Learning More About the Visa Process for Samoa


An integral part of an international adoption is obtaining the orphan visa that allows a child to enter the United States. Whether you are adopting internationally from Samoa, Congo, Bulgaria, one of MLJ’s other programs, each child must have an orphan visa to enter the US. Processing and approving the orphan visa is the responsibility of the US Embassy assigned to that country. I traveled recently to Auckland, New Zealand, and Samoa in an effort to define this process for our families adopting from Samoa. While the main purpose of my trip was to meet with the embassy staff in Auckland and Samoa to define the visa process, I also took time to meet with staff and visit with children – those who will be adopted and those still waiting to be referred to forever families.

I met with the Auckland Consulate staff (located in New Zealand) who will be processing the orphan visas for Samoa. Children adopted abroad must meet the US federal guidelines for an orphan visa. Establishing that the adopted child is considered an orphan under this definition enables approval of the visa. The embassy’s role in this process is to investigate all legal adoption documents and to ensure the adopted child does indeed meet these requirements, resulting in a visa and enabling the child to travel to the US.

While all embassies use the federal guidelines, each embassy has their own protocol on processing the visa. My meeting with the embassy officials in Auckland proved successful and the Consul, Dana Deree and his two assistants, Bonnie and Joy, were extremely helpful. Dana, Bonnie and Joy worked with me to help parents know what to expect and to stream line the process. I found the Auckland staff to be extremely helpful and we look forward to working with them for our Samoa program. Thank you, Dana, for the warm welcome and for working with me in defining the visa process. Parents traveling to Auckland will be enchanted by this city by the sea, and I am confident they will experience the same warm welcome I received.

The next leg of my trip was traveling onto Apia, Samoa. I met with the Consulate staff, Chad Berbert and his assistant. I was equally welcomed by the embassy staff in Apia, Samoa. While the visa is not processed in Apia, the consulate works closely with Auckland to process approvals of orphan visas and will be kept informed. We look forward to working with both consulates in Auckland and Apia. The visa process can be intimidating to those not familiar with it, but the individuals on staff in both countries will put all adoptive parents at ease and make this process as smooth as possible.

Here is a brief summary of what to expect for the visa process when adopting from Samoa:

    • Once the legal process is complete and approved in Samoa, famlies may submit the I-600 application. (I-600 applications filed in the US have been taking 4-8 weeks for approval)
    • Documents will be forwarded to the embassy in Auckland for investigation
    • Upon receipt of I-600 approval, your electronic file is submitted from USCIS to the embassy in Auckland
    • Once investigation is complete and approval received, an embassy interview appointment may be requested
    • Travel can be scheduled after the embassy interview date has been received.
    • After being united with your child in Samoa, you will travel to New Zealand to attend your embassy appointment. This appointment must be attended by at least one parent and the child.
    • The orphan visa will be issued within four working days following the appointment.


Please note: every adoption case will require a different length of time to investigate as each case will have its own set of circumstances. The embassy cannot give me a time frame on how long the investigation will take without seeing files first. Additionally, once they begin investigating they may discover something new.


Photo of :
Dana Deree
United States Consul
U.S. Consulate General Auckland



Sonja Brown works as the International Program Director for MLJ Adoptions’ programs in Burkina Faso, Democratic Republic of Congo, Haiti and Samoa. Sonja is also proud to work directly with our Individualized Country Program families who are adopting from countries where no adoption service providers currently operate.