What is an International Adoption?

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  • Written By: G. Wiesen
  • Edited By: Heather Bailey
  • Last Modified Date: 25 January 2020
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An international adoption is a process by which a child who is a citizen of one country is adopted by a parent or parents who are citizens of another country. This process typically involves various laws and regulations regarding the adoption procedure for both the country of origin for the child and the country of origin of the parents. These restrictions can often include age limitations for the child as well as the adopting parents, considerations regarding any existing parents or guardians of the child, and the ability of the adopting parents to care for the child. An international adoption may also require that the adopting parents live in the country of origin of the child for a period of time during the adoption process.

Also called an intercountry adoption, an international adoption can involve a number of different countries, though it is common for American parents to consider children from countries as diverse as China, Sri Lanka, and Slovakia. The process of adoption is often facilitated by agencies in both countries and these agencies can assist adopting parents in understanding various regulations and restrictions that may exist for such adoptions. There are also typically laws in various countries that control who can legally adopt a child from that country through an international adoption.


In many countries, for example, there are age limitations for individuals interested in pursuing an international adoption of a child in that country. Some countries, like Ukraine, have no upper age limit on who can adopt from that country, while in Mexico and Greece the limit is 60 years of age. Children to be adopted through an international adoption may also have to be a certain age, such as less than 16 years of age. Korea sets limitations on the weight of an adopting parent, to ensure proper nutrition and health of a parent; in many countries, only married couples can adopt and a single person, male or female, cannot adopt a child.

An international adoption also typically requires that the child is legally valid for adoption. This means the child either must not have parents or legal guardians, or the parents or guardians of the child have freely signed a consent form for adoption. In some countries, the adopting parents must live in the country or have a residence in the country for a certain period of time prior to an adoption, or they must live in the country during the adoption process, which can take over a year to complete. An international adoption is often finalized within the country of origin of a child; when the parent returns to his or her country of origin with an adopted child, he or she is the legal guardian of that child.


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