ADOPTION NOTICE - 3/05/10
Ethiopia is not party to the Hague Convention on Protection of Children and Co-operation in Respect of Intercountry Adoption (Hague Adoption Convention). Therefore, when the Hague Adoption Convention entered into force for the United States on April 1, 2008, intercountry adoption processing for Ethiopia did not change.
The Department of State shares families’ concerns about recent media reports alleging direct recruitment of children from birth parents by adoption service providers or their employees. In response to these reports, the U.S. Embassy in Addis Ababa has implemented some changes to adoption visa processing. Adoptive parents should be aware that an I-604 (Determination on Child for Adoption, sometimes referred to as “orphan investigation“) must be completed in connection with every I-600 application. Depending on the circumstances of the case, this investigation may take up to several weeks or even months to complete. Therefore, adoptive parents should not plan to travel to Ethiopia until they have confirmed with their adoption agency that their visa interview appointment has been confirmed.
Adoption agencies submit case paperwork to the U.S. Embassy for review before the Embassy schedules the immigrant visa appointment. In some cases the I-604 determination could take several weeks or more from the time a case is submitted to the U.S. Embassy to the scheduling of a visa interview appointment. We understand that in such cases this will result in a longer period before parents are able to bring their adopted children to the U.S. However, this additional scrutiny is required to ensure that the adoption is legal under both U.S. and Ethiopian law. The U.S. Embassy will work with adoptive parents and their adoption agency to ensure that each case is processed in the most expeditious manner possible in accordance laws and regulations. Families should continue to work through their agency to schedule immigrant visa appointments and answer questions regarding pending cases.
If families have concerns about their adoption, we ask that they share this information with the Embassy, particularly if it involves possible fraud or misconduct specific to your child’s case. The Embassy takes all allegations of fraud or misconduct seriously.
The best way to contact the Embassy is by email at ConsAdoptionAddis@state.gov. Please include your name, your child’s name, your adoption agency, the date of the adoption (month and year), and, if possible, the immigrant visa case number for your child’s case (this number begins with the letters ADD followed several numbers and can be found on any document sent to you by the National Visa Center). Please let us know if we have your permission to share concerns about your specific case with Ethiopian government officials.
We strongly encourage you to register any complaint that you may have about an adoption agency in the following ways:
You may file a complaint with the state licensing authority where your adoption agency is licensed and conducts business. The Child Welfare Information Gateway, which is maintained by the Department of Health and Human Services, provides such a list at the link below:
- You may also file a report with the state’s Better Business Bureau. Following is the link to the Better Business Bureau’s website where you may file a complaint on-line: https://odr.bbb.org/odrweb/public/getstarted.aspx
- If your agency is a Hague-accredited adoption service provider, you are encouraged to file a complaint on the Hague Complaint Registry located at the link below. This information will be used by the accrediting entities to evaluate the agency in connection with the renewal of its accreditation status. http://adoption.state.gov/hague/overview/complaints.html
To bring an adopted child to United States from Ethiopia, you must 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). Learn more.
In addition to these U.S. requirements for prospective adoptive parents, Ethiopia also has the following eligibility requirements for prospective adoptive parents:
- RESIDENCY REQUIREMENTS: There are no residency requirements for prospective adoptive parents.
- AGE REQUIREMENTS: If single, the prospective adoptive parent must be at least 25 years of age. If married, there is no minimum age. There also is no maximum age limit for adoptive parents. However, Ethiopian Government practice is to limit the age difference between the prospective adoptive parent and the adopted child to no more than 40 years.
- MARRIAGE REQUIREMENTS: The Ethiopian Government has shown a preference for placing children with married couples who have been married for at least five years. Ethiopian government policy regarding adoptions by unmarried women is one of the issues being studied as part of the government’s overall review of adoption regulations and practices. It is unclear whether Ethiopian government’s policy about single adoptive mothers will change, and if so, when it might change. Thus, adoption service providers in Ethiopia may have different policies regarding whether or not they make referrals of adoptable children to unmarried women and under what circumstances. The U.S. Embassy in Addis Ababa urges adoptive parents to contact their agency to clarify what their current policies are.
- INCOME REQUIREMENTS: Prospective parent(s) must prove financial ability as determined by the Ethiopian courts, although there is no set minimum income requirement.
- OTHER REQUIRMENTS: Ethiopian law prohibits adoption by gay and/or lesbian parents.
Ethiopia has specific requirements that a child must meet in order to be eligible for adoption. You cannot adopt a child in Ethiopia unless he or she meets the requirements outlined below. Additional adoption information is available on the website of the Ethiopian Embassy in Washington, D.C. at: http://www.ethiopianembassy.org/other/adopting_an_ethiopian_child.shtml.
In addition to these requirements, a child must meet the definition of an orphan under U.S. law for the adoptive parent(s) to bring him or her immediately back to the United States. Learn more about these U.S. requirements.
The Ethiopian Ministry of Women’s Affairs (MOWA) identifies orphans in need of permanent family placement through intercountry adoption. Generally, orphans identified for intercountry adoption have been abandoned by their parents or have lost their parents to disease or other misfortune.
Relinquishment Requirements: The Contract of Adoption is signed between the child’s legal guardian and the adoptive parents or their agency representative. This contract is the basis for the issuance of the adoption decree, which shows that the guardian or the orphanage has relinquished their legal rights to the adopted child. The contract must be taken to the Inland Revenue Administration office to be stamped. There is a nominal fee.
- Abandonment Requirements: When a child is abandoned, by law s/he comes into the custody of the Government of Ethiopia. When a child is found to have two HIV/AIDS-infected parents, or one living HIV/AIDS-infected parent, the Government routinely declares that the child is an orphan and assumes legal guardianship of the child.
- Waiting Period: Typically, the Government of Ethiopia requires that a child be resident in an orphanage for three months before being adopted.
Ethiopian Adoption Authority
The Adoption Team in the Children and Youth Affairs Office (CYAO) operating under the Ministry of Women’s Affairs (MOWA) is the primary adoption authority in Ethiopia.
Adoptive parents considering a private adoption are also urged to consult with USCIS or an immigration attorney regarding the child’s orphan status as it pertains to U.S. immigration law before the adoption is finalized. All Ethiopian adoptions are full, final, and irrevocable, so it is important to know whether or not a child qualifies as an orphan before completing the adoption.
The Intercountry Adoption Process
The procedures for an intercountry adoption are different from those for a local adoption. International adoption rules in Ethiopia require U.S. citizens to work with Ethiopia’s Children and Youth Affairs Office (CYAO) in Addis Ababa, which is under the Ministry of Women’s Affairs (MOWA), to effect an intercountry adoption. Americans who enter into private adoptions that by-pass the CYAO, or that follow local rather than international adoption procedures, will not be able to take the child to the United States on an IR3 or IR4 orphan visa.
The Private Adoption Process
Private adoption is an alternate process available ONLY to adoptive parents of Ethiopian descent. Private adoptions are permitted in Ethiopia, but are discouraged by MOWA because they take place under local adoption rules and may by-pass the process and protections put in place by the government of Ethiopia relating to international adoption.
The process for adopting a child from Ethiopia generally includes the following steps:
- Choose an Adoption Service Provider
- Apply to the USCIS to be Found Eligible to Adopt
- Be Matched with a Child
- Adopt the Child (or Gain Legal Custody) in Ethiopia
- Apply at the U.S. Embassy in Addis Ababa for the Child to be Found Eligible for Adoption and for an Immigrant Visa.
- Bring Your Child Home
1. Choose an Adoption Service Provider
The first step in adopting a child from Ethiopia is usually to select a licensed agency in the United States that can help with your adoption. Adoption service providers must be licensed by the U.S. state in which they operate. There are more than twenty U.S.- based adoption agencies authorized by the government of Ethiopia to provide adoption services that are actively referring children to American families, as well as several others whose accreditation is pending. Americans contemplating adopting in Ethiopia should take great care in selecting an agency. They should research different agencies, seeking the input of families who have used these agencies in the past. Learn more about choosing the right adoption service provider.
Intercountry adoptions from Ethiopia are handled by the Adoption Team in the Children and Youth Affairs Office (CYAO), a part of the Ministry of Women’s Affairs (MOWA). There are currently more than 20 U.S.-based adoption agencies authorized by the Ethiopian Government to provide adoption services for American adoptive parents. For a current list, contact MOWA (see Contacts section below) or the Ethiopian Embassy in Washington, D.C. at
2. Apply to be Found Eligible to Adopt
To bring an adopted child from Ethiopia to the United States, you must apply to be found eligible to adopt (Form I-600A) by the U.S. Government, Department of Homeland Security, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). Learn how.
In addition to meeting the U.S. requirements for adoptive parents, you need to meet the requirements of Ethiopia as described in the “WHO” tab.
Before they can be matched with a child, prospective adoptive parents must first take or send all of the required documents (see below), certified and authenticated, to the Ethiopian Embassy in Washington, D.C. for additional authentication. Once it has completed its authentication, the Ethiopian Embassy returns the documents to the parents and the parents forward them to MOWA, Children and Youth Affairs Office, Adoption Team (CYAO). You can find their address in the Contacts section of this information sheet.
MOWA reviews the documents for completeness and creates a dossier on the adoptive parent(s). The Claims and Authentication Section of the Protocol Office at the Ethiopian Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Addis Ababa authenticates the dossier and returns it to the Adoption Team in the Children and Youth Affairs Office (CYAO). CYAO submits the dossier to the Adoption Committee for review and approval to adopt. The adoption request is approved only if all Committee members are in agreement.
Note on private adoptions: Parents who have received MOWA permission to adopt privately must come to Ethiopia to complete adoption requirements. Only one parent has to appear, but, if married, must bring a power of attorney from the other parent. If these parents plan to file the I-600 at the U.S. Embassy in Addis Ababa, they need to make sure that the parent who comes to finalize the adoption is an American citizen and that the I-600 has been signed by the non-traveling parent prior to the Embassy interview.
Note on relative adoptions: Ethiopian-Americans who are adopting orphaned relatives do not have to come to Ethiopia to process their adoptions. They can have a representative with a power of attorney represent them in court. Married adoptive parents need to make sure that both parents have given the representative a power of attorney so that both parents’ names appear on the adoption decree.
3. Be Matched with a Child
Upon approval of the Adoption Request by the Adoption Committee, a child is selected and referred to the prospective parents to adopt, according to the parents preferences for age and sex. The child must have its own dossier at MOWA. That dossier describes the child, the child’s history, how the child came to be an orphan, and who has legal guardianship of the child. Each family must decide for itself whether or not it will be able to meet the needs of a particular child and provide a permanent family placement for the referred child. Learn more about this critical decision.
The child must be eligible to be adopted according to Ethiopia’s requirements, as described in the “Who” tab. The child must also meet the definition of an orphan under U.S. law. Learn more.
At this time Ethiopian authorities publish in the local press a notice seeking any other claimants to the child, stating the child’s name and the name of the prospective adoptive parents. The notice advises that any parties opposed to the adoption must appear at MOWA by a certain date and time.
Prospective adoptive parents have the option to either accept or refuse the referral. Upon acceptance of the referral, a Contract of Adoption is signed by the child’s legal guardian and the adoptive parents or the agency representative. The contract is taken to the Inland Revenue Administration office to be stamped. A nominal fee is charged.
CYAO opens a file at the Federal First Instance Court to apply for an appointment date for an adoption hearing. The court date set for the hearing is often one to two months from the date of filing.
4. Adopt the Child in Ethiopia
Note: All Ethiopian adoptions are full and final and irrevocable under Ethiopian law.
Adoption hearings take place before the Federal First Instance Court. The court date scheduled for an intercountry adoption could be one to two months from the date the CYAO files the adoption petition.
The prospective parents or their representative (usually their agency’s local representative) appear at the court hearing. The Court sometimes makes a final decision quickly. However, decisions are sometimes delayed for weeks. The Court’s decision is made via a Court Decree. Adoptive parents must obtain at least two originals of the Court Decree. One will be retained by MOWA and one must be submitted to the U.S. Embassy at the time of the visa application. The Embassy will return the Court Decree to the parents at the conclusion of the visa application process.
Note: the Federal First Instance Court customarily closes for all business for between 3 and 12 weeks between July and October each year. This can result in significant delays. The length and timing of the Court’s closure differs from year to year.
After completing a legal adoption in Ethiopian court, (or you have obtained legal custody of the child), there are a few more steps to take before you can apply for an Immigrant Visa to bring your child to the United States. Specifically, you need to apply for several documents for your child before he or she can travel to the United States:
You will first need to apply for a new birth certificate for your child, so that you can later apply for an Ethiopian passport for him/her. Your name will appear on the new birth certificate as the child’s parents. Once the adoption is complete, MOWA prepares a request to the City of Addis Ababa for the issuance of a new birth certificate. This is best facilitated if the request is hand-carried to the relevant office.
Your child is not yet a U.S. citizen yet, so he/she will need an Ethiopian Passport with which he/she will accompany you from Ethiopia to the United States. MOWA prepares a request to the Office of Security, Immigration and Refugee Affairs for an Ethiopian passport for the child in his/her new name. This request is best facilitated if it is hand-carried to the relevant office.
5. Apply at the U.S. Embassy for the Child to be Found Eligible for Orphan Status and for the Immigrant Visa
After you obtain a new birth certificate and passport for your child, you also need to apply for an Immigrant Visa for your child at the U. S. Embassy in Addis Ababa. This immigrant visa allows your child to travel home with you. The U.S. Embassy needs both the child’s new birth certificate and new passport to complete the child’s U.S. immigrant visa application process. Adoptive parents apply at the Consular Section of the U.S. Embassy in Addis Ababa for either an IR-3 or IR-4 Immigrant Visa for their child. Both categories of visa are appropriate for children adopted abroad. See Child Citizenship Act below for important differences. The Consular Section works closely with adoption agencies to make this process as quick and painless as possible for adoptive parents. The child must be present at the Consular Section for the immigrant visa interview.
Part of the application process at the U.S. Embassy is the determination that the child qualifies as an orphan as defined by U.S. immigration law (Form I-600). Consular officers at the Embassy are delegated authority to adjudicate Form I-600 (Petition to Classify an Orphan as an Immediate Relative). This occurs at the beginning of the interview. Once the Form I-600 is approved, the parent applies for an immigrant visa (either IR-3 or IR-4) for the child. Once the child’s Immigrant Visa is approved, the visa can generally be picked up at the U.S. Embassy two working days later. Learn how.
The Department of State reminds adoptive parents that consular officers are required by law to conduct an orphan investigation (I-604) to verify the child’s orphan status prior to the issuance of an IR-3 or IR-4 immigrant visa. Depending on the circumstances of a case, this investigation may take up to several months to complete. Adoptive parents should therefore carefully consider whether to file their Form I-600 Petition to Classify an Orphan as an Immediate Relative at the USCIS district office closest to their place of residence in the U.S. or at Embassy Addis Ababa, and are urged to work with their adoption service provider to confirm the status of their case before traveling to Ethiopia.
6. Bring Your Child Home
For your child to depart Ethiopia, an exit visa is required. Ethiopian Immigration will place an exit visa in the child’s Ethiopian passport. The fee for this visa is approximately USD 8.
Visas for Other Countries
If the child will transit Germany en route to the U.S., a German visa is required. A German visa may be obtained by applying at the German Embassy in Addis Ababa. If the child will transit the U.K. en route to the U.S., and disembarks, a U.S. visa will be required. A visa to the U.K. may be obtained by applying at the British Embassy in Addis Ababa.
Child Citizenship Act
For adoptions finalized abroad: The Child Citizenship Act of 2000 allows your a child who entered the United States on an IR-3 immigrant visa to acquire U.S. citizenship automatically when he or she enters the United States for the purpose of legal permanent residence.
For adoptions finalized in the United States: The Child Citizenship Act of 2000 allows a child who enters on an IR-4 immigrant visa to acquire U.S. citizenship automatically when the court in the United States issues the final adoption decree.
Note: 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. Learn more about the Child Citizenship Act.
Applying for Your U.S. Passport
U.S. citizens are required 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 Ethiopia, 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 Ethiopia, registration assists the U.S. Embassy or Consulate in reaching you.
Registration is free and can be done online.
What does Ethiopia require of the adoptive parents after the adoption?
Pursuant to Ethiopian law, adoptive parents must submit post adoption reports at three months, six months, and one year. After the first year, the reports must be filed yearly until the child turns 18. This is a commitment that the adopting parents, home study agency, and adoption agency must sign when submitting documents for the adoption.
Adoptive parents are strongly urge to comply with these requirements and to complete all post-adoption reports in a timely manner. Your adoption agency may be able to help you with this process. Your cooperation will contribute to that country’s history of positive experiences with American adoptive parents and helps keep the intercountry adoptions viable in Ethiopia.
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 contents.
U.S. Embassy in Ethiopia
Tel: (251-11) 517-4000
Fax: (251-11) 124-24-35
Adoption Unit Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
American Citizens Services are available from 8 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. M-F, and from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. M-Th. Please consult the Consular Section’s website for specific times when certain services are available: http://ethiopia.usembassy.gov/service.html.
Ethopian Adoption Authority
Ministry Of Women’s Affairs (MOWA)
Children and Youth Affairs Office, Adoption Team (CYAO)
P.O. Box 1293
The head of the Adoption Team can be reached at:
Tel: (251)- 251-11-554-5676
Embassy of Ethiopia
3506 International Drive, N.W.
Washington, D.C. 20008
Office of Children’s issues
U.S. Department of State
2201 C Street, NW
Washington, DC 20520
U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS)
For questions about immigration procedures, call the National Customer Service Center (NCSC)
1-800-375-5283 (TTY 1-800-767-1833)
DISCLAIMER: The preceding is intended as a general guide to assist U.S. citizens who plan to adopt a child from a foreign country. Three sets of laws are particularly relevant: 1) the laws of the child’s country of birth govern all activity in that country including the eligibility of individual children for adoption, as well as the adoption of children in that country in general; 2) the laws of the adoptive parents’ state of residence establish qualifications they must meet in order to adopt; and 3) U.S. immigration law governs the immigration of the child to the United States. In addition, the Hague Convention on Intercountry Adoption, to which the United States became a party on April 1, 2008, establishes legal and regulatory requirements for intercountry adoption.
The adoption of children from countries that are party to the Hague Convention must follow the procedures outlined by the Convention, and its U.S. implementing legislation, the Intercountry Adoption Act of 2000 (IAA). More information on the IAA and the Convention can be found at www.travel.state.gov on the Children and Family pages on intercountry adoption.
The information in this flyer relating to the legal requirements of specific foreign countries is based on public sources and our current understanding. It does not necessarily reflect the actual state of the laws of a child’s country of birth and is provided for general information only. Moreover, U.S. immigration law, including regulations and interpretation, changes from time to time. This flyer reflects our current understanding of the law as of this date and is not legally authoritative. Questions involving foreign and U.S. immigration laws and legal interpretation should be addressed respectively to qualified foreign or U.S. legal counsel
Credits: U.S. Department of State - March 2010