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How to Adopt from China

The Dragon Gate Gorge near Wushan on the Daning River.
Source: cia.gov.

Adoption Authority

Chinese Adoption Authority

The China Centre of Adoption Affairs (CCCWA)


The Process

Because China is party to the Hague Adoption Convention, adopting from China must follow a specific process designed to meet the Convention's requirements. A brief summary of the Convention adoption process is given below. You must complete these steps in the following order so that your adoption meets all necessary legal requirements. Note: If you filed your I-600a with China before April 1, 2008, the Hague Adoption Convention may not apply to your adoption. Your adoption could continue to be processed in accordance with the immigration regulations for non-Convention adoptions. Read about Transition Cases for more information.


  1. Choose an Accredited Adoption Service Provider
  2. Apply to be Found Eligible to Adopt
  3. Be Matched with a Child
  4. Apply for the Child to be Found Eligible for Immigration to the United States
  5. Adopt the Child in China
  6. Bring your Child Home


1.Choose an Accredited Adoption Service Provider:


The first step in adopting a child from China is to select an adoption service provider in the United States that has been accredited. Only these agencies and attorneys can provide adoption services between the United States and China. Learn about Working with an Adoption Service. Many U.S. adoption agencies are very familiar with Chinese adoption procedures and may have specific advice for their own clients, such as how best to submit applications to the CCCWA or when to travel to China. In addition to reading the information here for a basic outline of Chinese and U.S. procedures, check with your particular adoption agency to obtain more information about its own procedures during the Chinese adoption process.


A CCCWA-licensed agency may submit adoption applications directly to the CCCWA for consideration. A listing of CCCWA-licensed agencies can be found on http://www.china-ccaa.org/. Included with the application should be all the required documents along with authentications and translations.


Please note: Prospective adoptive families must use an agency that is both U.S. Hague accredited and a CCCWA-licensed agency for all steps in the intercountry adoption process in both transition cases and Convention cases.


2.Apply to be Found Eligible to Adopt

After you choose an accredited adoption service provider, you apply to be found eligible to adopt (Form I-800A) by the U.S. Government, Department of Homeland Security, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). Read more about Eligibility Requirements.


Once USCIS determines that you are "eligible" and "suitable" to adopt, your adoption service provider will submit your adoption application to the CCCWA, including any preferences you may have about the child's age, sex, physical/medical condition, or region of origin within China. This application package should also include a cover letter.


The CCCWA will review your application to determine whether you are eligible to adopt under Chinese law. It will also advise prospective adoptive parent(s), either directly or through their adoption agency, if additional documents or authentications are required.


3.Be Matched with a Child:

If both the United States and China determine that you are eligible to adopt, and a child is available for intercountry adoption, the central adoption authority in China may provide you with a referral for a child. Each family must decide for itself whether or not it will be able to meet the needs of the particular child and provide a permanent family placement for the referred child.


Once the CCCWA approves the application, it matches the application with a specific child. The CCCWA then sends the prospective adoptive parent(s) a letter of introduction about the child, including photographs and the child's health record. This document is commonly called a 'referral.' Prospective adoptive parents who still have questions about the child after reviewing this information may follow up with the CCCWA either directly or via their adoption agency.


Prospective adoptive parents either accept or refuse a referral and send the document to their agency, which forwards it to CCCWA. CCCWA requires a response on a referral within 45 days of sending a referral to a family. If prospective adoptive parents are considering refusing a referral they should discuss with their agency the possibility of getting a second referral. (Please note that all communications with CCCWA must be done via your adoption agency.) CCCWA will only accept referral rejections if there is a justified explanation provided. If the reason for the rejection is considered justifiable, such as a medical need that the prospective adoptive parents feel they cannot meet, the CCCWA may refer the second child to the prospective adoptive parents within a month's time. If CCCWA regards the rejection as unreasonable, the prospective adoptive parents will have difficulty obtaining a second referral and CCCWA may suggest that the prospective adoptive parents withdraw their application for adoption in China.


Requirements for Adopting Children with Special Needs or Medical Conditions: Once prospective adoptive parents decide to accept a special needs referral, they have 72 hours to fill out the necessary forms to complete their dossier. Prospective adoptive parents can review the case, including the medical and growth records and a photo of the child. The reason the child is designated special needs is documented and the prospective adoptive parents can decide if they can meet the child's needs; for example, whether their insurance would cover the child's medical needs, and whether they themselves are able to provide any educational or rehabilitative needs, etc. If the prospective adoptive parents decide they are able to meet this child's needs, they indicate such to the CCCWA and from that point onward they have 72 hours to fill out the necessary forms to complete the dossier. The reason this short time limit is set is so that the child is not taken off the list until a family is truly committed to adopt that child. If the prospective adoptive parents have not completed the forms and submitted them within 72 hours, the child's name goes back on the list and other prospective adoptive parents can review that child's file. For detailed information about special needs programs, please consult your adoption service provider.


4.Apply for the Child to be Found Eligible for Adoption:

After you accept a match with a child, you will apply to the U.S Government, Department of Homeland Security, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) for provisional approval to adopt that particular child (Form I-800). USCIS will determine whether the child is eligible under U.S. law to be adopted and enter the United States.


The adoption service provider then submits the child's visa application (DS-260) to the U.S. Consulate General Guangzhou's Adopted Children's Immigrant Visa Unit (ACIVU). The ACIVU requires that a copy of the NVC notification letter to parents stating the I-800 has been sent to the consulate be included with documents submitted by facilitators for Hague case Article 5 issuances. The ACIVU officer will review the child's information and evaluate the case for possible visa ineligibilities. If the officer determines that the child appears eligible to immigrate to the United States, he/she will notify China's adoption authority via the "Article 5" letter, which the adoption agency will forward to the CCCWA. For Convention country adoptions, prospective adoptive parent(s) may not proceed with the adoption or obtain custody for the purpose of adoption until this takes place.


NOTE: The ACIVU does not issue the child's visa during the Article 5 process. The Consular Officer will make the final adjudication of the immigrant visa later in the adoption process.


For every case, CCCWA now provides prospective adoptive parents with a "Letter of Seeking Confirmation from the Adopter" and a "Letter of Seeking Confirmation from the U.S. Central Authority" at the time the referral is sent. This does not significantly impact adoptions initiated before April 1, 2008 (transition cases). CCCWA has assured the Department of State that even though they officially consider all adoption cases to be Convention cases as of January 1, 2009, the actual process for transition cases will not significantly change. For transition cases, families will continue to sign and return the "Letter of Seeking Confirmation from the Adopter" but no action is required on the "Letter of Seeking Confirmation from the U.S. Central Authority."


After the ACIVU has issues an Article 5 letter and the adoption service provider submits the letter to the CCCWA, the CCCWA will then issue a "Travel Approval" CCCWA("Notice of Coming to China for Adoption") to the agency, who will forward this information on to the family. This document will bear the "chops," or red-inked seals of the CCCWA. Prospective adoptive parents must have this approval notice in hand before departing for China to finalize the adoption.


Only at this point the adoption agency may submit an immigrant visa appointment request to the ACIVU. Once prospective adoptive parents have received confirmation of their ACIVU immigrant visa appointment, they may travel to China. Once in China they may proceed directly to the city in China where the Civil Affairs Bureau with jurisdiction over the appropriate Children's Welfare Institute is located.


Although the CCCWA is headquartered in Beijing, prospective adoptive parents will not be required to travel to Beijing during this process. The CCCWA will have already forwarded a copy of the adoption approval notice to the locality where the child resides. Local Child Welfare Institutes, provincial Civil Affairs officials and Chinese notarial offices will not process adoptions unless they have seen this notice allowing the prospective adoptive parents take legal custody of the child.


5. Adopt the Child (or Gain Legal Custody) in China

NOTE: Before you adopt (or gain legal custody of) a child in China, you must have completed the above four steps. Only after completing these steps, can you proceed to finalize the adoption or grant of custody for the purposes of adoption in China.


The process for finalizing the adoption (or gaining legal custody) in China generally includes the following:


  • Role of The Adoption Authority: The provincial Departments of Civil Affairs, which are administered by the Ministry of Civil Affairs, issue the final adoption certificate.
  • Adoption Fees: Fees charged by Chinese authorities in connection with foreign adoptions may vary depending on the province where the child is adopted. However, for each adoption, there are standard fees that adoptive parents must pay. The authentication/legalization of documents by the Chinese Embassy or Consulate in the United States costs $10 USD per document, whether the document is one or multiple pages. The fee is for authentication of the seal. The initial CCCWA fee is $750 USD, plus $300 USD for translation of the documents submitted in the dossier. The translations can be done in the United States or China, however, the CCCWA advises that the translations must be "correct" and that CCCWA will "rectify," and charge for correcting any errors. Fees for issuance of the Chinese-notarized certificate approving the adoption, birth certificate and abandonment certificate may vary based on province. NOTE: These documents normally come together in a packet notarized by the provincial notary office. The Guangzhou Consulate no longer requests the notarized adoption certificate but still requires the birth certificate and abandonment certificate to be notarized. Many provincial notary offices still issue these three notaries as a package. Additional documents such as death certificates, for the orphan's parents, or additional investigation is not included in this fee. Chinese passports cost $25 USD for the normal 15-working-day issuance. Charges for expedited service differ by province. Individual Children's Welfare Institutes (where the child lived prior to adoption) may charge from $5000 USD to $5000 USD as a combined donation to the institution and a fee for caring for the child. U.S. adoptive parent(s) who believe that they were compelled at any point during the adoption process to pay exorbitant fees out of keeping with the general outline provided in this flyer should notify the U.S. Consulate General in Guangzhou. In the adoption services contract that you sign at the beginning of the adoption process, your agency will itemize the fees and estimated expenses related to your adoption process. Learn more.
  • Documents Required: The following documents should be submitted in the original dossier:
1. Adoption application letter;
2. Birth certificate(s) of the prospective adoptive parent(s);
3. Marital status statement - Either a marriage certificate, divorce or death certificate (if applicable) or statement of single status is required;
4. Certificates of profession, income and property including; verification of employment and salary notarized and authenticated; a certified and authenticated copy of your property trust deeds, if applicable(not notarized?); Bank statements notarized/certified and authenticated;
5. Health examination certificate(s) of the prospective adoptive parent(s);
6. Certificate(s) of criminal or no-criminal record - A certificate of good conduct for the adoptive parent(s) from a local police department notarized or bearing the police department seal and authenticated. An FBI report is acceptable in lieu of a local police record. This is separate from the FBI check conducted by USCIS as part of the petition process. You can request an FBI record check by sending two sets of fingerprints, an $18 money order, your full name, date and place of birth, social security number and letter of request explaining purpose for clearance to: FBI ID Division, Room 10104, Washington, DC 20537-9700. The FBI certificate should also be authenticated;
7. Home study report;
8. Certificate of child adoption approval by the competent department of the adopter's country of residence, also known as the Department of Homeland Security Bureau of Citizenship and Immigration Services I-171H Notice of Approval of an I-600A petition) along with copies of the U.S. passport(s) of the prospective adoptive parent(s);
9. Each applicant parent should also submit two front-view photos and several other photos reflecting the family's life in the United States;
10. Power of attorney notarized and authenticated (if only one spouse will travel to China). In case of married couples, if only one adopting parent comes to China, Chinese law requires that the spouse traveling bring a power of attorney from his/her spouse, notarized and properly authenticated by Chinese Embassy or one of the Chinese Consulates General in the United States.


NOTE: Additional documents may be requested. You may be asked to provide proof that a document from the United States is authentic, read more on Traveling Abroad to learn about Authenticating U.S. Documents.


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.

2. Chinese Passport

Your child is not yet a U.S. citizen, so he/she will need a travel document or Passport from China. The Public Security Bureau in the locality where the adoption takes place is responsible for issuing Chinese passports and exit permits to children adopted by U.S. citizens and other foreigners.

3. U.S. Immigrant Visa

After you obtain the new birth certificate and passport for your child, you also need to apply for an U.S. visa from the United States Consulate General for your child. After the adoption (or custody for purpose of adoption) is granted, visit the U.S Consulate General for final review and approval of the child's I-800 petition and to obtain a visa for the child. 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 if it was not provided during the provisional approval stage. Learn more.


Please visit the ACIVU's website for the latest information on appointment scheduling and visa procedures.


Please note: As part of this process, the Consular Officer must be provided the "Panel Physician's" medical report on the child if it was not provided during the provisional approval stage. A physician from an approved list of doctors ("panel physicians") must perform the medical examination that the adoptive child needs as part of the immigrant visa process. The medical examination can be performed in Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou, or Taishan. The most convenient site for medical examinations in Guangzhou is: Guangzhou Health and Quarantine Service, a modest walk from the main U.S Consulate General building, located at 33 Shamian North Road, telephone: 020-8188-9513. The panel physician reports the results of the examination using a form provided by the Adopted Children's Immigrant Visa Unit that will be given to the prospective adoptive parent(s) and to adoption facilitator.


On July 1, 2009, the U.S. Consulate General in Guangzhou's panel physicians began using the Center for Disease Control and Prevention's (CDC) 2007 Tuberculosis Technical Instructions (TB TIs) for the TB medical screening for all immigrant visa applicants from China, including adopted children. The 2007 TB TIs include new requirements that affect the pace at which some adoption cases can be concluded. Please visit the CDC's website at http://www.cdc.gov/ncidod/dq/panel_2007.htm for further information regarding the 2007 Technical Instructions for Tuberculosis Screening and Treatment for Panel Physicians.


Child Citizenship Act


For adoptions finalized abroad: The Child Citizenship Act of 2000 allows your child to acquire American citizenship when he or she enters the United States as lawful permanent residents.

For adoptions to be finalized in the United States: The Child Citizenship Act of 2000 allows your child to typically acquire American citizenship when the U.S. state court issues the final adoption decree. We urge your family to finalize the adoption in a U.S. State court as quickly as possible.


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.

Back to Adopting from China

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