Submitting an adoption case to the U.S. Embassy in Ethiopia
In April 2013, the Government of Ethiopia informed the U.S. Government that, effective September 1, 2013; it will require all adoption cases filed on behalf of U.S. prospective adoptive parents with the Ethiopian courts to undergo a Pre-Adoption Immigration Review (PAIR) process by the U.S. Government. The Ministry of Women, Children and Youth Affairs (MOWCYA) will require a PAIR letter issued by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) as one of the criterion for its best interest determination. To comply, the adoption dossier submitted by prospective adoptive parents to the Federal First Instance Court (FFIC) to initiate an adoption, will need to include the PAIR letter issued by USCIS. The FFIC will then forward the dossier, including the PAIR letter, to MOWCYA for review. This new criterion will not affect pending adoption cases filed with Ethiopian courts before September 1, 2013.
For more information about PAIR and how to begin the adoption process, please visit Adoption.State.Gov.
During the PAIR review process, the U.S. Embassy may request additional evidence about an adopted child beyond what is required to file an I-600 with USCIS’s National Benefits Center (NBC). Adoptive parents may supply this evidence through their respective adoption agencies. If there are obvious errors in the documents presented to the NBC and the Embassy, or missing documents, the case may not be accepted or experience delays in the PAIR review process. Each adoption agency is assigned a specific day of the week and time to submit this evidence on behalf of U.S. adoptive parents. We urge all adoptive parents to request a copy of these documents from their respective adoption agencies, and to carefully review them for completeness and accuracy. Incorrect translations and errors in dates often indicate other underlying problems.
In all cases, consular officers must complete an I-604, Determination on Child for Adoption, certifying that the adopted child meets the definition of “orphan” under U.S. law. This will still take place under PAIR and is incorporated into the PAIR review timeline. The consular officer must review the evidence submitted by the adoptive parent documenting the child’s orphan status. In most cases the consular officer will request, for example, a birth relative interview, the phone number for a police officer, an interview with someone who discovered a foundling, corrections to documents, or other evidence in support of the case. It is normal for a consular officer to ask for this information or these interviews as part of the I-604 investigation.
When the I-604 investigation is complete, the U.S. Embassy will forward the case back to the National Benefits Center for review. If approvable, the NBC will issue a PAIR letter directly to the adoptive parents that can be used to file the adoption case with MOWCYA and the Federal First Instance Court.
Once the adoption has been approved by both MOWYCA and the Federal First Instance Court, and the child has an Ethiopian passport and a new birth certificate, the complete case can be submitted to the U.S. Embassy for review of the child’s immigrant visa application. Adoptive parents in private adoption cases who already have an approved I-600 petition may bring their case documents on any Tuesday or Thursday between 1pm and 3pm. Please note that private adoptions require the same processing time as agency-facilitated adoptions, including an I-604 investigation. For more information on submitting a private adoption case, please see our FAQ page here.
Once a case is submitted to the Embassy after approval by the Federal First Instance Court and MOWCYA, please allow five business days for additional review. Consular officers may request additional evidence or information in support of the case during this period, and it may take more than five days before a case is ready to proceed. If the case is approvable, the adoptive parent will receive a scheduling request for a visa interview at the embassy. If the case requires further review, it may be returned to NBC for their adjudication. The U.S. Embassy strongly suggests that you do not schedule your travel to Ethiopia until after you have a confirmed visa appointment.
Attention military families:
We have heard from several military families that they have had trouble enrolling their newly adopted children in the Defense Enrollment Eligibility Reporting System (DEERS) and other military insurance programs because of questions about the authenticity of the children’s Ethiopian birth certificates. The U.S. Embassy in Addis Ababa can authenticate any birth certificate that carries the seal of the Ethiopian Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Your authenticated document will have an attached cover sheet bearing the seal of the Department of State and the signature of a consular officer, and should therefore be acceptable to any federal or state agency in the U.S. In order to expedite this service it is best for your agency to have the birth certificates authenticated by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs prior to submitting the documents to the embassy. There is a $50 charge per document for the authentication service, payable in dollars or Ethiopian birr. If you pay for the service at the time of your visa interview the authenticated documents can often be prepared for pickup at the same time as your child’s visa.
For questions about this service please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.