Child adoption process in Nigeria is a very sensitive process. This process requires one to strict laws and procedures which takes a while until one is allowed to adopt a child.
WHO CAN ADOPT
To bring an adopted child to United States from Nigeria, you must be found eligible to adopt by the U.S. Government. The U.S. Government agency responsible for making this determination is the Department of Homeland Security, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).
In addition to these U.S. requirements for prospective adoptive parents, Nigeria also has the following eligibility requirements for prospective adoptive parents:
- Residency Requirements: Nigerian law requires that a parent-child relationship be established before the court decision can be considered final. Each state determines the length of time it takes to establish the parent-child relationship.
- Age Requirements: In Abia, Akwa-Ibom, Anambra, Bayelsa, Cross River, Ebonyi, Enugu, Imo and Rivers, prospective adoptive parents must be at least 25 years of age and 21 years older than the child. For married couples, at least one parent must meet the age requirements.
- Marriage Requirements: Both single individuals and married couples may adopt. Note that a single person will not be allowed to adopt a child of the opposite sex, except in extraordinary circumstances. In most states, married couples must adopt jointly.
- Income Requirements: Nigeria does not have any income requirements for intercountry adoptions.
WHO CAN BE ADOPTED
In addition to Nigeria’s requirements for the adoption eligibility, a child must meet the definition of an orphan under U.S. law for you to bring him or her home back to the United States.
HOW TO ADOPT
Nigeria’s Adoption Authority
The Magistrate Court (from the state where the child resides)
The process for adopting a child from Nigeria generally includes the following steps:
1. Choose an Adoption Service Provider
2. Apply to be Found Eligible to Adopt
3. Be Matched with a Child
4. Adopt the Child in Nigeria
5. Apply for the Child to be Found Eligible for Adoption
6. Bring Your Child Home
1. Choose an Adoption Service Provider
The first step in adopting a child from Nigeria is usually to select a licensed agency in the United States that can help with your adoption. Adoption service providers must be licensed by the U.S. state in which they operate.
2. Apply to be Found Eligible to Adopt
To bring an adopted child from Nigeria to the United States, you must apply to be found eligible to adopt (Form I-600A) by the U.S. Government, Department of Homeland Security, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).
In addition to meeting the U.S. requirements for adoptive parents, you need to meet the requirements of Nigeria as described in the Who Can Adopt section.
3. Be Matched with a Child
If you are eligible to adopt, and a child is available for intercountry adoption, the central adoption authority in Nigeria will provide you with a referral to a child. Each family must decide for itself whether or not it will be able to meet the needs of a particular child and provide a permanent family placement for the referred child.
The child must be eligible to be adopted according to Nigeria’s requirements, as described in the Who Can be Adopted section. The child must also meet the definition of an orphan under U.S. law.
Adopt the Child (or Gain Legal Custody) in Nigeria
The process for finalizing the adoption (or gaining legal custody) in Nigeria generally includes the following:
- Role of The Adoption Authority: The social welfare office of the state where the child is located is considered the adoption authority. The application for adoption originates from the social welfare office of the state where the child is located. The Government office responsible for adoptions in Nigeria is the magistrate court of the state where the child is located.
- Role of The Court: In most Nigerian states, the adoption process begins when an application for an adoption order is made in accordance with local requirements and submitted to the registrar of the competent court. The court then assigns a guardian ad litem for the child to represent him/her in the adoption proceedings. The guardian ad litem is the social 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 related to the proposed adoption and files a report to the court. The guardian ad litem represents the child’s interests until the magistrate questions the prospective adoptive parents and grants the adoption order giving legal custody to the adoptive parents.
The guardian ad litem investigates the circumstances relevant to the proposed adoption and reports in writing to the court. Prospective adoptive parents must inform the social 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 child must have been in the physical care and legal custody of the applicant parents in Nigeria. An applicant cannot have the child reside with another family member in lieu of living with the applicant, even if a Power of Attorney is in effect.
The social welfare officer visits the home of the adoptive parents until the officer is satisfied that the juvenile is settled and the prospective adoptive parents are capable of looking after him or her. In such a case, the social welfare officer reports in writing a positive recommendation to the court. The magistrate will meet the adoptive parents in court to confirm their suitability and will issue or deny the adoption order.
After the adoption order has been issued, adoptive parents should obtain a new birth certificate for the child listing them as the child’s parents. In some states, after the adoption has been granted, the adoptive parents must obtain the court’s permission to remove the child from Nigerian jurisdiction, either temporarily or permanently. In addition, the social welfare officer might be required to submit a letter to the Nigerian immigration office, stating that the adoptive parents are now the legal parents of the child. This letter then permits the adopting parents to apply for a passport to take the child out of Nigeria.
Note: Proxy adoptions are not valid in Nigeria. Adoptive parents who complete adoptions by proxy without fulfilling state requirements risk having their I-600 petitions returned to USCIS for revocation.
- Role of Adoption Agencies: The U.S. Consulate General in Lagos is not aware of any legally recognized Nigerian agencies that assist adopting parents or any licensed Nigerian adoption agencies. Prospective adoptive parents can seek the assistance from a Nigerian attorney to facilitate the adoption process.
- Adoption Application: The application is submitted to the registrar of the competent court.
- Time Frame: Adoption procedures can take from a few months to over a year depending on the child’s state of origin.
- Adoption Fees: There are no standard fees charged apart from small filing fees to the court.
- Documents Required: The paperwork involved in Nigerian adoptions is extensive and time-consuming to locate. Prospective adoptive parents are advised to consult with a Nigerian attorney about the document requirements for the state where they are adopting. The following is a list of some of the required documents:
- Birth certificates
- Marriage certificates
- Divorce decrees (where applicable)
Apply for the Child to be Found Eligible for Adoption
After you finalize the adoption (or gain legal custody) in Nigeria, the U.S Government, Department of Homeland Security, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) MUST determine whether the child is eligible under U.S. law to be adopted (Form I-600).
- Bringing Your Child Home
Now that your adoption is complete (or you have obtained legal custody of the child), there are a few more steps to take before you can head home. Specifically, you need to apply for several documents for your child before he or she can travel to the United States:
You will first need to apply for a new birth certificate for your child, so that you can later apply for a passport. Your name will be added to the new birth certificate.
Your child is not yet a U.S. citizen, so he/she will need a travel document or Passport from Nigeria.
In some states, after the adoption has been granted, the adoptive parents must obtain the court’s permission to remove the child from Nigerian jurisdiction, either temporarily or permanently. In addition, the social welfare officer might be required to submit a letter to the Nigerian immigration office, stating that the adoptive parents are now the legal parents of the child. This letter then permits the adopting parents to apply for a passport to take the child out of Nigeria.
U.S. Immigrant Visa
After you obtain the new birth certificate and passport for your child, you also need to apply for an U.S. visa from the U.S. Consulate General, Lagos for your child. Immigrant visas are only reviewed at the U.S. Consulate General, Lagos. This immigrant visa allows your child to travel home with you. As part of this process, the Consular Officer must be provided the “Panel Physician’s” medical report on the child if it was not provided during the provisional approval stage. Learn more.
Note: Although the U.S. Embassy is in Nigeria’s capital (Abuja), immigrant visa cases are reviewed only at the U.S. Consulate General, Lagos.
Child Citizenship Act
For adoptions finalized abroad: The Child Citizenship Act of 2000 allows your new child to acquire American citizenship automatically when he or she enters the United States as lawful permanent residents.
For adoptions finalized in the United States: The Child Citizenship Act of 2000 allows your new child to acquire American citizenship automatically when the court in the United States issues the final adoption decree.
*Please be aware that if your child did not qualify to become a citizen upon entry to the United States, it is very important that you take the steps necessary so that your child does qualify as soon as possible. Failure to obtain citizenship for your child can impact many areas of his/her life including family travel, eligibility for education and education grants, and voting.