- What is the IR4 Visa?
- What are the requirements for an IR4 Visa?
- What is the Hague Adoption Convention?
- What is the application process for adopting from a Hague Convention Country?
- What is the application process for adopting from a non-Hague Convention Country?
- What are the fees for an IR4 Visa Green Card?
- How long is the IR4 visa processing time?
What is the IR4 Visa?
The IR4 visa is similar to the IR3 visa for children adopted abroad however the IR4 visa allows parents to bring their children to the United States once they have a guardianship order so that they can complete the adoption process in the United States. Before the parents can bring their child to the United States, the U.S. citizen will need to complete the adoption process of the child in a foreign country and obtain guardianship of the child. Once they are living in the U.S. with a guardianship order, they continue the adoption process from the U.S. where they will await the formal approval of the adoption.
After the entire adoption process is completed and approved, the child will remain in the United States as a green card holder with their family. They are free to live in the U.S., attend school and one day, work without needing an Employment Authorization Document. After 5 years of continuous living in the United States, the child will then be eligible to apply for U.S. citizenship.
The IR4 Visa is a family-based green card that falls under the Immediate Relative category. This means there are no annual limits to the number of visas issued each year. Therefore, this visa is quicker to process in comparison to Preference Relative visas.
What are the Requirements for an IR4 Visa?
To apply for an IR4 Visa, both the prospective parent(s) and child must meet the following eligibility criteria:
- The child must be unmarried and under 21 years of age.
- The child must be from a Hague or Non-Hague convention country.
- The child must meet the adoption criteria from the U.S. Immigration and Nationality Act (INA)
- The U.S. citizen/s must be willing to obtain guardianship of the child in the foreign country and then finish the adoption in the United States.
- The U.S. citizen/s must have a valid address in the United States.
- The U.S. citizen/s must pass an eligibility test by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).
- The U.S. citizens must have plans to bring the child with them to live in the United States
If the adoption process has been completed entirely, the U.S. citizen can apply for an IR-3 visa (visa for children adopted abroad) for their child. This will allow them to enter the United States as green cardholders. If the U.S. citizen has already adopted a child and lived with that child for a minimum of 2 years, then they can apply for an IR-2 (Children’s Green Card). This visa is much easier to obtain and will grant the child U.S. citizenship once they enter the United States.
What is the Hague Adoption Convention?
The U.S. government recognizes two types of foreign adoptions: Hague Country Convention Adoptions and Non-Hague Country Convention Adoptions. The type of foreign adoption process that the parent and child will undergo will depend on the foreign country from which they are adopting.
The Hague Adoption Convention was signed in 1993 and is an international treaty whose aim is to protect children adopted internationally. The convention specifies the rules and regulations about child international adoptions.
What is the application process for adopting from a Hague Convention Country?
The first step when adopting from a Hague Convention country is choosing the right adoption service provider. It is important to choose a U.S. accredited or approved adoption service provider in the country where you are adopting.
After you have chosen an approved adoption provider, the prospective U.S. parent must then complete Form I-800A (Determination on Suitability to Adopt a Child from a Convention Country) and submit it to the United States Immigration and Citizenship Services (USCIS). After the form is submitted, the USCIS will then perform a background check, fingerprint check, and a home study on the U.S. citizen prospective parent. They will use this information to determine if you are a suitable candidate to adopt a child. If found to be suitable, the USCIS will then send you recommendations regarding the age range and the number of children you are allowed to adopt. In addition, they will also notify you if you are eligible to adopt a child with special needs.
After the USCIS approves your candidacy for adoption, you can then begin the process of matching with a child in your preferred Hague Convention country. First, the authorities in the preferred adoption country will review the submitted documents along with the USCIS’s approval and recommendations. They will use this information to help and try to find you an eligible child to adopt.
Normally this is done by adoption authorities sending prospective parent(s) referral documents about the child to you. These documents will detail the background of the child, their family and medical history, and any other details and special needs that are deemed important. The child’s file should also contain documents that provide the signed consent for adoption by the necessary parties such as the adoption center, biological parent(s), etc.
When the prospective parent matches with a child, the U.S. citizen will then need to complete Form I-800 (Petition to Classify Convention Adoptee as an Immediate Relative) and submit it to the USCIS. This form will be used to make sure that the child is eligible to immigrate to the United States. After the form is approved, the child will then be eligible to apply for an IR-4 Visa.
After you have petitioned for an IR4 visa, you will then be instructed to complete Form DS-260 (Online Immigrant Visa Application). DS-260 is an online form that requires you to provide background information as well as other details about the child. After the form is completed, you will then need to submit it to the U.S. Embassy or Consulate in the country where the child is being adopted. After you have completed the form online, it is important to print out the confirmation page and number as you will need to later provide it in your IR-4 visa application.
After the U.S. Embassy or Consulate has received all of your documents regarding your visa application, they will then issue an Article 5/17 Letter which establishes that the child is eligible to immigrate to the U.S. You can then use this letter to obtain an adoption or guardianship order.
Once you have been granted an adoption or guardianship order, you can then continue with your IR4 visa application by submitting the necessary documents such as the child’s birth certificate, passport, and any other relevant supporting documents. After these documents have been submitted, you will then need to schedule and attend an immigration interview at your local U.S. Embassy or Consulate where you will be asked a series of questions relating to you, the child, the adoption, etc. In addition to the questioning, you will need to submit a variety of documents including your final adoption or guardianship order.
After the interview, you will be notified of whether or not your visa is approved. If approved, you will receive your IR4 visa and will then be free to travel with your child to the United States where you must finish the adoption process from there.
What is the application process for adopting from a non-Hague Convention Country?
The adoption application process will be different if the U.S. citizen chooses to adopt from a non-Hague Convention country.
Again, the first step in international adoption is finding their preferred adoption center in the country where they wish to adopt. Although you may choose whichever adoption center you are most comfortable with, it is highly recommended that you choose an adoption center from a list of centers approved by the United States.
After you have chosen an adoption center, the U.S. citizen will then need to complete Form I-600A (Application for Advance Processing of an Orphan Petition) and submit it to the USCIS. In addition to completing this form, you will be asked to complete a background and fingerprint check as well as a home study. These checks will be used to determine if you are a suitable candidate to adopt a child.
After you have been found to be a suitable candidate, you can then obtain an adoption or guardianship order from the country where you are planning to adopt. In order to obtain this order, the prospective parent must meet the particular requirements for adoption in that specific country.
After you have matched with a child and received a guardianship order, you will then need to complete Form I-600 (Petition to Classify Orphan as an Immediate Relative) and submit it to USCIS. This form determines if the child is eligible for adoption under U.S. law. In order to complete this form, you will need to attach the necessary supporting documents which may include the following:
- The child’s birth certificate or a written explanation concerning the child’s date of birth and age (if a birth certificate is not available)
- Evidence that the child does not have parents, or that the biological parents are incapable of providing proper care and have consented for their child to be adopted
- Evidence of your intention to adopt the child and complete the adoption procedures once the child arrives in the United States
After Form I-600 is submitted with all of the relevant supporting documents, USCIS or the consular officer in the country from where you are applying will complete Form I-604. After Form I-604 is approved, your application will then be transferred over to the National Visa Center (NVC) who will then send you an informational packet detailing what the next steps are.
One of the next steps will include asking you to complete Form DS-260 (Online Immigrant Visa Application) and attending an immigration interview at your nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate. At the interview, it is important to make sure that you bring the necessary required documents for both the visa application as well as relevant information regarding the child’s adoption.
After the interview, you will be given a decision on whether or not your visa is approved. If approved, you will receive your child’s IR-4 visa and can then travel to the U.S. with your child where you must finish the adoption process.
What are the fees for an IR4 Visa Green Card?
The overall cost associated with this visa will depend on a number of factors including the country where you are adopting and if that country abides by the Hague Adoption Convention. The cost of fees for an IR4 Visa is similar to the cost of fees for an IR3 visa and include the following:
- Form I-800A and Form I-800 filing fees (for Hague Convention countries): $775
- Form DS-260 processing fees: $445
- Form I-600A and Form I-600 filing fees (For Non-Hague Convention countries): $775
- Translation fees: costs will vary
- Fees to obtain supporting documents: costs will vary
- Medical exam and required vaccinations: costs will vary
It should be noted that children who enter the United States under the Orphan (Non-Hague) or Hague adoption programs do not need to pay the USCIS immigrant fee.
How long is the IR4 visa processing time?
A majority of IR4 visa applications are completed within 6 – 12 months. Of course, the majority of the processing time will depend on the time it takes for the prospective parent to obtain guardianship and navigate the foreign country’s adoption process.
It is important to note that once the parent and child are both in the United States together, the U.S. citizen parent must then follow the necessary procedures in order to complete the adoption as per U.S. laws and regulations.
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There are currently 101 countries listed on the Hague Adoption Convention. For a list of updated countries, visit the travel.state.gov website for more details.
It’s important to keep in mind that some countries do not allow foreign adoption to the United States for political reasons. To find out which countries American citizens are eligible to adopt from, consult with an experienced immigration attorney who specializes in foreign adoption.
Children who enter the United States under an IR4 visa are not automatically granted U.S. citizenship. They are however granted a green card which will allow them to live, study and enjoy all the other privileges of having permanent residence status.
After 5 years of continuous residence in the United States, IR4 visa holders are eligible to apply for U.S. citizenship and can begin the naturalization process if they choose.
It’s important to do your research when looking for adoption centres, especially if they are in a Non-Hague Convention country. For more information about what to expect and where to look for U.S. approved adoption centres, go the the travel.state.gov webpage to learn about working with an adoption service provider.
Applying for an IR4 visa can get complicated, especially when dealing with foreign adoption. Fortunately, our team of experienced immigration lawyers is here to help make the process as straightforward and stress-free as possible.
We can help guide you through the visa process and advise you on what documents and evidence to submit for a successful application.
To find out more about how we can help you with your adoption journey, give us a call at 0333 305 9375.