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International Adoption - Honduras

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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 Honduras and applying for an immigrant visa for the child to come to the United States. This process involves complex Honduran 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 U.S. consular officials in Honduras before formalizing an adoption agreement to ensure that appropriate procedures have been followed which will make it possible for the Embassy (Consulate) to issue a U.S. immigrant visa for the child.

The Government of Honduras is strict in its application of adoption law. There are no private adoptions in Honduras. Adoptions in Honduras usually take from 6 months up to one year. Please be cautious in dealing with individuals who offer to facilitate or shortcut the adoption procedure; they cannot legally short-circuit the process. Adoption agencies are required to register with IHNFA. If they are not registered, IHNFA cannot assist the agencies in the adoption process.

HONDURAN ADOPTION AUTHORITY: All adoptions must go through the Instituto Hondureño del Niño y la Familia, also known as "IHNFA", which is a social welfare agency charged by the Honduran government with overseeing local and international adoptions.

HONDURAN ADOPTION PROCEDURES:
· Advance Processing- A US citizen(s) who plans to adopt a foreign orphan but does not yet have a specific child in mind, must file an Application for Advance Processing of Orphan Petition (Form I-600A) with the stateside US Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) office having jurisdiction over their place of residence as soon as a decision to adopt is made.
· Eligibility for Advance Processing- An application for advance processing may be filed by a married, United States citizen of any age or his or her spouse of any age, or an unmarried United States citizen who is at least 24 years old at the time he or she files the advanced processing application, and at least 25 years old at the time he or she files the orphan petition. The spouse of the United States citizen may be a citizen or an alien. An alien spouse must be in lawful immigration status if residing in the United States.

· Form Used for Advance Processing- Form I-600A, Application for Advance Processing of Orphan Petition: This form is salmon or peach-colored. The instructions to this form contain important information and should be read carefully. All necessary documents that must accompany the form are listed. Current filing fee is $460.00.
· Decision - I-600A approved petitions are valid for eighteen (18) months from the date of approval. A Notice of Favorable Determination Concerning Application for Advance Processing of Orphan Petition (Form I-171H), is sent to the prospective adoptive parent(s). This decision, however, does not guarantee that the orphan petition(s) to be filed will be approved. An orphan petition may still be denied because the child does not qualify as an orphan or for other proper cause.

U.S. IMMIGRATION PROCEDURE: Once you have completed your adoption you are ready to proceed with the US immigration procedure as follows: Advise the USINS regional office at the US Embassy in Tegucigalpa that you have completed your adoption and provide originals and one set of copies of the documents listed in Attachment 3, and make an appointment to file your I-600 petition. All documents must be translated into English.

File your I-600 petition at the USINS office, located at the US Embassy Consulate, window # 11. Appointments are given on Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday morning. Petitions are usually approved within two working days (if all appropriate documentation is in order) and the INS, upon approval transfers the approved petition to the Consular Section. A written notification of approval is given to you.

Your child must have a medical exam by one of the Embassy's approved panel physicians. Currently, fees are approximately $100 or the equivalent in Lempiras. You must take the child's passport bearing the child's new name to the physician's office.

The last step is for you or your spouse to take your child to the Consular Section of the US Embassy for the immigrant visa interview. Although your child must be present, only one parent needs to attend. Please see the Immigrant Visa Unit checklist Attachment 4 for the documents required for the immigrant visa. Currently, fees are $260.00 for the immigrant applications and $65.00 for the visa (or the equivalent in Lempiras), plus $1.00 per page for required photocopies (only cash or US money orders are accepted). Provided that all is in order, a visa will be issued the same day. Once issued the visa will be valid for travel to the United States at any time within six months from the date of issuance. After you return home, you should consult the nearest INS office for information regarding obtaining US citizenship for your child.

STEPS TO COMPLETE AN ADOPTION IN HONDURAS:

1) File a petition to adopt a child at the IHNFA-

The IHNFA will provide you or your attorney an Adoption Request Form, that must be presented together with the above listed translated and authenticated certified documents (you must provide two sets. We recommend you keep another set in case they get lost). Once your application is reviewed and all requirements are met, your request will be placed on their list of applicants until a child is assigned to you (this may take a year). You cannot choose a particular child. You may refuse to accept the child assigned to you, provided that you have an acceptable reason for doing so. However, if you refuse a second child assigned to you, adoption proceedings will be terminated. Once IHNFA assigns the child, the prospective adoptive parent(s) must come to Honduras to meet the child, and be psychologically and socially evaluated by the IHNFA social worker and staff psychologist. The results of these evaluations will be used in the preparation of a report approving or denying the adoption to the Family Court. At this point the adoptive child may be placed with a foster care family at your own expense. The IHNFA will place a child in your care only if you will remain in Honduras until the adoption has been completed.

2) File a petition to adopt a child at the Honduran Family Court.

Once you have completed the IHNFA's procedure, the prospective parents must appear personally to file a petition to adopt at the Family Court. Once the Court has reviewed your petition and determined that you meet the legal requirements to adopt, they will request IHNFA to provide them with a formal report on your social, psychological and economic suitability to adopt. You should insist that your attorney follow up with the Court to ensure that this order is sent promptly. It normally takes the IHNFA approximately twelve weeks to complete this report. At the same time, the court will direct your attorney to publish your intent to adopt in an official government publication ("La Gazeta") and in a local newspaper. Your attorney should send you copies of these publications. The US Embassy's Immigrant Visa Unit requires originals.

When the Court receives the IHNFA's report and proof of publications, they will take your case under advisement. If all is in order, a final adoption decree will be issued within about three weeks.

3) Notarize the Court's Final Adoption Decree

Your attorney must notarize the final adoption decree, and a Public Deed will be executed. In case the adoptive child is an abandoned child, the Public Deed will be signed by you and the IHNFA's President; in case you have adopted a child by relinquishment, the Public Deed is signed by you and the child's biological parent. You or your attorney must take the Court Final Adoption Decree, the Public Deed and proof of publication to the Civil Registrar's office to register your child and to obtain a new birth certificate showing your child's new name and listing you and your spouse (if applicable) as parents. An adoption certificate will also be issued. This process usually takes one to five days.

AGE AND CIVIL STATUS REQUIREMENTS: The Honduran Family Code states that one member of the adoptive couple must be 25 years old, but no more than 50 years of age. Single persons who meet the age requirements may adopt. In the case of a married couple, both partners must petition for the adoption. The child to be adopted must be at least 15 years younger than the youngest member of the adopting couple. The initial adoption petition must be presented in person by the prospective adoptive parent(s). It cannot be done through an intermediary. In practical terms, this means that both members of an adoptive couple must come to Honduras. Foreigners who are not permanent legal residents of Honduras must obtain a written "follow up certification" from a US adoption agency which is licensed and duly registered with the Instituto Hondureño del Niño y la Familia (IHNFA). The certification must state that the Agency will check periodically on the well-being of the child until s/he reaches the age of fourteen, provide written reports to the IHNFA to ensure that the adoptive parents meet their obligations to the child. Honduran children become eligible for adoption in one of two ways:

a) Abandoned children, whose parents are unknown, cannot be found, or who have refused to care for their offspring. This group may include children left unclaimed in a hospital, children who have been neglected/abused, or those whose parents have died. Such children are remanded to the custody of the Court of Child, which normally places them in the care of state orphanage and attempts to locate natural parents. If the natural parents cannot be located, the court will issue an "abandonment decree", which becomes effective 90 days after it has been officially published. This period, which is intended to provide time for the natural parent to come forward, is established by law and cannot be shortened. Adoption proceedings cannot begin until a final decree of abandonment has been issued.

b) Child relinquished for adoption occurs when a parent(s) voluntarily gives up his/her child for adoption. If both parents of the child are living, then Honduran law does not permit them to give up their child for adoption.

Note: For immigration purposes, a relinquishment or release by the parents for a specific adoption does not legally constitute abandonment, and, under US immigration law, such a child cannot be considered an orphan. However, US immigration law does provide that, the child of a sole or surviving parent may be considered an orphan if that parent is unable to care for the child properly and forever and irrevocably releases him/her for emigration and adoption. Under some circumstances the child of an unwed mother may be considered to be an orphan as long as the natural father has disappeared, deserted or abandoned the child, and the natural mother is not married which would result in the child having a stepfather under the US law.

ADOPTION AGENCIES AND ATTORNEYS: You will need to hire a Honduran attorney since only an attorney may present the adoption petition to the Courts. Most adoption agencies in the United States that are registered with the IHNFA have contracts with designated attorneys in Honduras. However, in most cases, you can choose to work with a different attorney. The Embassy has a list of attorneys who are bilingual; however, the Embassy cannot recommend lawyers or assume responsibility for their professional performance. The Consulate maintains a notebook of letters from parents who have adopted in Honduras available for review that may be useful in selecting an attorney. The list for adoption agencies has been provided by the IHNFA for information only. The Embassy assumes no responsibility for the professionalism or caliber's the agencies here listed are not recommended by the US Embassy.

Los Niños (The Children) International Adoption Center
1600 Lake Front Circle, Suite 130, United Way Building
The Woodlands, TX 77380-3600
Phone: (713) 363 2896
Fax: (713) 363-2892
Director: Heino R. Erichsen
Honduran Representative: Maria Fernanda Aguilar
Phone: (011) (504) 31-1965

Family Partners Worldwide, Inc.
1776 Peachtree NW, Suite 210 North
Atlanta, GA 30309
Phone: (404) 872 6787
Fax: (404) 874-9362
Director: Keith McGrew
Honduran Representative: Sandra Pinto
Phone: (011) (504) 36-9739

New Family Foundation Inc.
3615 Ave Wisconsin NW, Suite 217
Washington, DC
Director: Lois Berge
Honduran Representative: Maria Guadalupe Viada de Rodriguez
Phone: (011) (504) 33-3538

Brightside for Families and Children
2112 Riverdale St. West
Springfield, MA
Phone: (413) 788 7366
Director: Dennis A. Fitzpatrick
Honduran Representative: Maria Dolores Raskoff
Phone: (011) (504) 37-5096

Children's Hope
7423 Whiteville road
Shepherd, MI 48883
Phone: (517) 828-5842
Fax: (517) 828-5799
Director: James Paz
Honduran Representative: Mario Magaña
Phone: (011)(504) 35-8070

Concern for Children
36 North Highland Avenue
Akron, OH 44303
Director: Mary Brooks
Honduran Representative: Oscar Alvarenga
Phone: (011) (504) 32-9626

Adoptions International Inc.
Sheridan Building, Suite 1000
125 S. 9th Street
Philadelphia, PA 19107
Phone: (215) 627-6313
Fax: (215) 592-7881
Director: Anna D. Wallace
Honduran Representative: Olga Aguirre
Phone: (011) (504) 32-9626

Children's Home Society of Minnesota
2330 Avenue, Como Street
St. Paul, MN 55105
Director: Roger Toogood
Honduran Representative: Rosina de Andonie
Phone: (011) (504) 36-6290
(011) (504) 21-3816

Voice for International and Domestic Adoptions
354 Allen Street
Hudson, NY 12534
Phone (518) 828-4725
Director: De Guerre A. Blackburn
Honduran Representative: Celia Fernandez

Crossroads
4620 West, 77th Street, suite 105
Minneapolis, MN 55435
Phone: (952) 831-5707
Fax: (952) 831-5129
Director: Ann Sinnott
Honduran Representative: Eliseo Perez Cadalzo

The Family Network Inc.
284 Foam Street, # 103
Monterey, CA 93940
Phone: (408) 655-5077
1-800-888-0242
Fax: (408) 655-3811
Director: Luke W. Leonard
Honduran Representative: Yanira Garcia, phone (504) 38-4087

Pearl S. Buck Foundation Inc.
P.O. Box 181, Green Hills Farm
Perkasie, PA 19844
Phone: (215) 249-1516
Fax: (215) 249-9657
Director: Diana B. Zimnoch
Honduran Representative: Cristela Lanza
Phone: (504) 31-2193

Concern
1 West Main Street
Fleetwood, PA 19522
Director: Glenn Hillegas
Honduran Representative: Digna de Diaz
Phone: (504) 32-3484

HONDURAN DOCUMENTARY REQUIREMENTS:
· INS approval to adopt a child (Form I-171H).
· Family photographs
· Copy of applicant(s) passport(s)
· Applicant(s) birth certificate(s)
· Applicants marriage certificate
· Applicant(s) certificate(s) of good health from licensed physician including laboratory urine and stool exams and blood tests, including for AIDS.
· Applicant(s) certificate(s) of good conduct from local police.
· Applicant(s) verification of employment specifying position, salary, length of service and benefits.
· Copy of adoption law in applicant(s) state of residence.
· Two recent, color photographs of applicant(s) home front view and neighborhood.
· Three letters of reference from recognized and respected members of applicant(s) local community (such as government, school or church officials).
· Certified bank statements giving the status of applicant(s) account.
· Certified copy of the title to any property the applicant(s) may own.
· Home study prepared by an authorized and licensed social welfare agency located near the place where applicant(s) reside.
· A "follow up certification" from the adoption agency, who will oversee applicant(s) adoption until the child reaches the age of 14.
· Written certification from the nearest Honduran consulate that applicant(s)have met all state adoption requirements and that the adoption agency handling your case is licensed to practice in that state.

*All documents must be translated into Spanish. They must also be authenticated by a Honduran Consulate in the U.S. and then by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Ministry of Government and Justice in Honduras. Authentication usually requires at least three to four weeks and sometimes longer. The adoptive parents or legal representatives are responsible for taking the authenticated documents to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Ministry of Justice*

U.S. IMMIGRATION REQUIREMENTS

A Honduran child, even if 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. Upon approval of the I-130 petition, the parents may apply for an immigrant visa for the child at the U.S. Embassy in Tegucigalpa. American citizens who believe this category may apply to their adopted child should contact the U.S. Embassy in Tegucigalpa 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 determine 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 http://www.ins.usdoj.gov .

U.S. IMMIGRATION PROCEDURES FOR ORPHANS

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 U.S. Embassy in Honduras .

Detailed information about filing these forms can be found on INS's web site at http://www.ins.usdoj.gov . Americans who have adopted or hope to adopt a child from Honduras should request, at the time they file these forms, that INS notify the U.S. Embassy in Honduras 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 US.

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.

HONDURAN EMBASSY AND CONSULATES IN US:
Embassy of Honduras
Consular Section
Washington, DC 20008
Tel: (202) 966-7702

Honduras also has Consulates in Los Angeles, California; San Francisco, California; Jacksonville, Florida; Miami, Florida; Chicago Illinois; Baton Rouge, Louisiana; New Orleans, Louisiana; Newton, Massachusetts; New York, New York; Houston, Texas.

Honduras also has honorary consuls in Burlingame, California; San Diego, California; Denver, Colorado; Coral Gables, Florida; Gainesville, Florida; Atlanta, Georgia; Baltimore, Maryland; Minneapolis, Minnesota; St. Louis, Missouri; Rochester, New York; Cleveland, Ohio; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; Cayey, Puerto Rico; San Juan, Puerto Rico; Providence, Rhode Island; San Antonio, Texas; and Seattle, Washington. (Honorary Consuls may perform authentication's that are required to complete adoptions in Honduras).

U.S. CONSULATES IN HONDURAS:
US Consulate Honduras
Unit 2909
APO AA 34022
Phone: (504) 236-9320 X 2426
Fax: (011) (504) 237-1792
Hours: 8-5 PM

US Immigration and Naturalization Service
Unit 2901
APO AA 34022
Tel: (011) (504) 236-9320 X 2711/2716
Fax: (011) (504) 236-9107
Hours: 8 am - 12 PM

PENALTIES FOR "BABY BUYING": Under Honduran law, all children given up for adoption must be unconditionally abandoned to the courts. The intent of this provision is to eliminate abuses connected with the former practice of abandoning children to attorneys. According to the new law, a parent, legal representative of a child, or any other person who sells, buys, receives, or promises payment or reward for a child to be given up for adoption will be penalized with three years and one day in prison.

FEES: Legal fees normally run from $6,000 to $8,000 but sometimes can be several thousand dollars more. For your own protection, you should negotiate all fees with your attorney before beginning the adoption process and specify all services to be included in the fee e.g., attorney's expenses, translation services, court fees, authentication's, etc. US Citizens have suggested that clients not pay fees in full in advance since the attorney would then have no incentive to finish the adoption quickly. There is little recourse in the event of a dispute (please see the Embassy's Consular Information Sheet warnings on transactions and disputes). Children who are eligible for adoption are placed in the IHNFA's care until adoptive parents have been selected; at which time they may be transferred to a foster home.

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 Honduras may be addressed to the Consular Section of the U.S. Embassy or Consulate in Honduras. You may also contact the Office of Children's Issues, U.S. Department of State, Room L-127, SA-1, 2401 E Street, NW, Washington DC 20522 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 U.S. Department of State's Consular Affairs web site, at: http://travel.state.gov contains international adoption information flyers and the International Adoptions brochure.- The US Embassy in Honduras' web site also has information including the Consular Information Sheet, Attorney's list, information on Immigration, and other useful links: - http://travel.state.gov/travel/cis_pa_tw/cis/cis_1135.html or http://useu.usmission.gov/

INS web site: http://www.ins.usdoj.gov .

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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