The U.S immigrant visas have various categories within them. One of them is the Immediate Relative Visa category. This group of visas favors the immediate relatives or family of U.S citizens who live outside of the U.S. They are denoted by the letters IR, and are the following:
- IR-1 visa for the spouse of a U.S citizen
- IR-2 visa for the unmarried children under 21 years old of a U.S citizen
- IR-3 visa for children adopted abroad by a U.S citizen
- IR-4 visa for children to be adopted within the U.S by a U.S citizen
- IR-5 visa for parents of a U.S citizen who is at least 21 years old.
As can be seen, immediate relatives are only spouses, biological or adopted children, and parents. Grandparents, uncles, or aunts do not qualify as immediate relatives and therefore cannot get these visas.
This article will go through the IR-4 visa, what it is, its requirements, application process, and other relevant details.
What is the IR-4 visa?
There are many U.S citizens who want to adopt children from foreign countries. To be able to do that, the child must have a valid immigrant visa to come and live in the U.S with the adoptive parents. There are different types of U.S immigrant visas which allow U.S citizens to adopt in this way, but the main ones are the IR-4 and the IR-3 visa.
The IR-4 visa allows parents to obtain guardianship of the child in the foreign country and then bring the child to the U.S to complete the adoption. With the IR-3 visa, the parents from the U.S must complete the adoption process in the foreign country before the child can get the visa.
The IR-4 visa allows the parents to bring the child to the U.S, complete adoption and then the child can remain in the U.S legally. The child can attend school and when able, can also start working without needing an Employment Authorization Document (EAD). Additionally, when eligible, the child can also apply for a U.S citizenship.
The IR-4 visa is beneficial because it does not have an annual limit or cap on the number of visas issued. That is why, those who apply for it can complete processing much faster and be able to live in the U.S as a family.
What are the types of adoption that qualify for the IR-4 visa?
There are two types of adoption recognized by the U.S government and they depend upon the country from where the child was adopted. These are:
- Hague country convention adoptions
- Non-Hague country adoptions
The Hague Adoption Convention was signed in 1993 and specified rules and regulations about intercountry adoption. Depending on whether the U.S citizen adopts the child from a Hague Convention Country or from a Non-Hague Convention Country, the application procedures change.
The following countries are part of The Hague Convention Countries; however, U.S citizens are not allowed to adopt children from the countries in bold due to other political reasons.
|Hague Convention Countries|
|Azerbaijan||Czech Republic||Israel||Namibia||Sri Lanka|
|Belgium||Dominican Republic||Kazakhstan||New Zealand||Sweden|
|Burkina Faso||Finland||Liechtenstein||Philippines||United Kingdom|
Adopting from any other countries than those above means that the U.S citizen is adopting outside the Hague Convention rules and other regulations and application procedures will apply.
What are the requirements of the IR-4 visa?
To be eligible for the IR-4 visa, there are requirements for both the child from the foreign country being adopted and the adoptive parents who are U.S citizens. These requirements are as follows:
- The child must meet the adoption criteria from the U.S Immigration and Nationality Act (INA)
- The child must be under 21 years old and unmarried
- The child must be from either a Hague or Non-Hague Convention Country
- The U.S citizens must be willing to obtain guardianship of the child in the foreign country and then adopt in the U.S
- The U.S citizens must pass an eligibility test by the U.S Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS)
- The U.S citizens must plan to bring the child to the U.S to live with them
- The U.S citizens must have a valid U.S address
If the U.S citizens plan to adopt the child while in the foreign country, then they must apply for the IR-3 visa. Also, if the U.S citizens have adopted the child and lived in the foreign country with the child for at least 2 years, then they are eligible to apply for an IR-2 visa.
How to apply for the IR-4 visa?
Taking into account that there are two types of intercountry adoptions for the IR-4 visa, the application procedures and steps that applicants need to take are different. Below will be the process for both the Hague and Non-Hague Country Conventions.
Hague Country Convention Application Procedures
To adopt from the Hague Convention Countries, you must choose a U.S Accredited or Approved Adoption Service Provider in the foreign country in which you want to adopt. This rule allows you to adopt from an agency which is within applicable laws and regulations.
- File Form I-800A, Determination on Suitability to Adopt a Child from a Convention Country to USCIS. This form, if approved will make you eligible for adoption. USCIS will check your filled form, perform a background check, fingerprint check, and a home study. Based on this, they will send recommendations on the age range and number of children that you are allowed to adopt. Additionally, they will also specify whether you are allowed to adopt children with special needs.
- Apply to be matched with a child in your preferred foreign country which is part of the Hague Convention. The authorities of the country will review your documents and you must check with them for a list of what you need to provide. They will also require your USCIS approval and then recommend children who meet the eligibility criteria. Each child will have a file which contains their background information, medical and special needs, and consent forms from the necessary parties (biological parents, adoption center, etc).
- File Form I-800, Petition to Classify Convention Adoptee as an Immediate Relative to USCIS. This form, if approved will mean that the child you want to adopt is eligible to immigrate to the U.S. Also, you must show that you have not yet gained guardianship of the child. This is to prevent U.S citizens from gaining guardianship or adopting children who are not eligible to immigrate.
- After all the forms have been approved, you can start the visa application for the child you intend to adopt in the U.S. Submit Form DS-260, Online Immigrant Visa Application to the U.S Embassy or Consulate of the foreign country from where the child will be adopted. The DS-260 will require the background information of the child and other details. The form is submitted online and afterwards you will get a confirmation letter and number.
- If all your documents are in order, the U.S Embassy or Consulate will issue a letter called Article 5/17 Letter which means that the child you want to adopt is eligible to immigrate to the U.S. Only at this point when you get this letter, you are then allowed to get a guardianship order for the child. For the IR-4 visa, you cannot adopt the child in the foreign country but must bring them to the U.S to do so. If you want to adopt the child in their country of residence, you must apply for the IR-3 visa.
- When you obtain the guardianship order, submit the supporting documents to the U.S Embassy or Consulate. This includes the child’s birth certificate, passport, medical documents, etc. Also, schedule an interview at the U.S Embassy and attend it. During the interview, you will submit your final guardianship order to the officials to have the application completed. At this point, after the processing, the U.S Embassy will decide whether to give the IR-4 visa to the child or not.
Non-Hague Convention Application Procedures
For the Non-Hague Convention countries, there are other application procedures as follows:
- Choose an adoption center in the country where you want to adopt the child. Since the country is not part of the Hague Convention Countries, you will not get recommendations on U.S approved centers, but must make the decision yourself.
- File Form I-600A, Application for Advanced Processing of an Orphan Petition to USCIS. This form as well as the background and fingerprint check, and the home study will determine your eligibility to adopt a child from a foreign country. USCIS will not make any recommendations on the child’s classification however, which is different from the procedures of the Hague Convention.
- Obtain a guardianship order from the country where you plan to adopt the child. This means that you must meet the requirements of that particular country regarding supporting documents and the procedures you must follow.
- File Form I-600, Petition to Classify Orphan as an Immediate Relative to USCIS in order to determine whether the child you want to adopt is eligible for immigration to the U.S. The following supporting documents must be submitted:
- Child’s birth certificate or written explanation about the identity and age of the child if the birth certificate is not available
- Evidence that the child does not have parents or that the biological parents are unable to provide proper care and have consented to giving up their child for adoption
- Evidence that you have obtained guardianship of the child and you intend to complete adoption procedures once the child arrives in the U.S
- Next, USCIS or a Consular Officer in the country you are adopting the child from will complete Form I-604. If the form has been approved, the National Visa Center (NVC) will notify you on the next steps you must take.
- Submit the IR-4 visa application by filing Form DS-260, Online Immigrant Visa Application as well as schedule your visa interview. At the interview, provide your complete file of documents for the child’s adoption.
What are the IR-4 visa fees?
Depending on which application procedure you will follow, you must pay the fees associated with filing the forms as well as other supporting fees. The amounts are determined by USCIS, but in general, these are the fees that apply:
- Form I-800A filing fee
- Form I-800 filing fee
- Form DS-260 processing fees
- Form I-600A filing fee
- Form I-600 filing fee
- Translation fees
- Fees to obtain supporting documents
How long is the IR-4 visa processing time?
USCIS does not provide a specific time which will take to process the application for an IR-4 visa. In general, this depends also from the length of time it takes for you to gain guardianship of the child in the foreign country where you intend to adopt. However, an estimate of the IR-4 visa processing time is 6 months to 1 year, after which you will be allowed to bring the child to the U.S. When in the U.S, you must then follow other procedures to complete the adoption as per U.S laws and regulations.