Ethiopia and the Hague Convention
Ethiopia 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).
Ethiopia participates in a Pre-Adoption Immigration Review (PAIR) program. The PAIR program requires prospective adoptive parents receive a preliminary determination on the child’s likely immigration eligibility prior to filing an adoption case with a court. This preliminary determination, referred to as the PAIR process, provides the foreign courts and relevant government authorities with information regarding a child’s likely eligibility to immigrate to the United States before the court enters an order establishing a permanent legal relationship between the U.S. citizen parent(s) and the child. The Ministry of Women Children and Youth Affairs (MOWCYA) will not issue an adoption approval letter to the Federal First Instance Court for entry of a final adoption decree until MOWCYA has received a letter indicating that USCIS has completed a PAIR review. To enable prospective adoptive parents adopting from Ethiopia to comply with Ethiopia’s new criterion, USCIS has issued a policy memo allowing prospective adoptive parents to file a Form I-600, Petition to Classify Orphan as an Immediate Relative, before filing an adoption proceeding with Ethiopian courts.
Following the receipt of a PAIR letter from USCIS and subsequent issuance of a foreign adoption decree, prospective adoptive parents must submit the foreign adoption decree and the child’s travel and identity documents to the U.S. Embassy in Addis Ababa which will then complete the final review of their Form I-600 and visa processing. If the U.S. Embassy finds the case is not clearly approvable, it will return the case to USCIS for further action. Prospective adoptive parents should pay special attention to the process described below as it differs from other non-Hague and Hague countries. Beginning on September 1, 2013, the Ethiopian government will require a PAIR letter from USCIS in all U.S. adoption cases.
Media reports in recent years alleging direct recruitment of children from birth parents by adoption service providers or their employees remain a serious concern for the Department of State. The U.S. Embassy in Addis Ababa will continue its heightened scrutiny of adoption visa processing under the PAIR program. The required Form I-604 investigation, Determination on Child for Adoption – sometimes referred to as the orphan investigation, will still occur, but at an earlier stage in the Ethiopian adoption process. The U.S. Embassy will work with adoptive parents and their adoption agency to ensure that each case is processed in the most expeditious manner possible in accordance laws and regulations.
U.S. IMMIGRATION REQUIREMENTS FOR INTERCOUNTRY ADOPTIONS
To bring an adopted child to the United States from Ethiopia, 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.
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