What Are Orphan Visas?


Often the orphan visa is one of the last items to complete your international adoption. However, it can be one of the most important and misunderstood if not done properly. If you are adopting from Nicaragua or adopting from Democratic Republic of Congo you will be requesting an orphan visa. If you are adopting from Mexico or adopting from Bulgaria, you would be requesting a Hague visa for a child adopted in a Convention country (Protection of Children and Co-operation in Respect of Inter-Country Adoption – “Hague Convention on Inter-Country Adoption”). This article will specifically discuss the types of Orphan Visas and not Hague Visas.

Are you adopting from a non-Hague country? If so, you will complete many steps in the international adoption process. One of the main objectives for a successful adoption is the issuance of an orphan visa. While there are many steps to your adoption that all work in cooperation, the first immigration step is filing of the I-600A Application for Advance Processing of the Orphan Petition. Upon the Approval of the I-600A, you will then proceed with your foreign adoption and the 2nd immigration step is filing the I-600 Petition to Classify Orphan as an Immediate Relative. (there are numerous documents that must accompany both of these filings, please see www.uscis.gov for this information).

In general, the issuance of an Orphan Visa acknowledges your foreign adoption qualifies as a legal adoption per U.S. immigration laws and your child qualified as an orphan per U.S. immigration laws. The orphan visa allows for your child to enter into the U.S and by operation of law provides for immediate or expedited citizenship for your child.

The orphan visa is an immigrant visa which means that its intent is for the child to come into the U.S. and stay here permanently. There are two types of orphan visas; IR-3 and IR-4 Visa.

The IR-3 Visa is issued when both parents traveled to the foreign country and observed the child prior to the adoption completion and the child and parents were granted a full and final Decree of Adoption in the foreign country prior to returning to the U.S. These children are granted automatic citizenship upon entering the U.S. (there are some rare exceptions).

The IR-4 Visa is issued when neither parent or only one parent traveled to the country and observed the child prior to the completion of the adoption. If both parents traveled but it post the Adoption Decree, you will not receive an IR-3 Visa, you will receive an IR-4 Visa. If the Order or Decree from the foreign Court was not an Adoption Decree/Order, you will receive the IR-4 Visa. In some countries, a family receives a Custody or Guardianship Order for the purpose of adoption and the adoption is later finalized in the U.S. In these situations the child will receive an IR-4 Visa.

There are situations in which orphan visas are denied. Adoptive parents and adoption agencies should watch closely the impact of the Universal Accreditation Act and its impact on the issuance of orphan visas. Most accrediting professionals and many adoption professionals believe that orphan visas will be extremely difficult or impossible to obtain if the parents pursued an independent international adoption.

The orphan visa is a critical part of the international adoption process and citizenship process for your child.

Photo Credit: Steve Evans

For more information about MLJ Adoptions’ international adoption programs, please click here.

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.