How to Adopt from Mali

Bozo girl in Bamako.

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

Adoption Authority

Mali’s Adoption Authority

Direction Nationale de l’Enfant et de la Famille (Direction Nationale), Ministère de la Promotion de la Femme, de l’Enfant et de la Famille (MPFEF)

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 Mali 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. For more information, read about Transition Cases.

The Process

Because Mali is party to The Hague Adoption Convention, prospective adoptive parents 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 not confer immigration benefits on the adopted child (i.e. it is possible the child would not qualify for an immigrant visa if adopted out of order).

  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 Mali
  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 the child in Mali
  6. 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 Mali 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 Mali. 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 Mali as part of your adoption dossier. Mali’s adoption authority will review your application to determine whether you are also eligible to adopt under Malian law.

3. Be Matched with a Child by Mali

If both the United States and Mali 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 Mali 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 Mali. The adoption authority in Mali 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 Mali. 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. Embassy in Dakar, Senegal, that is responsible for issuing immigrant visas to children from Mali. 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 Malian Central Authority in any intercountry adoption involving U.S. citizen parents and a child from Mali 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 Malian 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 Mali 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 Child in Mali

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

The process for finalizing the adoption in Mali generally includes the following:

  • Role of Adoption Authority: Adoption Filiation must pass through the MPFEF’s Direction Nationale. The MPFEF works exclusively with the only orphanage in Bamako. Malian law strictly prohibits the involvement of other agencies or associations. The Direction Nationale approves prospective adoptive parent(s) and identifies children for potential matches with prospective adoptive parent(s). A representative from the Direction Nationale will participate in the adoption proceedings as an advocate for the prospective adoptive parent(s).
  • Role of the Court: The Tribunal de la Première Instance in Commune 5 in Bamako is the only court authorized to issue Adoption Filiation decrees. Prospective adoptive parent(s) may petition for the adoption of a child, along with a representative from the Direction Nationale, after the U.S. Embassy in Dakar, Senegal, issues the Article 5 Letter. There is a 15-day waiting period between the Court’s decision and the adoption decree’s issuance, in case someone objects to the adoption. NOTE: If the prospective adoptive parent(s) are working with a Malian lawyer, it is possible for the adoption procedures and court proceedings in Mali to be held without the presence of the prospective adopting adoptive parent(s). In this case, the adoptive parent(s) would still need to travel to Mali to accept the adopted child from the Direction Nationale once those proceedings have been completed. The MPFEF will not release newly adopted children to anyone other than the adopting parent(s).
  • Time Frame: The adoption process in Mali can take from three to 18 months to complete. Once the case has been presented to the Court of Justice, final review and the issuance of the adoption decree typically take 15 days.
  • Adoption Application: Prospective adoptive parent(s) residing in the United States should submit all required documents, application, written statement of preferences (child’s preferred age and gender), and Form I-800A approval notice to the MPFEF via the Malian Embassy in Washington, DC. Prospective adoptive parent(s) residing in Mali should submit the application, documents, statement of preferences (child’s preferred age and gender), and Form I-800A approval notice directly to the Direction Nationale de l’Enfant et de la Famille, Ministère de la Promotion de la Femme, de l’Enfant et de la Famille. NOTE: Prospective adoptive parent(s) may decline a proposed match, but if they wish to proceed with a Malian adoption of a different child, they must then submit a new application and start the process from the beginning.
  • Adoption Fees: Prospective adoptive parent(s) must provide their Malian attorneys with 10,000 West African Francs; this fee is then paid by the attorneys to the Court to issue the adoption decree. 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: Malian authorities will require:
1.Certified copies of the following: a.Prospective adoptive parent(s) birth certificate(s), and b.Prospective adoptive parents' marriage certificate, if applicable;
2.Police record or certification of the lack thereof;
3.A homestudy conducted or approved by a U.S. accredited adoption service provider if the prospective adoptive parent(s) live in the United States. If the prospective adoptive parent(s) live in Mali, the home study will be conducted by the Direction Nationale du Development Social in Bamako. The homestudy must then be reviewed by an accredited U.S. adoption service provider. In both situations, the homestudy is a required component of the Form I-800A;
4.Certificate attesting to the good health, both mental and physical, of the prospective adoptive parent(s);
5.Residence certificate (if the prospective adoptive parent(s) reside in Mali);
6.Prospective adoptive parent(s)’ passport(s) or certificates attesting to their nationality, issued by the U.S. Embassy in Bamako;
7.Pay statements and tax records indicating prospective adoptive parents’ residency, employment and annual income;
8.Notarized statement appointing a parent or friend as the child’s guardian in the case of the prospective adoptive parents’ death;
9.Agreement to provide an annual report on the child’s welfare to the MPFEF’s Direction Nationale; and
10.Four letters of reference. NOTE: Additional documents may be requested.
  • Authentication of Documents: You may be asked to provide proof that a document from the United States is authentic. If so, the Department of State, Authentications office may be able to assist. Read more about Authenticating U.S. Documents.

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 Mali, you will first need to apply for a birth certificate for your child so that you can later apply for a passport.

If you have been granted custody for the purpose of adopting the child in the United States, the birth certificate you obtain will, in most cases, not yet include your name. Birth certificates may be obtained from the local Mayor’s office.

2. Malian Passport

Your child is not yet a U.S. citizen, so he/she will need a travel document or passport from Mali. Malian passports can be obtained from the Malian border police (Police du Frontier).

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 Dakar, Senegal. After the adoption (or custody for purpose of adoption) is granted, visit the U.S Embassy in Dakar for final review of the case, issuance of a U.S. Hague Adoption Certificate or Declaration of Grant of Custody, final approval of the child’s I-800 petition, and to obtain your child’s 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.

NOTE: Visa issuance after the final interview now generally takes at least 24 hours and it will not normally be possible to provide the visa to adoptive parents on the day of the interview. Adoptive parents should verify current processing times at the U.S. Embassy in Dakar before making final travel arrangements.

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

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