Important Information About Adoption in Liberia
(Updated Oct. 31, 2016)
Liberia is not a party to the Hague Convention on Protection of Children and Co-operation in Respect of Intercountry Adoption (Hague Adoption Convention or Convention). Under the Intercountry Adoption Universal Accreditation Act of 2012 (UAA), which became effective on July 14, 2014, the accreditation requirement and standards, which previously only applied in Convention cases, now also apply in non-Convention (“orphan”) cases under section 101(b)(1)(F) of the Immigration and Nationality Act. Unless an exception applies, the UAA requires that an accredited or approved adoption service provider act as a primary provider in every orphan case, and that adoption service providers providing any adoption services, as defined at 22 CFR Part 96.2, on behalf of prospective adoptive parents be accredited or approved, or be a supervised or exempted provider. Adoption service providers and prospective adoptive parents should review the State Department’s Universal Accreditation Act of 2012 webpage for further information. Intercountry adoptions of children from non-Convention countries continue to be processed under the Orphan Process with the filing of the Forms I-600A and I-600. However, adoption service providers should be aware of the information on the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) website on the impact of the UAA on Form I-600A and Form I-600 adjudications, including the requirement that all home studies, including home study updates and amendments, comply with the Convention home study requirements, which differ from the orphan home study requirements that were in effect before July 14, 2014.
In July 2008, the Ministry of Justice and Ministry of Health and Social Welfare began carefully reviewing all adoption cases submitted to them for approval. That year, upon noticing an increasing number of cases in which adoptive parents decided to terminate their parent/child relationship with Liberian adoptive children, the Government of Liberia temporarily enacted a moratorium to prohibit all international adoptions. However, in 2015, the President of Liberia announced that the moratorium had been lifted.
U.S. Immigration Requirements for Intercountry Adoptions
To bring an adopted child to the United States from Liberia, you must meet certain suitability and eligibility requirements. USCIS determines who is suitable and eligible to adopt a child from another country and bring that child to live in the United States under U.S. immigration law.
Additionally, a child must meet the definition of an orphan under U.S. immigration law in order to be eligible to immigrate to the United States with an IR-3 or IR-4 immigrant visa.
Who Can Adopt
In addition to being found suitable and eligible to adopt by USCIS, prospective adoptive parents seeking to adopt from Liberia must meet the following requirements:
- Residency: Liberian law states: “There shall be no adoption by proxy. All persons seeking to adopt a Liberian child shall appear in person before the court.” Furthermore, “In all inter-country adoptions, prospective adoptive parents are required to reside within Liberia for a period of thirty (30) days or one (1) month unless the adoptive parent has familiarity with Liberia, meaning they have visited the country and are aware of the culture.”
- Age of Adopting Parents: There are no age requirements for intercountry adoptions in Liberia.
- Marriage: There are no marriage requirements for intercountry adoptions in Liberia. If you are married, both parents must adopt the child.
- Income: There are no income requirements for Liberian intercountry adoptions.
Who Can Be Adopted
In addition to qualifying as an orphan under U.S. immigration law, the child must meet the following requirements of Liberia:
- Relinquishment: In addition to obtaining a statement of relinquishment from the biological parent or legal guarding of the child being adopted, no adoption decree can be issued without an approved case summary from the Ministry of Gender, Children, and Social Protection (MGCSP). A case summary from the MGCSP is issued only after a social worker has investigated the case thoroughly and concluded that adoption is in the best interest of the child, and the Minister has reviewed all the legal paperwork necessary to process an adoption in Liberia.
- Abandonment: If the child was born in wedlock, the consent of both parents is required. If the child was born out of wedlock, only the mother must consent. Parental consent is not required if the parents have abandoned the child, if the parental rights have been legally terminated, if the parents are deceased, or if a legal guardian has been appointed by the court.
- Age of Adoptive Child: If the child is 16 years or older, the child must consent to the adoption. Please note that for a child to meet the definition of an orphan under U.S. immigration law, a Form I-600, Petition to Classify Orphan as an Immediate Relative, must be filed on the child’s behalf while the child is under the age of 16 (or under the age of 18 if the child is the birth sibling of another adopted child who has immigrated or will immigrate based on adoption by the same adoptive parent(s)). Please see the USCIS website for special rules on filing dates for children aged 15-16 or siblings aged 17-18.
- Sibling Adoptions: None
- Special Needs or Medical Conditions: None
- Waiting Period or Foster Care: Liberian law states: “In all inter-country adoptions, prospective adoptive parents are required to reside within Liberia for a period of thirty (30) days or one (1) month unless the adoptive parent has familiarity with Liberia, meaning they have visited the country and are aware of the culture.”
Caution: Prospective adoptive parents should be aware that not all children in orphanages or children’s homes are available for adoption. In many countries, birth parents place their child(ren) temporarily in an orphanage or children’s home due to financial or other hardship, intending that the child return home when possible. In such cases, the birth parent(s) have rarely relinquished their parental rights or consented to the adoption of their child(ren).
How to Adopt
Liberia’s Adoption Authority
The Ministry of Gender, Children, and Social Protection
The process for adopting a child from Liberia generally includes the following steps, which are explained in full below:
- Choose a U.S. Accredited or Approved Adoption Service Provider To Act as Your Primary Provider
- Apply to USCIS to be Found Suitable and Eligible to Adopt (Form I-600A)
- Apply to Liberia’s Authorities to Adopt and be Matched with a Child
- Adopt the Child in Liberia
- Apply for Your Child to be Found Eligible to Immigrate to the United States as an Orphan (Form I-600)
- Apply for a U.S. Immigrant Visa for Your Child and Bring Your Child Home
1. Choose a U.S. Accredited or Approved Adoption Service Provider to Act as Your Primary Provider
Before taking steps to adopt a child from Liberia, you should select a U.S. accredited or approved adoption service provider to be the primary provider in your case. Unless an exception applies, a primary provider is required in every intercountry adoption case under the UAA. Your primary provider is responsible for:
- Ensuring that all six adoption services defined at22 CFR 96.2 are provided consistent with applicable laws and regulations;
- Supervising and being responsible for supervised providers where used (see22 CFR 96.14); and
- Developing and implementing a service plan in accordance with22 CFR 96.44.For more information on primary providers and the UAA, please see Universal Accreditation Act of 2012. Learn more about Agency Accreditation.
Note: The Government of Liberia also accredits adoption agencies, and (with the sole exception of kinship adoptions, as described in “4. Adopt the Child in Liberia,” below) only adoption agencies accredited by the Government of Liberia are permitted to operate in Liberia. At present, there are five such agencies operating in Liberia: Across the World Adoptions, and their partner Angels’ Haven; Americans for African Adoption (in partnership with the U.S.-based organization Joyful World Ministries, Inc.); New Horizons Adoption Agency; and Small World Adoption.
2. Apply to USCIS to be Found Suitable and Eligible to Adopt
In order to adopt a child from Liberia, you will need to meet the requirements of the Government of Liberia and U.S. immigration law.
To meet U.S. immigration requirements, you may choose to file a Form I-600A, Application for Advance Processing of an Orphan Petition, with USCIS to be found suitable and eligible to adopt. You may also choose to file the Form I-600 petition along with all the required Form I-600A application supporting documentation, including an approved home study, once you have been matched with a child and have obtained all the necessary documentation. Please see the USCIS website for more information about filing options. Unless an exception applies, the home study must be prepared by a person who is authorized under 22 CFR 96 to prepare home studies and comply with the requirements in 8 CFR 204.311.
3. Apply to Liberia’s Authorities to Adopt and be Matched with a Child
If you are found suitable and eligible to adopt under U.S. immigration law, you may submit an adoption petition through an approved adoption agency to the Probate Court, which informs Liberia’s Ministry of Justice and the Ministry of Gender, Children, and Social Protection. The Ministry of Justice evaluates your eligibility to adopt a child under Liberian law. The Ministry of Gender, Children, and Social Protection independently evaluates the child’s eligibility to be adopted.
If a child is eligible for intercountry adoption, the competent adoption authority or other authorized entity in Liberia will review your adoption dossier and, if an appropriate match is found, will provide you with a referral. We encourage families to consult with a medical professional and their adoption service provider to understand the needs of the specific child but each family must decide for itself whether it will be able to meet the needs of, and provide a permanent home for a specific child, and must conform to the recommendations in the home study submitted to USCIS for the number of children and capacity to deal with any special needs of an adoptive child. Learn more about Health Considerations
The child must be eligible to be adopted according to Liberia’s requirements, and must also meet the definition of an orphan under U.S. immigration law.
4. Adopt the Child in Liberia
The process for finalizing the adoption in Liberia generally includes the following:
- Role of Adoption Authority: No adoption decree can be issued without an approved case summary from the Ministry of Gender, Children, and Social Protection (MGCSP).
- Role of the Court: A petition for adoption must be filed with the Probate Court. The petition must contain the name, age, residence and marital status of the petitioners. The name, date and place of birth of the child, the date and manner in which the petitioners acquired custody of the child, facts (if any) that render consent of either parent unnecessary, the petitioners’ desire to adopt the child and the child’s change of name, should also be contained in the petition.
Upon receipt of a petition for adoption, the Court schedules a hearing and serves notice on all interested parties. Liberian law does not permit adoption by proxy; the petitioners, the parent, parents, or guardian(s) of the child, and the child are required to attend the hearing, though the court may waive the appearance of the child for good cause. This waiver must be stated in the order of adoption. All hearings are public, and held in open court. The court must be satisfied that the “moral and temporal interests” of the child will be satisfied by the adoption. Upon this showing, the adoption is ordered.
The court must be satisfied that the “moral and temporal interests” of the child will be satisfied by the adoption. Upon this showing, the adoption is ordered.
Role of Adoption Agencies: Most adoptive parents work with an adoption agency in the U.S., which in turn liaises with an orphanage or organization in Liberia prior to initiating the adoption process. The organization in Liberia must be registered with the Ministry of Gender, Children, and Social Protection (MGCSP). At present, there are five such agencies operating in Liberia: Across the World Adoptions, and their partner Angels’ Haven; Americans for African Adoption (in partnership with the U.S.-based organization Joyful World Ministries, Inc.); New Horizons Adoption Agency; and Small World Adoption.
When the adoption is a kinship adoption (i.e. adoption of a blood relative), the Ministry of Gender, Children, and Social Protection has indicated that adoptive parents may use any accredited adoption agency in the United States. The agency will then supervise a private Liberian attorney. Please note that all requirements, including the child’s status as an orphan, continue to apply and that a U.S. accredited or approved adoption service provider must act as the primary provider, even if a private Liberian attorney handles the adoption in Liberia. This paragraph applies to kinship adoptions (i.e. adoptions of a blood relative) only.
In all adoption cases (kinship or not), as of July 14, 2014, unless an exception applies, there must be a U.S. accredited or approved adoption service provider acting as the primary provider in every case. Also, any agency or person providing an adoption service on behalf of prospective adoptive parents in any Convention or non-Convention case must be accredited or approved, or be a supervised or exempted provider. Adoption service means any one of the following six services:
- Identifying a child for adoption and arranging an adoption;
- Securing the necessary consent to termination of parental rights and to adoption;
- Performing a background study on a child or a home study on a prospective adoptive parent(s), and reporting on such a study;
- Making non-judicial determinations of the best interests of a child and the appropriateness of an adoptive placement for the child;
- Monitoring a case after a child has been placed with prospective adoptive parent(s) until final adoption; or
- When necessary because of a disruption before final adoption, assuming custody and providing (including facilitating the provision of) child care or any other social service pending an alternative placement. 22 CFR 96.2
- Adoption Application: Please contact the Ministry of Gender, Children, and Social Protection (MGCSP)directly to request the most recent information. Their 2016 Standard Operating Procedures are available here (PDF 147 KB).
- Time Frame: Intercountry adoptions in Liberia take approximately three months to complete from the time a dossier accepted by the adoption authority to the time the final adoption order is issued.
- Adoption Fees: Official Government fees for adoptions in Liberia are minimal and consist mainly of court filing fees, which are $1,500 for intercountry adoptions. The cost of employing local counsel varies, but adoptive parents can expect to pay several hundred dollars at a minimum for an attorney. The approved adoption agencies often charge from $7,000 to $12,000 per case.
Prospective adoptive parents are advised to obtain detailed receipts for all fees and donations paid, either by themselves directly or through their U.S. adoption service provider, and to raise any concerns regarding any payment that you believe may be contrary to U.S. law, or the law of Liberia, with your adoption service provider. Please also refer to information concerning the Hague Complaint Registry. Improper payments may have the appearance of buying a child, violate applicable law, and could put all future adoptions in Liberia at risk. The Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, for instance, makes it unlawful to bribe foreign government officials to obtain or retain business. Further, the UAA and IAA make it unlawful to improperly influence relinquishment of parental rights, parental consent relating to adoption of a child, or a decision by an entity performing competent authority functions. In the adoption services contract that you sign at the beginning of the adoption process, your adoption service provider will itemize the fees and estimated expenses related to your adoption process.
Documents Required: The following documents are required for adoption in Liberia:
- Petition for Adoption
- Written consent of the biological parents
- Copy of adoptive parents’ passports
- A case summary prepared by the Ministry of Gender, Children, and Social Protection (MGCSP).
Note: Additional documents may be requested.
- Authentication of Documents: You may be asked to provide proof that a document from the United States is authentic. The U.S Department of State’s Authentications Office has information on the subject.
5. Apply for Your Child to be Found Eligible for Immigration to the United States as an Orphan
After you finalize the adoption in Liberia , USCIS must determine whether the child meets the definition of an orphan under U.S. immigration law in order for the child to immigrate to the United States. You will need to file a Form I-600, Petition to Classify Orphan as an Immediate Relative. At the time you file your Form I-600 petition, the adjudicating officer will determine whether the UAA applies, or if your case is UAA grandfathered or is a transition case. For more information on UAA grandfathering and transition cases, please see Universal Accreditation Act of 2012. Unless an exception applies, you must identify a primary provider.
If you have a valid Form I-600A, Application for Advance Processing of an Orphan Petition, approval you may file your Form I-600 petition either in the United States with USCIS or in person at the U.S.Embassy in Monrovia, Liberia. Please see the USCIS website for more information about filing options. If you choose to file at the U.S.Embassy in Monrovia, you must make an appointment in advance by sending a message to ConsularMonrovia@state.gov.
When a Form I-600 petition is adjudicated by USCIS in the United States, the consular section in Monrovia, Liberia, must complete a Form I-604, Determination on Child for Adoption (sometimes informally referred to as an orphan determination) to verify the child’s orphan status. When a Form I-600 petition is adjudicated by an international USCIS office, USCIS generally completes the Form I-604 determination.
For Form I-600 petitions filed with the Embassy’s consular section, the consular officer must complete the Form I-604 determination after you file your Form I-600 petition. Conducting the Form I-604 determination is a critical part of the non-Convention adoption process. It can take two months or more to complete, depending upon the circumstances of your case. Consular officers appreciate that families are eager to bring their adopted child home as quickly as possible. Some of the factors that may contribute to the length of the process include prevailing fraud patterns in the country of origin, civil unrest or security concerns that restrict travel to certain areas of the country, and the number of determinations performed by available staff. Consular officers make every effort to conduct them as quickly and thoroughly as possible. You are advised to keep your travel plans flexible while awaiting the results.
6. Apply for a U.S. Immigrant Visa for Your Child and Bring Your Child Home
Now that your adoption is complete and the Form I-604 determination has been completed finding that your child meets the legal definition of an orphan for immigration purposes, there are a few more steps to take before you and your child can head home. Specifically, you need to apply for three documents before your child can travel to the United States:
If you have finalized the adoption in Liberia, you will first need to apply for a new birth certificate for your child. Your name will be added to the new birth certificate as the child’s parent.
If you have been granted legal custody for the purposes of emigration and adoption of the child in the United States, the birth certificate you obtain will, in most cases, not yet include your name.
Birth certificates are currently available only from the Ministry of Health and Social Welfare in Monrovia, Liberia. Certificates are free for those 12 and under, and cost 500 LD (approx. US $7) for others.
Your child is not yet a U.S. citizen, so he/she will need a travel document or passport from Liberia.
A Liberian passport must be issued by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Passport Office in Monrovia, Liberia, and must be accompanied by either a Liberian birth certificate or a Liberian naturalization certificate. The passport issuance fee is currently US $50.
U.S. Immigrant Visa
After you obtain the new birth certificate and passport for your child and you have filed Form I-600, Petition to Classify Orphan as an Immediate Relative, you then need to apply for a U.S. immigrant visa for your child from the U.S. Embassy in Monrovia. This immigrant visa allows your child to travel home with you and be admitted to the United States as your child. As part of this process, you must provide the consular officer with the Panel Physician’s medical report on the child.
Before coming for your child’s immigrant visa interview, please complete an Electronic Immigrant Visa Application (DS-260) online at the Consular Electronic Application Center (CEAC). If you filed a Form I-600 petition in the United States, you should receive a letter from the National Visa Center (NVC) confirming receipt of the petition and assignment of a case number and an invoice ID number. You will need this information to log into CEAC to file the DS-260 for your child. An adoptive parent should fill out these forms in your child’s name. Answer every item on the form. If information is not applicable, please write “N/A” in the block. Print and bring the DS-260 form confirmation page to the visa interview. Please review the DS-260 FAQs, our Online Immigrant Visa Forms page, or contact the NVC at NVCAdoptions@state.gov or +1-603-334-0700 if you have questions about completing the online DS-260 form.
Visa issuance after the final interview generally takes at least three business days. It is not usually possible to provide the visa to adoptive parents on the same day as the immigrant visa interview. Adoptive parents should verify current processing times with the U.S. Embassy in Monrovia before making final travel arrangements.
Child Citizenship Act
For adoptions finalized abroad prior to the child’s entry into the United States: An adopted child residing in the United States in the legal and physical custody of the U.S. citizen parent pursuant to a lawful admission for permanent residence generally will acquire U.S. citizenship automatically upon entry into the United States if the child otherwise meets the requirements of the Child Citizenship Act of 2000, including the child is under the age of eighteen.
For adoptions finalized after the child’s entry into the United States: You will need to complete an adoption following your child’s entry into the United States and before the child turns eighteen for the child (if he or she otherwise meets the requirements of the Child Citizenship Act of 2000) to automatically acquire U.S. citizenship.
Read more about the Child Citizenship Act of 2000.
Applying for Your U.S. Passport
U.S. citizens are required to enter and depart the United States on a valid U.S. passport. Once your child has acquired U.S. citizenship s/he will need a U.S. passport for any international travel. Only the U.S. Department of State has the authority to grant, issue, or verify U.S. passports.
Getting or renewing a passport is easy. The Department of State’s Passport Application Wizard will help you determine which passport form you need, help you to complete the form online, estimate your payment, and generate the form for you to print—all in one place.
Obtaining a Visa to Travel to Liberia
In addition to a U.S. passport, you may also need to obtain a visa. Where required, visas are affixed to your passport and allow you to enter a foreign nation. To find information about obtaining a visa for Liberia, see the Department of State’s Country Specific Information.
Staying Safe on Your Trip
Before you travel, it is always a good practice to investigate the local conditions, laws, political landscape, and culture of the country. The Department of State provides Country-Specific Information for every country in the world about various issues, including health conditions, crime, currency or entry requirements, and any areas of instability.
Staying in Touch on Your Trip
When traveling during the adoption process, we encourage you to enroll with the Department of State through our Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP) to receive important information from the Embassy about safety conditions in your destination country. Enrollment makes it possible for the U.S. Embassy or Consulate in Liberia, to contact you in an emergency, whether natural disaster, civil unrest, or family emergency. Whether there is a family emergency in the United States or a crisis in Liberia, enrollment assists the U.S. Embassy or Consulate in reaching you.
Enrollment is free and can be done online via the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP).
Post-Adoption/Post-Placement Reporting Requirements
Liberian law has no post-adoption requirements for adoptive parents. Parents should confirm any post-adoption requirements with their legal representatives.
Many adoptive parents find it important to find support after the adoption. There are many public and private nonprofit post-adoption services available for children and their families. There are also numerous adoptive family support groups and adoptee organizations active in the United States that provide a network of options for adoptees who seek out other adoptees from the same country of origin. Take advantage of all the resources available to your family, whether it is another adoptive family, a support group, an advocacy organization, or your religious or community services. Your primary provider can provide or point you to post- placement/post-adoption services to help your adopted child and your family transition smoothly and deal effectively with the many adjustments required in an intercountry adoptions.
Here are some places to start your support group search:
- Child Welfare Information Gateway
- North American Council on Adoptable Children
- Adoption Services Support Groups for Adopting Persons
Note: Inclusion of non-U.S. government links does not imply endorsement of contents.
If you have concerns about your adoption process, we ask that you share this information with the U.S. Embassy in Monrovia, particularly if it involves possible fraud or misconduct specific to your child’s case. The Department of State takes all allegations of fraud or misconduct seriously. Our Adoption Comment Page provides several points of contact for adoptive families to comment on their adoption service provider, their experience applying for their child’s visa, or about the Form I-600 petition process.
The Hague Complaint Registry is an internet based registry for filing complaints about U.S. accredited or approved adoption service providers. If you think your provider’s conduct may have been out of substantial compliance with accreditation standards, first submit your complaint in writing directly to your provider. If the complaint is not resolved through the provider’s complaint process, you may file the complaint through the Hague Complaint Registry.
Liberia’s Adoption Authority
Ministry of Gender, Children, and Social Protection
Sekou Toure Avenue and Gurley Street
P.O. Box 10-9009, 1000
Monrovia 10, Liberia
Tel: +231886 404 919; +231 886 450 891
Embassy of Liberia
5201 16th St NW, Washington, DC 20011
Tel: (202) 723-0437
Fax: (202) 723-0436
Office of Children’s Issues
U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS)
For questions about immigration procedures:
USCIS National Customer Service Center (NCSC)
Tel: 1-800-375-5283 (TTY 1-800-767-1833)
For questions about filing a Form I-600A application or a Form I-600 petition with the USCIS National Benefits Center (NBC):
Tel: 1-877-424-8374 (toll free); 1-816-251-2770 (local)
For questions about filing a Form I-600A application or a Form I-600 petition with a USCIS international field office:
Please visit http://www.uscis.gov/about-us/find-uscis-office/international-immigration-offices and select the appropriate office.