How to Adopt from Bosnia and Herzegovina
Bosnia and Herzegovina consists of two entities: the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina and Republika Srpska. Family law governing adoption is within the competence of those entities, and, therefore, two ministries mentioned below are the adoption authorities for the relevant entity.
FOR REPUBLIKA SRPSKA Ministry of Health and Social Welfare of the Republika Srpska.
Please note that in Brcko District cases, the decision on adoptions by foreign citizens is the responsibility the District’s Department of Health, Sub-Division for Social Welfare. This department is equivalent to a ministry in the entities.
The process for adopting a child from Bosnia and Herzegovina generally includes the following steps:
- Contact a Social Services Center in Bosnia and Herzegovina
- Apply to be found eligible to adopt
- Be matched with a child
- Adopt the child in Bosnia and Herzegovina
- Apply for the child to be found eligible for orphan status
- Bring your child home
1. Contact a Social Services Center in Bosnia and Herzegovina
The recommended first step in adopting a child from Bosnia and Herzegovina is to contact a Social Services Center in country. There are no U.S. adoption agencies operating in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Prospective adoptive parents may contact the Social Services Center in the area where they plan to adopt directly. However, U.S. citizens considering adopting from Bosnia and Herzegovina may choose to work with a U.S. adoption agency to assist them with the U.S. portions of the process. The U.S. Embassy in Sarajevo also maintains a list of attorneys that may be useful. Prospective adoptive parents may contact the Embassy directly for a copy of that list.
2. Apply to be Found Eligible to Adopt
In order to adopt a child from Bosnia and Herzegovina; you will need to meet the requirements of the Government of Bosnia and Herzegovina and U.S. immigration law. You must submit an application to be found eligible to adopt with the municipal Center for Social Work of Bosnia and Herzegovina. A home study conducted by the municipal Center for Social Work is required in all adoptions. You must 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 Bosnia and Herzegovina 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 Bosnia and Herzegovina’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.
The process for finalizing the adoption (or gaining legal custody) in Bosnia and Herzegovina generally includes the following: Prospective adoptive parents who wish to apply to adopt a particular child can do so by contacting the Center for Social Work of the municipality/district in which the child is a resident and submitting the documents listed below. [Note: The Center for Social Work is the Bosnian equivalent of the county or municipal social services department in the United States.] Prospective adoptive parents who do not have a particular child in mind can contact the Center for Social Work for a designated area to inquire if there are any children eligible for adoption.
If the Center affirms that a child is eligible for adoption, the Center will request the documents listed below to determine the eligibility of the prospective adoptive parent(s). It should be noted that Bosnian law gives absolute priority in adoption to citizens of Bosnia and Herzegovina who live in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Citizens of Bosnia and Herzegovina who live abroad are potentially eligible, and foreign citizens only exceptionally (typically when there is a compelling medical need and the Social Work Center assesses that the child could get better care abroad).
Once the Center reaches a decision, they forward the application package to the appropriate entity’s adoption authority with their recommendation. The Ministry is supposed to reach a decision about a request for adoption within two months. Once the Ministry makes a decision, it is sent back to the Center that accepted the application. If the decision is favorable, the prospective adoptive parents must be personally present at the official ceremony (act) of adoption. This is an official act signed by the adoptive parents in person and representatives of the government. It takes place at the Center for Social Work. The court then issues an official decision or decree ratifying the proceedings conducted by the Center for Social Work. The court does not have the authority to overrule the Ministry's decision.
- Role of Adoption Authority: The entity Ministry will make the final decision, upon the referral (proposal) of the Center for Social Work.
- Role of the Court: The court will issue an official decree ratifying the proceedings conducted by the Center for Social Work.
- Role of Adoption Agencies: There are no U.S. adoption agencies operating in Bosnia and Herzegovina.
- Adoption Application: There is no specific application form. Prospective adoptive parent(s) must write a signed letter to the relevant Center for Social Work providing basic information about themselves. It may be submitted by mail or through an authorized representative.
- Time Frame: It can take several years for a prospective adoptive parent to be matched with a child. After both the prospective adoptive parents and the child have met the requirements for adoption, the child and the prospective adoptive family have an adaptation period of six months. This is mandatory and must take place on the territory of Bosnia and Herzegovina. During this time, a social worker visits the family regularly. In cases involving children with special needs, who need special medical care, exceptions to this rule may be made but on a case by case basis. Only after the assessment of the social worker is complete will the final decision on adoption be made.
- Adoption Fees: None
- Documents Required: The application must be accompanied by the following documents about each of the adoptive parents:
- 1. Certified Birth certificate;
- 2. Certified Marriage certificates (if applicable). Medical certificate of good health, preferably provided by a hospital or general practice clinic, rather than a private physician;
- 3. Proof of citizenship (naturalization certificate, certified copy of a birth certificate, or passport);
- 4. Police certificate (i.e., certificate that no criminal record exists) issued by local law enforcement authorities from every place of residence where the applicant has lived for more than a year since the age of 18;
- 5. Court certificate (i.e., certificate proving that the prospective adoptive parent is not under any court investigation at the present time);
- 6. Certificate about capacity for gainful employment. This should take the form of a resume of previous employment records, and an original letter (on official stationery) signed by the current employer, stating the job title, if the position is full- or part-time, how long the person has been employed and the salary;
- 7. Certificate proving that the prospective adoptive parent has never been charged with child neglect or abuse. This may take the form of an official letter from the local department of child welfare;
- 8. Documents identifying the prospective adoptive parent's income and property;
- 9. Home study (social worker's analysis) about the prospective adoptive family, including its ability to care for a child. For non-Bosnian applicants, including Americans, the social services department of the applicant's country must conduct the study. All original documents and the application letter must be in English and each must be accompanied by a translation into Bosnian/Serbian/Croatian with a certified translation. The U.S. Embassy in Sarajevo can provide a list of court translators. The Embassy itself cannot, however, do the translations.NOTE: Additional documents may be requested.
- 10. Authentication of Documents: The United States and Bosnia and Herzegovina are parties to the Hague Apostille Convention. U.S. public documents may be authenticated with Apostilles by the appropriate U.S. Competent Authority.
5. Apply for the Child to be Found Eligible for Orphan Status
After you finalize the adoption (or gain legal custody) in Bosnia and Herzegovina, 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 (or you have obtained legal custody of the child), 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 been granted custody for the purpose of adopting the child in the United States, the birth certificate you obtain will, in most cases, not yet include your name.
In order to obtain a new birth certificate for your child, take the adoption decree and the child's original birth certificate to the Municipality - Registrar's Office in the town where the child was born (where his/her original birth certificate was issued). The adoptive parent's marriage certificate and identification cards (or passports) are required.
- 2. Bosnia and Herzegovina Passport
Your child is not yet a U.S. citizen, so he/she will need a travel document or passport from Bosnia and Herzegovina.
- Child's birth certificate not older than 6 months;
- Parents’ I.D.’s or passports;
- Payment of KM 40;
- Old passport, if applicable;
- Passport application can be submitted in person only; the child has to be present as well; both parents have to sign the application and present their I.D. cards or passports at that time.
The legal deadline for issuance of a passport from the day of application is 30 days; in practice, it usually takes about two weeks.
- 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 Sarajevo. 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 Sarajevo Embassy website.
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.