Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Adopting a Foreign Relative

When a single parent cannot be responsible to raise a child, it is common for a family member to step-up and take responsibility. Many times, this is accomplished through an intra-family adoption. But, what if the child is in a foreign country, and the relative in the United States?

The immigration laws for adoptions involving a non-orphan, that is a child whose parents are still living, are complicated. This is because the US Government is attempting to protect from the situation where the adoption is a mere sham used to evade the immigration laws. But, this requires the adoptive parents to be careful in how they approach the adoption.

First, the adoption must take place before the child's sixteenth birthday. Next, the adoptive parent must live with the child for two years overseas. To meet the two year residency requirement, the adoptive parents cannot simply visit the child. That is, if the adoptive parent goes for a six month trip abroad to be with the child, but comes back to the United States for six months, that will not qualify as residence with the child.

This two year residency requirement is what normally prevents permanent residents from being able to adopt a foreign relative. Any trips overseas of six months or more are considered to show that the person abandoned his or her residency in the United States, unless the person obtains a re-entry permit. Even then, re-entry permits are only issued for two years at a time and cannot be renewed.

Another problem is where the biological parents live in the same household as the adopted child. Then, USCIS will require evidence to show that the adoptive parent is the actual decision-maker and takes responsibility for the day-to-day activities of the child. It will not be enough simply to show that the adoptive parent pays the bills. The adoptive parent must show that he or she is the primary caregiver in the child's life.

A mistake some people make is to think that just by adopting a minor, they can bring the child into the United States. The process, however, is much more complicated. If done improperly, the process may need to be started all over again. When the child is a teenager, there may not be time to lose.

For this reason, a person adopting a foreign born relative should consult with a knowledgeable attorney before going through with it. Only then can such a person create a plan to make sure that the immigration law is addressed, and the child can obtain a visa.

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