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International Adoption - Zimbabwe

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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 Zimbabwe and applying for an immigrant visa for the child to come to the United States. This process involves complex Zimbabwean 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 Harare before formalizing an adoption agreement to ensure that appropriate procedures have been followed which will make it possible for the Embassy to issue a U.S. immigrant visa for the child. The Government of Zimbabwe generally discourages adoptions of Zimbabwean children by foreigners and may make additional demands on the prospective foreign adoptive parents before the adoption can be finalized.

AVAILABILITY OF CHILDREN FOR ADOPTION: In the past eight years, a U.S. citizen has adopted one Zimbabwean child.

ZIMBABWEAN ADOPTION AUTHORITY: The government office responsible for adoptions in Zimbabwe is the Ministry of Public Service, Labour and Social Welfare. If the Ministry of Public Service, Labour and Social Welfare approves a request to adopt, the case is submitted to the Juvenile Courts for review of the adoption application. If this is approved, an adoption order is issued. Both the prospective adoptive parent and the child must be a resident of and domiciled in Zimbabwe at the time that the Juvenile Courts issue an adoption order.

ZIMBABWEAN ADOPTION PROCEDURES: Not every child in a Zimbabwean orphanage is available for adoption. There is no central registry for identifying available children. As soon as the prospective adoptive parent has identified a child, the Ministry of Public Service, Labour and Social Welfare should be contacted to determine if the child is available for adoption. Prospective adoptive parents should also be aware that the adoption process could take from several months to over a year to conclude.

AGE AND CIVIL STATUS REQUIREMENTS: Zimbabwean adoption law states that the prospective adoptive parent(s) must be 25 years old and at least 21 years older than the adoptive child. The Ministry of Public Service, Labor and Social Welfare may grant exceptions.

ADOPTION AGENCIES AND ATTORNEYS: There are no adoption agencies operating in Zimbabwe. The Consular Section of the U.S. Embassy maintains a list of numerous attorneys practicing throughout Zimbabwe who may be able to assist prospective adoptive parents with adoptions. Prospective adoptive parents are strongly encouraged to research thoroughly the practices of any attorney prior to committing funds for an adoption.

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

ZIMBABWEAN DOCUMENTARY REQUIREMENTS: The following are the documentary requirements for the adoption of children in Zimbabwe:

· A signed consent form before the Juvenile Courts by the biological parent or legal guardian of the child, consenting to the adoption. This signed consent form should contain the address and name(s) of the adopting parent(s).

· A certificate endorsed by the Juvenile Courts stating that the biological parent or the legal guardian understands the nature and effect of the adoption order applied for. If granted, the parent or the legal guardian will be permanently deprived of his or her rights in respect of the child.

· The child had been medically examined and the medical report is on file with the Juvenile Courts.

· The birth certificate of the child is on file with the Juvenile Courts.

U.S. IMMIGRATION REQUIREMENTS

A Zimbabwean 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 Harare. American citizens who believe this category may apply to their adopted child should contact the U.S. Embassy in Harare 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. Embassy in Harare.

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 Zimbabwe should request, at the time they file these forms, that INS notify the US Embassy in Harare 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.

ZIMBABWEAN EMBASSY IN THE UNITED STATES:
Embassy of the Republic of Zimbabwe
1608 New Hampshire Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20009
Tel: (202) 332-7100

U.S. EMBASSY IN ZIMBABWE:
Embassy of the United States of America
172 Herbert Chitepo Avenue
Harare, Zimbabwe
Tel: 263-4-250-593/4
Consular Fax: 263-4-722-618

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 Zimbabwe may be addressed to the Consular Section of the U.S. Embassy in Zimbabwe. You may also contact the Office of Children's Issues, U.S. Department of State, 2401 E Street, NW, Room L-127, SA-1, Washington, DC 20522, telephone (202) 735-7000 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: http://travel.state.gov 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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