How to Adopt from Nigeria
The Magistrate Court (from the state where the child resides)
The process for adopting a child from Nigeria generally includes the following steps:
- Choose an adoption service provider
- Apply to be found eligible to adopt
- Be matched with a child
- Adopt (or gain custody of) the child in Nigeria
- Apply for the child to be found eligible for orphan status
- Bring your child home
1. Choose an Adoption Service Provider
The recommended first step in adopting a child from Nigeria is to decide whether or not to use a licensed adoption service provider in the United States that can help you with your adoption. Adoption service providers must be licensed by the U.S. state in which they operate. The Department of State provides information on selecting an adoption service provider on its website.
2. Apply to be Found Eligible to Adopt
In order to adopt a child from Nigeria, you will need to meet the requirements of the Government of Nigeria and U.S. immigration law. You must submit an application to be found eligible to adopt with the social welfare office in the state where the child resides in Nigeria.
To meet U.S. immigration requirements, you may also file an I-600A, Application for Advance Processing of an Orphan Petition with U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services to be found eligible and suitable to adopt.
3. Be Matched with a Child
If you are eligible to adopt, and a child is available for intercountry adoption, the central adoption authority in Nigeria will provide you with a referral. Each family must decide for itself whether or not it will be able to meet the needs of and provide a permanent home for a particular child.
The child must be eligible to be adopted according to Nigeria’s requirements, as described in the Who Can Be Adopted section. The child must also meet the definition of orphan under U.S. immigration law.
- Role of Adoption Authority: The social welfare office of the state where the child is located is considered the adoption authority. The application for adoption originates from this office. Prospective adoptive parents should not attempt to begin the adoption process through any other local officials. The government office that adjudicates local adoptions in Nigeria is the magistrate court of the state where the child is located.
- Role of the Court: In most Nigerian states, the adoption process begins when an application for an adoption order is made in accordance with local requirements and submitted to the registrar of the competent court. The court then assigns a guardian ad litem for the child to represent him/her in the adoption proceedings. The guardian ad litem is the social welfare officer in charge of the area where the juvenile resides, or a probation officer or some other person suitably qualified in the opinion of the court of assignment. The guardian ad litem investigates the circumstances related to the proposed adoption and files a report to the court. The guardian ad litem represents the child's interests until the magistrate questions the prospective adoptive parents and grants the adoption order giving legal custody to the adoptive parents. The guardian ad litem investigates the circumstances relevant to the proposed adoption and reports in writing to the court. Prospective adoptive parents must inform the social welfare officer of their intention to adopt at least three months before the court order is made. For at least three consecutive months immediately preceding an adoption order, the child must have been in the physical care and legal custody of the applicant parents in Nigeria. An applicant cannot have the child reside with another family member in lieu of living with the applicant, even if a Power of Attorney is in effect. The social welfare officer visits the home of the adoptive parents until the officer is satisfied that the juvenile is settled and the prospective adoptive parents are capable of looking after him or her. Then, the social welfare officer submits a positive recommendation in writing to the court. The magistrate will meet the adoptive parents in court to confirm their suitability and will issue or deny the adoption order. After the adoption order has been issued, adoptive parents should obtain a new birth certificate for the child listing them as the child's parents. In some states, after the adoption has been granted, the adoptive parents must obtain the court's permission to remove the child from Nigerian jurisdiction, either temporarily or permanently. In addition, the social welfare officer might be required to submit a letter to the Nigerian immigration office, stating that the adoptive parents are now the legal parents of the child. This letter permits the adopting parents to apply for a passport to take the child out of Nigeria. NOTE: Proxy adoptions are not valid in Nigeria. Adoptive parents who complete adoptions by proxy risk having their I-600 petitions returned to USCIS for revocation.
- Role of Adoption Agencies: The U.S. Consulate is not aware of any legally recognized Nigerian agencies that assist adopting parents or any licensed Nigerian adoption agencies. Prospective adoptive parents can seek assistance from a Nigerian attorney to facilitate the adoption process. The U.S. Consulate maintains a list of attorneys that have identified themselves as willing to provide legal services to U.S. citizens but cannot make any endorsements based on an assessment of the quality or the type of services the attorney provides.
- Adoption Application: The application is submitted to the registrar of the competent court.
- Time Frame: Adoption procedures can take a few months to more than a year depending on the child's state of origin and the evidence presented.
- Adoption Fees: Fees, including fees to an agency or the orphanage, attorney fees, court costs and costs to get official paperwork, such as a birth certificate, are estimated to run into the hundreds of dollars per child. The U.S. Consulate estimates that a standard adoption in Nigeria would cost approximately $500 in fees not including fees paid for the I-600, I-600A or the immigrant visa.
- Documents Required: The paperwork involved in Nigerian adoptions is extensive and time-consuming to locate. Prospective adoptive parents are advised to consult with a Nigerian attorney about the document requirements of the state from which they are adopting. The following is a list of some of the required documents:
- 1. Birth certificates;
- 2. Marriage certificates;
- 3. Divorce decrees (where applicable);
- 4. Proof of Nigerian citizenship;
- 5. Proof of U.S. citizenship;
- 6. Financial documentation – proof of financial assets;
- 7. Police reports. 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.
5. Apply for the Child to be Found Eligible for Orphan Status
After you finalize the adoption (or gain legal custody) in Nigeria, the Department of Homeland Security, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services must determine whether the child meets the definition of orphan under U.S. immigration law. You will need to file a Form I-600, Petition to Classify Orphan as an Immediate Relative.
6. Bring Your Child Home
Once your adoption is complete (or you have obtained legal custody of the child), you need to apply for several documents for your child before you can apply for a U.S. immigrant visa to bring your child home to the United States:
- 1. Birth Certificate
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 in Nigeria are issued by the National Population Commission (NPC). The NPC has offices co-located within most local government authority (LGA) offices throughout the country and applicants must go to the LGA office with jurisdiction in the area where the adoption occurred in order to obtain the birth certificate. Birth certificates from NPC are documents which are normally filled by hand and can commonly including spelling mistakes or other problems. Applicants are encouraged to check the accuracy of documents obtained in Nigeria as visa regulations require that the spelling and other biographical information be consistent across official documents.
- 2. Nigeria Passport
Your child is not yet a U.S. citizen, so he/she will need a travel document or passport from Nigeria.
In some states, after the adoption has been granted, the adoptive parents must obtain the court's permission to remove the child from Nigerian jurisdiction, either temporarily or permanently. In addition, the social welfare officer might be required to submit a letter to the Nigerian immigration office, stating that the adoptive parents are now the legal parents of the child. This letter permits the adopting parents to apply for a passport to take the child out of Nigeria.
Applicants can apply for a Nigerian passport in the Nigerian Immigration Service office of the jurisdiction in which the adoption took place or where they reside. There is a fee for obtaining a passport. The Nigerian passport may take a week or more to obtain depending on conditions. Applicants are encouraged to check the accuracy of documents obtained in Nigeria as visa regulations require that the spelling and other biographical information be consistent across official documents.
- 3. U.S. Immigrant Visa
After you obtain the new birth certificate and passport for your child and you have filed Form I-600, Petition to Classify Orphan as an Immediate Relative, you then need to apply for a U.S. immigrant visa for your child from the U.S. Consulate General in Lagos. 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.
Most applications for an immigrant visa for an adopted child at the U.S. Consulate will undergo full field investigations in the state where the adoption took place to verify the authenticity of the information provided in the adoption decrees, I-600 petitions and supporting documents. This investigation also serves to verify that the child is an orphan as defined by U.S. immigration law and may include both documentary reviews and interviews with persons connected to the child's case. For security reasons, U.S. government personnel are frequently restricted from traveling to certain parts of the country, causing these investigations to take an average of six months.
You can find instructions for applying for an immigrant visa on the U.S. Consulate General, Lagos’ website.
Visa issuance after the final interview generally takes 72 hours and the U.S. Consulate General in Lagos strongly advises that applicants do not book any travel plans until they have their visa(s) in hand.
NOTE: Although the U.S. Embassy is in Nigeria’s capital (Abuja), immigrant visa cases are reviewed only at the U.S. Consulate General in Lagos.
To learn more about the Child Citizenship Act please read The Child Citizenship Act of 2000.
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