Factsheet, pg 4

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U.S. IMMIGRATION REQUIREMENTS

A Japanese child adopted by an American citizen must obtain an immigrant visa before he or she can enter the U.S. as a lawful permanent resident. There are two distinct categories of immigrant visas available to children adopted by American citizens.

A Previously Adopted Child. Section 101(b)(1)(E) of the U.S. Immigration and Nationality Act defines an "adopted child" as one who was adopted under the age of 16 and who has already resided with, and in the legal custody of, the adoptive parent for at least two years. Parents who can demonstrate that their adopted child meets this requirement may file an I-130 petition with the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services in the Department of Homeland Security (USCIS) having jurisdiction over their place of residence in the United States. Upon approval of the I-130 petition, the parents may apply for an immigrant visa for the child at the U.S. Embassy in Tokyo. American citizens who believe this category may apply to their adopted child should contact the U.S. Embassy in Tokyo for more information.

An Orphan. If an adopted child has not resided with the adoptive parent for two years (or if the child has not yet even been adopted) the child must qualify under section 101(b)(1)(F) of the U.S. Immigration and Nationality Act in order to apply for an immigrant visa. The main requirements of this section are as follows:

  • The adoptive or prospective adoptive parent must be an American citizen;
  • The child must be under the age of 16 at the time an I-600 Petition is filed with the USCIS on his or her behalf;
  • If the adoptive or prospective adoptive parent is married, his or her spouse must also be a party to the adoption;
  • If the adoptive or prospective adoptive parent is single, he or she must be at least 25 years of age;
  • The child must be an orphan, as defined by U.S. regulations. Although the definition of an orphan found in many dictionaries is "A child whose parents are dead," U.S. immigration law and regulations provide for a somewhat broader definition. Children who do not qualify under this definition, however, may not immigrate to the U.S. as an orphan even if legally adopted by an American Citizen. The Department of State encourages Americans to consider if a particular child is an orphan according to U.S. immigration law and regulations before proceeding with an adoption. A detailed description of the orphan definition used by USCIS can be found on USCIS's web site at http://www.uscis.gov.

U.S. IMMIGRATION PROCEDURES FOR ORPHANS

I. The Petition.

Adoptive and prospective adoptive parents must obtain approval of a Petition to Classify Orphan as an Immediate Relative (Form I-600) from the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services in the Department of Homeland Security (USCIS) before they can apply for an immigrant visa on behalf of an orphan. The adjudication of such petitions can be very time-consuming and parents are encouraged to begin the process well in advance.


A prospective adoptive parent may file Form I-600A Application for Advance Processing of Orphan Petition with the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services in the Department of Homeland Security (USCIS) office having jurisdiction over their place of residence. This form allows the most time-consuming part of the process to be completed in advance, even before the parent has located a child to adopt. In addition, a parent who has an approved I-600A may file an I-600 in person at the U.S. Embassy in Tokyo.

Detailed information about filing these forms can be found on USCIS's web site at http://www.uscis.gov. Americans who have adopted or hope to adopt a child from Japan should request, at the time they file these forms, that USCIS notify the U.S. Embassy in Tokyo as soon as the form is approved. Upon receipt of such notification, the Embassy will contact the parents and provide additional instructions on the immigration process. U.S. consular officers may not begin processing an orphan adoption case until they have received formal notification of approval from an USCIS office in the US.

II. The Orphan Investigation

One part of the petition process that USCIS cannot complete in advance is the "orphan investigation". An orphan investigation Form I-604 Report on Overseas Orphan Investigation) is required in all orphan adoption cases - even if an I-600 has already been approved - and serves to verify that the child is an orphan as defined by US immigration law. This investigation is performed by a consular officer at the time of the child's immigrant visa interview.

Credits: U.S. Department of State

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