Categories: Family

International Adoption-What Is The Hague Convention And Why does It Matter

U.S. citizens who wish to adopt internationally and who have begun to look into this highly complicated process will have no doubt come across the “Hague Convention” in their research.  The Hague Convention, formally called The Hague Adoption Convention on the Protection of Children and Cooperation in Respect of Inter-Country Adoption, is a treaty to which the United States and many other countries are party that establishes norms between the nations for how adoptions between them are handled.  It is an agreement that sets forth how the countries will treat many aspects of the international adoption process, including matters bearing on immigration, when the adoption involves two countries that are party to this treaty.  The Convention aims to protect children from exploitation and other ills, but has drawn much criticism due to how difficult the immigration rules and restrictions make international adoption between two Hague countries.  This article gives a general overview of the Hague Convention, answering questions frequently asked related to the Convention by persons seeking to adopt internationally. 

What is the Hague Convention? 

The Hague Convention is a treaty (i.e., an agreement) that regulates how countries who have signed and ratified it treat aspects, including those concerning immigration, related to international adoptions that involve two “member” states.  The Convention came into effect for the United States in 2008.  The purpose behind it is to provide greater protections to both children being adopted and to the adoptive parents.  It seeks to stop the trafficking and abuse of children by ensuring that kids being adopted are in fact orphans and that the people who are adopting them have good intentions.  The main focus is on the kids – the Hague Convention seeks to put the interests of children first.  It requires member countries to establish a central authority for handling Hague-related adoption matters.  In the U.S., this authority is the U.S. Department of State.  It sets forth certain standards for “Hague adoptions” that go above and beyond what is required for non-Hague adoptions (discussed further below).

To Which Adoptions Does The Hague Convention Apply? 

The heightened international adoption and immigration requirements of the Hague Convention only apply where the persons adopting are from a country that is a member of the Hague Convention, and where the child to be adopted is from a member country as well.  For example, the Hague Convention rules would apply to a U.S. citizen adopting a child from China, because both the United States and China are party to the Hague Convention.  On the other hand, an adoption by a U.S. citizen of a child from Ukraine would not be subject to the Hague rules, because Ukraine is not party to the Hague Convention.  For a list of countries that are members of the Hague Convention (at the time of this writing), click on thislink, courtesy of the State Department. 

What Are the Differences Between a Hague Adoption and a Non-Hague Adoption

International adoptions involving the Hague Convention generally involve stricter rules that must be complied with in order to carry out the adoption.  One such difference relates to the adoption agencies people use to help facilitate an international adoption.  For a non-Hague adoption (i.e., an international adoption where one or both countries involved are not members to the treaty), the adoption agency only needs to be licensed by the state in which the adoptive parents live.  In contrast, an adoption agency must additionally be accredited or approved by a special entity for Hague adoptions.  Critics note that this extra accreditation is time-consuming and costly, meaning many adoption agencies are not Hague-certified and thus cannot be involved in a Hague adoption; this in turn, say critics, means that fewer children ultimately end up getting adopted. 

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The adoption services contract between the adoption agency and the adoptive parents must, for Hague adoptions, contain certain information about fees, the policies of the agency, the agency’s history and other things that are not always required to be included in the adoption services contracts for non-Hague adoptions (what is required in non-Hague adoptions will depend on state laws, which differ significantly in terms of what they demand for these adoption contracts). 

There are also differences between Hague and non-Hague adoptions concerning the home study provider.  In non-Hague adoptions, the home study provider just has to meet standards set forth by state authorities and the main U.S. immigration law entity, US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).  For Hague adoptions, the home study provider must additionally be approved to do home studies for international adoptions by a special accrediting agency designated by the US Department of State.  Persons who are critical of the Hague Convention contend that the onerous requirements for both adoption agencies and home study providers under the Convention lead to much more expensive adoptions than where the Hague Convention is not involved.  The idea is that if international adoption agencies and home study providers must expend more money to be Hague-compliant, they end up passing these costs along to would-be adoptive parents.  These increased costs, say critics, can make adoption from a Hague country prohibitively expensive for many people. 

Another difference is parent education; the Hague convention requires that adoptive parents do at least 10 hours of parenting education before they can complete the international adoption, as where this standard does not exist for non-Hague adoptions (unless required by state law). 

Hague and non-Hague adoptions also differ in terms of the immigration forms that must be completed (the I-800A and I-800 for the former, the I-600A and the I-600 for the latter) and in some cases when they can be filed.  The immigration visa the child ends up getting, which allows them to travel to the United States, also differs: Hague adoptions involve the I-H3 or I-H4 visa, while a non-Hague adoption involves an I-R3 or I-R4 visa.  Another major difference in international adoptions, depending on whether it is a Hague or non-Hague adoption, is when the US visa application is submitted.  In a Hague adoption it is submitted before the legal proceedings that finalize the adoption overseas take place, as where the visa application is submitted afterward in non-Hague cases. 

Persons pursuing an international adoption should consider carefully all aspects of the process, including those related to the relative merits or demerits of adopting from a country that is party to the Hague Convention.  An adoption professional or immigration lawyer can tell you more about the various immigration aspects of international adoption, including those related to the Hague Convention. 

* The author, Brad Menzer, blogs about immigration-related issues for the immigration law firm Heartland Immigration.  To learn more about immigration matters, contact an attorney with the Dallas immigration lawyer at Heartland Immigration: 1-855-USA-IMMIGRATE

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