USCIS Suspends Adoptions of Children from Vietnam Without State Department Approval

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) recently announced that it will no longer approve its standard international adoption forms for United States residents seeking to adopt children from Vietnam. It bases this decision on a finding by the Department of State (DOS) that Vietnam has not complied with its responsibilities under the Hague Convention on Protection of Children and Co-operation in Respect of Intercountry Adoption (Hague Adoption Convention). For now, people wanting to adopt a child from Vietnam must wait until DOS determines that Vietnam can comply with the Convention.

The Hague Adoption Convention is an international convention that governs adoption between countries and guards against child trafficking. It went into effect on May 1, 1995 and is centrally administered by the Hague Conference on Private International Law (HCCH). Eighty-five countries are signatories, and eighty-two of those countries have ratified the Convention. The United States signed the Convention in 1994, but did not ratify it until 2007. It went into force in the U.S. on April 1, 2008. The Convention took effect in Vietnam this month, according to HCCH.

The Convention sets up safeguards to protect children from abduction and international trafficking, and requires countries to cooperate in maintaining those safeguards. First and foremost, it requires countries to make sure adoptions are in a child’s best interests. In the United States, DOS is responsible for ensuring compliance with the Convention. Adoption agencies must have accreditation from DOS, and they must operate with transparency.

Typically, someone seeking to adopt a child from abroad would file a Form I-800, “Petition to Classify Convention Adoptee as an Immediate Relative,” with USCIS, but USCIS advises people not to do that until further notice from DOS. The Form I-800 would follow approval of Form I-800A, “Application for Determination of Suitability to Adopt a Child from a Convention Country.” This is the form for prospective adoptive parents to request a determination by USCIS of their suitability to adopt a child from a Convention country. The I-800 then asks USCIS to determine the child’s eligibility under the Convention.

Since Vietnam has only recently signed and ratified the Hague Adoption Convention, DOS has concluded that it does not yet “have a fully Hague compliant process in place.” The country has had significant problems with fraud and other irregularities, although DOS notes that Vietnam has undertaken several initiatives recently to strengthen child protection and improve its international adoption processes. It is just not yet meeting the standards set by DOS. The number of adoptions from Vietnam to the U.S. varies widely from year to year, according to DOS. While U.S. families adopted 828 children from Vietnam in 2007, that number dropped to nine in 2010. Efforts to ensure the safety of children in international adoption is obviously a laudable goal. Hopefully pursuing that objective, however, will not halt adoptions from those countries for too long.

Ohio immigration visa lawyer Gus Shihab helps people understand and navigate the U.S. immigration system, which includes the ever-changing politics of our immigration laws. For a free and confidential consultation, contact us through our website or at (800) 625-3404.

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