How to Adopt from the Democratic Republic of the Congo
Ministry of Gender and Family
Ministry of Justice
Ministry of Social Affairs, Division of Urban Affairs
Ministry of Foreign Affairs
Ministry of Interior and Security, General Direction of Migration
The process for adopting a child from the Democratic Republic of the Congo generally includes the following steps:
- Choose an adoption service provider
- Apply to be found eligible to adopt
- Be matched with a child
- Adopt the child in the democratic republic of the congo
- 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 the Democratic Republic of the Congo 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.
There are no adoption agencies authorized to provide services in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. However, many U.S.-based adoption agencies work with specific local representatives in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Orphanages must be licensed or accredited by the Congolese government. It is customary and accepted practice to engage Congolese lawyers to carry out adoption proceedings. Attorneys licensed to practice in the Democratic Republic of the Congo are automatically accredited to provide adoption services by virtue of their profession. The U.S. Embassy in Kinshasa maintains a list of attorneys on its website who have expressed a willingness to work with U.S. citizens. This list does not imply an endorsement of specific attorneys by the Embassy or any guarantee of the quality of the services they may provide.
2. Apply to be Found Eligible to Adopt
In order to adopt a child from the Democratic Republic of the Congo, you will need to meet the requirements of the Government of the Democratic Republic of the Congo and U.S. immigration law. Prospective adoptive parents need to seek adoption through a lawyer directly with the court. The Congolese portion of the process does not require U.S. prospective adoptive parents to fill out specific application forms when applying to the Tribunal pour Enfants to adopt a particular child. 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 or other authorized entity in the Democratic Republic of the Congo 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 the Democratic Republic of the Congo’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. Prospective adoptive parents should know that, in the case of children who are Wards of the State, the “Guardianship Council” of the local government must first release the child for adoption.
- ROLE OF THE ADOPTION AUTHORITY: Adoption oversight responsibilities are shared between five ministries in the Congolese government that participate in enforcing adoption law and policies:
- Ministry of Gender and Family: The Ministry of Gender and Family is the newest adoption authority for the Democratic Republic of the Congo. The Ministry is charged with the protection of minors and coordinates the creation of adoption policies. The Ministry also chairs committees that review prospective adoptive parents’ applications to adopt Congolese children. The Ministry of Gender and Family must also approve each adoption. Adoptive parents or their local representative may submit their case to the Ministry any time after the adoption decree (Acte d’Adoption) is issued by the Tribunal pour Enfants, although the Ministry generally encourages applicants to submit their dossier as soon as possible. Congolese immigration authorities will not issue an exit permit to allow the adopted child to depart the country unless the Ministry has approved the adoption.
- Ministry of Justice: The Ministry of Justice has jurisdiction over adoption court procedures. Individual cases are handled by the Tribunal pour Enfants in the region where a prospective adoptive child resides, or in the Tribunal pour Enfants in a neighboring jurisdiction or Kinshasa if a Tribunal pour Enfants does not exist in the region where the child resides. Congolese attorneys assisting with adoption cases should have current contacts at the appropriate courts.
- Ministry of Social Affairs, Division of Urban Affairs: The Ministry of Social Affairs is charged with the role of protection of “vulnerable children,” and oversees communes and social workers throughout the country. The local “commune,” or township, and its Guardianship Council create a child’s abandonment or relinquishment document, when appropriate, designate a child as a Ward of the State, and temporarily assign the child to foster care or an orphanage. The temporary guardianship is valid for only five days unless confirmed by the local Tribunal pour Enfants clerk. The Ministry also oversees the local L’Etat Civil, which maintains each commune’s birth and adoption records.
- Ministry of Foreign Affairs: The Ministry of Foreign Affairs is responsible for certifying whether an adopted child is eligible for a Congolese passport, and for the passport’s issuance.
- Ministry of Interior and Security, General Direction of Migration: The Direction Generale d’Immigration (DGM) controls the departure of children from the Democratic Republic of the Congo and seeks to prevent child trafficking. The DGM issues exit permits to children who qualify under local procedures to depart the country with their adoptive parents. Congolese immigration authorities will not issue the exit permit to allow the adopted child to depart the country without the Ministry of Gender and Family’s approval of the adoption. The DGM requires that both adoptive parents, if a child is adopted by a married couple, or the adoptive parent, if a child is adopted by a single individual, apply in person for the exit permit.##ROLE OF THE COURT: The Tribunal pour Enfants in each region of the Democratic Republic of the Congo holds exclusive jurisdiction over intercountry adoptions. Prospective adoptive parents should be aware that decrees issued by Tribunal de Paix will only be accepted if the area where the child resides does not yet have a Tribunal pour Enfants, and that the DGM will only issue exit permits to children adopted in Tribunal de Paix if the adoption was completed prior to June 12, 2013.
- The Tribunal pour Enfants plays two roles in the adoption process. First, the Tribunal’s clerk must confirm a Guardianship Council’s temporary guardianship of a Ward of the State within five days of the child’s abandonment or relinquishment in order for a child to remain in the assigned orphanage or foster care home. Second, the Tribunal oversees the adoption process. The Tribunal pour Enfants requires consent to the adoption before granting a judgment. Biological parents, or appointed guardians, must give their consent, if applicable. If no family members or guardians are identified, the court will determine consent. Any child over the age of 15 must give his or her own consent.
- After the child’s family or guardian(s) consents to adoption, the prospective adoptive parents request a hearing in open court at the Tribunal pour Enfants in the area where the child resides. Prospective adoptive parents or their legal representative must submit copies of their birth certificates and the birth certificate of the prospective adoptee. The court will require proof that any and all interested family members of the child were informed of the adoption and received notice of the court hearing. After the initial hearing, the court conducts an investigation to determine that all conditions for placement or final adoption have been met and that all documents are legitimate. Once the investigation is completed and all requirements have been satisfied, the court will issue a Jugement d’Adoption, which authorizes the L’Etat Civil to issue an adoption decree (Acte d’Adoption) and updated birth certificate (Acte de Naissance). The adoption will be retroactively recorded under the date of the first court appearance. The adopted child's name on the judgment will incorporate his/her original name along with the newly adopted family name, but adoptive parents must ensure that the names on the local and U.S. documents match. At the time of adoption, the adoptive parent (in the case of minors) or the adoptee (if 18 years or older) may decide whether the child will retain his or her Congolese citizenship.
- The adoptive parents must also register the judgment at the local city hall or magistrate within one month or the adoption will be null and void. This is done either where the adoptive parents live (if they live in the Democratic Republic of the Congo) or where the child resides (if the adoptive parents do not live in the Democratic Republic of the Congo). At the end of the month, the magistrate will issue a “Certificate of Non-Appeal,” at which time the adoption is officially finalized under Congolese law.
- Role of Adoption Agencies: There are no adoption agencies authorized to provide services in the Democratic Republic of the Congo; however, many U.S. based adoption agencies work with specific local representatives in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Orphanages must be licensed or accredited by the Congolese government. It is customary and accepted practice to engage Congolese lawyers to carry out adoption proceedings. Attorneys licensed to practice in the Democratic Republic of the Congo are automatically accredited to provide adoption services by virtue of their profession. The U.S. Embassy in Kinshasa maintains a list of attorneys on its website who have expressed a willingness to work with U.S. citizens. This list does not imply an endorsement of specific attorneys by the Embassy or any guarantee of the quality of the services they may provide.
- Adoption Application: Prospective adoptive parents apply for permission to adopt by sending a letter to the Tribunal pour Enfants in the region where the child resides. Postal delivery is generally not available, so a letter should be sent by messenger or delivered by hand by the prospective adoptive parents, their agency’s local representative, or their local attorney. There is no application form. The Tribunal pour Enfants Judge approves foreign prospective adoptive parents for adoption. Families also need to apply to the Ministry of Gender and Family for approval of an adoption after the adoption decree is issued. Because postal delivery is generally not available, the application should be sent by messenger or delivered by hand by the adoptive parents, their agency’s local representative, or their local attorney. There is no application form.
- Time Frame: It can take from a minimum of three months to approximately one year to complete the adoption process from match proposal to filing the Certificate of Non-Appeal, although some cases can take considerably longer. The U.S. Embassy in Kinshasa estimates that it will take an additional three to six months to complete the case review and investigation once the Embassy receives the Form I-600 petition filed on behalf of a Congolese child.
- Adoption Fees: Court fees for an adoption case generally range between $200 and $250, a birth certificate between $20 and $50, a passport $170, and lawyer fees between $5,000 and $6,000. Fees can be kept to a minimum if, prior to the first consultation, prospective adoptive parents or their local representatives secure required documents, such as birth, death, marriage, and relevant court records, on their own. In addition to these fees, prospective adoptive parents may be expected to pay for the care and feeding of their child after the adoption is finalized and before the U.S. immigrant visa is issued. Please note that there are no official fees or procedures to expedite cases established or authorized under Congolese law or practices.
- DOCUMENTS REQUIRED: Prospective adoptive parents must submit copies of their own birth certificates, the birth certificate of the prospective adoptive child, police certificates from the prospective adoptive parents' place of residence, and attestations of good conduct from their city hall. 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 in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, 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.
In addition to the required supporting U.S. documents, adoptive parents filing the Form I-600, Petition to Classify Orphan as an Immediate Relative, for children adopted from the Democratic Republic of the Congo should present the following Congolese documents with the petition:
- 1. Adoption judgment (Jugement d'Adoption): This is issued by the Tribunal pour Enfants in the child’s area.
- 2. Act of Adoption, also known as the adoption decree (Acte d'Adoption). This is issued by the L’Etat Civil in the area where the child was born.
- 3. Certificate of Non-Appeal: This is issued by the Magistrate in the child’s area or the Magistrate in the area where the Tribunal pour Enfants is located.
- 4. Birth Certificate (Acte de Naissance): This is a birth registration that must be issued by the L’Etat Civil within 90 days of the child’s birth and which remains valid for the child’s lifetime. Please note that the U.S. Embassy in Kinshasa requires the actual birth certificate or an official copy (Copie Integrale d’Acte de Naissance) for immigrant visa processing.
- 5. Abandonment Report (Proces-Verbal de Constat D'Abandon d'un Enfant): The abandonment report is required if the child was abandoned by his/her biological parent(s). This report is completed by Social Services.
- 6. Parental Authorization (Autorisation Parentale): The Authorization Parental is required when a biological parent is directly relinquishing his/her child for adoption and emigration.
- 7. PV Tutelage Report: The PV Tutelage Report is the decree that documents that designates a child as a Ward of the State and eligible for adoption. This report is completed by the Guardianship Council where the child was born.
- 8. Ward of the State Document (Attestation de Placement du Pupille de l'Etat): This document is required if the local government terminated the parental rights of the biological parent(s).
- 9. Indigence Report (Attestation d'Indigence): The Indigence Report is often required when the adoptive child has known biological parent(s).
- 10. Death Certificate (Acte de Deces): The Death Certificate is required when the adoptive child’s biological parent(s) passed away. Please note that the U.S. Embassy in Kinshasa only accepts the legal death certificate produced by the local commune, not a hospital death certificate.
Please note that additional documents may be requested.
6. Bring Your Child Home
Once your adoption is complete, 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 finalized the adoption in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, you will first need to apply for a new birth certificate for your child. Your name will be added to the new birth certificate. Congolese birth certificates may be obtained at the commune where the child was born. The price for Congolese birth certificates can range from $20 to $50 and takes up to five days to issue. The child may retain his or her own name; however, if the adoptive family wishes the child to acquire their name, the change can be ordered in the court’s Jugement d'Adoption. The Jugement can be provided to the commune as a basis for adoptive parents or their representative to seek an amended birth certificate.
Adoptive parents are advised that the U.S. Embassy in Kinshasa does not accept Attestation de Naissance documents for immigration purposes because the Attestation de Naissance is a report of birth used for administrative purposes. It has no juridical value and is only valid for three months. Adoptive parents, their local agency representatives, or their local attorneys should make sure they acquire one of the following accepted civil documents as proof of the adopted child’s birth:
- a. The birth certificate (Acte de Naissance) or an official copy (Copie Integrale d’Acte de Naissance): Birth registrations that must be issued within 90 days of the birth and which remain valid for the child’s lifetime.
- b. If the Acte de Naissance was not issued within 90 days of the child’s birth, the applicant needs to get a Jugement Supplétif from the court having jurisdiction over the child’s place of residence. The Jugement will help the applicant obtain a valid birth certificate.
- c. The replacement birth document (Extrait d'Acte de Naissance), which is issued when an Acte de Naissance was lost or stolen.
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.
- 2. Congolese Passport
Your child is not yet a U.S. citizen, so he/she will need a travel document or passport from the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Adoptive parents or their lawyers should go to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in order to apply for a Congolese passport for the adoptive child. The application and passport cost approximately $170 dollars. Passport issuance takes approximately two weeks.
- 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. Embassy in Kinshasa. 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. The U.S. Embassy Kinshasa’s Consular Section schedules all interviews for adoption cases only after the required investigation into the child’s orphan status has been completed. If the Form I-600 was filed in the United States or with a USCIS office overseas, the Consular Section will conduct a field investigation to verify the child’s orphan status under U.S. immigration law following receipt of the approved Form I-600 petition. If the Form I-600 petition was filed at the U.S. Embassy in Kinshasa, the Consular Section will conduct an investigation to verify the child’s orphan status under U.S. immigration law upon receipt of the Form I-600 petition and all supporting documents. Please note that these investigations take approximately three to six months to complete, or longer if children come from an area experiencing civil unrest where the security situation impacts the travel of Embassy staff, or if the investigation uncovers facts that require additional inquiries.
The Consular Section will contact the petitioner, and his or her designated representative, to schedule the visa interview once the required investigation is complete. Interviews are held on Monday and Wednesday afternoons. You can find instructions for applying for an immigrant visa on the U.S. Embassy in Kinshasa’s website.
Child Citizenship Act
For adoptions finalized abroad prior to the child’s entry into the United States: A child will acquire U.S. citizenship upon entry into the United States if the adoption was finalized prior to entry and the child otherwise meets the requirements of the Child Citizenship Act of 2000.
For adoptions finalized after the child’s entry into the United States: An adoption will need to be completed following your child’s entry into the United States for the child to acquire U.S. citizenship.
Please be aware that if your child did not qualify to become a citizen upon entry to the United States, it is very important that you take the steps necessary so that your child does qualify as soon as possible. Failure to obtain citizenship for your child can impact many areas of his/her life including family travel, eligibility for education and education grants, and voting.
Read more about the Child Citizenship Act of 2000.