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International Adoption: Exploring Adoption Options for Expats

Hague Convention adoptions, Non-Hague Convention adoptions, special needs adoptions, and foster-to-adopt programs are the four major international adoption options available to expats interested in adopting a child in their host country.

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Adoption is a viable option for expats who wish to expand their families and provide a loving home to a child in need. It offers an opportunity to provide a nurturing environment and create a lifelong bond for the adopted child.

In this article, we will look into the international adoption options available to expats and their legal aspects. We will also introduce the Hague Convention, and international maternity insurance which ensures that both the adoptive parents and the child have the coverage and support they need.

International Adoption Options for Expats

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An adoption is considered an international or intercountry adoption when the adoptive parents are citizens of a different country than the child, regardless of where the adoptive parents are domiciled. The major international adoption options are:

1. Hague Convention Adoptions

This option is available to expats living in countries that are signatories to the Hague Convention. The Convention was concluded in May 1993 and established international standards, safeguards, and regulations for intercountry adoptions.

Benefits and Drawbacks

The Hague Convention ensures that the adoption process is transparent, ethical, and in the best interest of the child. It provides a framework for cooperation between countries, protecting the rights of adoptive parents and adopted children.

However, the process may be more time-consuming and costly due to the extensive documentation and home study requirements.

Steps in a Hague Convention Adoption

The Hague Convention process typically involves:

  • Selecting a Hague-accredited adoption agency or professional
  • Completing a home study
  • Filing an application with the central authority in the adoptive country
  • Obtaining clearance from the adoptive parent’s home country
  • Compiling required documentation (e.g., birth certificates, marriage certificates, background checks)
  • Attending pre-adoption education and training
  • Awaiting a match with a child

2. Non-Hague Convention Adoptions

Expats residing in countries that are not signatories to the Hague Convention can pursue a non-Hague Convention adoption.

Benefits and Drawbacks

Non-Hague adoption countries may offer more flexibility as they may have simpler regulations and requirements. However, the absence of Hague safeguards also means it is even more important to thoroughly research and work with reputable adoption agencies to ensure ethical practices.

Steps in a Non-Hague Convention Adoption

The steps may include:

  • Selecting a reputable adoption agency
  • Completing a home study
  • Compiling necessary documentation
  • Obtaining clearances from the adoptive country’s authorities and the adoptive parent’s home country
  • Attending court proceedings
  • Finalizing the adoption

3. Special Needs Adoptions

Expats open to adopting children with special needs or medical conditions can consider a special needs adoption.

Benefits and Drawbacks

Special needs adoption provides an opportunity to make a significant impact on the life of a child who may have weaker adoption prospects. It requires a willingness to provide specialized care and support.

However, adopting a child with special needs may involve additional medical expenses and require access to appropriate resources and support systems.

Steps in a Special Needs Adoption

The process typically involves:

  • Selecting an adoption agency experienced in special needs adoption
  • Completing a home study that focuses on the readiness to parent a child with special needs
  • Gathering required documentation
  • Obtaining clearances from the adoptive country’s authorities and the adoptive parent’s home country
  • Working closely with the agency to identify a suitable child

4. Foster-to-Adopt Programs

These programs are for expats interested in providing temporary foster care to children with the intention of adopting.

Benefits and Drawbacks

Foster-to-adopt programs allow prospective adoptive parents to provide a nurturing environment for children while legal and social assessments are conducted. This option can lead to permanent adoption if reunification with birth families is not possible.

This option requires flexibility and emotional readiness to deal with uncertainty and possible reunification outcomes.

Steps in a Foster-to-Adopt Program Adoption

The process typically involves:

  • Completing the necessary foster care training and licensing
  • Undergoing a home study
  • Getting matched with a child in need of foster care
  • Working with social services to assess the child’s permanency options
  • Obtaining clearances from the adoptive country’s authorities and the adoptive parent’s home country if reunification with the birth family is ruled out

Differences Between International and Domestic Adoptions

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Unlike adoptions where both the child and the adoptive parents are from the same country, with international adoptions there is the additional factor of the home country of the adoptive parents to consider.

The legal obligation for adoptive parents living abroad to seek adoption approval from their home country depends on the laws and regulations of the home country. Some general considerations include:

  • Dual Approval Systems: Some countries have dual approval systems where adoptive parents living abroad must obtain approval both from the host country (where the adoption takes place) and from their home country.

Typically, the host country will require the adoptive parents to furnish evidence that their home country’s authority approves or will recognize the adoption before the adoption can be completed and recognized by the host country.

  • Home Country’s Consent or Approval: In some cases, the home country may require adoptive parents to seek consent or approval before adopting a child in their host country.

This may necessitate submitting documentation, undergoing a review process, or following specific procedures outlined by the home country’s adoption authorities.

  • Legal Recognition: Even if the adoptive parents are not legally required to seek approval from their home country, they may still need to take steps to ensure the adoption is legally recognized in their home country after the fact.

These steps may include registering the adoption with the relevant authority or obtaining a court order or adoption decree from the host country, which can be used to establish the legal parent-child relationship in the home country.

  • International Adoption Laws and Treaties: The presence of international adoption laws or treaties between the host country and the home country can also influence the legal obligations. The Hague Convention is the pre-eminent international treaty for intercountry adoptions.

These agreements may outline the requirements for adoption approval, recognition, or post-adoption processes that adoptive parents living abroad need to follow.

The adoption process can vary significantly depending on the countries involved. Adoptive parents living abroad should consult with adoption professionals, legal experts, and authorities from both the host and their home country to understand the specific legal obligations.

The Hague Convention

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The Hague Convention on Protection of Children and Co-operation in Respect of Intercountry Adoption is an international agreement established in 1993. It aims to safeguard the best interests of children in intercountry adoptions and establish guidelines for ethical and transparent practices.

The Convention currently has 91 members, including China, the European Union, India, Japan, the United Kingdom, and the United States. The major principles contained in the Hague Adoption Convention include:

  • Best Interests of the Child: The Convention emphasizes that the best interests of the child should be the primary consideration in all adoption decisions and procedures.
  • Subsidiarity: The Convention promotes the idea that adoption within the child’s country of origin, when possible, should be given preference over intercountry adoption.
  • Central Authorities: The Convention establishes the requirement for each participating country to designate a Central Authority responsible for overseeing and coordinating intercountry adoption processes.
  • Accreditation and Standards: The Convention establishes the need for accredited adoption agencies and authorized individuals involved in intercountry adoption to comply with specific standards and regulations.
  • Consent and Information: Birth parents or legal guardians must provide their voluntary, informed, and irrevocable consent for the adoption, and they should receive comprehensive information about the child, the adoption process, and any potential legal consequences.
  • Prevention of Improper Financial Gain: The Convention prohibits the offering or acceptance of improper financial inducements, rewards, or compensation related to adoption. This provision prevents the exploitation of vulnerable parties and ensures that adoption is not driven by financial motivations.
  • Post-adoption Support and Monitoring: The Convention recognizes the need for post-adoption support to ensure the well-being and integration of adopted children into their new families, and the importance of monitoring to ensure compliance with the Convention’s principles and standards.

These principles and guidelines aim to promote ethical, transparent, and child-centered intercountry adoption practices while protecting the rights and well-being of children involved in such processes.

Frequently Asked Questions

Are adoptions by expats the same as international adoptions?

International adoptions refer to adoptions where the child and the adoptive parents originally hold different citizenship. Adoptions by expats are one kind of international adoption. Another kind is where the adoptive parents live in another country than that of the child.

Can a single adult or a cohabiting couple adopt a child internationally?

Whether or not a single adult or a cohabiting couple can adopt a child internationally ultimately depends on the adoption laws and regulations of the home countries of both the adoptive parents and the child, as well as any international adoption agreements that may apply.

Does a child adopted by American expats automatically become a citizen of the US?

The adopted child automatically becomes a US citizen when they reside in the US before turning 18 in the lawful and physical custody of a citizen adoptive parent under a legal admission as a permanent resident, provided the adopted child was born on or after February 28, 1983.


In this article, we have discussed the various options for intercountry adoptions by expats, highlighted the differences between international and domestic adoptions, and provided a brief introduction to the Hague Convention. We trust you are now better equipped to decide how to proceed.

Adopting a child in need is a profound act of love and compassion that has the power to transform lives in the most meaningful ways. Just as adoption offers a child a stable and nurturing home, insurance safeguards your family against unforeseen circumstances and ensures their well-being.

Whether it’s maternity, family health, expat health, international health, or other kinds of insurance, Pacific Prime has the international experience and expertise to tailor a solution for you that meets your needs, fits your budget, and represents the best value for money.

What’s more, you can benefit from our unbiased advice and timely support at no extra cost compared to going straight to an insurer! So contact us for a consultation or quote, or a FREE no-strings-attached plan comparison today.

We also encourage you to read Expatriate Parenting: Navigating Parenthood Challenges and Resources While Living Abroad, and Maternity Health Tips for Expats: Staying Healthy and Safe During Pregnancy Abroad. After all, good preparations are crucial for a smooth and fulfilling experience.

Content Creator at Pacific Prime
Martin is a writer and translator with over 10 years of experience. He writes articles and blog posts, creates infographics and videos, translates between Chinese and English, and more. Skilled at explaining complicated concepts in layman’s terms, Martin believes the gold standard of translation is attained when the translated text is not only accurate, but also reads like an original text. Martin holds a degree in Economics from the University of London, UK.

Since joining Pacific Prime, Martin has become even more aware of the gap between the true value of insurance products and most people’s appreciation of it, and developed a passion for demystifying and simplifying matters, so that more people get the protection they need at a cost they can easily afford.

In his free time, Martin attends concerts of various genres, and plays the violin with piano accompaniment he pre-recorded himself or played live by his niece.
Martin Lee