You may be surprised to learn that foreign-born orphans who are adopted by U.S. citizens aren’t guaranteed eligibility to immigrate to the United States. In fact, parents who wish to bring a foreign-born orphan to the United States must first petition on behalf of the child for an immigrant visa, just like any other foreign-born person. Before a petition can be filed, the adoptive parents must meet certain requirements set by the United States Immigration and Naturalization Service, or INS (I-N-S). First, the parents must make sure that the adopted child meets the INS definition of an orphan. The reason for this is that the immigration procedure to bring a foreign-born child to the U.S. differs according to how the child is classified. Children who aren’t considered orphans, such as relatives, will be subject to different regulations and procedures. The INS definition of an orphan is any child whose birth parents are either deceased, have disappeared, or have permanently and legally abandoned the child. Once the child has been classified as an orphan, the second criteria that must be met is at least one of the adoptive parents must be a U.S. citizen. Unlike foreign-born adopted children who aren’t orphans, only U.S. citizens may petition for the immediate immigration of adopted foreign orphans. Legal permanent residents or green card holders aren’t permitted to bring an orphan to the U.S. Finally, in order for the adopted orphan to gain immigration benefits, the parents must file an orphan petition before the child’s 16th birthday. An orphan petition may be filed before the child’s 18th birthday, if the child is a natural sibling of an orphan that’s already been adopted by the same adoptive parents. When filing the petition, the adoptive parents must provide proof of U.S. citizenship and submit a complete and current home study within prescribed time limits. The adoptive parents will also be asked to present the child’s birth certificate or similar document giving evidence to the child’s age and identity, proof that the child is an orphan as defined by the INS, a final decree of adoption, and evidence of legal custody of the child for emigration and adoption. Parents who file for an orphan petition before the legal adoption is completed must satisfy all pre-adoption requirements existing in the laws of the U.S. state where they live, including a home study by the state government or an approved agency. Be aware that there is a required filing fee for the orphan petition. Furthermore, each petition requires the INS to fingerprint all adult members living in the household. After the adoption is complete and the child has legally entered the United States, parents may apply to the INS for citizenship on behalf of the child using Form N-643 (N-6-43) before the child turns 18. If this naturalization process isn’t completed before the child’s 18th birthday, the child will have to apply for naturalization on his or her own behalf.