Registration of Foreign Adoption Decrees – Goodbye Re-Adoption (Maybe)

August 28, 2018
Holly S. Filius

Fortunately, the Child and Citizenship Act of 2000, which became effective February 27, 2001, streamlined the process of foreign born children being adopted by American citizens securing Pennsylvania birth certificates. This Act allows for adoptees in some cases to register their Foreign Adoption Decrees and then secure a Pennsylvania birth certificate rather than the prior requirement of a second or re-adoption in the United States after their adoption in their country of origin.

There are no definitive answers on what makes a foreign adoption able to be registered, but the language in the Act provides a Court “determines if it can be registered.” The requirements of a Petition to Register a Foreign Adoption Decree sets out criteria for the Petition which essentially defines which Foreign Adoption Decrees can be registered and which cannot.

Some Foreign Adoption Decrees cannot be registered because of the following reasons:

  1. The Court either determines that the foreign adoption was not full and final or the Court cannot determine that it was a full and final adoption.
  2. Both adopting parents were not present for the adoption hearing in the foreign country.
  3. The foreign country is not a Hague Convention country.
  4. The foreign Court did not enter a final adoption decree or its equivalent.
  5. The child’s U.S. Visa is not the type that affords the child full U.S. citizenship
  6. If the child has an IH-4 or IR-4 U.S. Visa, registration is not available and the adoptive family is required to proceed under PA Orphans’ Court Rule 15.9.

Registration of Foreign Adoption Decrees are governed by Pennsylvania Orphans’ Court Rule 15.8. Even if an adoptive family has the option of simply registering their Foreign Adoption Decree, they are still free to proceed under Rule 15.9 and proceed with a re-adoption in the United States.

When filing a Petition for Registration of a Foreign Adoption Decree, several documents are required to be included. They are:

  1. A copy of the Foreign Adoption Decree.
  2. A copy of the child’s birth certificate, or if no birth certificate was issued, a copy of any other birth identification issued by the country of birth. In situations where no birth certificate or birth identification can be obtained, an Affidavit stating the reason can be submitted.
  3. A copy of the child’s United States Visa.
  4. An English translation of all documents not in English with a Verification by the translator that all translations are true and correct.
  5. Pennsylvania Department of Health Division of Vital Records Form Number HD01273F – Certificate of Adoption of Foreign Born Child with parts one and two (and part three, if applicable) completed.
  6. Pennsylvania Department of Health Division of Vital Records Form Number HD01275F – Statement of Citizenship and Residency.
  7. If available, a copy of U.S. government form N560 and/or a copy of the child’s U.S. passport.

The Petition to Register Foreign Adoption Decree requires a filing fee, the cost of which varies County by County in the state of Pennsylvania. When the Petition is granted, the Clerk of the Orphans’ Court will issue a Certificate of Adoption and transmit to the Department of Health, Division of Vital Records the forms necessary for the adoptive parents to request and receive a Pennsylvania birth certificate, identifying them as the child’s legal parents and reflecting the child’s new name.

Allowing for the registration of a Foreign Adoption Decree streamlines the process of securing appropriate documentation and identification of a foreign born adopted child by dismissing the requirement of having to proceed with a full adoption hearing in the United States. Unfortunately, not all children adopted abroad qualify for the registration of their Foreign Adoption Decree and in those cases, a re-adoption must occur in order to secure a Pennsylvania birth certificate and recognition as a foreign born adopted child.  It is best to consult an experienced adoption attorney to review your situation and ensure your child’s foreign adoption is properly recognized in Pennsylvania.

Holly Filius is an attorney at Russell, Krafft & Gruber, LLP in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. She received her law degree from Widener University School of Law and practices in a variety of areas, including Family Law.