Adopting from Niger
Hague Convention Information
Niger is not party to the Hague Convention on Protection of Children and Co-operation in Respect of Intercountry Adoption (the Hague Adoption Convention). Intercountry adoptions of children from non-Hague countries are processed in accordance with 8 Code of Federal Regulations, Section 204.3 as it relates to orphans as defined under the Immigration and Nationality Act, Section 101(b)(1)(F).
PLEASE NOTE: Nigerien law does not technically permit adoptions by couples with biological children. The Direction de la Protection de l'Enfant (DPE) may review a longstanding policy of granting exceptions in the future.
Who Can Adopt
To bring an adopted child to the United States from Niger, you must meet eligibility and suitability requirements. The U.S. Department of Homeland Security, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) determines Who Can Adopt under U.S. immigration law.
Additionally, a child must meet the definition of orphan under U.S. law in order to be eligible to immigrate to the United States on an IR-3 or IR-4 immigrant visa.
In addition to U.S. immigration requirements, you must also meet the following requirements in order to adopt a child from Niger:
Age of Adopting Parents
According to Nigerien law, one prospective adoptive parent must be at least 35 years of age.
According to Nigerien law, the prospective adoptive parents must be married for a minimum of 10 years.
Prospective adoptive parents have to submit proof of income.
Who Can Be Adopted
In addition to U.S. immigration requirements, Niger has specific requirements that a child must meet in order to be eligible for adoption:
ABANDONMENT: Any child whose parents cannot be found.
AGE OF ADOPTIVE CHILD: None.
SIBLING ADOPTIONS: None.
SPECIAL NEEDS OR MEDICAL CONDITIONS: None.
WAITING PERIOD OR FOSTER CARE: None.
Caution: Prospective adoptive parents should be aware that not all children in orphanages or children's homes are adoptable. In many countries, birth parents place their child(ren) temporarily in an orphanage or children's home due to financial or other hardship, with the intention of returning for the child when they are able to do so. In such cases, the birth parent(s) rarely would have relinquished their parental rights or consented to their child(ren)'s adoption.
How to Adopt
Niger's Adoption Authority
Ministère de la Population, de la Promotion de la Femme et de la Protection de l'Enfant, Direction de la Protection de l'Enfant (Ministry of Population, Promotion of Women, and Protection of Children, Department of Child Protection) and Ministère de la Justice et Garde Des Sceaux (Ministry of Justice and Keeper of the Seals)
The process for adopting a child from Niger 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 legal custody of the child in Niger
- Apply for the Child to be Found Eligible for Adoption
- Bring Your Child Home
1. Choose an Adoption Service Provider
The recommended first step in adopting a child from Niger 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.
The sole agency authorized to handle adoptions in Niger is the Direction de la Protection de l'Enfant,the Nigerien government entity cited above. However, this agency prefers that prospective adoptive parents work with an attorney who understands local law.
Although not required by Nigerien law, prospective adoptive parent(s) should consider hiring a local attorney to handle their case. The U.S. Embassy maintains a list of attorneys known to work with U.S. citizens. This list does not imply an endorsement of specific attorneys by the Embassy.
2. Apply to be Found Eligible to Adopt
In order to adopt a child from Niger; you will need to meet the requirements of the Government of Niger and U.S. immigration law. You must submit an application to be found eligible to adopt with the Direction de la Protection de l’Enfant of Niger.
There is no specific application form for an adoption. Prospective adoptive parents should submit an application package including all items found in the ”Documents Required” section of Adopt or Gain Legal Custody of Child in Niger below.
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 Niger 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 Niger requirements, as described in the Who Can Be Adopted section. The child must also meet the definition of an orphan under U.S. immigration law.
The process for finalizing the adoption (or gaining legal custody) in Niger generally includes the following:
- ROLE OF THE ADOPTION AUTHORITY: The Direction de la Protection de l'Enfant receives and processes requests for adoption then passes them on to the Ministry of Justice.
- ROLE OF THE COURT: Court rules on the adoption request with an adoption decree.
- ROLE OF ADOPTION AGENCIES: The Direction de la Protection de l'Enfant is the only agency authorized to handle adoptions; therefore, U.S. adoption agencies or the local attorney representing the prospective adoptive parents act as intermediaries between prospective adopting parents and the Direction de la Protection de l'Enfant.
- ADOPTION APPLICATION: The prospective adoptive parent(s) must submit the documents listed below under "Documentary Requirements" to the Direction de la Protection de l'Enfant at the Ministry of Population, Promotion of Women, and Protection of Children. For adoptions pursued from abroad, the prospective adoptive parents are expected, but not required, to hire a local attorney to represent them. Upon receipt of a request from prospective adoptive parents, the Direction de la Protection de l'Enfant reviews the file. After ensuring it is complete and fulfills the Direction de la Protection de l'Enfant's requirements, the Direction de la Protection de l'Enfant forwards the case to the President of the Tribunal de la Justice for a hearing. The President of the Tribunal may direct a social worker to review the home study ("social survey") contained in the file. If the parents are adopting from overseas, a home study performed to meet the requirements of their country of residence will be sufficient (in the case of U.S. families, the I-600A home study), but must be accompanied by a French translation. Once the review of the file is complete, the greffier (court clerk) at the Tribunal schedules a hearing before the President of the Tribunal for the prospective adoptive parents. The President of the Tribunal sends a copy of the case file to the Procurer Général (District Attorney) and requests that office to direct a huissier (process server) to notify the prospective parents or their representative of the hearing date. This is the point at which the prospective adoptive parents must travel from the U.S. to Niger. Unless the hearing reveals a documentary omission or other problems (depending on the individual case) the President of the Tribunal may issue the formal custody decree at that time. After a two-month waiting period, during which the child may not leave Niger, the adoption becomes final and the adoptive parents can then proceed with obtaining a birth certificate for the child at the Etat Civil office at the Hotel de Ville (City Hall).
- TIME FRAME: According to Nigerien authorities, the procedures as outlined above, takes one to three months. However, experience has been that the Nigerien government generally takes six months to a year to process an adoption case.
- ADOPTION FEES: Adoption fees vary from attorney to attorney and may include service fee for application filing, passport and birth certificate application, court fees etc. The U.S. Embassy in Niger discourages the payment of any fees that are not properly receipted, "donations," or "expediting" fees, that may be requested from prospective adoptive parents. Such fees have the appearance of "buying" a baby and put all future adoptions in Niger at risk.
- DOCUMENTS REQUIRED: A handwritten request/cover letter for the documents listed below delivered by the lawyer to the Direction de la Protection de l'Enfant at the Ministry of Social Development, signed by prospective adoptive parents:
- 1. Marriage certificate of the prospective adoptive parents;
- 2. Birth certificates of the prospective adoptive parents;
- 3. Medical examination certificates for the prospective adoptive parents. Although any qualified physician can do the exam, the results/report must be in French; [translation of the medical report is accepted];
- 4. Psychological evaluation of each of the prospective adoptive parents in French;
- 5. Two photographs (b/w or color, any size) of the each of prospective adoptive parents;
- 6. Sterility certificate for at least one prospective adoptive parent, if applicable. If neither is sterile, the prospective parents must state in the cover letter why they want to adopt a child;
- 7. Nigerien police record for prospective adoptive parents is required for any time spent in Niger . According to Nigerien authorities, police records are not required from other countries where the prospective adoptive parents have lived. Valid for three months, the Nigerien police records must be renewed for any additional time the prospective parents spend in Niger . Foreigners in Niger can obtain police records at the Cour d'Appel in either Niamey or Zinder as appropriate. There is a fee. (about US $10);
- 8. Monthly or annual earnings statement;
- 9. If the prospective adoptive parents (regardless of nationality) are resident in Niger, a certification of social survey ("home study") performed by a Nigerien social worker;
- 10. A copy of the home study submitted to USCIS professionally translated into French will suffice. However, it must include a psychological evaluation of the parents;
- 11. Nationality certificates or passports of prospective parents.(NOTE: The only document the Embassy is in a position to issue is a letter stating such a child will be issued an immigrant visa if the Consul is satisfied the adoption was carried out in conformity with Niger laws and that the requirements of U.S. immigration law have been met.). 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 Adoption
After you finalize the adoption (or gain legal custody) in Niger, the Department of Homeland Security, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services must determine whether the child meets the definition of orphan under U.S. law. You will need to file a Form I-600, Petition to Classify Orphan as an Immediate Relative.
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 several documents for your child before he or she can travel to the United States:
- 1. Birth Certificate
If you have finalized the adoption in Niger, you will first need to apply for a new birth certificate for your child. Your name will be added to the new 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.
After a two-month waiting period, during which the child may not leave Niger, the adoption becomes final and the adoptive parents can then proceed with obtaining a birth certificate for the child at the Etat Civil office at the Hotel de Ville (City Hall).
- 2. Nigerien Passport
Your child is not yet a U.S. citizen, so he/she will need a travel document or Passport from Niger.
Some Nigerien authorities have taken the view that, once a Nigerien child has been adopted by a foreign couple, s/he no longer has Nigerien nationality under Nigerien law and thus is entitled only to a single-sheet temporary passport as a one-time travel document. The Nigerien passport office at the Direction Surveillance du Territoire at the Ministry of Interior, however, routinely issues Nigerien passports to children adopted by parents of various nationalities, and would do the same for those adopted by Americans. Using the Nigerien birth certificate listing them as the parents, the adoptive parents must submit the passport application through their attorney, but pay only the normal passport issuance fee. Depending on your attorney a service fee may be included in the attorney fees.
- 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 Niamey. 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.
You can find instructions for applying for an immigrant visa on Embassy Niamey's website.
Important Note Regarding the Home Study: Prospective adoptive parents resident in Niger who plan to apply for an immigrant visa for an orphan (immigrant visa category IR-3 or IR-4), must be certain that the home study performed to fulfill Nigerien requirements also meets the more rigorous requirements of U.S. immigration law.
Immigrant visa interviews are on Tuesdays and Thursdays only from 1300H to 1600H. For an appointment please call (227) 722 661/2/3/4.
NOTE: Visa issuance after the final interview now generally takes at least 24 hours, and it will not normally be possible to provide the visa to adoptive parents on the day of the interview. Adoptive parents should verify current processing times at the appropriate consulate or embassy before making final travel arrangements.
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.
Applying for Your U.S. Passport
A valid U.S. passport is required to enter and leave Niger. 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 Niger, 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 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 Niger, registration assists the U.S. Embassy or Consulate in reaching you. Registration is free and can be done online.
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:
Intercountry Adoption, Bureau of Consular Affairs. U.S. Department of State Country Information