International Adoption - Germany

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DISCLAIMER: The information in this circular relating to the legal requirements of specific foreign countries is provided for general information only. Questions involving interpretation of specific foreign laws should be addressed to foreign legal counsel.

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 licensing office of the Department of Health and Family Services in the state where the agency is located.

GENERAL: The following is a guide for U.S. citizens who are interested in adopting a child in Germany and applying for an immigrant visa for the child to come to the United States. This process involves complex German and U.S. legal requirements. U.S. consular officers give each petition careful consideration on a case-by-case basis to ensure that the legal requirements of both countries have been met, for the protection of the prospective adoptive parent(s), the biological parents(s) and the child. Interested U.S. citizens are strongly encouraged to contact the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service at the U.S. Consulate General in Frankfurt, Germany (telephone number below) before formalizing an adoption agreement, to ensure that appropriate procedures have been followed which will make it possible for the Consulate General to issue a U.S. immigrant visa for the child.

AVAILABILITY OF CHILDREN FOR ADOPTION: Recent U.S. immigrant visa statistics reflect the following pattern for visa issuance to orphans:

FY-1996: IR-3 immigrant visas issued to German orphans adopted abroad - 6
IR-4 immigrant visas issued to German orphans adopted in the U.S. - 0*
FY-1997: IR-3 Visas - 10, IR-4 Visas - 0
FY-1998: IR-3 Visas - 10, IR-4 Visas - 0
FY-1999: IR-3 Visas - 13, IR-4 Visas - 0
FY-2000: IR-3 Visas - 4, IR-4 Visas - 1

*Note that few, if any, of these adopted children were German and most (if not all) were adopted in their birth countries and brought to Germany by American parents for visa processing only.

GERMAN ADOPTION AUTHORITY: There is no central adoption agency in Germany. Persons wishing to adopt a child from Germany should contact the youth office (Jugendamt) of any large German city. The youth office would have a list of children available for adoption in that city, and would be able to assist in arranging an adoption and in facilitating legal proceedings. In addition, there are some independent agencies that can legally act as middlemen between biological and adoptive parents. Persons wishing to pursue an adoption should be aware that it is increasingly difficult to find children for adoption in Germany, and German adoptive parents are looking more frequently as well to other countries for adoption possibilities.

GERMAN ADOPTION PROCEDURES: An application must be filled out and acknowledged by a notary public). Legal agreement must be reached among the adoptive parents, the child (if over age 14) or the child's legal representative (if under age 14), and the biological parent(s). In certain cases the guardianship court can discard the requirement for the permission of one or both biological parents if this requirement would seriously disadvantage the child.

AGE AND CIVIL STATUS REQUIREMENTS: Individuals wishing to adopt must be age 25 or over. German law generally requires adoptive parents to be married heterosexual couples. In some circumstances, single people are allowed, as well.

ADOPTION AGENCIES AND ATTORNEYS: If a German attorney is required to complete the adoption process, each Consulate General, as well as the Embassy in Berlin, can provide a list of English-speaking lawyers who are licensed to practice in Germany. Below is a list of adoption agencies:

Diakonisches Werk der evangelischen Kirche in Deutschland (Protestant)
Staffenbergstrasse 76
70184 Stuttgart

Sozialdienst Katholischer Frauen Zentrale e.V. (Catholic)
Einbrunger Strasse 82
40489 Duesseldorf

Eltern fuer Kinder e.V.
Bochumer Strasse 18
45276 Essen

Caritasverband der Dioezese Hildesheim
Muehlenstrasse 26
31134 Hildesheim

Pro infanto
Bahnstrasse 6B
47906 Kampen

Internationaler Sozialdienst
Deutsche Zweigstelle e.V
Am Stockborn 5-7
60439 Frankfurt/Main

DOCTORS: The U.S. Embassy and its Consulates General maintain lists of doctors and sources for medicines, should either you or your child experience health problems while in Germany.

GERMAN DOCUMENTARY REQUIREMENTS: Under German law, an adoption requires the decree of a guardianship court. The youth offices and independent agencies listed above can advise you, the parents, on how to accomplish the legal requirements.


A German child, adopted by an American citizen must obtain an immigrant visa before he or she can enter the U.S. as a lawful permanent resident. There are two distinct categories of immigrant visas available to children adopted by American citizens.

A Previously Adopted Child. Section 101(b)(1)(E) of the U.S. Immigration and Nationality Act defines an "adopted child" as one who was adopted under the age of 16 and who has already resided with, and in the legal custody of, the adoptive parent for at least two years. Parents who can demonstrate that their adopted child meets this requirement may file an I-130 petition with the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) having jurisdiction over their place of residence in the United States. Upon approval of the I-130 petition, the parents may apply for an immigrant visa for the child at the U.S. Consulate General in Frankfurt. American citizens who believe this category may apply to their adopted child should contact the U.S. Consulate General in Frankfurt for more information.

An Orphan. If an adopted child has not resided with the adoptive parent for two years (or if the child has not yet even been adopted) the child must qualify under section 101(b)(1)(F) of the U.S. Immigration and Nationality Act in order to apply for an immigrant visa. The main requirements of this section are as follows:

The adoptive or prospective adoptive parent must be an American citizen;

The child must be under the age of 16 at the time an I-600 Petition is filed with the INS on his or her behalf;

If the adoptive or prospective adoptive parent is married, his or her spouse must also be a party to the adoption;

If the adoptive or prospective adoptive parent is single, he or she must be at least 25 years of age;

The child must be an orphan, as defined by U.S. regulations. Although the definition of an orphan found in many dictionaries is "A child whose parents are dead," U.S. immigration law and regulations provide for a somewhat broader definition. Children who do not qualify under this definition, however, may not immigrate to the U.S. as an orphan even if legally adopted by an American Citizen. The Department of State encourages Americans to consider if a particular child is an orphan according to U.S. immigration law and regulations before proceeding with an adoption. A detailed description of the orphan definition used by INS can be found on INS's web site at .


I. The Petition.

Adoptive and prospective adoptive parents must obtain approval of a Petition to Classify Orphan as an Immediate Relative (Form I-600) from the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) before they can apply for an immigrant visa on behalf of an orphan. The adjudication of such petitions can be very time-consuming and parents are encouraged to begin the process well in advance.

A prospective adoptive parent may file Form I-600A Application for Advance Processing of Orphan Petition with the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) office having jurisdiction over their place of residence. This form allows the most time-consuming part of the process to be completed in advance, even before the parent has located a child to adopt. In addition, a parent who has an approved I-600A may file an I-600 in person at the Immigration and Naturalization Service office at the U.S. Consulate General at Frankfurt.

Detailed information about filing these forms can be found on INS's web site at . Americans who have adopted or hope to adopt a child from Germany should request, at the time they file these forms, that INS notify the U.S. Consulate General in Frankfurt as soon as the form is approved. Upon receipt of such notification, the Embassy will contact the parents and provide additional instructions on the immigration process. U.S. consular officers may not begin processing an orphan adoption case until they have received formal notification of approval from an INS office in the United States.

II. The Orphan Investigation

One part of the petition process that INS cannot complete in advance is the "orphan investigation". An orphan investigation Form I-604 Report on Overseas Orphan Investigation) is required in all orphan adoption cases - even if an I-600 has already been approved - and serves to verify that the child is an orphan as defined by US immigration law. A consular officer performs this investigation at the time of the child's immigrant visa interview.

Embassy of the Federal Republic of Germany
4645 Reservoir Road, NW
Washington, DC 20007-1998
Tel: (202) 298-4000; Fax: (202) 298-4249

Germany also has Consulates in Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, Houston, Los Angeles, Miami, San Francisco, and New York.


U.S. Embassy Berlin U.S. Consulate General Frankfurt
American Citizen Services Immigrant Visa Section
Clayallee 170 Siesmayerstr. 21
14195 Berlin 60323 Frankfurt am Main
Tel: (49) 30/8305-0 Tel: (49) 69/7535-0
Fax: 30/8305-1215 Fax: 69/7535-2260

U.S. Consulate General Duesseldorf U.S. Consulate General Hamburg
American Citizen Services American Citizen Services
Willi-Becker-Allee 10 Alsterufer 27
40227 Duesseldorf 20354 Hamburg
Tel.: (49) 211/7888-927 Tel: (49) 40/41171-351
Fax: (49) 211/7888-938 Fax: 40/44-30-04

U.S. Consulate General Munich
American Citizen Services
Koeniginstr. 5
80539 Muenchen
Tel.: (49) 89/2888-0
Fax: 89/280-9998

ADDITIONAL INFORMATION: Prospective adoptive parents are strongly encouraged to consult INS publication M-249, The Immigration of Adopted and Prospective Adoptive Children, as well as the Department of State publication, International Adoptions.

QUESTIONS: Specific questions regarding adoption in Germany may be addressed to the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service at the U.S. Consulate General in Frankfurt. You may also contact the Office of Children's Issues (CA/OCS/CI), 2201 C Street, N.W., SA-22, Room 2100, Washington, D.C. 20520-4818, telephone (202) 736-7000, with specific questions.

Information is also available 24 hours a day from several sources:

Telephone - Office of Children's Issues - Recorded information regarding changes in adoption procedures and general information, (202) 736-7000.- State Department Visa Office - Recorded information concerning immigrant visas for adoptive children, (202) 663-1225.- Immigration and Naturalization Service - Recorded information for requesting immigrant visa application forms, 1-800-870-FORM (3676).
Automated fax - contains the full text of the office's international adoption information flyers and general information brochure, International Adoptions. From the telephone on your fax machine, call (202) 647-3000.

Internet - The Consular Affairs web site, at: contains international adoption information flyers and the International Adoptions brochure.

INS web site:

Other information:

Consular Information Sheets - published by the State Department and available for every country in the world, providing information such as the location of the U.S. Embassy, health conditions, political situations, and crime reports. The information is available 24 hours a day by calling the State Department's Office of Overseas Citizens Services at (202) 647-5225. The recordings are updated as new information becomes available, and are also accessible through the automated fax machine and the internet web site, as above.
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