DISCLAIMER: The following is intended as a very general guide to assist U.S. citizens who plan to adopt a child from a foreign country and apply for an immigrant visa for the child to come to the United States. Two sets of laws are particularly relevant: 1) the laws of the child’s country of birth govern all activity in that country including the adoptability of individual children as well as the adoption of children in country in general; and 2) U.S. Federal immigration law governs the immigration of the child to the United States.
Prospective adoptive parents are advised to fully research any adoption agency or facilitator they plan to use for adoption services. For U.S.-based agencies, it is suggested that prospective adoptive parents contact the Better Business Bureau and/or the licensing office of the appropriate state government agency in the U.S. state where the agency is located or licensed.
PATTERNS OF IMMIGRATION OF ADOPTED ORPHANS TO THE U.S.: Recent U.S. immigrant visa statistics reflect the following pattern for visa issuance to Belizean orphans:
Number of Immigrant Visas Issued
ADOPTION AUTHORITY IN COUNTRY: The government office responsible for adoptions in Belize is the Belize Human Services Department:
Human Services Department
2 nd Floor, Commercial Center
P.O. Box 41
Belize City, Belize
Phone: ++501-227-7451 or 501-227-2057
ELIGIBILITY REQUIREMENTS FOR ADOPTIVE PARENTS: The government of Belize requires that at least one of the prospective adoptive parents must be a minimum of 25 years old and no fewer than 12 years older than the child. Single men cannot adopt female children. These restrictions can be waived if the court finds that special circumstances are warranted.
RESIDENCY REQUIREMENTS: The Belize Supreme Court only processes adoptions for Belizean citizen children. According to Section 137 of the Belize Families and Children’s Act, a person who is not a citizen of Belize may adopt a Belizean child if he or she:
Belizean law prohibits the issuance of a final adoption order unless the non-Belizean prospective adoptive parent resides in Belize with the Belizean child for 12 months. A social worker will visit periodically to assess the parent-child relationship. Adoptive parents who are not citizens of Belize may receive an interim adoption decree, which the Government of Belize recognizes as permission for the prospective adoptive parent to take the child out of Belize and pursue a subsequent adoption in accordance with the laws of his/her own country.
TIME FRAME: The processing time for adoptions can vary, depending on the circumstances of the case. The Belize Department of Human Services reports that “ward adoptions” (children in the custody of the Department of Human Services) can take up one year or more to process because of the need for home study reports, matching, placement and legal proceedings. For independent adoptions (children not in the custody of the Department of Human Services) the processing time is shorter. Because the adoption is child-specific – that is, the prospective adoptive parents have already selected a child – matching and placement are not necessary. These adoption proceedings take from 3 months to one year.
ADOPTIN AGENCIES AND ATTORNEYS:There are no accredited adoption agencies in Belize. Generally, U.S. prospective adoptive parents work with an accredited adoption agency in the U.S. The PAPs must submit a home study report from a social services agency in their state of residency and the U.S.-based agency must submit a notarized copy of their license to the Belize Department of Human Services. The Department of Human Services is the only agency approved to conduct/verify home studies for adoption in Belize. Prospective adoptive parents should confirm all fees and conditions before sending payments to an attorney or representative. English is the official language of Belize, so all attorneys in Belize speak English.
International adoptions occur before a Supreme Court judge and require the services of a local attorney authorized to present cases before the Supreme Court. Adoptive parents who wish to obtain information about forms and detailed adoption requirements should contact a Belizean attorney. A list of attorneys can be found at the U.S. Embassy web site: http://belize.usembassy.gov.
ADOPTION FEES IN COUNTRY: Attorney’s fees for adoption services in Belize range from $1,500to $5,000 (U.S. dollars). The cost can vary based on the attorney selected, the type of adoption (local vs. international) and the number of children being adopted. Attorneys’ fees include all costs related to the adoption process, such as court costs and filing fees. U.S. citizens adopting a child in Belize should report any exorbitant fees to the U.S. Embassy in Belize or to the U.S. Department of State.
ADOPTION PROCEDURES: The Supreme Court of Belize processes all adoptions of Belizean citizen children. The Supreme Court will not adjudicate adoption cases involving non-Belizean citizen children and will instead refer the case to the child’s country of citizenship. Adoption of Belizean citizen children must occur within the Belizean court system. There are no private adoptions or adoptions through extra-judicial processes. If the prospective adoptive parents reside outside of Belize and are not citizens of Belize, the adoption must be handled through the Supreme Court of Belize.
FULL ADOPTIONS: The Supreme Court will not issue a final adoption decree in a full adoption until the child has spent at least 12 months with the prospective adoptive parents and a social worker has submitted a written assessment of the child-parent relationship. Full adoptions are rare in Belize and, as of the time of this writing, can only be granted to Belizean citizens or residents of Belize.
INTERIM ADOPTIONS: The Supreme Court may postpone the granting of a final adoption decree and issue an interim order instead. Under this procedure, the prospective adoptive parent(s) will have custody of the child for a probationary period of one year during which the adoptive parent(s) is/are required to provide quarterly reports to the Belize Supreme Court regarding the child’s care and progress. These reports are usually filed with the Court by the adoptive parents’ attorney and a copy is also given to the Belize Department of Human Services. Upon submission of the final quarterly report, the attorney makes an application for the provisional order to be made final in the Supreme Court. The application will be granted based on the recommendation of the U.S. social worker who conducted the quarterly visits and wrote the reports. If the final adoption decree is granted, the Belize Registrar General for Vital Statistics will then place the child’s name in the Adoption of Children Register.
The Chief Justice of Belize has determined that the “provisional,” “interim,” or “preliminary” adoption decrees often issued by the Supreme Court can be considered permission for the prospective adoptive parents to take the child out of Belize and to pursue a subsequent adoption process in accordance with the laws of their own country. American adoptive parents may apply for an Immediate Relative (IR)-4 visa for the child. The adoptive parents must obtain a Belize passport for the child which must be issued in the child’s birth name.
DOCUMENTS REQUIRED FOR ADOPTION IN BELIZE: The following documents are required by the Belize Human Services Department:
AUTHENTICATING U.S. DOCUMENTS TO BE USED ABROAD: The language describing the process of authenticating U.S. documents to be used abroad is currently under review. Please click on the following link for more information until the new language is finalized: http://www.state.gov/m/a/auth/.
BELIZE EMBASSY AND CONSULATE IN THE US:
Embassy of Belize – Consular Section
2535 Massachusetts Ave. NW
Washington, DC 20008
Permanent Mission of Belize
820 2 nd Avenue
New York, NY 10017
US IMMIGRATION REQUIREMENTS
Prospective adoptive parents are strongly encouraged to consult USCIS publication M-249, The Immigration of Adopted and Prospective Adopting Children, as well as the Department of State publication, International Adoptions. The USCIS publication is available at the USCIS Web site. The Department of State publication International Adoption can be found on the Bureau of Consular Affairs Web site, travel.state.gov, under “International Adoption.”
Before completing an adoption abroad, prospective adoptive parents are strongly encouraged to read the requirements for filing Form I-600 Petition to Classify Orphan as an Immediate Relative. Please see our flyer “ How Can Adopted Children Come to the United States” at our Web site travel.state.gov.U.S. EMBASSY IN BELIZE: Americans living or traveling abroad are encouraged to register with the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate through the State Department’s travel registration web site, https://travelregistration.state.gov/, and to obtain updated information on travel and security within the country of travel. Americans without Internet access may register directly with the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate. By registering, American citizens make it easier for the Embassy or Consulate to contact them in case of emergency. The Consular Section is located at:
29 Gabourel Lane
Belize City, Belize
APPLYING FOR A VISA AT THE U.S EMBASSY: The I-600 can be filed at the U.S. Embassy in Belize City after an adoptive parent has legal custody of the child, i.e., after the court decision on the adoption (or interim adoption) is final. The Embassy will issue a medical appointment letter to the adoptive parent(s) for the child’s required medical examination prior to the immigrant visa application. Upon completion of the medical exam, the U.S. Embassy will schedule an appointment for the adoptive parent(s) and child to come to the Embassy’s Consular Section to apply for the immigrant visa. At the time of the immigrant visa application, the adoptive parent(s) must present the following documents:
Note: Once the U.S. Embassy approves the visa application, the visa is typically issued on the following business day, but PAPs are strongly advised to wait until they have the visa in hand before making any travel arrangements.
ACQUIRING U.S. CITIZENSHIP: The language describing the acquisition of U.S. citizenship for adopted children is currently under review. Until the new language is finalized, please click on the following link for further information: http://travel.state.gov/family/adoption/info/info_457.html .
ADDITIONAL INFORMATION: Specific questions about adoption in Belize may be addressed to the U.S. Embassy in Belize. General questions regarding international adoption may be addressed to the Officeof Children’s Issues, U.S.Department ofState, CA/OCS/CI, SA-29, 4th Floor, 2201 C Street, NW, Washington, D.C. 20520-4818, toll-free Tel: 1-888-407-4747.
Useful information is also available from several other sources:
Note: Our authors are dedicated to honest, engaged, informed, intelligent, and open conversation about adoption. The opinions expressed here may not reflect the views of Adoption.com.