Adopting from Bulgaria
Hague Convention Information
WARNING: Bulgaria is party to the Hague Adoption Convention. Do not adopt or obtain legal custody of a child in Bulgaria before a U.S. consular officer issues an “Article 5 Letter.” See the “How to Adopt” section for more information.
Bulgaria is party to the Hague Convention on Protection of Children and Co-operation in Respect of Intercountry Adoption (Hague Adoption Convention). Therefore, all adoptions between Bulgaria and the United States must meet the requirements of the Convention; the U.S. implementing legislation, the Intercountry Act of 2000 (IAA), and the IAA implementing regulations.
Who Can Adopt
Adoption between the United States and Bulgaria is governed by the Hague Adoption Convention. Therefore to adopt from Bulgaria, you must first be found eligible to adopt by the U.S. government. The U.S. government agency responsible for making this determination is the Department of Homeland Security, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).
There are no residency requirements to complete an intercountry adoption in Bulgaria. However, prospective adoptive parents are expected to spend five days with their adoptive child before the orphanage director will release the child.
Age of Adopting Parents
Prospective adoptive parents must be at least 15 years older than their adoptive children.
Under Bulgarian law, prospective adoptive parents can be a heterosexual married couple or a single person. Here the law does not specifiy orientation.
Who Can Be Adopted
Children are listed on the registry for domestic adoption if they are officially relinquished or abandoned by the parents. If no Bulgarian family adopts a child from the domestic registry within six months of listing, the child is entered into the registry for international adoptions, maintained by the Ministry of Justice. Biological parents may reinstate their custody even after they have officially relinquished or abandoned their child and the child has been entered into the registry for domestic or international adoptions. However, this happens very rarely and only after careful review by the Bulgarian social services.
Because Bulgaria is party to the Hague Adoption Convention, children from Bulgaria must meet the requirements of the Convention in order to be eligible for adoption. For example, the adoption may take place only if the competent authorities of Bulgaria have determined that placement of the child within Bulgaria has been given due consideration and that an intercountry adoption is in the child’s best interests. In addition to Bulgarian requirements, a child must meet the definition of a Convention adoptee for you to bring him or her back to the United States.
How to Adopt
WARNING: Bulgaria is party to the Hague Adoption Convention. Do not adopt or obtain legal custody of a child in Bulgaria before a U.S. consular officer issues an “Article 5 Letter.” Read on for more information.
Bulgaria’s Adoption Authority
Department of International Legal Child Protection and Intercountry Adoptions Ministry of Justice
Because Bulgaria is party to the Hague Adoption Convention, adopting from Bulgaria 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.
NOTE: If you filed your I-600A with Bulgaria 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. For more information, read about Transition Cases.
- Choose an Accredited ASP
- Apply to be Found Eligible to Adopt
- Be Matched with a Child
- Apply for the Child to be Found Eligible for Immigration to the United States
- Adopt the Child in Bulgaria
- Bring your Child Home
1.Choose an Accredited Adoption Service Provider:
The recommended first step in adopting a child from Bulgaria is to select an accredited ASP in the United States that has been accredited. Only these agencies and attorneys can provide adoption services in Convention adoptions between the United States and Bulgaria. Learn more about Agency Accreditation.
The U.S. ASP must work with a Bulgarian adoption agency that has been accredited by the Bulgarian Ministry of Justice. The U.S. ASP may not work directly with the Ministry of Justice. For a complete list of Bulgarian adoption agencies accredited by the Bulgarian Ministry of Justice, please visit the web site of the U.S. Embassy in Sofia, Bulgaria.
2.Apply to be Found Eligible to Adopt:
After you choose an accredited ASP, you must apply to be found eligible to adopt (Form I-800A) by the Department of Homeland Security, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). Read more about Eligibility Requirements. Once the U.S. government determines that you are “eligible” and “suitable” to adopt, you or your adoption agency will forward your information to the adoption authority in Bulgaria. Bulgaria’s Ministry of Justice will review your application to determine whether you are also eligible to adopt under Bulgaria’s law.
After completing the U.S. pre-adoption requirements through USCIS, the U.S. ASP works with a Bulgarian adoption agency that has been licensed by the Bulgarian Ministry of Justice. While the two agencies work together as partners, with a signed agreement,under 22 CFR 96.46, the Bulgarian ASP would be considered a foreign supervised provider. The U.S. accredited or approved ASP has certain responsibilities of oversight over the conduct of the Bulgarian ASP, even though the Bulgarian ASP is also accredited by the Bulgarian Central Authority. All required documents must be filed at the Ministry of Justice by the Bulgarian ASP. If the prospective parent(s) application is accepted, their names are placed on a registry.
3.Be Matched with a Child
If both the United States and Bulgaria determine that you are eligible to adopt, and a child is available for intercountry adoption, Bulgaria’s Ministry of Justice may provide you with a referral for a child in accordance with the criteria you have specified in your home study. 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.
Due to the priority given to children with special needs, the Bulgarian Ministry of Justice processes referrals of prospective adoptive parents willing to adopt a child with special needs before other referrals. A child with special needs is defined as a child with significant health issues or a child over seven years of age.
The Adoption Council within the Ministry of Justice reviews the registries of prospective parents and available children, including all relevant documentation, and proposes a match. The MOJ provides the adoptive parents through their Bulgarian accredited agency photographs of the child and information about the child, including his/her medical condition. If the family declines to adopt the child, the agency must inform the Council within two months of the referral, and the Council will suggest a match with a different child. There is no limitation as to the number of times prospective adoptive parents may decline a proposed match.
4.Apply for the Child to be Found Eligible for Immigration to the United States:
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 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, an electronic visa application form (DS-260) must be submitted. The visa application may be filled out and submitted by you or your U.S. or Bulgarian ASP. You, or someone acting on your behalf, will then visit the consular section of the U.S. Embassy to pay the visa fee and submit a photograph of the child. A consular officer will review the child’s information and evaluate the child for possible visa ineligibilities.
WARNING: The consular officer will send a letter (referred to as an “Article 5 Letter”) to the Bulgarian Central Authority in any intercountry adoption involving U.S. citizen parents and a child from Bulgaria 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 Bulgarian 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.
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 (or Gain Legal Custody) of a Child in Bulgaria:
Remember: Before you adopt (or gain legal custody of) a child in Bulgaria, 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 Bulgaria.
- Role of Adoption Authority: The Ministry of Justice is the Central Authority for Hague adoptions in Bulgaria. It is responsible for the accreditation of Bulgarian ASPs. It also maintains a registry of children available for inter-country adoption and matches children to prospective adoptive parents. Once the prospective adoptive parent(s) accept the match of a child and the child is referred to the family by the Council, the case is forwarded to the Minister of Justice for final approval. When the Minister approves the parents’ application, the Ministry of Justice transfers the paperwork directly to Sofia City Court.
- Role of the Court: After the parents have met and spent five days with the child with whom they are matched, the Ministry of Justice approves their application and sends the case to the Sofia City Court. The Court sets a date for a hearing and reviews the documentation related to the adoption process, including the Ministry of Justice’s referral. The Court may postpone the hearing date if it requires additional documents. After hearing the case, the Court decides whether to grant a final adoption decree to the adoptive parents. Once the court issues a full adoption decree, the adoptive parent’s Bulgarian representatives obtain a new birth certificate and passport for the child.
- Role of Adoption Agencies: The U.S. ASP prepares the home-study and assists the adoptive parents in filing the I-800A. The U.S. ASP works with a Bulgarian ASP who registers the adoptive parents with the Bulgarian Ministry of Justice and serves as liaison to the Bulgarian Central Authority. It should be noted that under U.S. accreditation standards, the Bulgarian ASP must be a supervised provider. The Bulgarian ASP might also file a visa application with the American Embassy in Sofia.
- Time Frame: If there is a special needs child available for intercountry adoption, it normally takes several months to complete the adoption process in Bulgaria. There are very few young and healthy children on the waiting list. Hence adoptive parents who wish to adopt a younger child with no medical issues may wait many months or even years until the Ministry of Justice matches them with a child.
- Adoption Application: The application is a letter prepared by the accredited adoption agency. It is deposited at the Ministry of Justice by the parents’ Bulgarian legal representative.
- Adoption Fees: The U.S. Embassy in Sofia is aware of the following Bulgarian fees for adoption. These fees are subject to change. All fees are given in Bulgarian currency and in Euros as the Bulgarian currency is linked to the Euro.
- 1. Application fee at the MOJ: 100 leva (€ 50.00 EUR)
- 2. Court fee: 25 leva (€ 12,50 EUR)
- 3. Minister’s approval for adoption:v 50 leva (€ 25.00 EUR)
- 4. Transcript of the Court Decree: The fee varies according to the number of pages. The first page costs 2 leva (€ 1 EUR) and each following page costs 1 lev (€ 0,50 EUR)
- 5. Passport fee for child under 14: 10 leva (€ 5.00 EUR) for a regular service for up to 30 days; 20 leva (€ 10.00 EUR) for an expedited service – up to 3 days; 50 leva (€ 25.00 EUR) for an emergency service – up to 8 hours
- 6. Passport fee for child over 14: 40 leva (€ 20.00 EUR) for a regular service for up to 30 days; 80 leva (€ 40.00 EUR) for an expedited service – up to 3 days; 200 leva (€ 100.00 EUR) for an emergency service – up to 8 hours
- 7. Birth Certificate fee: 5 leva (€ 2,50.00 EUR) for a regular service – up to 7 days; 7,50 leva (€ 3,75.00 EUR) for an expedited service – up to 3 days; 10 leva (€ 5.00 EUR) for an emergency service – up to 2 days. The legalization of the document costs 5 leva (€ 2,50.00 EUR)
In addition to the above, U.S. adoption agencies charge fees for the services they provide. The Department of State discourages the payment of any fees that are not properly receipted that may be requested from prospective adoptive parents. Such fees have the appearance of “buying” a baby, may be contrary to the Convention and U.S. law, and put all future adoptions in Bulgaria at risk. If you think such a fee has been asked or demanded, please inform the U.S. Embassy in Bulgaria. In the adoption services contract that you sign at the beginning of the adoption process, your U.S. ASP will itemize the fees and estimated expenses related to your adoption process.
- Documents Required: Application, including personal data, family history, financial information. The application is a letter prepared by the accredited adoption agency. Other documents required include:
- 1. A document certifying that the adoptive parent(s) has/have not been deprived of custody rights;
- 2. An FBI fingerprint clearance shows whether there were prior arrests or criminal convictions which would render them ineligible to adopt a child in Bulgaria;
- 3. Home Study;
- 4. Medical Certificate (signed by a general practitioner);
- 5. A court certificate of the adoptive parent;
- 6. Approval by the USCIS (I-171H);
- 7. Receipt for the application fee of 100 leva (€ 50.00 EUR).
All documents submitted should be originals. They must be translated and apostilled.
NOTE: Additional documents may be requested. If you are asked to provide proof that a document from the United States is authentic, we can help. Read more about Authenticating U.S. Documents.
6.Bring Your Child Home
Now that your adoption is complete (or you have obtained legal custody of the child), 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
You will firstneed 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.
NOTE: The process of obtaining a birth certificate and passport takes 3 - 4 weeks. The parents are not required to do anything in order to apply for these two documents. Their accredited adoption agency authorizes an attorney to represent them at court and deposit documents at various Government entities.
- 2. Bulgarian Passport
Your child is not yet a U.S. citizen, so he/she will need a travel document or Passport from Bulgaria. After the new birth certificate has been issued, the representative has to apply for a passport of the child. The process of obtaining a birth certificate and a passport takes 3-4 weeks.
- 3. U.S. Immigrant Visa
After you obtain the new birth certificate and passport for your child, you also need to apply for a U.S. visa from the U.S. Embassy in Sofia for your child. After the adoption (or custody for purpose of adoption) is granted, visit the U.S Embassy for final review and approval of the child’s I-800 petition and to obtain a visa for the 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.
The visa interview may be scheduled by the adoptive parents or by their Bulgarian representative over the telephone as soon as the child obtains a Bulgarian passport. They must first make sure that their fingerprint clearances have not expired. The visa interview may be scheduled a few days before the intended interview date.
Interviews can be scheduled by calling (359-2) 937-5444 each working day from to 09:00 to 12:00. This is the direct line to the Immigrant Visa Unit. In case of emergency or if the line is busy, adoptive parents may reach the Immigrant Visa Unit through the Embassy's switchboard: (359-2) 937-5100. The Embassy conducts immigrant visa interviews Monday through Thursday from 13:00 to 15:30 hours.
Child Citizenship Act
For adoptions finalized abroad: Pursuant to the provisions of the Child Citizenship Act of 2000, children who enter the U.S. on an IR-3 or IH-3 immigrant visa generally acquire U.S. citizenship automatically upon entry to the United States for the purpose of lawful permanent residence.
For adoptions to be finalized in the United States: Pursuant to the provisions of the Child Citizenship Act of 2000, children who enter the United States on an IR-4 or IH-4 immigrant visa generally acquire U.S. citizenship automatically when a court in the United States issues the final adoption decree.
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 or her life including family travel, eligibility for education and education grants, and voting.
Read more about the Child Citizenship Act of 2000.
Applying for Your U.S. Passport
U.S. citizens are required by law to enter and depart the United States on a valid U.S. passport. Only the U.S. Department of State has the authority to grant, issue, or verify U.S. passports. Getting or renewing a passport is easy. The Passport Application Wizard will help you determine which passport form you need, help you to complete the form online, estimate your payment, and generate the form for you to print—all in one place.
Obtaining Your Visa
In addition to a U.S. passport, you also need to obtain a visa. A visa is an official document issued by a foreign country that formally allows you to visit. Where required, visas are attached to your passport and allow you to enter a foreign nation.
To find information about obtaining a visa for Bulgaria, see the Department of State’s Country Specific Information.
Staying Safe on Your Trip
Before you travel, it's always a good practice to investigate the local conditions, laws, political landscape, and culture of the country. The State Department webpage is a good place to start. The Department of State provides Country Specific Information for every country of the world about various issues, including the health conditions, crime, unusual currency or entry requirements, and any areas of instability.
Staying in Touch on Your Trip
When traveling during the adoption process, we encourage you to register your trip with the Department of State. Travel registration makes it possible to contact you if necessary. Whether there’s a family emergency in the United States, or a crisis in Bulgaria, registration assists the U.S. embassy or consulate in reaching you. Registration is free and can be done online.
We strongly urge you to comply with all post-adoption requirements in a timely manner. Your adoption agency may be able to help you with this process. Your cooperation will contribute to Bulgaria’s history of positive experiences with U.S. parents.
What resources are available to assist families after the adoption?
Many adoptive parents find it important to find support after the adoption. Take advantage of all the resources available to your family -- whether it’s another adoptive family, a support group, an advocacy organization, or your religious or community services.
Here are some good places to start your support group search:
NOTE: Inclusion of non-U.S. government links does not imply endorsement of content.
U.S. Embassy in Bulgaria
16 Kozyak Street Sofia 1408 Bulgaria Tel: (359 2) 937-5100 Fax: (359 (2) 937-5122 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org Internet: U.S. Embassy in Bulgaria
Bulgarian Adoption Authority
Ministry of Justice Slavyanska Street # 1 Sofia 1040 Bulgaria Tel: (359 2) 923-7303 (Bulgarian only) Internet: Ministry of Justice
Embassy of Bulgaria
Embassy of Bulgaria 1621 22nd Street, N.W. Washington, D.C. 20008 Tel: 202-387-0174 (main), 202-387-7969 (consular section) Fax: 202-234-7973 Email: office@Bulgaria-Embassy.org, Consulate@Bulgaria-Embassy.org Internet: Embassy of Bulgaria
Bulgaria also has consulates in New York, Chicago, and Los Angeles.
Office of Children’s Issues
U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS)
For questions about immigration procedures: National Customer Service Center (NCSC) Tel: 1-800-375-5283 (TTY 1-800-767-1833) Internet: USCIS
For questions about filing a Form I-800A application or I-800 petition: National Benefits Center Tel: 1-877-424-8374 (toll free); 1-816-251-2770 (local) Email: NBC.Adoptions@DHS.gov