How to Adopt from Germany


WARNING: Germany is party to the Hague Adoption Convention. Do not adopt or obtain legal custody of a child in Germany before a U.S. consular officer issues an “Article 5 Letter” in the case. Read on for more information.

Adoption Authority

Germany’s Adoption Authority

There is no centralized court system governing adoption cases in Germany. However, adoptions are governed by federal law. The main point of contact is:

Bundesamt für Justiz -Bundeszentralstelle für Auslandsadoption-

Adenauerallee 99-103 53113 Bonn Tel: +49 22899 410-5414 or -5415 Fax: +49 22899 410-5402 Website: website

The Process

Because Germany is party to The Hague Adoption Convention, adopting from Germany 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. Adoptions completed out of order may result in the child not being eligible for an immigrant visa to the United States.

  1. Choose a U.S. accredited or approved adoption service provider
  2. Apply to USCIS to be found eligible to adopt
  3. Be matched with a child by authorities in Germany.
  4. Apply to USCIS for the child to be found eligible for immigration to the United States and receive U.S. agreement to proceed with the adoption
  5. Adopt (or Gain Legal Custody of child in Germany).
  6. Obtain a U.S. immigrant visa for your child and bring your child home

NOTE: For residents of Germany who wish to adopt a child and remain in Germany, the process is different. Persons wishing to adopt a child in Germany should contact either one of the following institutions:

Youth Welfare Office (Jugendamt) of each district/major city

Youth Welfare Office (Landesjugendamt) of each German state (Bundesland)

In addition, there are also a few private non-profit adoption agencies arranging non-international adoptions. Youth Welfare Offices (Landesjugendämter) provide contact information.

1. Choose a U.S. Accredited or Approved Adoption Service Provider

The recommended first step in adopting a child from Germany is to select an adoption service provider in the United States that has been accredited or approved to provide services to U.S. citizens in Convention cases. Only accredited or approved adoption services providers may provide adoption services between the United States and Germany. The U.S. accredited or approved adoption service provider will act as the primary provider in your case. The primary adoption service provider is responsible for ensuring that all adoption services in the case are done in accordance with The Hague Adoption Convention and U.S. laws and regulations. Learn more about Agency Accreditation.

2.Apply to USCIS to be Found Eligible to Adopt

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

Once USCIS determines that you are “eligible” and “suited” to adopt by approving the Form I-800A, your adoption service provider will provide your approval notice, home study, and any other required information to the adoption authority in Germany as part of your adoption dossier. Germany’s adoption authority will review your application to determine whether you are also eligible to adopt under German law.

3.Be Matched with a Child in Germany

If both the United States and Germany determine that you are eligible to adopt, and the central authority for Convention adoptions has determined that a child is available for adoption and that intercountry adoption is in that child’s best interests, the central authority for Convention adoptions in Germany may provide you with a referral for a child. The referral is a proposed match between you and a specific child based on a review of your dossier and the needs of a specific child in Germany. The adoption authority in Germany will provide a background study and other information, if available, about the child to help you decide whether to accept the referral or not. Each family must decide for itself whether or not it will be able to meet the needs and provide a permanent home for a particular child. If you accept the referral, the adoption service provider communicates that to the adoption authority in Germany. Learn more about this critical decision.

4.Apply to USCIS for the Child to be Found Eligible for Immigration to the United States and Receive U.S. Agreement to Proceed with the Adoption

After you accept a match with a child, you will apply to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) for provisional approval for the child to immigrate to the United States (Form I-800). USCIS will make a provisional determination as to whether the child meets the definition of a Convention Adoptee and will be eligible to enter the United States and reside permanently as an immigrant.

After provisional approval of Form I-800, your adoption service provider or you will submit a visa application to the Consular Section of the U.S. Consulate General in Frankfurt, Germany, that is responsible for issuing immigrant visas to children from Germany. A consular officer will review the Form I-800 and the visa application for possible visa ineligibilities and advise you of options for the waiver of any noted ineligibilities.

WARNING: The consular officer will send a letter (referred to as an “Article 5 Letter”) to the German Central Authority in any intercountry adoption involving U.S. citizen parents and a child from Germany where all Convention requirements are met and the consular officer determines that the child appears eligible to immigrate to the United States. This letter will inform the German Central Authority that the parents are eligible and suited to adopt, that all indications are that the child may enter and reside permanently in the United States, and that the U.S. Central Authority agrees that the adoption may proceed.

Do not attempt to adopt or obtain custody of a child in Germany before a U.S. consular officer issues the Article 5 Letter in any adoption case.

Remember: The consular officer will make a final decision about a child’s eligibility for an immigrant visa later in the adoption process.

5.Adopt or Gain Legal Custody of Child in Germany

Remember: Before you adopt (or gain legal custody of) a child in Germany, 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 Germany.

The process for finalizing the adoption or gaining legal custody in Germany generally includes the following:

  • Role of the Court: The guardianship court (Vormundschaftsgericht) hears an application for an order to change the legal status to that of parent and child and, if appropriate, issues such an order. The court must investigate and review all relevant facts, including information from the adoption agency or public authority involved and the child (as permitted by age).

  • Adoption Application: For both domestic and intercountry adoption, the prospective adoptive parent(s) must first approach one of four sources for an initial consultation: 1) either one of the youth offices listed above, 2) the German Central Authority for intercountry adoption, 3) the Central Authority in the country of the child’s habitual abode, or 4) an intercountry adoption agency. After a favorable evaluation, the parents will be subject to a home study by their local youth welfare office. The translated home study will be sent to the adoption authority office. When a child has been identified, the adopting parent(s) and the child’s legal guardian sign an agreement before a German court or notary public. Before the family court decides if the adoption may take place and issues the final decree, the adopting parent(s) have to prove that the child will be lawfully admitted into their home country.

  • Time Frame: After an investigation and interview, the Jugendamt issues an initial approval valid for two years. There is no specific time frame for the adoption process. It varies from case to case and primarily depends upon the duration of the qualifying process and/or the difficulty of identifying a child for adoption. The paperwork and investigation process generally takes between four and nine months. A foster period is required to adopt a German child. By law the foster period should be “adequate in length.” The court will decide in each case individually whether a parent-child-relationship between the adopting parent and the child to be adopted has been developed.

  • Adoption Fees: 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.

  • Documents Required: Both the German Youth Welfare Department (Jugendamt) and the adoption agencies require the following documents at the start of the adoption process:

1. An application for adoption;
2. Birth certificates;
3. Proof of citizenship;
4. Resume/curriculum vitae for both parents;
5. Police certificate for both parents;
6. Identification (passport, photo identification, etc.);
7. Marriage certificate (if applicable);
8. Termination of previous marriage(s) (death certificate, divorce decree, etc.);
9. Medical attestation;
10. Proof of parents' income (including bank statements)
11. Parents' police certificates; and
12. Character references.

NOTE: Additional documents may be requested.

  • Authentication of Documents: The United States and Germany are parties to the Hague Apostille Convention. U.S. public documents may be authenticated with Apostilles by the appropriate U.S. Competent Authority.

6.Obtain an Immigrant Visa for your Child and Bring Your Child Home

Now that your adoption is complete (or you have obtained legal custody of the child for the purpose of adopting the child in the United States), there are a few more steps to take before you can head home. Specifically, you need to apply for three documents before your child can travel to the United States:

1. Birth Certificate

If you have finalized the adoption in Germany, you will firstneed to apply for a birth certificate for your child so that you can later apply for a passport. Birth certificates are issued by the Standesamt (City Registrar) in the locality where the child was born. Adopting parents need to present the final adoption decree, their marriage certificate, and both of their birth certificates with the application. For any documents not originating in Germany, the document must bear an Apostille from Hague convention countries or an authentication from non-Hague countries. In all cases of unmarried couples, single parents or same-sex relationships documents requirements vary and should be verified with the local authorities prior to application.

2. German Passport

Your child is not yet a U.S. citizen, so he/she will need a travel document or passport from Germany. German passports are issued by the Passstelle (Passport Branch) at the local Standesamt (City Registrar). To obtain a German passport, the adopting parents must present the final adoption decree, the child’s German birth certificate in his/her adoptive name, one biometric photograph of the child, and valid proof of identity for both parents. Both parents must provide written consent to the issuance of the passport until the age of 16. Any child over the age of 6 must also be present to be fingerprinted.

3. U.S. Immigrant Visa

After you obtain the new birth certificate and passport for your child, you also need to finalize your application for a U.S. visa for your child from the U.S. Consulate General in Frankfurt, Germany. After the adoption (or custody for purpose of adoption) is granted, visit the U.S. Embassy for final review of the case, issuance of a U.S. Hague Adoption Certificate or Hague Custody Certificate, final approval of Form I-800, and to obtain your child’s immigrant visa. 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. Read more about the Medical Examination.

To learn more about the Child Citizenship Act please read The Child Citizenship Act of 2000.