Adoption FAQs

For more information on the new Pre-Adoption Immigration Review process (PAIR), please visit Adoption.State.Gov.

Your fingerprint clearance files expire 15 months after the date that the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service received a response from the FBI, which is approximately 15 months from the date the FBI fingerprinted you.  Your I-600A approval is valid for 18 months from the date of approval.  If you are unsure if your fingerprints and I-600A approval are still valid please contact us by email at

The immigrant visa application and surcharge fee is $230 per child.  You or your adoption agency may pay these fees in U.S. dollars or Ethiopian birr.  Fees must be paid in cash at the U.S. Embassy. We do not accept credit cards or any other currency.

Records pertaining to immigrant visa petitions and case files are protected by law.  In all cases, consular officials at the U.S. Embassy will contact adoptive parents directly with information regarding their case.

A Privacy Act waiver allows consular officials to copy an adoptive family’s adoption agency so that some questions can be answered quickly, or to provide information regarding a case file which may help bring the case to resolution.  Without a Privacy Act waiver we are unable to discuss a case with an adoption agency or members of Congress.  We strongly encourage, but do not require, all adoptive parents submit a Privacy Act waiver.

Prior to approving the I-600 and issuing an immigrant visa, the consular officer must verify that the child for whom the petitioners are petitioning qualifies as an orphan under U.S. immigration law.  In Ethiopia, a consular officer completes the I-604 Determination on Child for Adoption, reviewing evidence of the child’s status as provided by the adoptive parent and/or adoption agency.

Frequently, a consular officer may request that you or your adoption agency help facilitate an interview between a biological relative of your child and a member of the adoption unit.  These interviews are necessary to verify the facts presented in an adoption case.  A birth relative interview often allows the I-604 Determination on Child for Adoption to be completed more quickly.

All immigrant visa applicants are required to undergo a medical exam by a panel physician contracted by the U.S. Embassy to provide this service. The medical exam takes place after the child’s new passport and birth certificate have been issued by the Government of Ethiopia.  Most often a medical exam is valid for 6 months.  Fees for the medical exam and any related laboratory charges are paid directly to the panel physician or laboratory, not the U.S. Embassy.  If you think your child’s medical clearance has expired please contact us at  Please note that the panel physicians follow guidance laid out by the Centers for Disease Control (e.g. the TB Technical Instructions), and the U.S. Embassy has no control over what types of medical testing an adopted child will require.

No.  We understand that in some cases adoptive parents wish to travel to Ethiopia to spend more time with an adopted child and/or facilitate the submission of their case to the U.S. Embassy.  However, please note that consular staff process cases in the order that they are received and we are unable to expedite any child’s case simply because the adoptive parents are present in Ethiopia.  If you choose to travel in advance of receiving an interview date for the child’s immigrant visa please be prepared for a lengthy stay.  We strongly suggest adoptive parents apply for an Ethiopian visa in advance of travel – please see the Ethiopia Consular Information Sheet for more information.

As soon as we are able to determine that an I-600 petition is clearly approvable and an adoption case is complete, adoptive parents will receive a clearance email from the Adoption Unit.  Please reply to this email with three suggested interview dates that fit your travel schedule.  We will do our best to honor the adoptive parents’ requests for visa interview dates.

Please allow 48 hours for the visa to be printed.  If your child has a medical condition that requires urgent care, please request expedited visa processing by emailing the Adoption Unit at

If both parents have met the child before the foreign adoption was finalized, the child can be issued an IR-3 visa.  Parents are required to submit copies of their passport pages to establish that they were present in Ethiopia prior to the final court decree.  A child who enters the U.S. on an IR-3 visa will generally acquire U.S. citizenship upon entry.

If only one or neither of the adoptive parents has met the child before the foreign adoption was finalized, the child must be re-adopted in the parents’ home state in the U.S.  In such cases, the children are issued IR-4 visas and enter the U.S. as a Lawful Permanent Residents.

Adoptive families who plan to reside in the United States ordinarily pursue an immigrant visa (IR-3 or IR-4) for their children because those children will be entering the United States with the intent to reside there permanently.  If you live overseas and do not intend to reside in the U.S. in the near term, you may wish to consider an alternative path to naturalization for your adopted child that may better suit your needs.  In some cases, it may be possible to file a Form N-600K, Application for Citizenship and Issuance of Certificate Under Section 322, with USCIS if your adopted child is either the beneficiary of an approved I-600 petition or meets certain other criteria.  For more information, please visit USCIS’s adoptions website here and the N-600K (PDF 254 KB) instructions here.

Under U.S. immigration law, immigrants who will enter the U.S. as Lawful Permanent Residents are required to demonstrate financial support.  Therefore, adopted children immigrating to the U.S. on IR-4 visas must have a completed I-864 Affidavit of Support from the petitioner (adoptive parent) supported by evidence of the petitioner’s income or other means to support the immigrant child.  This evidence usually consists of a copy of the petitioner’s most recent tax return.

Immigrants who enter the U.S. and immediately naturalize, or become U.S. citizens on entry, are exempt from the requirement of demonstrating financial support.  Therefore, adopted children travelling on IR-3 visas must submit a completed I-864W, which is a waiver of the I-864 requirement.

Your email address is normally submitted to the U.S. Embassy as part of your Privacy Act waiver, which allows us to contact your adoption agency on your behalf.  Make sure that you write legibly and/or type your email address.  If you believe we have an incorrect email address for your family, please send us an email at

When you arrive at the Port of Entry into the U.S., (the first U.S. airport of your itinerary, often Dulles or JFK), you will enter the line for American citizens at the immigration control checkpoint.  When you meet with the Customs & Border Protection Officer, you will hand him or her your child’s Ethiopian passport as well as the sealed envelope you received with your visa.  If your child is entering the United States on an IR3 visa, you should receive his or her certificate of citizenship in the mail a few weeks after you get home without having to do anything else.  Children entering on IR4 visas may need to be readopted in your home state in order to gain U.S. citizenship.  If your child is entering on an IR-4 visa, you should consult your U.S. state of residence for specific requirements to complete or recognize the adoption in that state, as well as U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services for guidance on filing the N-600 (PDF 254 KB) to document the child’s acquisition of citizenship once the requirements have been met.

Please visit USCIS’s website, “With Your Child at the United States Port of Entry,” for more information about what happens during immigration inspection at the Port of Entry once you get back to the United States.

Private adoption is an alternate process available ONLY to adoptive parents of Ethiopian descent or to Americans who are resident in Ethiopia.  Private adoptions are permitted in Ethiopia, but the Embassy encourages all parents using the private adoption process to ensure that their cases are approved by the Federal First Instance Court and MOWA. These steps will ensure that private adoptions do not bypass the process and protections put in place by the Government of Ethiopia relating to international adoption.

Individuals choosing to pursue a private adoption should be aware that there may be significant wait times after the initial visa interview.  While each case will be reviewed and screened in advance of the consular interview, during the course of the interview the consular officer may discover new information that requires further review in order to complete the required I-604, Determination on Child for Adoption.  The I-604 is required whether the adoptive parent already has an approved I-600 filed in the U.S. or is filing the I-600 at the time of the consular interview.  This additional review and/or investigation may take several weeks to several months to complete, and adoptive parents should be prepared for this possibility.  Please see the Ethiopia-specific page on for more information on private adoption.

To submit a private adoption case, the adoptive parents or their legal representatives can bring the complete case file to the U.S. Embassy’s consular section any Tuesday or Thursday between 1pm and 3pm.

Again, please note that there may be significant wait times following the visa interview before the private adoption can be completed.  You should not necessarily expect to complete the adoption on a single visit to Ethiopia.

We encourage you to email us with any questions or concerns at