How Long Is The International Adoption Process?


We hear over and over again how international adoption takes so long. Yes, it’s a long process, but often the wait and delays referenced are not accurate. I am adamant about telling the TRUTH about the wait. I am passionate about adoption and orphan care and want families to feel they can do it. But I do want to be clear, the international adoption process does take time and it is work for the adoptive parents.

The general time frames for international adoptions are below, but please note that each country and each adoption service provider may have variables creating a different time frame for your specific adoption.

First, it is important to note that your process doesn’t start until you actually start. Your process starts when you submit your initial application, your agency’s contracts and your initial payment. You are then given instructions on the next steps which will likely include home study and education. Now you have started! But the country still doesn’t know you have started!

Step One

Your home study process will take approximately one to three months. You should not take more than 6 months to complete this process as timeliness of documents/background checks within your home study can cause problems.

Step Two

The 2nd step is typically the compilation of your dossier (documents necessary to adopt in the country). The dossier documents take approximately two months. Most of your time spent in step 2 is waiting on your Advanced Processing of the Orphan Visa approval after submission of your I-600A/I-800A application. Therefore, step 1 and 2 should take five months or less to complete. If it takes longer, you are giving the country and U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) more time to make changes to your process. The faster you can work the better. However, this also depends on the processing time of your adoption service provider and USCIS. They need time to process and compile your information as well. Some states also require Court approval of home studies (Arizona) or other processing that can delay this time period.

Once your dossier is submitted to your adoption service provider, it must usually be authenticated/apostilled and translated. This takes approximately 20-45 days. Again, there can be many variables that make this processing time different.

Once your dossier is properly submitted in the country, you have started the country-specific process.

Step Three

Every country’s processing time varies. Some countries process an international adoption within three to six months (DR Congo, Samoa, Ukraine) while others can take years. The gender and age of a child may also play a significant role wait time. Additionally, adopting a special needs child may make your process faster.

Examples of average waiting times for international adoption processed in 2011 upon dossier submission:

Step Four

Once the foreign process is complete, you must complete the USCIS orphan visa process, which can take five days – four months. The U.S. Embassy in the country will provide information on time for processing the Orphan Visa.

So yes, it could take years, but there are several international adoption programs that take 12-16 months. Compared to trying to conceive and pregnancy, that doesn’t seem like such a terrible wait. So please, when discussing international adoption be sure to encourage… because if I can do the wait, so can you!</

MLJ Adoptions is a Non-Profit, Hague-Accredited adoption service provider located in Indianapolis, Indiana, working in Africa, Eastern Europe, Latin America and the Pacific Isles. We are passionate about serving children in need.