A US citizen may adopt a foreign born child who is currently residing in the US and sponsor that child for permanent residency (green card) and US citizenship if:
- The child was adopted before his or her 16th birthday;
- The adoptive parent or parents have had legal custody of the adopted child for two years; and
- the adopted child resided with the petitioner for at least two years.
US immigration law creates a distinction between the adoption of orphans and the adoption of other foreign born children. The adoption of foreign born children is three step process similar to family based immigration petitions. The adoptive child is required to wait for an immigrant visa number before the child is able to be brought to the US. An immigrant visa number can take years to obtain.
To bring the adopted orphan into the US quickly, the eligible US citizen may apply for advance processing before he or she actually finds an orphan to adopt. A foreign-born child is an orphan if he does not have any parents because of the death or disappearance of, abandonment or desertion by, or separation or loss from, both parents. A foreign-born child is also an orphan if his or her sole or surviving parent is not able to take proper care of the child and has, in writing, irrevocably released the child for emigration and adoption.
Each country has its own rules regarding who may or may not adopt orphans from their country.