Monday, October 10, 2011

International Adoption: Proving U.S. Citizenship for Adoptees

When a U.S. citizen couple (or single parent) adopts a child through international adoption procedure it is important to be certain that all steps have been followed so that the child is a U.S. citizen and can prove it, beyond any doubt.   Adoptive parents should not consider the process completed until this happens.

Although the procedures have become more standardized over the years, there are still a variety of laws, rules, treaties, forms, and procedures that come into play.

Due to changes that have occurred in adoption laws over the years, there is not one set “formula” that has been applied to all situations. Whether citizenship is automatic or not, whether there must be a re-adoption in the U.S., and which procedures should be followed depends on the situation.

This month’s Adoption Advocate published by the National Council for Adoption is an article titled: Protecting the Rights of Intercountry Adoptees: Steps to Ensure the Right of Citizenship for Every Adopted Individual.  The author of this article is Jean Nelson Erichsen, an experienced adoption advocate and former director of Los Niños International Adoption Center. I was fortunate to be asked to consult with her in the writing of this article.

Ms. Erichsen’s article contains some shocking statistics and troubling case histories of individuals who were adopted by U.S. citizen parents but, for various reasons, have not received U.S. citizenship. Some are entitled to citizenship but lack the documentary evidence to prove it.

In some cases internationally adopted individuals may be able to remedy that situation with the help of an agency, attorney or adoption advocate.  However, some of these unfortunate people have “fallen through the cracks” and are the victims of a gap in our laws. 

Although immigration reform is a “hot topic” politically, it is hard for me to imagine that even the staunchest supporters of strict immigration policy would deny these adoptees the right to U.S. citizenship. The immigration laws that were drafted with an exclusionary purpose were clearly not intended for this situation.    

 If you are an international adoptee who is unsure of your immigration status I encourage you to investigate the facts.  Talk to your parents, an adoption advocate, an immigration/adoption attorney, or the agency which is responsible for your adoption.   You may be one of the fortunate ones who are able to remedy your situation fairly easily.  

If you fall into one of the categories that does not currently have a legal remedy, you can help by advocating for change.

To advocate for change, contact your U.S. legislators, and advocate groups such as National Council for Adoption (NCFA). 

See also the Adoptee Citizenship Factsheet published by the NCFA, October, 2011.


- Laura Kalish











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