Monday, December 20, 2021

Intercountry Adoptions: Summary of Pros/Cons

Karen S. Law
Law Offices of Karen S. Law, PLC | (703) 723 – 4385

Summary of Pros/Cons for Intercountry Adoptions

·       Cost

o   Adoptive parents are financially responsible for: adoption agency fees, the cost of adoption professionals including a home study agency and a primary provider agency, travel costs, immigration documentation costs, and any legal fees. Adoption expenses vary depending on the country. According to Family Connections, a U.S. adoption agency, Intercountry adoption can cost anywhere from $12,000 to $30,000 on average (Family Connections Christian Adoptions). This is a low average.

o   According to an older study from American Adoptions, these are the average individual costs of Intercountry Adoption:

§  Agency Fees/Program Application: $14,181

§  Dossier Preparation and Clearance: $1,818

§  In-Country Adoption Expenses: $6,412

§  Major Travel Expenses: $8,210

§  In-Country Travel Expenses: $2,234

§  Child’s Passport, Visa, Medical Exam: $816

§  *Each cost is an average of China, Ethiopia, South Korea, and Ukraine from 2012-2013 (American Adoptions[1]).

·       Laws:

o   Every country has their own adoption laws and process. Eligibility requirements can vary depending on the country, common criteria can include age, marital status, income, and health (Considering Adoption).

§  Age - Most countries have a minimum and maximum age for adoptive parents. Sometimes there will also be minimum or maximum age difference between the parents and the adopted child.

§  Marital Status - Many countries require couples to have been married for a certain amount of time before adopting. Some countries may not allow same-sex or single-parent adoptions.

§  Income - In most countries, adoptive parents are required to show proof of a stable income. Sometimes, though not often, countries will require a specific minimum income.

§  Health - Few countries have specific health requirements for adoptive parents. The countries that do have health requirements may ask for your medical records, mental health history, and other personal documentation as part of the dossier submitted (Considering Adoption).


·       Uncertain Climate and Primary Provider Challenges:

o   The adoption rules and regulations of a country could change at any time, and that is why it is important to stay updated. Intercountry Adoption ( is the best place to find adoption law updates for a specific country because it is compiled by the U.S. Department of State which grants the visas for adopted children. You should also speak with your adoption professionals for the most current and accurate information. (Kuligowski, 2020)

o   COVID-19 caused delays or stoppages of intercountry adoption programs, including the People’s Republic of China. Political unrest or domestic laws which restrict intercountry adoption are not uncommon.

o   Additionally, the difficulty of locating a U.S. based agency to serve as “primary provider,” cannot be discounted. Since the Universal Accreditation Act of 2012, every adoption must now use a “primary provider”, even when the family is adopting a relative. The only exception to this is if the family completes the adoption while the child is under the age of sixteen and then lives overseas with the child for two years, which is not feasible for most families. In that case, there is an alternative pathway, which does not require a “primary provider.” The family may use the Form I-130 process or the N-600K process.

·       Timing:

o   Children adopted from other countries must meet the requirements of their country of origin before they are placed for adoption. In most countries, in addition to meeting local adoption guidelines, they must be offered to a local family before they are eligible for an Intercountry placement. Because of these regulations, there is always a period of several months before the U.S. family is referred for adoption. Intercountry adoptions usually take more time to process than other types of adoption. Most children who are being placed for intercountry adoption in 2021 are five years and up. There are a few exceptions; for example, some countries have programs where children under the age of 8 months are referred for Intercountry placement.

·       Benefits to intercountry adoption:

o   Adopting a child from another country brings so much to the U.S. family in terms of embracing another culture and expanding their awareness and capacity to love another child who is not similar to them. Challenges exist in terms of acclimating to the U.S. language and culture for the child, as well as attaching to the family. There are many resources available to intercountry adoptive families, especially in more metropolitan areas, to assist with these challenges. Typically, families who adopt through this pathway do so out of a desire to give something more, not due to infertility.

o   Some children who are adopted through this process are relatives of the U.S. citizens and have no parental care in their home country. For them, obviously coming to the U.S. to live with a close relative is life changing in terms of parental care and opportunities. We typically see these children adjust more quickly due to family ties, cultural awareness, and the existing relationships. Sadly, the cost of intercountry adoption is a tremendous barrier for many families who would like to adopt an orphaned relative.


Comparing the Costs of Domestic, Intercountry and Foster Care Adoption. American Adoptions. Retrieved from


Domestic vs. Intercountry Adoption: What’s Right for You? (n.d.). Family Connections Christian Adoptions. Retrieved from


Kuligowski, S. (2020). What Can I Expect in an Intercountry Adoption? Retrieved from


Top 10 Things Adoptive Parents Should Know About Intercountry Adoption. Considering Adoption. Retrieved from

[1] As of 2021, The People’s Republic of China and Ethiopia are not participating in intercountry adoption. For the first, COVID-19 travel restrictions have placed programs on hold. Ethiopia passed a law restricting intercountry adoption.

Prepared by Alyssa Howes, Paralegal, and Karen S. Law, Esquire, of Law Offices of Karen S. Law, PLC © 2021


    This web site and the information contained within have been prepared by Law Offices of Karen S. Law, PLC for informational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice. This information is not intended to create, nor does receipt of it constitute an attorney-client relationship. Viewers should not act upon information found here without seeking legal counsel. All photographs shown on this blog are depictions of clients and are not actual clients of this law firm. Copyright Karen S. Law, 2021.


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