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The I-600A, "Application for Advancing Processing of Orphan Petition,"is the first contact you will have with the USCIS. Here are some guidelines for completing the I-600A:
  • The person with the largest income should be the prospective petitioner.
  • Use the same person as prospective petitioner on all future USCIS documents.
  • Rules change constantly. Always check with your adoption agency about the most recent USCIS information.
  • Send your completed application by traceable means (through the U.S. post office via certified mail with return receipt requested and delivery confirmation, or via UPS or Fed Ex).
  • Get the I-600A completed as quickly as you possibly can. If there are no problems, the USCIS takes an average of 60-90 days to process this application. Just imagine how long it will take if something goes awry!
Your adoption agency may either file the I-600A on your behalf or help you to file it. To file your I-600A, you must provide your approved homestudy along with your fingerprints on USCIS Form FD-258.

Married couples (and single adopters) must submit proof that:
  • at least one applicant is a U.S. citizen;
  • at least one partner is 25 years of age or older;
  • proof of their marriage; and
  • documentation of termination (through divorce or death) of any prior marriage(s).
USCIS will then determine if you can properly care for an adopted child. Here are the documents you will need to send in along with the I-600A application:
  • Two sets of fingerprints from each prospective adoptive parent and any adults over age 18 living in the household. Use form FD-258 for your fingerprints.
  • Proof that the Prospective Petitioner is a US citizen. A birth certificate, naturalization certificate, or valid US passport will do the job. It’s okay to send photocopies.
  • Marriage certificate. Again, it’s okay to send a photocopy.
  • Divorce decree or death certificate if previously married. Photocopies are okay.
  • Certified check (plus fingerprinting fees for each adult over 18 living in the household), payable to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.

Remember: never mail original legal documents to the USCIS! These documents will be gone forever if the USCIS loses them. Instead, sign and include with your I-600A the USCIS form stating that the photocopies of the documents are true and unaltered. (Contact your regional USCIS office for a copy of this form.)

The I-171H – “Notice of Favorable Determination Concerning Application for Advance Processing of an Orphan Petition”

When the USCIS approves your I-600A, they will send you form I-171H, “Notice of Favorable Determination Concerning Application for Advance Processing of an Orphan Petition.” You should also request that notice of this approval be sent to the U.S. embassy or consulate in the country from which you plan to adopt. In a nutshell, the I-171H states that you are approved to adopt a child from the foreign country you specified way back when you completed your I-600A.

Your I-600A petition approval remains valid for 18 months from the date of approval. You must re-file your I-600A petition if it expires (there is an “expedited” re-filing procedure available). (It’s important to note that your fingerprints will only be valid for 15 months – you will have to have your fingerprints retaken if they expire.)

A Word of Caution

Just because the USCIS approves your I-600A petition does not automatically guarantee that your petition for a specific child will be approved. Approval for a specific child depends on that child’s orphan status, as outlined in the Immigration and Nationality Act, and to some extent upon the child’s medical status. This is just one more reason to choose an experienced, reputable international adoption agency.

For more information, see Forms for International Adoption to Download & Fees.

Credits: Excerpted from "International Adoption Guidebook," Mary M. Strickert, (c) 2004

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