When going through the international adoption process, there are several different puzzle pieces that work together to bring your child home. Some of the biggest and most confusing pieces come from the immigration process. All prospective adoptive parents find the immigration process daunting. Filing immigration is the part that most adoptive parents dread the most because it brings about confusion and many questions.
- What forms do I fill out?
- How much does it cost?
- When do I file immigration?
- Do I get fingerprints?
All of these are common questions among adoptive parents. Do not feel alone in wondering about all the details because it is a long process and there is too much to know all at once. There are multiple steps that adoptive parents will complete throughout their international adoption process and as the International Program Manager for Bulgaria, I will walk you through every step along the way.
To give some understanding, I will provide a brief outline of the various steps of immigration that take place when adopting a child from Bulgaria or a Hague Convention country. It is important to remember, because Bulgaria is signatory to the Hague Adoption Convention, the process outlined below is specific for a Hague country. Families adopting from a non-Hague country will file different forms and follow a different adoption road map.
I800A – The I800A is the initial immigration process that families complete once their home study is finalized. This form is filed for the United States Citizen and Immigration Services (USCIS) to determine whether the family is eligible and suitable to adopt outside of the United States. Currently, the filing fee is $775 plus an additional $85 fingerprint fee for each person residing in your household who is 18 years or older, however it is wise to check on filing fees prior to submitting your application as fees can change. Once you have filed this form with your payment and required accompanying documents, you will receive an appointment date and time to complete fingerprints for your USCIS file, also known as your biometrics appointment. When those fingerprints are completed, you will receive a letter stating you were approved (or declined) to adopt a child internationally with the characteristics of the child you hope to adopt that was requested and approved in your home study. This approval also determines what gender, age, number of children, and special needs/characteristics of an adoptive child with whom you can be matched.
Filing extensions will more than likely be necessary depending on the wait times to receive a referral from the country you are adopting from. The approval from USCIS does have an expiration date, so in order to be matched with a child the I800a will have to stay current and not expire. The first extension there is no filing fee, but second and subsequent extensions have a filing fee of $385 plus $85 per person in the household who is 18 years of age or older.
I800 & I864W – Once you have been matched with a child from your Hague Convention country, you will need to file the form I800 Petition to Classify Convention Adoptee as an Immediate Relative.
If you are adopting multiple children, there will need to be one form I800 completed for each individual child. There is not a filing fee for this process when you already have an approved I800A. This is necessary for the adoptive child to obtain citizenship, a visa, and passport to travel home to the U.S. A good way to differentiate between these documents is remember the I800a approves the adoptive family to adopt. The I800 approves the adoption of a specific child or children by the approved adoptive parents.
Along with filing the I800, you will file the I864W, Affidavit of Support. This form exempts the child from filing an I864 form due to being under the age of 18, unmarried, and immigrating as the child of a U.S. citizen, necessitating the need to prove financial support. This will be sent in with the I800 and does not require a fee. After both forms are filed, you will receive an I800 provisional approval letter. This approval does not have an expiration date, however your fingerprints on the form need to be kept current and should not expire. It will also include the child’s alien registration number.
DS260 – As soon as the I800 provisional approval letter is received; the last immigration step is completing the DS260 application. This is the Immigrant Visa Application and Registration form. For Bulgaria, adoptive parents will only complete part of this process. Then the U.S. Embassy in Sofia, Bulgaria will complete the rest of the DS260 when your child’s passport has been issued and the visa is being processed. You will receive the child’s passport and visa in Sofia, Bulgaria while you are traveling to bring your child home.
Though there are multiple forms to complete, fees to pay, and fingerprints to be done, you will be assisted every step of the way by your support team at MLJ Adoptions International. Just remember the outcome of all this work, you will successfully complete an adoption process and travel home with your new addition to your family!