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International Adoption - Nigeria

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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.

PLEASE NOTE: Adoption in Nigeria is difficult. Laws are complex and the system is frequently not transparent. In general, foreigners who first obtain temporary custody (foster care) of a child for a period may adopt such child. However, as with all adoption procedures, rules differ from state to state:
adoptive parents must foster their children for at least 3 months in Lagos, but must foster for at least one year in Akwa Ibom. Abuja allows adoption if and only if at least one parent is Nigerian. The U.S. Consulate in Lagos is not aware of any legally recognized agencies in Nigeria, which assist adopting parents, or of any licensed Nigerian adoption agencies. However, there are orphanages, hospitals and other institutions that are relatively more experienced with international adoption. Check with the U.S. Consulate in Lagos for information on these institutions. In general, adoptive parents who are not able to take up residence in Nigeria for at least a 3-month period will find the adoption process extremely difficult.

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 Nigeria and applying for an immigrant visa for the child to come to the United States. This process involves complex foreign 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 Victoria Islands, Lagos, Nigeria 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.

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 Nigerian orphans adopted abroad - 0
IR-4 immigrant visas issued to Nigerian orphans adopted in the U.S. - 2
FY-1997: IR-3 Visas - 1, IR-4 Visas - 12
FY-1998: IR-3 Visas - 0, IR-4 Visas - 0
FY-1999: IR-3 Visas - 0, IR-4 Visas - 0
FY-2000: IR-3 Visas - 0, IR-4 Visas - 0

NIGERIAN ADOPTION AUTHORITY: The government office responsible for adoptions in Nigeria is the civil court.

NIGERIAN ADOPTION PROCEDURES: The law in most sections of the country provides that an application for an adoption order must be made in the prescribed form and submitted to the registrar of the competent court. On application for adoption, the court will appoint a guardian ad litem for the juvenile (a child under the age of 17 years) to represent him or her in the adoption proceedings. The person appointed the guardian ad litem is the welfare officer in charge of the area where the juvenile resides, or a probation officer or some other person

suitably qualified in the opinion of the court of assignment.

The guardian ad litem investigates the circumstances relevant to the proposed adoption and reports confidentially in writing to the court. Prospective adoptive parent(s) must inform the chief welfare officer of their intention to adopt at least three months before the court order is made. For at least three consecutive months immediately preceding an adoption order, the juvenile must have been in the care and custody of the applicant. The applicant for adoption must be resident in Nigeria during this entire period.

Foreigners may seek private legal assistance to facilitate the process of adoption. The confidential report of the welfare officer will be written after several visits to the home of the adoptive parents and after he or she is satisfied that the juvenile is settled and that the prospective adoptive parents are capable of looking after him or her. In such a case, a positive

recommendation will be sent to the court.

In some States, after the adoption has been granted, leave of the court must be obtained by the adoptive parents before the child can be taken out of the jurisdiction of the court, either temporarily or permanently. In addition, a letter from the social welfare officer to the immigration office, informing the immigration office that the adoptive parents are now the legal parents of the juvenile, must be obtained before the adopting parents will be permitted to obtain a passport to take the child out of Nigeria.

These adoption procedures can take from a few months to a few years, depending on the State of origin of the child.

AGE AND CIVIL STATUS REQUIREMENTS: Foreigners who first obtain temporary custody (foster care) of a child for a period of several months to several years - depending on the State - may adopt such child.

ADOPTION AGENCIES AND ATTORNEYS: The U.S. Consulate in Lagos is not aware of any legally recognized Nigerian agencies, which assist adopting parents, nor of any Nigerian adoption agencies. Foreigners may seek private legal assistance to facilitate the process of adoption and seek advice and information from certain orphanages and hospitals. The U.S. Consulate maintains a list of attorneys, but is not aware of any specializing in adoptions.

DOCTORS: The U.S. Embassy (Consulate) maintains current lists of doctors and sources for medicines, should either you or your child experience health problems while in Nigeria.

NIGERIAN DOCUMENTARY REQUIREMENTS: No special requirements

U.S. IMMIGRATION REQUIREMENTS

A Nigerian 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. 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 Nigeria. American citizens who believe this category may apply to their adopted child should contact the U.S. Consulate in Nigeria 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 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. Consulate General in Nigeria .

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

NIGERIAN EMBASSY IN THE UNITED STATES:
Nigerian Embassy
1333 16th Street NW
Washington, DC 20036
Tel: 202-986-8400
http://www.ins.usdoj.gov.

Nigeria also has a Consulate in New York.

U.S. CONSULATE GENERAL IN NIGERIA:
U.S. Consulate General Lagos
2 Eleke Crescent
Victoria Island, Lagos
Nigeria
Tel: [234](1) 261-0050, 261-0078

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 Nigeria may be addressed to the Consular Section of the U.S. Embassy or Consulate in Lagos, Nigeria. 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, Tel: (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 - 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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