How to Adopt from Cameroon
Ministry of Social Affairs and the High Court (Tribunal de Grande Instance) having jurisdiction over the place of residence of the child to be adopted.
The process for adopting a child from Cameroon generally includes the following steps:
- Choose an Adoption Service Provider
- Apply to be Found Eligible to Adopt
- Be Matched with a Child
- Adopt the Child in Cameroon
- Apply for the Child to be Found Eligible for Adoption
- Bring Your Child Home
1.Choose an Adoption Service Provider:
The first step in adopting a child is usually to select a licensed agency in the United States that can help with your adoption. Adoption service providers must be licensed by the U.S. state in which they operate. Learn more about choosing the right adoption service provider. Cameroon does not have adoption agencies. In general, any orphanage may release an orphan for adoption. However, in order to help protect themselves and the children from the possibility of fraud or other serious problems, prospective adoptive parents are advised to consider the list of accredited orphanages available at the Ministry of Social Affairs. Parents wishing to hire a Cameroonian attorney to assist with the adoption can obtain a list of attorneys from the U.S. Embassy in Yaounde. Due to repeated scams involving the impersonation of legitimate lawyers or law offices, the Embassy has removed this information from its website. This information can be obtained by e-mailing the American Citizen Services Unit at YaoundeACS@state.gov.
2.Apply to be Found Eligible to Adopt:
To bring an adopted child from Cameroon to the United States, you must apply to be found eligible to adopt (Form I-600A) by the U.S. Government, Department of Homeland Security, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). Learn how. In addition to meeting the U.S. requirements for adoptive parents, you need to meet the requirements of Cameroon as described in the Who Can Adopt section.
3.Be Matched with a Child:
If you are eligible to adopt, and a child is available for intercountry adoption, the central adoption authority in Cameroon will provide you with a referral to a child. Each family must decide for itself whether or not it will be able to meet the needs of a particular child and provide a permanent family placement for the referred child. The child must be eligible to be adopted according to Cameroon's requirements, as described in the Who Can be Adopted section. The child must also meet the definition of an orphan under U.S. law. Learn more.
A social worker will be assigned to follow up the case and assist the prospective adoptive parents with identifying a child for adoption and monitoring the family during the foster care period. The local lawyer, if hired by the prospective adoptive parents, must also be involved in the process. The social worker's final report determines whether prospective adoptive parents can proceed with the case to the High Court. The adoptive parents may choose either to be present or to be represented by a lawyer during the hearing at the High Court.
4.Adopt the Child (or Gain Legal Custody) in Cameroon:
Under Cameroonian law, the High Court must determine that the following four criteria have been met before it can issue an adoption decree:
- 1. That every person whose consent is necessary has consented to and understands the nature and effect of the adoption. Such consent is irrevocable and permanently servers all legal ties between the biological parents and the child.
- 2. That the child's welfare will be improved by the adoption. Parents must provide proof of what they can provide for the child in a way that other cannot.
- 3. That no payment or reward has been the reason for the adoption.
- 4. That the prospective adoptive parent is healthy.
The process for finalizing the adoption (or gaining legal custody) in Cameroon generally includes the following:
- ROLE OF THE COURT: The High Court will consent to the adoption and issue a final adoption decree.
- ROLE OF ADOPTION AGENCIES: Cameroon does not have adoption agencies.
- TIME FRAME: Prospective adoptive parents should expect that a minimum of three months will pass between the date they submit their adoption application to the Ministry of Social Affairs and the date the High Court's Public Prosecutor completes his/her review of the file. Only when the review is completed will a hearing date be scheduled. In addition, a Cameroonian adoption is likely to be affected by administrative and judicial delays, insufficient or misplace paperwork, and other factors. Most parents have found that hiring a local attorney to monitor the case and keep pressure on the High Court has been crucial in expediting its processing. Once all of the Cameroonian procedures have been completed and an adoption decree has been issued, the U.S. Embassy requires a minimum of two weeks to complete the immigrant visa process and may need longer depending on the specific circumstances. This includes the mandatory I-604 orphan investigation to verify a child qualifies as an orphan.
- ADOPTION FEES: There are moderate court fees involved in the adoption, but legal fees for correct and complete adoptions typically run to several thousand USD.
- DOCUMENTS REQUIRED: The following documents are required for adoption in Cameroon:
- 1. Application bearing a 1000 FCFA (approximately $2 USD) fiscal stamp, addressed to the President of the High Court;
- 2. Certified copy of the child's Cameroonian birth certificate;
- 3. Biographic information of the biological parents of the child to be adopted;
- 4. Biographic information of the adoptive parents;
- 5. If applicable, a notarized deed of agreement from surviving biological parents, or the orphanage director having custody over the child and prospective adoptive parents; This deed expressly states that the child is released irrevocable for adoption;
- 6. Report of the home study (U.S. Home Study is acceptable);
- 7. Evidence of finances and income;
- 8. Legal authorization from the biological parents, if applicable;
- 9. Notarized affidavit of support of the child from the adoptive parents;
- 10. Deposit of 3,000 CFA Francs (approximately $6 USD) made at the court registry;
- 11. A separate, non-refundable deposit of 78,000 CFA Francs (approximately $160 USD) made at the court registry;
- 12. Written application;
- 13. Certified copy of the child's birth certificate;
- 14. Certified copy of the adoptive parents' identification;
- 15. Prison/court record clearance;
- 16. Adoptive parents' proof of residency; For married parents who do not meet the age requirements, they must bring a medical certificate attesting their infertility;
- 17. Medical certificate for the adoptive parents, attesting that they are medically fit;
- 18. Report of the social home study.
NOTE: Additional documents may be requested. If you are asked to provide proof that a document from the United States is authentic, we can help. Learn how.
5.Apply For The Child to be Found Eligible for Orphan Status:
After you finalize the adoption (or gain legal custody) in Cameroon, the U.S Government, Department of Homeland Security, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) MUST determine whether the child Qualifies as an orphan as defined by U.S. immigration law.
6.Bring Your Child Home:
Now that your adoption is complete (or you have obtained legal custody of the child), there are a few more steps to take before you can head home. Specifically, you need to apply for several documents for your child before he or she can travel to the United States:
- 1. Birth Certificate
You will first need to apply for a new birth certificate for your child, so that you can later apply for a passport. Your name will be added to the new birth certificate. Once the High Court consents to the adoption and issues a final decree, the American parents must obtain a new Cameroonian birth certificate, reflecting any name change. Post-adoption birth certificates are issued by the Civil Status Registry Center.
- 2. Cameroon Passport
Your child is not yet a U.S. citizen, so he/she will need a travel document or Passport from Cameroon. American parents must also obtain a new Cameroonian passport. The Cameroonian passport is issued by the immigration office in the district where the child lives. Each province has an immigration office that issues passports. The requirements for passports are several passport sized photographs, certified copies of the birth certificates, parents' consent, fess, and certified application form. The entire process can cost approximately 100,000 CFA Francs, approximately $200 USD.
- 3. U.S. Immigrant Visa
After the adoption (or custody for purpose of adoption) is granted and you have obtained a Cameroon passport for your child, you must visit the U.S. Embassy in Yaounde for your immigrant visa interview. The immigrant visa allows your child to travel home with you. Learn more.
If an I-600A was previously filed and approved by USCIS in the United States and the Embassy has received a notification of the approval (Visas 37 cable), the adoptive parent(s) can file the I-600 at the Embassy after the adoption is final. To do this, the adoptive parents come to the Embassy any Wednesday or Thursday, at 2:00 p.m. to get the Immigrant Visa instruction packet. The Embassy will need a minimum of two weeks to conduct the field investigation to confirm the adopted child meets the definition of an orphan, as defined by U.S. immigration law, and that the appropriate Cameroonian adoption procedure was followed.
Regarding the adoption procedure in Cameroon, please note that the U.S. Consulate will only accept final FULL/FULL adoption court judgment issued by the competent High Court having jurisdiction over the place of residence of the adoptee. Under no circumstance should a simple adoption be submitted during the processing of the immigrant visa. Therefore, the adoptive parent(s) should note the distinction between a simple adoption and a full adoption when applying to the High Court:
- 1. Simple Adoption (same as in French) does not confer a full custody to the adoptive parents over the adoptee. In other words, the adopted child maintains the link with his/her natural parents, who could revoke their consent at any time, and demand the child back.
- 2. Full Adoption (adoption plénière in French) gives legal custody to adoptive parent(s), cuts the link with the natural family, and is irrevocable. For this reason, and because the U.S. Immigration law requires a full adoption for immigration purposes, ONLY a FULL adoption (adoption plénière) decree granted by the Cameroonian High Court of the adoptee's place of residence is accepted at the Consular section of the US Embassy in Yaounde, during immigrant visa processing. This document must be accompanied a notarized letter of irrevocable release of the child issued and signed by the surviving parent(s), before a local Commissioner of Oaths.
If no I-600A was previously filed, then the Embassy does not have the authority to adjudicate an I-600. If resident in Cameroon, the adoptive parents can choose either to submit the I-600 to the Embassy, paying all fees with the Embassy cashier, and the Embassy will forward it on their behalf to the regional USCIS office in Accra, Ghana. The adoptive parents may also choose to go back to the U.S. without the child and file the I-600 domestically. Once the file is approved, it will be sent to the Embassy in Yaoundé for the final immigrant visa processing.
The Consular Section of the Embassy is on Avenue Rosa Parks. It is open from Monday to Thursday from 7:30 a.m. until 5:00 p.m., and Fridays from 7:30 a.m. until 12:30 p.m. The Consular Section is closed on U.S. and Cameroonian public holidays.
NOTE: Visa issuance after the final interview generally takes a minimum of one week and often several weeks due to the need for document verification. . Adoptive parents are encouraged to submit documentation for review before travelling to expedite issuance - and should verify current processing times at the appropriate consulate or embassy before making final travel arrangements.
Child Citizenship Act
For adoptions finalized abroad: The Child Citizenship Act of 2000 allows your new child to acquire U.S. citizenship automatically when he or she enters the United States on an IR-3 immigrant visa for the purpose of permanent legal residence.
For adoptions finalized in the United States: The Child Citizenship Act of 2000 allows a child who enters the United States on an IR-4 or IH-4 visa to acquire U.S. citizenship automatically when the court in the United States issues the final adoption decree.
NOTE: 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.
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