How to Adopt from Sri Lanka


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

Adoption Authority

Sri Lanka’s Adoption Authority

Department of Probation and Child Care Services

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 Sri Lanka 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 Sri Lanka is party to The Hague Adoption Convention, adopting from Sri Lanka 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 result in the child not being eligible for an immigrant visa to the United States.

  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 Sri Lanka
  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 child in Sri Lanka
  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 Sri Lanka 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 Sri Lanka. In addition, foreign adoption service providers must apply to the Department of Probation and Child Care Services for authorization to facilitate adoptions in Sri Lanka. If authorization is granted, the adoption service provider will be permitted to work in Sri Lanka subject to conditions stipulated by the Department of Probation and Child Care Services. Prospective adoptive parents may contact either the Department of Probation and Child Care Services or the U.S. Embassy in Colombo for a list of U.S. accredited adoption service providers authorized to facilitate adoptions in Sri Lanka (see Contact Information below.) 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 Department of Probation and Child Care Services as part of your adoption dossier. Sri Lanka’s central authority will review your application to determine whether you are also eligible to adopt under Sri Lanka’s laws.

3. Be Matched with a Child in Sri Lanka

If both the United States and Sri Lanka 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 Department of Probation and Child Care Services in Sri Lanka 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 Sri Lanka. The Department of Probation and Child Care Services 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, your adoption service provider communicates that to the Department of Probation and Child Care Services in Sri Lanka. 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 Colombo that is responsible for issuing immigrant visas to children from Sri Lanka. 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 Sri Lankan Central Authority in any intercountry adoption involving U.S. citizen parents and a child from Sri Lanka 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 Sri Lankan 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 Sri Lanka 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 the Child in Sri Lanka

Remember: Before you adopt a child in Sri Lanka, 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 Sri Lanka.

The process for finalizing the adoption or gaining legal custody in Sri Lanka generally includes the following:

  • Role of Adoption Authority: The Sri Lankan adoption authority, the Department of Probation and Child Care Services, plays a significant role on most of the key procedures of adoption, including:
1. Matching: Foreign prospective adoptive parents are not allowed, on their own, to locate children for adoption. Only the Sri Lankan State Receiving Homes and Voluntary Children's Homes that are registered with the Department of Probation and Child Care Services for over five years may perform this function. These Homes (also referred to in this Country Information Sheet as Sri Lankan adoption agencies) must also have specific authorization of the Commissioner of Probation.
2. Allocation Letter from the Commissioner: If the Commissioner of Probation and Child Care Services finds the home study report and other supporting documents to be satisfactory, and if a child is adoptable, the Commissioner will send a letter to the Sri Lankan adoption agency, which will advise the prospective adoptive parents of the proposed match.
3. Interview with the Social Worker: Once the prospective adoptive parents receive their “allocation letter” proposing the match, they may travel to Sri Lanka for the adoption proceedings. (Note:Prospective adoptive parents must not adopt until the U.S. Embassy issues an Article 5 letter in your case.) The Commissioner of Probation and Child Care Services will assign a social worker to the case. Prospective adoptive parents need to schedule an interview with that person. This will occur at the Department of Probation and Child Care Services.
4. Visiting the Child: After the interview, the prospective parents will be issued a letter from the Commissioner authorizing them to see the child at the specified children’s home. The applicants, however, will not be allowed to take custody of the child without the Commissioner’s approval.
  • Role of the Court: Only the District Court of Colombo and the District Court of Colombo South have authority to issue orders of adoption of Sri Lankan children by foreigners. Prospective adoptive parents must hire a Sri Lankan attorney to represent them in the legal proceedings. The U.S. Embassy in Colombo maintains a list of attorneys who have indicated a willingness to assist U.S. citizens in Sri Lankan legal cases. After the court receives the adoption petition, the court requests a report from the Commissioner to determine whether the adoption is in the best interests of the child. The Commissioner has from 14 to 28 days to submit the report. The home study must be included in the Commissioner’s report. If everything is in accordance with the applicable laws and regulations, the court then issues an order of adoption. When possible, the birth parent(s) are required to attend the court hearing in order to formally relinquish custody of the child in front of the judge. The adoptive parents are normally present for this step of the process. After the court’s adoption order is issued, copies may be obtained by making an application to the court. The court‘s adoption order must be registered with the Registrar General’s Office located at Indika Bldg., Main Street, Colombo 11. This process may take two to three days. The adoption is considered complete after the adoption order is registered and a copy of the Certificate of Adoption is obtained from the Registrar General, located at R.A. de Mel Mawatha, Colombo 3, Sri Lanka.
  • Role of Attorneys: The attorney can file the petition for adoption in court and represent the prospective adoptive parents throughout the adoption legal proceedings.
  • Time Frame: The process for adopting a child from Sri Lanka can be lengthy. It generally takes at least one year to match a child with a family. Prospective adoptive parents should be prepared to stay in Sri Lanka one to two months to complete court procedures and obtain a Certificate of Adoption and a Sri Lankan passport before scheduling an interview appointment at the U.S. Embassy.
  • Adoption Application: Information on how to apply to adopt a Sri Lankan child, including the application for foreign adoption, may be found on the Department of Probation and Child Care Services website.
  • Adoption Fees: The lawyer’s fee for an adoption case is approximately U.S. $450 (or approximately Rs. 60,000) but may vary. Court fees are U.S. $1 (or approximately Rs. 100). Prospective adoptive parents should refrain from making any payment or giving any reward to any person in consideration of the adoption except such as the court may sanction. Unsanctioned payments may be considered illegal under Sri Lankan law and lead to legal action. 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: Documents required include:
1. Certified copies of the birth certificate of both prospective parents;
2. Certified copies of the marriage certificate of the prospective parents;
3. Certified copies of health certificates of both prospective parents;
4. A letter(s) from the current employer of the prospective parent(s) listing employment and salary information;
5. Police reports of the prospective parents;
6. Copies of the passports of both prospective parents; and
7. A home study report prepared by a U.S.-accredited agency or by the Sri Lankan Central Authority. You may find information on how to obtain a home study report from the Central Authority in Sri Lanka. NOTE: Additional documents may be requested.
  • Authentication of Documents: You may be asked by the Sri Lankan Embassy in Washington, D.C. 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 Sri Lanka, you will firstneed 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.

After a court adoption order is issued, adoptive parents need to obtain an adoption certificate from the Department of the Registrar General, in Colombo, Sri Lanka. The adoption order must be submitted to:

Department of Registrar’s Office

Central Record Room Maligawatte, Colombo 10

The adoptive parents may then apply at the Department of Registrar’s office for a new birth certificate with the adoptive parents listed as the parents and the child’s new surname included. This process can take several months. Normally, adoptive parents initiate the process and request the Department of Registrar’s office to forward the birth certificate to their U.S. address.

2. Sri Lankan Passport

Your child is not yet a U.S. citizen, so he/she will need a travel document or passport from Sri Lanka.

Once adoptive parents have the adoption order and adoption certificate, they must take it to the Department of Probation and Child Care Service in order to obtain a letter requesting the issuance of a Sri Lankan passport for their child. After receiving the letter from the Commissioner, the adoptive parents can apply for a Sri Lankan passport from the following:

Department of Immigration and Emigration

Passport Section 1st Floor, 41 Ananda Rajakaruna Mawatha Colombo 10

Adoptive parents will need to bring the certificate of adoption, their child’s original birth certificate, and the letter from the Commissioner. The child’s passport will be issued with the name of on the adoption order. If the child is given a new name by the adoptive parents, this needs to be indicated on the final adoption order.

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 Colombo. After the adoption is granted, visit the U.S. Embassy in Sri Lanka for final review of the case, issuance of a U.S. Hague Adoption Certificate or Hague Custody Certificate, final approval of Form I-800, and 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 about The Child Citizenship Act of 2000.

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