative and court proceedings. Adoptions can only be facilitated through the Ministry of Public Service, Labour and Social Welfare. A Zimbabwean court order without the recommendation of the Ministry is not considered a legal adoption and will not be considered valid for U.S. immigration purposes. All prospective adoptive parents should begin the adoption process with the Ministry or their district Social Welfare Officer.
2. Apply to be Found Eligible to Adopt
In order to adopt a child from Zimbabwe, you will need to meet the requirements of the Government of Zimbabwe and U.S. immigration law. You must submit an application to be found eligible to adopt with the Ministry of Public Service Labor and Social Welfare of Zimbabwe.
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.
3. Be Matched with a Child
If you are eligible to adopt, and a child is available for intercountry adoption, the central adoption authority or other authorized entity in Zimbabwe will provide you with a referral. Each family must decide for itself whether or not it will be able to meet the needs of and provide a permanent home for a particular child.
The child must be eligible to be adopted according to Zimbabwe’s requirements, as described in the Who Can Be Adopted section. The child must also meet the definition of an orphan under U.S. immigration law.
If the prospective adoptive parents have not already identified a child for adoption, the Ministry of Public Service, Labour and Social Welfare will assist them in identifying an appropriate child.
As mentioned above, adoptions involving birth parent(s) who relinquish a child directly to the prospective adoptive parents (referred to as “nominated” or “directed” adoptions) are legal in Zimbabwe, but such adoptions may not meet the guidelines for immigration to the United States.
The process for finalizing the adoption in Zimbabwe generally includes the following:
- ROLE OF THE ADOPTION AUTHORITY: The Ministry of Public Service, Labour and Social Welfare approves the general application to adopt and refers the case to the Juvenile Court.
- ROLE OF THE COURT: The Juvenile Court reviews the case. If approved, the court will issue an adoption order and release the child for immigration.
- ROLE OF ADOPTION AGENCIES: Licensed attorneys, adoption service providers, or anyone else may submit documents on behalf of the prospective adoptive parent(s) but may not act on behalf of the prospective adoptive parent.
- ADOPTION APPLICATION: Prospective adoptive parents who have not identified a child should submit the general application to adopt to the Ministry of Public Service, Labour and Social Welfare' district office where they live. If the prospective adoptive parents have identified a child, they must visit the Ministry of Public Service, Labour and Social Welfare Office in their district to open a case file and have an officer assigned to work on the prospective adoptive parents' case.
NOTE: Prospective adoptive parents who do not live in Zimbabwe must obtain a residency waiver from the Ministry of Public Service, Labour and Social Welfare before the adoption application can be approved. TIME FRAME: Adoptions in Zimbabwe can take anywhere from three months to seven years once the Application to Adopt has been approved and a child has been identified. An increasing number of prospective adoptive parents abandon their plans to adopt a Zimbabwean child due to serious bureaucratic delays within the Ministry of Public Service, Labour and Social Welfare and the Juvenile Courts. Wait times for Caucasian and mixed-race children can take considerably longer. ADOPTION FEES: Neither the Government of Zimbabwe nor the courts charge adoption fees. Adoptive parents pay a fee of approximately U.S. $2 to the Registrar General's Office of Births and Deaths (located in Harare or Bulawayo) for the child's birth certificate. DOCUMENTS REQUIRED: The following documents are required to adopt a child from Zimbabwe:
- 1. Identity documents (passport, birth certificate, etc.);
- 2. Marriage certificate;
- 3. Police clearances from both the United States and Zimbabwe;
- 4. Supporting documents attesting to the prospective adoptive parent's eligibility and suitability to adopt, such as an approved U.S. home study report;
- 5. Three or four references from non-relatives of the prospective adoptive parents (required as part of the Application to Adopt). 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.
5. Apply for the Child to be Found Eligible for Orphan Status
After you finalize the adoption in Zimbabwe, the Department of Homeland Security, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services must determine whether the child meets the definition of orphan under U.S. law. You will need to file a Form I-600, Petition to Classify Orphan as an Immediate Relative.
6. Bring Your Child Home
Once your adoption is complete, you need to apply for several documents for your child 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 finalized the adoption in Zimbabwe, you will first need to apply for a new birth certificate for your child. Your name will be added to the new birth certificate.
- 2. Zimbabwe Passport
Your child is not yet a U.S. citizen, so he/she will need a travel document or passport from Zimbabwe.
Applications for Zimbabwe passports are made through the Registrar General's district offices. The following fees apply: U.S. $50 for routine processing, which takes more than a month to process; U.S. $318 for expedited processing, which takes one day to process; and U.S. $253 for a passport, which takes about three working days to process. Below is a list of telephone numbers for Zimbabwe District Offices. The U.S. Embassy in Harare notes that it may be more efficient for prospective adoptive parents to go in person to apply for a Zimbabwean passport because at times, these telephones are not answered:
- 3. U.S. Immigrant Visa
After you obtain the new birth certificate and passport for your child 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 United States Embassy in Harare. 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.
You can find instructions for applying for an immigrant visa on the Embassy Harare’s website.
NOTE: Prospective adoptive parents must have an approved Form I-600 petition before the U.S. Embassy in Harare can issue an immigrant visa. A parent who has an approved Form I-600A may file their Form I-600 either with USCIS domestically or in person at Consular Section of the U.S. Embassy in Harare.
If only one spouse is traveling to Harare, he or she must sign the Form I-600 petition under oath before a consular officer. The parent who is not traveling must sign the petition after all of the information related to the child has been entered onto the form. Either spouse may sign the Form I-600 application as the “prospective petitioner” with the other signing as the “spouse,” unless the married couple consists of one U.S. citizen and one non-citizen, in which case the U.S. citizen must be the “prospective petitioner” on both Forms I-600A and I-600 and sign the application before the consular officer. A third party may not sign or file the petition on behalf of the prospective adoptive parents, even with their Power of Attorney.
All immigrant visas are processed at the U.S. Embassy in Harare by appointment only on Tuesdays. Applicants can walk in for information or to submit documents Monday through Thursday from 2:00 p.m. until 3:00 p.m. The Consular Section answers telephone inquiries Monday through Thursday from 2:00 p.m. until 4:00 p.m. (Tel: 263-4-250593/4). Specific questions about adoption in Zimbabwe may be addressed via email to the U.S. Embassy in Harare, Zimbabwe at email@example.com.
NOTE: Visa issuance after the final interview generally takes at least 24 hours. It is not normally possible to provide the visa to adoptive parents on the same day as the immigrant visa interview. Adoptive parents should verify current processing times with the U.S. Embassy in Harare before making final travel arrangements.
Child Citizenship Act
For adoptions finalized abroad: The Child Citizenship Act of 2000 allows your new child to acquire American citizenship automatically when he or she enters the United States as lawful permanent residents.
For adoptions finalized in the United States: The Child Citizenship Act of 2000 allows your new child to acquire American citizenship automatically when the court in the United States issues the final adoption decree.
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.
Learn more about the Child Citizenship Act.
Applying for Your U.S. Passport
A valid U.S. passport is required to enter and leave Zimbabwe. 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 Your Visa
In addition to a U.S. passport, you 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 attached to your passport and allow you to enter a foreign nation. To find information about obtaining a visa for Zimbabwe, see the Department of State's Country Specific Information.
Staying Safe on Your Trip
Before you travel, it's always a good practice to investigate the local conditions, laws, political landscape, and culture of the country. The State Department is a good place to start. 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 register your trip with the Department of State. Travel registration makes it possible to contact you if necessary. Whether there's a family emergency in the United States, or a crisis in Zimbabwe, registration assists the U.S. Embassy or Consulate in reaching you. Registration is free and can be done online.
What resources are available to assist families after the adoption?
Many adoptive parents find it important to find support after the adoption. Take advantage of all the resources available to your family -- whether it's 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:
U.S. Embassy in Zimbabwe
American Embassy 172 Herbert Chitepo Avenue Harare, Zimbabwe Tel: 263-4-250593/4 Fax: 263- 4-250343 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org Internet: U.S. Embassy Zimbabwe
Zimbabwe’s Adoption Authority
Ministry of Public Service, Labour and Social Welfare Harare Central District Social Welfare Office P.O. Box CY 562 Causeway Bulawayo: +236-9-465-567 Gweru: +263-54-225-526/223-037/226-742 Masvingo: +263-39-263-476/263-478 Mutare : +263-20-64-416/60-805
Embassy of Zimbabwe
Office of Children's Issues
U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS)
For questions about immigration procedures, call the National Customer Service Center (NCSC)
1-800-375-5283 (TTY 1-800-767-1833)