“International Adoption: Immigration and Citizenship for your Adopted Child”
Adopting a child and welcoming him or her into your family is a beautiful and complex process. If you choose to adopt a child from outside of Canada, you will also need to think about how to bring your newest family member to Canada.
The legal process of adopting a child is governed by the laws of the country where the child lives. Countries often have strict requirements for who qualifies as an adoptive parent and the process they have to go through in order to obtain legal status as a parent. Many countries also limit the ability of non-nationals to adopt children, making the international adoption process even more complex.
Since 1996 Canada has been party to the Convention on Protection of Children and Co-operation in respect of Intercountry Adoption, also known as the “Hague Convention”. The Hague Convention was established to help regulate international adoptions with respect to the best interests of the child and with respect for their fundamental human rights. It is also intended to help prevent child trafficking. Canada’s commitments under the Hague Convention inform its own requirements for what is an acceptable adoption. Therefore, in order for an adoption to be accepted by Canadian immigration authorities, the adoption must meet the following requirements:
- – The adoption must be in the best interests of the child.
- – The adoption will create a genuine relationship of parent and child.
- – The adoption is in accordance with the laws of the place where the adoption took place and the laws of the country of residence where the adoptive parents reside.
- – The adoption must not have been entered into primarily for the purpose of acquiring immigration or citizenship status.
- – The adoption must not have occurred in a manner that circumvented the legal requirement for international adoptions.
In addition, if the adopted person is 18 years or older, a genuine relationship of parent and child must have existed between the adopted person and the adoptive parent before the adopted person turned 18 year old and at the time of the adoption.
As adoption laws and adoption authorities can vary greatly from country to country it is important that you obtain accurate advice from a lawyer or adoption agency in the country to understand the local requirements and processes before you embark on this journey.
How can you bring your child to Canada once the legal adoption process is complete?
Your options to bring your adopted child to Canada will depend on your legal status at the time of adopting your child. You can generally use either the “citizenship process” or “immigration process” to bring your child to Canada. Under the citizenship process, if you meet the requirements that are summarized below, your child will become a Canadian citizen and will enter Canada as a citizen. Under the immigration process, your adopted child will be granted permanent residence status and will obtain a permanent residence card upon landing in Canada. They can then become a citizen by meeting the requirements for naturalization.
If one of the adopting parents is a Canadian citizen at the time of adoption you can apply for a direct grant of citizenship for your adopted child. Under this process there is no need for a medical examination that is required for potential immigrants to Canada. It is important to note that an adopted child who obtains citizenship in this manner may be affected by the law limiting citizenship by descent that I wrote about last week as they are born outside of Canada.
If neither of the adoptive parents are Canadian citizens at the time of adoption they will have to use the immigration process to sponsor their child to become a permanent resident in order to come to Canada. Also, adoptive parents who are citizens but subject to the first generation limit to citizenship by descent (and do not fall into one of the exceptions) will have to sponsor their children to obtain permanent residence. As this is an immigration process, your adopted child will have to undergo all necessary immigration checks including medical examinations, and in the case of non-minor children background and security checks are also required.
While the adoption and immigration process can seem complex at the outset, knowing the legal requirements and fully understanding the process can help make the journey a smoother one. Speaking with an experienced immigration lawyer and finding the right adoption agency to guide you through the process can be the first step towards bringing home your newest family member.
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Zeynab Ziaie is a graduate of the Faculty of Law at the University of Toronto and a lawyer licensed to practice in Ontario and New York. Her legal practice focuses on immigration and business law. She often works with clients to find suitable solutions in complex immigration and citizenship cases and represents clients at all levels of court.