Understanding USCIS

....Whenever I hear USCIS,  it always sounds like a a show I like to watch on TV! :)  Ha!  I didn't really understand who USCIS was and how exactly they process adoption/immigration.  In SO many ways in this AMAZING adoption journey... I find it's kind of a 'LEARN AS YOU GO' kinda thing.  So... a couple of days ago I sent the USCIS a letter requesting a fingerprint appointment, our 1-600A form, our birth certificates, marriage certificate and a notarized home study.

Now... I think I wait to hear from the USCIS for a fingerprint appointment, get our fingerprints, and then they perform their background checks (kinda like the FBI did) and we wait for them to send us a Favorable Determination Letter (FDL).  ...not quite sure how long this whole process takes... but, I'm glad that we have started it. :)

We are adopting from a Non-Hague country - ETHIOPIA!! :)  I also think that since the Ethiopian Adoption Process has changed to include two trips that we are able to bring our sweetie home with an IR-3 VISA! :) YAHOO!

Still Learning and Experiencing some pretty incredible stuff! ...already looking forward to hearing from the USCIS! :)

USCIS is Responsible For:

  • Determining the eligibility and suitability of the Prospective Adoptive Parents (Individuals) looking to adopt.
  • Determining the eligibility of the child to immigrate to the United States.

Before Your Child Immigrates to the United States

If the child you adopted or intend to adopt in the United States is residing abroad, the child will need an immigrant visa to enter the United States. Visas are issued by the U.S. Department of State (DOS) at the Embassy or Consulate in the foreign country where your child resides.
The type of visa your child is issued will determine what steps you will need to take for the child to acquire U.S. citizenship.

Visa types for Orphan (Non-Hague) Adoptions

  • IR-3 visa:  Issued when a full and final adoption is completed abroad.

    • Requires that the parent(s) physically see the child prior to or during the adoption proceedings. (This one is what we will be doing)
  • IR-4 visa:  Issued to a child that…

    • is coming to the United States to be adopted.
    • was adopted abroad by only one parent (if married).
    • was not seen by the parent(s) prior to or during the adoption

Child Citizenship

For IR-3 and IH-3 cases, we will automatically send your child’s Certificate of Citizenship to your U.S. address without requiring additional forms or fees.
Children with IR-4 and IH-4 visas:
  • do not acquire automatic citizenship upon entry to the U.S., but instead become permanent residents.
  • will automatically receive a permanent resident card (green card).
  • will automatically acquire citizenship on the date of their adoption in United States, if the adoption occurs before the child’s 18th birthday.

Orphan Process

You May Immigrate an Adopted Child Through the Orphan Process if:

  • You Are a U.S. citizen.

    • If you are married, your spouse must also sign Form I-600, Petition to Classify Orphan as an Immediate Relative and must also adopt the child.
    • If you are not married, you must be at least 25 years old when you file the Form I-600 petition.
  • You establish that you will provide proper parental care to the child.
  • You establish that the child whom you have adopted or plan to adopt is an “orphan” as defined in U.S. immigration law.
  • You establish that either:

    (we will be doing this one)
    • You (and your spouse, if married) have adopted the child abroad, and that each of you saw the child in person before or during the adoption proceeding
    • You will adopt the child in the United States after the child arrives in the United States (you must have permission to bring the child out of his or her own country and to the United States for adoption).

Who is an Orphan? 

Under U.S. immigration law, an orphan is a foreign-born child who:
  • does not have any parents because of the death or disappearance of, abandonment or desertion by, or separation or loss from, both parents
  • has a sole or surviving parent who is unable to care for the child, consistent with the local standards of the foreign sending country, and who has, in writing, irrevocably released the child for emigration and adoption.
You must file an orphan petition before the child’s 16th birthday, or before the child’s 18th birthday if the child is a birth sibling of another child whom you have also adopted and who immigrated (or will immigrate) as:
  • an orphan based on a Form I-600 petition filed before the sibling’s 16th birthday
  • an “adopted child” as defined in Section 101(b)(1)(F) of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) provided the actual adoption took place before that sibling’s 16th birthday.

Overseas Investigation

As part of the processing of your case, USCIS (or, in some cases, the Department of State) will conduct an investigation overseas to verify that the child is an orphan. The purpose of the investigation is to:
  • Confirm that the child is an orphan as defined in the U.S. immigration law.
  • Verify that you have obtained a valid adoption or grant of custody; the child does not have an illness or disability that is not described in the orphan petition.
  • Determine whether the child has any special needs that were not fully addressed in your home study.
  • Determine whether there are any facts showing that the child does not qualify for immigration as your adopted child. 
Home Study:  (Submitted one) :)
Establishing Proper Parental Care. To establish your ability to provide proper parental care, you must submit a home study completed by someone authorized to complete an adoption home study in your home State (or anywhere in the United States, if you adopt the child while residing abroad).
The home study preparer must complete the home study according to the standards established in DHS regulations.  For more information on home study requirements see the “Orphan Home Study Guidelines" link to the left under “Home Study Information.”

Advance Processing:   (YES! We did this! ) :)You may also begin the orphan process before you identify a particular child for adoption. You do so by filing Form I-600A, Application for Advance Processing of Orphan Petition. Submit the home study with the Form I-600A. If USCIS approves your Form I-600A, the finding that you are suitable as an adoptive parent will make it unnecessary to address this issue again, when you file a Form I-600 for a particular child. Once a particular child has been identified, you would then file a Form I-600 for that child.
If you do not file Form I-600A, then you must complete all requirements of the I-600A when filing Form I-600. (see forms on the right).

PSALM 82:3
Defend the poor and fatherless: do justice to the afflicted and needy


  1. Hi Darcee! I'm a fellow waiting mom from Ethiopia :) This adoption experience is definitely a learning experience for sure! I just wanted to stop by and say hi. Blessings to your family on this journey!!

  2. Thanks SO Much Lesli for stopping by! FUN to be sharing this journey with you! :)

    Blessings to your family as well! :)



Thank you for your kind words! ♥