How to Adopt from Latvia
WARNING: Latvia is party to the Hague Adoption Convention. Do not adopt or obtain legal custody of a child in Latvia before a U.S. consular officer issues an “Article 5 Letter” for the case. Read below for more information.
NOTE: If any of the following occurred prior to April 1, 2008 (the date on which the Hague Adoption Convention entered into force with respect to the United States), the Hague Adoption Convention may not apply to your adoption: 1) you filed a Form I-600A identifying Latvia as the country where you intended to adopt; 2) you filed a Form I-600 or; 3) the adoption was completed. Under these circumstances, your adopted child’s visa application could continue to be processed in accordance with the immigration regulations for non-Convention adoptions.
Because Latvia is party to the Hague Adoption Convention, adopting from Latvia 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 for your adoption to meet 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.
- Choose a U.S. accredited or approved adoption service provider
- Apply to USCIS to be found eligible to adopt
- Be matched with a child by authorities in Latvia
- 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
- Adopt a child in Latvia
- Obtain a U.S. immigrant visa for your child and bring your child home
1. Choose a U.S. Accredited or Approved Adoption Service Provider:
The recommended first step in adopting a child from Latvia 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 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.
You must also select a U.S. adoption service provider that is accredited by the Republic of Latvia. A list of the providers that have received Latvian accreditation is posted on the U.S. Embassy’s website http://riga.usembassy.gov/adoption2/providers.html
Note to adoption service providers seeking accreditation with the Latvian Central Authority:
Adoption service providers should apply for accreditation with the Ministry of Welfare by submitting a request in the form of a letter with reference to Article 12 of Hague Adoption Convention. Forward the letter with any supporting documents to the Consular Section of the U.S. Embassy in Riga by e-mail.
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 Ministry of Welfare in Latvia as part of your adoption dossier. The Ministry will review your application to determine whether you are also eligible to adopt under Latvian law.
3. Be Matched with a Child in Latvia:
If both the United States and Latvia determine that you are eligible to adopt, and the Ministry of Welfare, 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 Ministry 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 Latvia. The Ministry 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 Ministry of Welfare in Latvia. 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, the U.S. Embassy in Latvia will request that your adoption service provider submit a visa application to its Consular Section, which is responsible for issuing immigrant visas to children from Latvia. Click here for an immigrant visa application document checklist: http://riga.usembassy.gov/ih3visas-checklist.html. Please ensure that your adoption service provider has the listed pre-adoption documents readily available for presentation to the U.S. Embassy. A consular officer will review the Form I-800 and the visa application for possible visa ineligibilities and advise you of possible options for the waiver of any noted ineligibilities.
WARNING: The consular officer determines that the child appears eligible to immigrate to the United States and will send a letter (referred to as an “Article 5 Letter”) to the Ministry of Welfare in any intercountry adoption involving U.S. citizen parents and a child from Latvia where all Convention requirements are met. This letter will inform the Ministry 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.
Remember: The consular officer will make a final decision about a child’s eligibility for an immigrant visa later in the adoption process.
Remember: Before you adopt a child in Latvia, you must have completed the above four steps. Only after completing these steps, can you proceed finalize the adoption for the purposes of adoption in Latvia.
- Role of Adoption Authority: The Ministry of Welfare is responsible for administering intercountry adoptions. Orphan courts in Latvia carry out functions similar to those of social workers in the United States. The Ministry prepares an adoption approval (or rejection) statement for submission to the town or city court responsible for the final adoption decree. The Ministry’s adoption permission is valid for three months.
- Role of the Court: The main purpose of the orphan court session is to establish that the adoption will be in the child’s best interests and that the required parent-child relationship has been established. Orphan courts decide: whether the birth parents’ rights can be terminated; whether an orphan should be placed in an orphanage or whether someone else must be granted custody; and issues related to inheritance rights when a child’s parents die. Town or city courts approve adoptions by granting full custody of the child to the adoptive parents. Current law provides for a 20-day period before the final court decree takes effect. Thus, the adoptive child is eligible to apply for a post-adoption birth certificate, passport, and immigrant visa only after the court decree becomes effective. After the 20-day period, the Ministry Welfare issues a statement certifying that the adoption has been completed in accordance with the Hague Adoption Convention (Article 23 Certificate).
- Role of Adoption Agencies: Adoption agencies are allowed to represent parents and may do the required translations and file adoption applications at the Ministry. Under current law, however, the adoptive parents are required to personally file applications at orphan courts and participate in the orphan court and final court sessions.
- Time Frame: The time needed to complete an adoption in Latvia from beginning to end varies, but may take about one year.
- Adoption Application: After Petition I-800A approval, prospective adoptive parents should file their adoption application with the Ministry of Welfare.
- Adoption Fees: There are no Latvian government fees for adoption services. Prospective adoptive parents, however, should be prepared to cover fees related to the translation and certification of documents and the processing of new civil and travel documents for the adopted child. These costs are determined by the government of Latvia, and are subject to change. 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. In most cases, Latvian accredited adoption service providers will collect all required fees and, during the adoption process, use the collected amount to pay the involved entities. While there are no fees collected by the Ministry of Welfare, adoptive parents should be aware about the following local fees:
- 1. Twenty (20.00) Ls (about $40.00) for expedited Latvian passport processing fee per person;
- 3. Thirty (30.00) Ls (about $60.00) for court application fee;
- 4. Five (5.00) Ls (about $10.00) for copy of court ruling certified by the relevant court;
- 5. Translation and notary costs differ from a case to case depending on the volume of documentation;
- Documents Required: Required documents include:
- 1. Application including information about the reasons for adoption as well as information about the sex, age range, and religion of the child (or children) you are interested in adopting;
- 2. A copy of your marriage certificate, if applicable, under apostille (please see information below about the authentication of documents);
- 3. A copy of any divorce decree (if applicable) under apostille;
- 4. A statement about your housing (i.e., size, location, type of residence);
- 5. An autobiography (or curriculum vitae) for each parent;
- 6. Medical statements regarding the health of the family (hereditary illnesses, if any, and any specific illnesses);
- 7. Home study, under apostille, conducted by a U.S. state adoption agency or a private organization licensed to perform such studies. Home studies must be current in order for the adoption application to considered. Extensions of home study approval should be forwarded to the Ministry for applications to remain valid;
- 8. A police clearance statement under apostille.
- Authentication of Documents: Please note that Latvia requires document certification under apostille for documents originating in the United States. Click here for more information on this process.
6.Obtain an Immigrant Visa for your Child and Bring Your Child Home
Now that your adoption is complete there are a few more steps to take before you can head home. You should make sure that you have appointments confirmed with the below listed agencies before you acquire your travel tickets. Specifically, you need to apply for three documents before your child can travel to the United States:
- 1. Birth Certificate
The local representative of your Latvia-accredited adoption services provider will assist you with filing an application for your child’s post-adoption birth certificate with Civil Registry of the Ministry of Justice. If the court approving your adoption application authorized child’s name change, the post-adoption birth certificate will list the child’s new name in Latvian and English and you will be listed as child’s parent(s).
- 2. Latvian Passport
Your child is not yet a U.S. citizen, so he/she will need a travel document or passport from Latvia.
The local representative of your Latvia-accredited adoption services provider will assist you with filing an application for your child's post-adoption passport with Office of Citizenship and Migration Affairs of the Ministry of Interior. To ensure that your travel plans are not delayed you may request expeditious one day passport processing at the cost of 20.00 Ls (about $40.00) per person.
- 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. Embassy in Latvia. After the adoption is granted, confirm your visit to the U.S. Embassy for final review of the case, issuance of a U.S. Hague Adoption 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.
Back to Adopting from Latvia