How to Adopt from Colombia
Colombian Central Authority
BIENESTAR FAMILIAR (ICBF)
Because Colombia is a member of the Hague Adoption Convention, adopting from Colombia 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 to meet all necessary legal requirements for adoption.
NOTE: If you filed your I-600A with Colombia before April 1, 2008, the Hague Adoption Convention does not apply to your adoption; it could continue to be processed in accordance with the immigration regulations for orphan adoptions. Learn more.
- Choose an Accredited Adoption Service Provider
- Apply to be Found Eligible to Adopt
- Be Matched with a Child
- Apply for the Child to be Found Eligible for Adoption
- Adopt the Child in Colombia
- Bring your Child Home
1.Choose an Accredited Adoption Service Provider:
The first step in adopting a child from Colombia is to select an accredited or approved adoption service provider in the United States. Only these agencies and attorneys can provide adoption services between the United States and Colombia. Learn more. Once prospective adoptive parents decide that Colombia is the nation from which they wish to adopt, they must first contact the ICBF, or an accredited adoption service provider in Colombia, in order to obtain a list of adoption service provider in the United States, nearest to the couple's place of residence, that are accredited by both the Colombian and U.S. Governments.
An accredited adoption service provider will conduct the home study and assist the prospective adoptive parents in preparing the paperwork necessary for Homeland Security, Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).
NOTE: Many of the documents required for the Form I-800A are the same as those required by ICBF, so it is wise to review both lists to avoid duplicating efforts.
2.Apply to be Found Eligible to Adopt
After you choose an accredited adoption agency, 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). Learn more. Please note that if you reside in Colombia, you should contact the U.S. Embassy in Bogotá for instructions. Anyone with questions may contact the embassy any working day from 2:00 p.m. to 3:30 p.m. and ask for the person responsible for processing visas for adopted children.
Once the U.S. Government determines you "eligible" and "suitable" to be an adoptive parent, you or your adoption service provider will forward your information to ICBF in Colombia. The Central Authority will review your application to determine whether you are also eligible to adopt under Colombian law.
Once USCIS has approved the documentation, parents must compile the following list of documents for submission to the ICBF:
- 1. Application Form for adoption (this can be provided by the ICBF or found on the ICBF Website);
- 2. Birth certificate(s)of the prospective adoptive parent(s);
- 3. Marriage certificate or proof of common law relationship of prospective adoptive parents;
- 4. Medical examination(s) by Board-certified physicians clearly stating that prospective adoptive parent(s) is (are) mentally and physically capable of caring for a child (or children);
- 5. National law enforcement clearance issued by a competent police authority. For U.S. citizens, this consists of a set of fingerprints, and their results, issued by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI). These cards may be requested from the Department of Homeland Security. When completed, the cards for the U.S. records check as well as the USD $85.00 fee and a letter of intent (for adoption purposes) should be sent to the address below. The FBI may take as long as two to three months to return the completed results; National Visa Center, Fingerprint Unit, 32 Rochester Avenue, Portsmouth, New Hampshire 03801. NOTE: The set of fingerprints submitted previously with the Form I-800A cannot be submitted to the ICBF.
- 6. Birth certificates of any children previously adopted by the prospective adoptive parent(s);
- 7. Certificate of financial ability and employment letters explaining time of service and monthly salary received in U.S. dollars;
- 8. If self-employed, a certified document regarding the parent's(s') financial resources or last income tax return with supporting documents;
- 9. Social and psychological study of the prospective adoptive family that establishes physical, mental, moral and social capacity. The home study required by USCIS can fulfill both the U.S. and the Colombian requirements;
- 10. If there were previous marriages or partners of the prospective adoptive parent(s), proof of divorce and reasons for such dissolutions should be presented; and
- 11. Notarized statement clarifying any changes in name or indicating, "also known as." Generally, Colombian women do not change their names to that of their husbands. As a result, Colombian courts are accustomed to birth certificates, marriage certificates, and passports with no variation in name. If you have documents in both maiden and marriage names, you must submit a notarized statement indicating the reasons for the discrepancies in your documents. Once the ICBF approves the package of documents, it will be in a position to inform prospective adoptive parents, through their adoption service providers, about the availability of children in need of a family placement and the amount of time it is likely to take to complete an adoption.
3.Be Matched with a Child:
If both the United States and Colombia determine that you are eligible to adopt, and a child is available for intercountry adoption, the Central Authority in Colombia 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. Learn more about making this critical decision.
ICBF will inform the parents, through the adoption service provider, once a child has officially been assigned to them. Medical, social, psychological, and nutritional assessments are provided to the prospective adoptive parents, as well as photographs of the child. Prospective adoptive parents are given two months to make a decision as to whether to adopt that particular child.
4.Apply for the Child to be Found Eligible for Adoption:
After you accept a match with a child, you will apply to the USCIS for permission to adopt that child (Form I-800, Petition to Classify a Convention adoptee as an Immediate Relative). USCIS will determine whether the child is eligible under U.S. immigration law to be adopted and enter the United States. Learn how.
After this, your adoption service provider or you will submit a visa application for to a Consular Officer at the U.S. Embassy in Bogota. The Consular Officer will review the child's information and evaluate the child for possible visa ineligibilities. If the Consular Office determines that the child appears eligible to immigrate to the United States, he or she will notify the ICBF (Article 5 letter). For Convention country adoptions, prospective adoptive parent(s) may not proceed with the adoption until this takes place.
At this point, you may travel to Colombia to begin the legal process with Colombian authorities. The ICBF or the Colombian adoption agency will assist with obtaining the documents needed to complete Colombian legal procedures.
Remember: The Consular Officer will make a final decision about the immigrant visa later in the adoption process.
5.Adopt the Child in Colombia
- Role of The Central Authority: Colombian law does not allow for private adoptions. Children may be adopted only through the Colombian Family Welfare Institute (ICBF) and approved adoption agencies. The ICBF will match the child with the prospective adoptive parent(s) and help with obtaining paperwork before the case moves to the Colombian courts.
- Role of The Court: The Colombian courts require a letter from the U.S. Embassy in Bogota stating that they will issue an immigrant visa to the child if all adoption and U.S. immigrant requirements are met. When all documentation is completed, the courts will provide the adoption decree, a new Colombian birth certificate, and a new Colombian passport. NOTE: Colombian law requires that both adopting parents be physically present when the adoption is presented to a "family judge." No exceptions are made to this requirement.
- Role of Adoption Service Providers: Because Colombia is a Convention country, adoption services must be provided by an accredited agency, temporarily accredited agency, approved person, supervised provider, or exempted provider. It is essential that prospective adoptive parent(s) seeking to adopt from a Convention country use an accredited adoption service provider. The Department of State maintains a current list of accredited adoption service providers. The list of accredited adoption service providers is also provided on the website of the Hague Permanent Bureau at www.hcch.net.
- Time Frame: There is no set time frame for completing an intercountry adoption from Colombia. There are many factors that determine how long the adoption and visa process takes, including paperwork approval times, desired sex and age of the child, and the age of the prospective adoptive parent(s). Adoptive parents have reported the entire process taking 18 to 30 months.
- Adoption Application: Prospective adoptive parents must first contact the ICBF or an accredited adoption agency in Colombia in order to obtain a list of adoption service providers in the United States that are accredited by both the Colombian and U.S. Governments.
- Adoption Fees: It is difficult to predict how much the entire adoption process will cost as each case has unique circumstances. Adoptive parents have reported spending between $12,000 USD and $20,000 USD. The Colombian passport fee is approximately $30 USD. These expenses should have been itemized in the fees and estimated expenses section of your adoption services contract.
6.Bring Your Child Home
Now that your adoption is complete, 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. In Colombia, this should be processed at the same time as the adoption decree.
- 2. Colombian Passport
Your child is not yet a U.S. citizen, so he or she will need a travel document or passport from Colombia. The court will authorize a new passport, containing the information from the new birth certificate, when issuing the adoption decree. Please note that as of July 2010, The Colombian Ministry of Foreign Affairs now requires eight business days to issue a new passport. A temporary, three-month validity emergency Colombian passport may be issued sooner, but the fee is higher, about 200,000 Colombian Pesos, or about USD $100.
- 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 U.S. Embassy in Bogota for your child. After the adoption is granted, visit the embassy 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.
In order for the U.S. Embassy to issue the letter required by the Colombian family judges that commits the embassy to issuing an immigrant visa under the condition that all adoption and U.S. immigration requirements are met, the embassy needs to have received a Form I-800A (Application for Determination of Suitability to adopt a child from a Convention Country) approved by the USCIS.
The following is a list of the documents required by the U.S. Embassy in order to process immigrant visas for Colombian children who have been adopted by U.S. citizens:
- 1. Form I-800, Petition to Classify a Convention adoptee as an Immediate Relative. These forms have to be filled out completely, signed by both adoptive parents and filed with the U.S. Embassy before the child reaches his or her sixteenth (16) birthday;
- 2. Form DS-260, Application for Immigrant Visa and Alien Registration, Parts I and II. These forms should be filled out by one of the adoptive parents in the child's name before coming for the formal visa interview. Every item should be answered. If information is not applicable, please write N/A in the block;
- 3. Child's Colombian passport;
- 4. Two (2) COLOR frontal portrait photographs of the child with a WHITE background on GLOSSY paper; the total frame should be 5 cm x 5 cm and the child's head size 3 cm x 3 cm;
- 5. Child's birth certificates (originals or notarized copies). Bring both pre-adoption and post-adoption certificates; The pre-adoption birth certificate must be obtained prior to the adoption being finalized;
- 6. Abandonment Decree or Custodial Parent's Release (original or notarized copy). This document should have the Colombian Family Welfare Institute's (ICBF) approval;
- 7. Final Adoption Decree (original or notarized copy);
- 8. The $400 USD fee for an immigrant visa processed by the embassy,
- 9. Copy of Medical Exam: Before an immigrant visa can be issued, all adopted children must have a medical examination performed by the embassy's approved Panel Physician, named below. The cost of this medical examination is approximately $50 USD and must be paid by the parents directly to the physician, not to the embassy. The child's Colombian passport will be required for the medical appointment.
NOTE: Visa issuance after the final interview takes at least one business day, and it is not possible to provide the visa to adoptive parents on the day of the interview. Adoptive parents should allow at least one business day after the interview before making final travel arrangements.
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.
Learn more about the Child Citizenship Act.
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