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INTERCOUNTRY ADOPTION


SOUTH AFRICA

 

June 2006


DISCLAIMER:
The following is intended as a very general guide to assist U.S. citizens who plan to adopt a child from a foreign country and apply for an immigrant visa for the child to come to the United States. Two sets of laws are particularly relevant: 1) the laws of the child’s country of birth govern all activity in that country including the adoptability of individual children as well as the adoption of children in country in general; and 2) U.S. Federal immigration law governs the immigration of the child to the United States.

The information in this flyer relating to the legal requirements of specific foreign countries is based on public sources and our current understanding. It does not necessarily reflect the actual state of the laws of a child’s country of birth and is provided for general information only. Moreover, U.S. immigration law, including regulations and interpretation, changes from time to time. This flyer reflects our current understanding of the law as of this date and is not legally authoritative. Questions involving foreign and U.S. immigration laws and legal interpretation should be addressed respectively to qualified foreign or U.S. legal counsel.

PLEASE NOTE: South African law recognizes two kinds of adoptions by foreigners: 1) those completed by foreign residents of South Africa, and 2) international adoptions where foreigners are given children to adopt in their home country. The first category requires the foreigners to be resident for five years in South Africa and the adoptions are handled by an accredited agency and finalized by the Department of Social Development. The second category is only available to citizens of countries with a working agreement between them and South Africa. At this time, the United States does not have a working agreement of this type.

PATTERNS OF IMMIGRATION OF ADOPTED ORPHANS TO THE U.S.: Recent U.S. immigrant visa statistics reflect the following pattern for visa issuance to country’s orphans:

Fiscal Year      Number of Immigrant Visas Issued
FY 2005                                        17
FY 2004                                        13
FY 2003                                        26
FY 2002                                        36
FY 2001                                        14

ADOPTION AUTHORITY IN SOUTH AFRICA:
The government offices responsible for adoptions in South Africa are the following:

Commissioner of Child Welfare
Private Bag X61
Pretoria 0001, South Africa
Tel: 012-328-4026

Department of Social Development
Registrar of Adoptions
Private Bag X901
Pretoria 0001, South Africa
Tel: 012-312-7592
Fax: 012-312-7837

The Commissioner of Child Welfare is responsible to the Department of Justice and is required for inter-country adoptions. The Department of Social Development is the central authority for all adoptions.

ELIGIBILITY REQUIREMENTS FOR ADOPTIVE PARENTS: For adoptive American parents living in South Africa, there is a 5-year residency requirement. Eligibility requirements beyond that change based on the circumstances of the case in question. For example, family members will be given preference over non-relatives regardless of age.

RESIDENCY REQUIREMENTS: There is a five year residency requirement, which can include the two-year vetting process.  South African authorities will approve adoptions by U.S. citizen families who have been residents in South Africa or in cases in which one spouse is South African.

TIME FRAME:  It can take up to two years to complete South Africa adoption requirements.

ADOPTION AGENCIES AND ATTORNEYS:  Prospective adoptive parents should seek out an accredited South African organization to facilitate the process. Unfortunately, there is not comprehensive list of agencies available at this time. Many of these organizations are faith-based and can be contacted directly.

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/or the licensing office of the appropriate state government agency in the U.S. state where the agency is located or licensed.  Please see Important Notice Regarding Adoption Agents and Facilitators at the Department of State Bureau of Consular Affairs web site travel.state.gov.

ADOPTION FEES IN SOUTH AFRICA: There are no government fees for adoption services.  Adoption agencies and social organizations charges fees for services which can vary depending on the organization.

ADOPTION PROCEDURES: The adoption procedure is initiated by contacting an accredited welfare organization. They are tasked with identifying an orphan child eligible for adoption. After a home study has been completed by an accredited organization, the case is referred to a children's court for the final hearing. An order of adoption terminates all the rights and obligations existing between the child and any prior legally-recognized parents. The adopted child is thereafter deemed by law to be the legitimate child of the adoptive parent(s). The order of adoption confers the surname of the adoptive parent on the adopted child.

Caution: There have been a number of cases in which American Citizens have been issued “Guardianship Orders” from the South African High Court. These orders do not constitute “irrevocable release for adoption and immigration” as required by United States Immigration Law. As such, they cannot be used for immigration purposes, essentially eliminating the possibility of Immediate Relative-4 (IR-4) visas (immigrant visas for orphans who will emigrate and be adopted in the United States) from South Africa.

How a South African Child Becomes Eligible for Adoption
The consent of the child's biological father, except in cases of rape or incest, must be obtained before a child born out of wedlock is placed for adoption. Unmarried fathers have the right to apply for access, custody or guardianship. Previously, only the consent of the biological mother was required. However, married or biological divorced fathers can prevent their wives or former wives from having their children adopted.
 
According to South African law, a child born to parents who are not married to each other at the time of birth is illegitimate. A child born to unmarried parents becomes legitimate as soon as they marry. Normally, the mother of an illegitimate child is not only the legal guardian of her child, but also has custody even if she herself is still a minor. Only if it is proven that she is unfit to have custody can the child be taken from her and placed in alternative custody. Under current laws, the birth of an illegitimate child must normally be registered in the surname of the mother; the illegitimate child may take the surname of its father only if the father has formally acknowledged them in the birth register. The mother alone has the right to decide what the child's first name or names should be.

DOCUMENTS REQUIRED FOR ADOPTION IN SOUTH AFRICA:

Because of the South African order of precedence for adopting orphans, the document requirements are different for each case. As such there is no comprehensive checklist to follow. Below are the South African documents the U.S. Consulate General requires in order to issue immigrant visas for children who are fully adopted under South African law (Immediate Relative-3 (IR-3) visas). 

  1. The orphan's long-form South African birth certificate showing the biological parent(s)’s name; also, a new full birth certificate is required showing the new adoptive parents' names;
  2. Evidence that the child is an orphan, e.g. death certificate(s) of the orphan's parent(s), if applicable; or evidence that the orphan's sole or surviving parent cannot provide for the orphan's care and has, in writing, forever, and irrevocably released the orphan for emigration and adoption; or evidence that the orphan has been abandoned or deserted by, separated, or lost from both parents; or evidence that the orphan has been unconditionally abandoned to an orphanage.
  3. A final decree of adoption that must reflect that both spouses (prospective adoptive parents) were parties to the adoption;
  4. Evidence of compliance with all relevant South African regulations.

AUTHENTICATING U.S. DOCUMENTS TO BE USED ABROAD:  The language describing the process of authenticating U.S. documents to be used abroad is currently under review. Please click on the following link for more information until the new language is finalized: http://www.travel.state.gov/law/info/judicial/judicial_701.html

SOUTH AFRICAN EMBASSY AND CONSULATES IN THE UNITED STATES:

Embassy of the Republic of South Africa
3051 Massachusetts Avenue, NW.
Washington, D.C. 20008
Telephone: 202-232-4400

 South Africa has Consulates in Chicago, Los Angeles, and New York.

                    U.S. IMMIGRATION REQUIREMENTS

Prospective adoptive parents are strongly encouraged to consult USCIS publication M-249, The Immigration of Adopted and Prospective Adopting Children, as well as the Department of State publication, International Adoptions. The USCIS publication is available at the USCIS Web site. The Department of State publication International Adoption can be found on the Bureau of Consular Affairs Web site, travel.state.gov, under “Intercountry Adoption.”

Before completing an adoption abroad, prospective adoptive parents are strongly encouraged to read the requirements for filing Form I-600, Petition to Classify Orphan as an Immediate Relative.  Please see the flyer “How Can Adopted Children Come to the United States” at the U.S. Department of State, Bureau of Consular Affairs web site travel.state.gov.

U.S. EMBASSY AND CONSULATES IN SOUTH AFRICA: Americans living or traveling abroad are encouraged to register with the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate through the State Department’s travel registration website, https://travelregistration.state.gov/, and to obtain updated information on travel and security within the country of travel.  Americans without Internet access may register directly with the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate.  By registering, American citizens make it easier for the Embassy or Consulate to contact them in case of emergency.  The Consular Section is located at:

U.S. Consulate General
River Street, Killarney, Johannesburg 2193
Tel: 011-644-8000
Fax: 011-646-6916
 (The Consulate in Johannesburg handles all consular matters, including immigrant visas for Pretoria) The United States also has Consulates General in Westlake (Capetown) and Durban.

APPLYING FOR A VISA AT THE U.S. CONSULATE GENERAL IN JOHANNESBURG:

If an orphan has been identified for adoption, the prospective adoptive parent(s) may file the Form I-600 orphan petition at the Consulate. Generally, the following additional supporting documents are required:

  1. The orphan's long-form South African birth certificate showing the biological parent(s)’s name; also, a new full birth certificate is required showing the new adoptive parents' names;
  2. Evidence that the child is an orphan, e.g. death certificate(s) of the orphan's parent(s), if applicable; or evidence that the orphan's sole or surviving parent cannot provide for the orphan's care and has, in writing, forever, and irrevocably released the orphan for emigration and adoption; or evidence that the orphan has been abandoned or deserted by, separated, or lost from both parents; or evidence that the orphan has been unconditionally abandoned to an orphanage.
  3. A final decree of adoption that must reflect that both spouses (prospective adoptive parents) were parties to the adoption;
  4. Evidence of compliance with all relevant South African regulations; and
  5. Report of the child's medical condition from a panel physician

Note:  Visa issuance after the final interview now generally takes 24 hours and it will not normally be possible to provide the visa to adoptive parents on the day of the interview.

ACQUIRING U.S. CITIZENSHIP: The language describing the acquisition of U.S. citizenship for adopted children is currently under review. Until the new language is finalized, please click on the following link for further information: ../info/info_457.html.

ADDITIONAL INFORMATION: Specific questions about adoption in South Africa may be addressed to the U.S. Consulate General in Johannesburg. General questions regarding intercountry adoption may be addressed to the Office of Children’s Issues, U.S. Department of State, CA/OCS/CI, SA-29, 4th Floor, 2201 C Street, NW, Washington, D.C. 20520-4818, toll-free Tel: 1-888-407-4747.

Useful information is also available from several other sources:

Telephone:
 Toll Free - For information on intercountry adoption and international parental child abduction, call Overseas Citizens Services at 1-888-407-4747. This number is available from 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. Eastern Standard Time, Monday through Friday (except U.S. federal holidays). Callers who are unable to use toll-free numbers, such as those calling from overseas, may obtain information and assistance during these hours by calling 1-202-501-4444.
• U.S. Department of State Visa Office - recorded information concerning immigrant visas for adopting children, (202) 663-1225.
• U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services - recorded information for requesting immigrant visa application forms, 1-800-870-FORM (3676).

Internet :
• Adoption Information Flyers: The U.S. Department of State, Bureau of Consular Affairs web site at: http://travel.state.gov/ contains intercountry adoption information flyers like this one and the International Adoptions brochure.
• Consular Information Sheets: The State Department has general information about hiring a foreign attorney and authenticating documents that may supplement the country-specific information provided in this flyer. In addition, the State Department publishes Consular Information Sheets (CISes) for every country in the world, providing information such as location of the U.S. Embassy, health conditions, political situations, and crime reports. If the situation in a country poses a specific threat to the safety and security of American citizens that is not addressed in the CIS for that country, the State Department may issue a Public Announcement alerting U.S. citizens to local security situations. If conditions in a country are sufficiently serious, the State Department may issue a Travel Warning recommending that U.S. citizens avoid traveling to that country. These documents are available on the Internet at: http://travel.state.gov/ or by calling the State Department's Office of Overseas Citizen Services Toll Free at 1-888-407-4747. This number is available from 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. Eastern Time, Monday through Friday (except U.S. federal holidays). Callers who are unable to use toll-free numbers, such as those calling from overseas, may obtain information and assistance during these hours by calling 1-202-501-4444.
 USCIS web site - http://uscis.gov/.