How to Adopt from Japan

Japanese school children.

Adoption Authority

Japan's Adoption Authority

Japan's principal adoption authorities are the Family Courts and the Child Guidance Centers (CGC), both of which are administered at the prefectural level.

The Process

The process for adopting a child from Japan generally includes the following steps:

  1. Choose an Adoption Service Provider
  2. Apply to be Found Eligible to Adopt
  3. Be Matched with a Child
  4. Adopt the Child (or Gain Legal Custody) in Japan
  5. Apply for the Child to be Found Eligible for Adoption
  6. Bring Your Child Home

1. Choose an Adoption Service Provider

The first step in adopting a child from Japan is usually to select a licensed agency in the United States that can help with your adoption, including those requirements related to the child's immigration to the United States. Adoption service providers in the United States must be licensed by the U.S. state in which they operate. Learn more about choosing the right adoption service provider.

2. Apply to be Found Eligible to Adopt

To bring an adopted child to the U.S. or to obtain custody of a child for the purpose of adoption in the U.S., 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 Japan 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 Japanese adoption service provider or the Child Guidance Center that has custody of the child arranges for child/prospective adoptive parent matches. In some cases the biological parent is asked to provide input concerning who will adopt the 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 Japan'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.

Please note: Under some circumstances, a foreign born adopted child may be eligible for a U.S. immigrant visa in the category IR-2, if the child has been in the legal and physical custody of the adoptive U.S. citizen parent(s) for at least two years, and the adoption was finalized before the child's 16 th birthday.

4. Adopt the Child (or Gain Legal Custody) in-Japan:

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

  • ROLE OF THE COURT: Final Adoption (Special Adoption): For those who are finalizing the adoption in Japan, the Family Court reviews the adoption application. Please note that you may never actually appear in court in front of a judge; the paperwork may be done at the clerk's office. In reviewing the application, the Court examines the law governing intercountry adoptions in the prospective adoptive parents' U.S. state of legal domicile. The Court informs the prospective adoptive parents of their court hearing date. This first hearing date generally occurs at the end of the trial six-month period, during which time a court representative conducts an interview with the prospective adoptive parents and conducts at least one home visit. Approximately two to three weeks after the final hearing, the judge will decide whether or not to approve the adoption. If the judge approves the petition, the Court issues a certificate allowing "Permission to adopt" (yoshi no kyoka). If the biological parents or any interested parties do not object within two weeks of the parents' registering the adoption at the ward office or two weeks after the date provided on the final decree, it is considered final. Legal Custody for purpose of adoption in the United States: For those who are obtaining legal custody of a child to complete the adoption in their U.S. state of residence, the Japanese court is not involved and the Japanese adoption agency is responsible for transferring custody. In such circumstances, the biological parent signs a form in English and her native language stating that she is the sole remaining parent of the child, that she is incapable of providing care for the child, and that she consents irrevocably to the adoption of the child by the prospective adoptive parents as well as the emigration of the child to the United States.
  • ADOPTION APPLICATION: When finalizing an adoption in Japan, the prospective adoptive parents submit their adoption application to the Family Court with jurisdiction over the child's residence. When obtaining custody of a child for a full and final adoption in the United States, the application to adopt is submitted to the proper authorities in the U.S. state of residence after the child enters the United States on an immigrant visa. Please note that in this case, the adopted child will acquire U.S. citizenship only after a full and final adoption in the United States.
  • TIME FRAME: Intercountry adoptions through the Family Court require at least six months and sometimes longer, possibly up to 18 months. The Japanese court system will take into account the laws of your state of residence and will try to comply with those laws. In practice, this may mean that finalization of the adoption takes several months longer than it otherwise would. The Family Court does not mandate a time limit on when an adoption must be completed. Prospective adoptive parents who are gaining custody to complete a full and final adoption in the United States report that the process takes between nine and eighteen months to take custody of the child, plus additional time in the United States to finalize the adoption in their state of residence.
  • ADOPTION FEES: For those who are resident in Japan and adopting a child through the Japanese court system, the costs vary widely; however, the average total cost is approximately US$20,000. This includes fees for the Family Court, adoption agency, immigration processing, and document translations and authentications. It should be noted that Japanese adoption service provider fees can range from US$5,000 to US$50,000 or higher, so the overall cost of adoption depends on the agency the prospective adoptive parents select. Japanese law prohibits adoption service providers operating in Japan from profiting from adoptions, and the provider is required to give you an itemized invoice. That list may include fees to cover the birth of the child, as such costs are not covered by Japanese health insurance. Prospective adoptive parents may incur additional fees when adopting a child with medical conditions. Adoption service providers in Japan are prohibited from receiving donations before the completion of the adoption process, and a donation may not be a condition for providing services. Providers that violate these regulations should be reported to the prefectural government and may be suspended or closed by that government.
  • DOCUMENTS REQUIRED: When completing a full and final adoption under Japanese law, the Japanese adoption agency should provide you with a complete list of required documents. These may include:
1. Birth certificate and/or family register of all parties
2. Passport, Japanese visas and Alien Registration cards for all parties
3. Copy of U.S. military ID (where applicable)
4. Marriage, divorce, and death certificates (where applicable)
5. Copy of any property ownership deeds and/or bank statements
6. Certificate of foster parent registration (where applicable)
7. Certificate of good conduct/no criminal record for each adoptive parent (issued by their home city or state police department)
8. Certificate of legal address, employment, and income
9. Biographic history of all parties
10. Statement of consent to adopt by the child's biological parent(s) or guardian
11. Statement of prospective parent(s)' intent to adopt the identified child
12. Home Study (approved by an authorized and licensed adoption agency)
13. Two character references.

When taking custody of a child for a full and final adoption in the United States, again the adoption service provider will assist you with documentation. For example, you will need a family registry (koseki) for the child, a passport for the child, signed release statements from the biological mother, and descriptions of the situation of the biological mother.

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 Adoption

After you finalize the adoption (or gain legal custody) in Japan, the U.S Government, Department of Homeland Security, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) MUST determine whether the child is eligible under U.S. law to be adopted (Form I-600). Learn how.

Because Japan does not have a USCIS office, the U.S. Embassy in Tokyo and the U.S. Consulate General in Naha, Okinawa are authorized to accept the Form I-600 when the parent(s) already have an approved and valid I-600A. Once the Embassy or Consulate receive notice from USCIS that your I-600A has been approved, the Immigrant Visa Section sends the prospective adoptive parents information about how to file Form I-600. The prospective adoptive parents request an appointment by fax or email, then come to the Embassy with the child to file the form. Usually the prospective adoptive parents take custody of a child, file the I-600 at Embassy Tokyo or Consulate Naha, then return to the Embassy or Consulate a couple of days later to apply for the immigrant visa.

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 family registry (the Japanese version of a birth certificate) for the child, so that you can later apply for a passport. If you have obtained legal custody of the child for adoption in the U.S., the family registry will list the birth parent's name. An adoption service provider should be able to assist you with this process.

2. Japanese Passport

Your child is not yet a U.S. citizen, so he/she will need a travel document or passport from Japan's Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Only the child's biological or adoptive parent or legal guardian may apply for a passport on behalf of the minor child, but an adoption service provider should be able to help get the document.

Please note: according to the Japanese nationality law, a child is not considered to have gained citizenship of a second country (the United States in this case) by his or her own will, so the child does not automatically lose Japanese citizenship when naturalized as a U.S. citizen.

3. U.S. Immigrant Visa

After you obtain the new birth certificate and passport for your child, you also need to apply for an After you obtain the family registry and Japanese passport for the child, you also need to apply for a U.S. immigrant visa for the child from the United States Embassy in Tokyo or the Consulate General in Naha. When you file Form I-600, you will be instructed to take the child to a "Panel Physician" for a complete health examination. You will return on the appointed day to the Embassy or consulate to apply for the visa.

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

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