How to Adopt from South Africa

Slums of Soweto.

Adoption Authority

South Africa's Adoption Authority

Department of Social Development

The Process

Because South Africa is party to the Hague Adoption Convention, adopting from South Africa must follow a specific process designed to meet the Convention's requirements. A brief summary of the Convention adoption process is provided below. You must complete these steps in the following order so that your adoption meets all necessary legal requirements. South Africa implemented the Children's Act on April 1, 2010, which formalizes laws and procedures regarding intercountry adoption under the Hague Convention.

NOTE: If you completed a full and final adoption or filed your I-600a or I-600 with USCIS before April 1, 2008, the Hague Adoption Convention may not apply to your adoption. Your adoption could continue to be processed in accordance with the immigration regulations for non-Convention adoptions. Learn more .

  1. Choose an Accredited Adoption Service Provider
  2. Apply to be Found Eligible to Adopt
  3. Be Matched with a Child
  4. Apply for the Child to be Found Eligible for Immigration to the United States
  5. Adopt the Child in South Africa
  6. Bring your Child Home

1. Choose an Accredited Adoption Service Provider:

The first step in adopting a child from South Africa is to select an adoption service provider in the United States that has been Hague-accredited. Only these agencies and attorneys can provide adoption services between the United States and South Africa. South Africa requires that adoption service providers based in the United States also have formal working agreements with accredited counterparts in South Africa. Please contact the U.S. Consulate Johannesburg's Immigrant Visa Unit for the most updated information on which adoption service providers are accredited to provide service in South Africa. Learn more.

2. Apply to be Found Eligible to Adopt:

After you choose an accredited adoption service provider, you apply to be found eligible to adopt (Form I-800A) by the U.S. Government, Department of Homeland Security, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) National Benefits Center (NBC). Learn how.

The accredited organization is tasked with identifying a child who is eligible for adoption. After a home study has been completed by an accredited organization, the case is referred to a children’s court for a final hearing.

Once the U.S. government determines that you are “eligible” and “suitable” to adopt, you or your agency will forward your information to the adoption authority in South Africa. South Africa’s adoption authority will review your application to determine whether you are also eligible to adopt under South Africa’s law.

3. Be Matched with a Child:

If both the United States and South Africa determine that you are eligible to adopt, and a child is available for intercountry adoption, the central adoption authority in South Africa may provide you with a referral for a child. Each family must decide for itself whether or not it will be able to meet the needs of the particular child and provide a permanent family placement for the referred child.

An order of adoption terminates all the rights and obligations existing between the child and any prior legally-recognized parents. The adopted child is thereafter deemed by law to be the legitimate child of the adoptive parent(s). The order of adoption confers the surname of the adoptive parent on the adopted child.

4. Apply for the Child to be Found Eligible for Adoption:

After you accept a match with a child, you will apply to the U.S Government, Department of Homeland Security, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) for provisional approval to adopt that particular child (Form I-800). USCIS will determine whether the prospective adoptive child qualifies as a Hague adoptee and would be eligible under U.S. law to enter the United States after being adopted abroad. Learn how.

After this, your adoption service provider or you will submit a visa application to a Consular Officer at the U.S. Consulate General in Johannesburg. The Consular Officer will review the child’s information and evaluate the child for possible visa ineligibilities. If the Consular Office determines that the child appears eligible to immigrate to the United States, he/she will notify the South Africa’s adoption authority (Article 5 letter). For Convention country adoptions, prospective adoptive parent(s) may not proceed with the adoption or obtain custody for the purpose of adoption until this takes place.

Remember: The Consular Officer will make a final decision about the immigrant visa later in the adoption process.

5. Adopt the Child in South Africa:

Remember: Before you adopt a child in South Africa, 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 South Africa.

The process for finalizing the adoption in South Africa generally includes the following:

  • ROLE OF THE ADOPTION AUTHORITY: The approval of the Commissioner of Child Welfare, a designated officer of the South African Department of Justice, is required in order for an adoption order to be issued. The Commissioner of Child Welfare will consider the parent(s)’ suitability for adoption and the best interests of the child with the input of a social worker accredited by the Department of Social Development. The Department of Social Development is the central authority for all adoptions.
  • ROLE OF THE COURT: After a home study has been completed by an accredited organization, the case is referred to a children's court for the final hearing. An order of adoption terminates all the rights and obligations existing between the child and any prior legally-recognized parents. The order of adoption confers the surname of the adoptive parent on the adopted child.
  • ROLE OF ADOPTION AGENCIES: The adoption procedure is initiated by contacting an accredited welfare organization which will identify a child who is eligible for adoption.
  • TIME FRAME: It can take up to two years to complete South African adoption requirements.
  • ADOPTION FEES: The U.S. Consulate General discourages the payment of any fees that are not properly receipted. “Donations,” or “expediting” fees, which may be requested from prospective adoptive parents, have the appearance of “buying” a baby and put all future adoptions in South Africa at risk. 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: Due to the South African order of precedence (preferring relatives, then South African citizens, and then foreigners) for adopting orphans, the document requirements can vary from case to case. As a starting point, contact the Commissioner of Child Welfare and the South African Department of Social Development (contact information below).

NOTE: If you are asked to provide proof that a document from the United States is authentic, we can help. Learn how.

6. Bring Your Child Home

Now that your adoption is complete, there are a few more steps to take before you can head home. Specifically, you need to apply for three 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 new birth certificate for your child, so that you can later apply for a passport. Your name will be added to the new birth certificate.

First, the adoption must be recorded in the child’s birth register at any district office of the Department of Home Affairs ( Submit a written request, accompanied by a certified copy of the adoption order. If the adoption order authorizes the change of the child’s surname to that of the adoptive parent(s), this will be completed at the same time on form BI-193. The fee to record an adoption is R70.00 (South African Rand).

Submit a completed BI-154 application form in person to any district office of the Department of Home Affairs. You must request the unabridged or long-form version of the birth certificate, which will list the names, birthdates and birthplaces of both parents along with those of the child. The fee for the unabridged birth certificate is R70.00 and processing can take several weeks.

2. South African Passport

Your child is not yet a U.S. citizen, so he/she will need to obtain a South African passport.

Submit a completed DHA-73 application form in person to any district office of the Department of Home Affairs, accompanied by the unabridged birth certificate. The parents must satisfy the passport officer of the child’s identity and their parental relationship to the child. The child’s photographs will be checked to ensure that they are a true image of the applicant. If the child is over 16, his or her fingerprints will be taken for checking against the Population Register. The South African child passport (applicants under 16) is valid for 5 years and the fee is R145.00. The regular passport (applicants over 16) is valid for 10 years and the fee is R190.00 for a 32-page book. Processing time for all passports is approximately six weeks.

3. U.S. Immigrant Visa

After the adoption is granted and you have obtained the new birth certificate and passport for your child, you also need to apply for an immigrant visa from the U.S. Consulate General in Johannesburg for your child. 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. Learn more. On March 3, 2008, the U.S. Consulate General in Johannesburg, South Africa’s panel physicians began using the Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) 2007 Tuberculosis Technical Instructions (TB TIs) for the TB medical screening for all immigrant visa applicants from South Africa, Botswana, Mozambique, Namibia, and Swaziland, including adopted children. The 2007 TB TIs include new requirements that affect the pace at which some adoption cases can be concluded. Please visit the CDC’s website for further information regarding the 2007 Technical Instructions for Tuberculosis Screening and Treatment for Panel Physicians.

The following additional documents are required for children who are fully adopted under South African law:

1. The child’s original, unabridged birth certificate, showing the new adoptive parents’ names;
2. Evidence that the child meets the definition of Convention Adoptee;
3. A final decree of adoption reflecting that both spouses (prospective adoptive parents) were parties to the adoption;
4. Evidence of compliance with all relevant South African regulations;
5. A passport issued in the child’s correct, current name; and
6. The child’s medical examination completed by one of the Consulate’s approved panel physicians.

NOTE: If all required documents are in order and the child is qualified for the visa, it generally takes between 2-3 days to issue the visa. Unfortunately, it is not possible to issue the visa to adoptive parents on the day of the interview due to security procedures.

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

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