THE HAGUE CONVENTION ON INTERCOUNTRY ADOPTION:
Liberia is not a party to the Hague Convention on Protection of Children and Co-operation in Respect of Intercountry Adoption (the Convention). Therefore the entering into force of the Convention for the United States on April 1, 2008, did not change intercountry adoption processing for Liberia.
NOTE: The Consular Section of the Embassy thoroughly investigates every adoption case to verify the adoptive child’s orphan bona fides. As these investigations can take some time, adoptive parents are should check with the Embassy to ensure that the investigation has been completed before making travel arrangements for the child to depart Liberia .
PATTERNS OF IMMIGRATION OF ADOPTED ORPHANS TO THE U.S. : Recent U.S. immigrant visa statistics reflect a steady increase in the number of immigrant visa issuances to Liberian orphans.
|Fiscal Year||Number of Immigrant Visas Issued|
ADOPTION AUTHORITY IN LIBERIA: The government office responsible for adoptions in Liberia is the Ministry of Justice. All petitions for adoption are filed in the Probate Court, which issues a decree of adoption if all legal requirements are met.Cllr. Philip Banks , Minister of Justice Ministry of Justice Building Ashmun Street (Opposite College of West Africa ) Monrovia, Liberia Special Assistant: +231 6 520140 (Onesimus Bawon) Secretary: +231 6 551-598 ( Massa Johnson)
ELIGIBILITY TO ADOPT:
There are no marriage requirements or specific age requirements for adoptive parents. The place of birth and residence of the adoptive parent are not determining factors.
RESIDENCY REQUIREMENTS: None
TIME FRAME: There are no fixed time lines or constraints on the Court’s processing of adoptions. The adoption process, including formal relinquishment by the parent(s) if necessary, generally takes 3 to 4 weeks. Since November 2007, prospective adoptive parents have experienced long delays, sometimes as long as 3 months in processing adoptions due to pending revision of the Liberian adoption law.
ADOPTION AGENCIES AND ATTORNEYS: Prospective adoptive parents are advised to fully research any adoption agency or facilitator they plan to use for adoption services. Only one U.S.- based adoption agency operating in Liberia is also licensed in the United States. Adoptive parents who choose to work with unlicensed agencies may have no recourse when the contracted agency fails to meet its obligation. Adoptive parents have reported the following complaints:
- child(ren) is not the age that the agency claimed or as was listed on the child’s birth certificate;
- claimed siblings have been determined not to biologically related;
- processing of the adoption has not been timely;
- fee scale for services changed during the adoption process.
For U.S.-based agencies, it is suggested that prospective adoptive parents contact the Better Business Bureau and/or the licensing authority in the U.S. state where the agency is located or licensed. Please also see Important Notice Regarding Adoption Agents and Facilitators at the Department of State, Bureau of Consular Affairs web site travel.state.gov.
ADOPTION FEES IN LIBERIA: Official government fees associated with adoptions in Liberia are minimal and consist mainly of court filing costs. Such filing fees are normally less than $12,000 USD. The cost of employing local counsel varies, but the adoptive parents can expect to pay several hundred dollars at a minimum for an attorney. Liberian has proposed legislation that has not yet been approved that will increase fees for processing paper work through the Courts and the Ministry of Justice from $5 to $1,500. Monies from these fees will be used by the Ministries to hire more social workers and court clerks, and for general operation of both Ministries.
The U.S. Embassy in Liberia 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 Liberia at risk.
Most adoptive parents normally work with an adoption agency in the U.S., which in turn liaises with an orphanage or organization in Liberia prior to initiating the adoption process. The organization in Liberia must be registered with the Ministry of Health and Social Welfare.
A petition for adoption must be filed with the Probate Court. The petition must contain the name, age, residence and martial status of the petitioners. The name, date and place of birth of the child, the date and manner in which the petitioners acquired custody of the child, facts (if any) that render consent of either parent unnecessary, the petitioners’ desire to adopt the child and the child’s change of name, should also be contained in the petition.
The court will also require written consent by the biological parents. If the child was born in wedlock, the consent of both parents is required. If the child was born out of wedlock, only the mother must consent. If the child is 16 years of age or older, only the child needs to consent to the adoption. Please note that a child who is 16 years old or older is not considered a “child” by the Immigration and Nationality Act and therefore may be ineligible to immigrate to the United States. Parental consent is not required if the parents have abandoned the child, if the parental rights have been legally terminated, if the parents are deceased or if a legal guardian has been appointed by the court. During the proceedings, the biological parents may withdraw consent, which must be permitted by the court. Consent is irrevocable after the final order of adoption.
Upon receipt of a petition for adoption, the Court schedules a hearing and serves notice on all interested parties. The petitioners or their legal representative, the parent, parents, or guardian(s) of the child and the child are required to attend the hearing, though the court may waive the appearance of the child for good cause. This waiver must be stated in the order of adoption. All hearings are public, and held in open court. The court must be satisfied that the “moral and temporal interests” of the child will be satisfied by the adoption. Upon this showing, the adoption is ordered.
In addition to obtaining a statement of relinquishment from the biological parent or legal guardian of the child being adopted , no adoption decree can be issued without an approved case summary from the Ministry of Health and Social Welfare (MHSW). A case summary from the MHSW is issued only after a social worker has investigated the case thoroughly and concluded that adoption is in the best interest of the child, and the Minister or one of his deputies has reviewed all of the legal paperwork necessary to process an adoption in Liberia . This requirement has added time to the processing of adoptions, but is in the best interest of all parties, and is strongly endorsed by the Embassy. The Consular Section of the Embassy will not process any petition to classify an orphan as an immediate relative for the purpose of immigration until the Liberian Ministry of Health has signed off on the adoption. As with an adoption decree, the amount of time it takes to obtain an approved case summary has been increased pending approval of a revised adoption law.
DOCUMENTS REQUIRED FOR ADOPTION IN LIBERIA :
- Petition for adoption;
- Written consent of the biological parent(s) to the adoption acknowledged before an officer of the court (normally the Justice of the Peace). While a letter of consent is all that is required by Liberian Courts, a formal letter of relinquishment, in which the parent(s) or guardian(s) irrevocably relinquish their rights, is required by U.S. immigration law in order to classify an orphan as an immediate relative for purposes of immigration, and this letter can be used to meet the requirements of Liberian law.)
Other documents required by Liberian courts in adoption cases include normal identity documentation, such as a passport and birth certificate. Prospective adoptive parents will also need these documents to apply for the immigrant visa at the Embassy.
AUTHENTICATING U.S. DOCUMENTS TO BE USED ABROAD: For more information on authenticating U.S. documents to be used abroad, please see the Judicial Assistance section of our website.
LIBERIAN EMBASSY IN THE UNITED STATES:
Embassy of Liberia .
5201 16th Street, N.W.
Washington, D.C. 20011
Tel: (202) 723-0437
Fax: (202) 723-0436
U.S. IMMIGRATION REQUIREMENTS:
Prospective adoptive parents are strongly encouraged to consult the Department of Homeland Security, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service publication The Immigration of Adopted and Prospective Adoptive Children. Before completing an adoption abroad, prospective adoptive parents are strongly encouraged to read the requirements for filing Form I-600A, Petition to Classify Orphan as Immediate Relative and Form I-600, Petition to Classify Orphan as an Immediate Relative in the State Department flyer “How Can Adopted Children Come to the United States.”
Parents who do not have an approved I-600A must file their Form I-600 (Petition t Classify Orphan as an Immediate Relative) with the USCIS office having jurisdiction over their place of residence in the United States . In general, a parent who has an approved I-600A may file Form I-600 either in the U.S. or at a USCIS office in the country where the immigrant visa will be issued. If there is no USCIS office in that country, the I-600 may be filed with the consular section of the U.S. Embassy or Consulate where the adoption case is being processed
Filing an I-600 Petition
Adopting parents can either file their orphan petition (I-600) with the USCIS office having jurisdiction over their home of residence (the same office that approved the I-600A) or with the U.S. Embassy in Liberia if they have an approved I-600A that is currently valid.
Parents are encouraged to file the I-600 petition with USCIS in the U.S. If USCIS has approved an I-600 petition, the adopting parents have the option of designating a third party to process the child’s immigrant visa application at the U.S. Embassy in Monrovia once orphan status is confirmed.
It is possible to file a complete and original I-600 petition with the U.S. Embassy in Monrovia under the following conditions.
- An approved I-600A must be on file with a USCIS office in the United States .
- At least one adopting parent must be physically present at the time the I-600 petition is filed. If only one parent is present, the other parent must have signed the completed I-600 petition.
- Adopting parents must pay a fee to file an I-600 petition for each additional child if they are adopting more than one child and the additional child is not a sibling of the child named in the first petition.
- The U.S. Embassy in Monrovia can approve an I-600 petition only after a consular officer has confirmed that the child is an orphan under section 101(b)(1)(F) of the INA. I-600 petitions that are not “readily approvable” are forwarded to the USCIS office in Accra, Ghana , for approval.
U.S. EMBASSY IN LIBERIA : Americans living or traveling abroad are encouraged to register with the Embassy through the State Department’s travel registration website, and to obtain updated information on travel and security within Liberia . Americans without Internet access may register directly with the nearest U.S. Embassy in Monrovia . By registering, American citizens make it easier for the Embassy to contact them in case of emergency. The Consular Section is located at:111 U.N. Drive Mamba Point Monrovia, Liberia Tel: 231-077-207-326 Fax: 231-770-010-370 Email: ConsularMonrovia@state.gov
APPLYING FOR A VISA AT THE U.S. EMBASSY IN MONROVIA : Adoption processing can take from three to six months after an approved I-600A petition arrives at Embassy Monrovia.
Once a child has been identified, prospective parents or their adoption service provider must request an appointment to file the I-600 petition. Immigrant visa interviews for I-600 petitions are conducted every Tuesday and Thursday between the hours of 8:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.
After the petition has been filed, the consular section requires at least three weeks to conduct a mandatory I-604, Determination on Child for Adoption. Due to security concerns, consular staff is unable to conduct I-604 interviews in outlying areas of the country. In those cases, the birthparent(s) relinquishing parental custody will be requested to come to the Embassy for a personal interview with a consular officer. Birthparents relinquishing parental custody who live within the Monrovia city area, may also be requested to come in for a personal interview. Furthermore, DNA testing will be required for all cases in which consular staff cannot determine parentage by an interview.
Adoption visas are processed on Tuesdays and Thursdays with the exception of expedited cases involving special needs children. Adoption service providers and prospective parents may secure an appointment by sending an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org.
The adopted child must be physically present at the U.S. Embassy in Monrovia at the time of the visa interview. Parents must present the following items:
- The required immigrant visa fee in US dollar cash;
- An original and one copy of the Adoption Decree from the Ministry of Justice;
- An original and one copy of birth certificate for the adopted child;
- Originals and one copy of documents provided as evidence the child is an orphan;
- Medical exam completed by one of our panel physicians. If no vaccinations, signed affidavit by parents (for children under age 10);
- Original form I-864 affidavit of support and a copy of the most recent Federal Tax Returns;
- Original Power of Attorney for representative if parents are not physically present and if I-600 was filed with the USCIS;
- Valid Liberian passport for the child and one copy of passport;
- Two 2 inch by 2 inch front face photographs of the child with a white background.
NOTE: Visa issuance after the final interview now generally takes at least 48 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.
Adopting parents are encouraged to view information available on the USCIS web site.
ACQUIRING U.S. CITIZENSHIP: Please see the Child Citizenship Act of 2000 for further information on acquisition of U.S. citizenship for adopted children.
- U.S. Department of State Office of Overseas Citizens Services - For information on intercountry adoption and international parental child abduction, and security information for U.S. citizens traveling abroad, call Toll Free 1-888-407-4747. This number is available from 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. EST/EDT, Monday through Friday (except U.S. federal holidays). Callers who are unable to use toll-free numbers, such as those calling from overseas, may obtain information and assistance during these hours by calling 1-202-501-4444.
- U.S. Department of State Visa Office - For information on immigrant visas for adopted orphans, call (202) 663-1225. Press 1 for additional information on visas, and press 0 to speak to a Visa Information Officer, available 8:30 a.m. - 5:00 p.m. EST/EDT, Monday through Friday (except Wednesdays 11 a.m. - 12:00 noon)
- U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) - recorded information for requesting immigrant visa application forms, 1-800-870-FORM (3676).
- National Visa Center (NVC) Public Inquiries (603) 334-0700, Email: email@example.com.
- Country Specific Information - The State Department has general information about hiring a foreign attorney and authenticating documents that may supplement the country-specific information provided in this flyer. In addition, the State Department publishes Country Specific Information for every country in the world, providing information such as location of the U.S. Embassy, health conditions, political situations, and crime reports. If the situation in a country poses a specific threat to the safety and security of American citizens that is not addressed in the CSI for that country, the State Department may issue a Travel Alert alerting U.S. citizens to local security situations. If conditions in a country are sufficiently serious, the State Department may issue a Travel Warning recommending that U.S. citizens avoid traveling to that country. These documents are available on the Internet at travel.state.gov or by calling the State Department’s Office of Overseas Citizen Services Toll Free at 1-888-407-4747. This number is available from 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. Eastern Time, Monday through Friday (except U.S. federal holidays). Callers who are unable to use toll-free numbers, such as those calling from overseas, may obtain information and assistance during these hours.
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 on the U.S. Department of State’s website under Hague Adoption Convention.
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, July 2008