Belize is party to the Hague Convention on Protection of Children and Co-operation in Respect of Intercountry Adoption (Hague Adoption Convention). Therefore all adoptions between Belize and the United States must meet the requirements of the Convention and U.S. law implementing the Convention.
Children in Belize may only be adopted through the judicial process. There are no private adoptions or adoptions through extra-judicial processes. If the prospective adoptive parents legally reside in Belize, the Belize Family Courts may handle the adoption. If the adoptive parents reside outside of Belize and are not citizens of Belize, the adoption must be processed through the Supreme Court of Belize.
Belize does not grant custody of its children for emigration and adoption outside of Belize. However, the Chief Justice of Belize has determined that the “Provisional”, “Interim” or “Preliminary” Adoption decrees often issued by the Supreme Court can be considered permission for the prospective adoptive parents to take the child out of Belize and to pursue a concurrent adoption process in accordance with the laws of their own country.
Note: Special transition provisions apply to adoptions initiated before April 1, 2008. Learn more.
WHO CAN ADOPT
Adoption between the United States and Belize is governed by the Hague Adoption Convention. Therefore to adopt from Belize, you must first be found eligible to adopt by the U.S. Government. The U.S. Government agency responsible for making this determination is the Department of Homeland Security, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). Learn more.
In addition to these U.S. requirements for prospective adoptive parents, Belize also has the following requirements for prospective adoptive parents:
Residency Requirements: Belizean law prohibits the issuance of a final adoption order unless the non-Belizean prospective adoptive parent resides in Belize with the Belizean child for 12 months. A social worker will visit periodically to assess the parent-child relationship.
Age Requirements: At least one of the prospective adoptive parents must be a minimum of 25 years old and no fewer than 12 years older than the child.
Marriage Requirements: Both married and single individuals can adopt in Belize. Single men cannot adopt female children. These restrictions can be waived if the court finds that special circumstances are warranted.
Income Requirements: While there are no specific income requirements, prospective adoptive parents’ financial status will be included as part of the home study.
Other Requirements: A person who is not a citizen of Belize may adopt a Belizean child if he or she:
Does not have a criminal record
Has a current recommendation concerning his suitability to adopt a child from his country’s probation and welfare office or other competent authority (A social services practitioner must verify this recommendation in writing as well as submit a report of the findings of the inquiry to the court.)
In addition, the court may request a report/recommendation from an additional person or authority
Has satisfied the court that his country of origin will respect and recognize the adoption order
WHO CAN BE ADOPTED
Because Belize is party to the Hague Adoption Convention, children from Belize must meet the requirements of the Convention in order to be eligible for adoption. For example, the Convention requires that Belize attempt to place a child with a family in-country before determining that a child is eligible for intercountry adoption. In addition to Belize’s requirements, a child must meet the definition of a Convention adoptee for you to bring him or her back to the United States.
Belizean law only provides for the adoption of children who are citizens of Belize. A child who is not a Belizean citizen cannot be the subject of an adoption in a Belizean court, although Belizean courts can issue custody orders for any child residing in Belize.
ELIGIBILITY REQUIREMENTS: Children in Belize may only be adopted through the judicial process. There are no private adoptions or adoptions through extra-judicial processes.
HOW TO ADOPT
Belize’s Adoption Authority
Belize Human Services Department
Because Belize is party to the Hague Adoption Convention, adopting from Belize must follow a specific process designed to meet the Convention’s requirements. A brief summary of the Convention adoption process is given below. You must complete these steps in the following order so that your adoption meets all necessary legal requirements.
NOTE: If you filed your I-600a with Belize before April 1, 2008, the Hague Adoption Convention may not apply to your adoption. Your adoption could continue to be processed in accordance with the immigration regulations for non-Convention adoptions. Learn more.
Choose an Accredited Adoption Service Provider
Apply to be Found Eligible to Adopt
Be Matched with a Child
Apply for the Child to be Found Eligible for Immigration to the United States
Adopt the Child in Belize
Bringing your Child Home
1. Choose an Accredited Adoption Service Provider:
The first step in adopting a child from Belize is to select an adoption service provider in the United States that has been accredited. Only these agencies and attorneys can provide adoption services between the United States and Belize. Learn more.
Intercountry adoptions occur before a Supreme Court Judge and require the services of a local attorney authorized to present cases to the Supreme Court. Those persons wanting information regarding forms and procedures for adoption should contact a Belizean attorney. A list of attorneys can be found at http://belize.usembassy.gov/list_of_lawyers.html.
Prospective adoptive parents are advised to fully research any adoption agency or facilitator they plan to use for adoption services. For U.S.-based agencies, it is suggested that prospective adoptive parents contact the Better Business Bureau and/or the licensing authority in the U.S. state where the agency is located or licensed.
2. Apply to be Found Eligible to Adopt:
After you choose an accredited adoption service provider, you apply to be found eligible to adopt (Form I-800A) by the U.S. Government, Department of Homeland Security, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). Learn how.
Once the U.S. government determines that you are “eligible” and “suitable” to adopt, you or your agency will forward your information to the adoption authority in Belize. Belize’s adoption authority will review your application to determine whether you are also eligible to adopt under Belize’s law. Sections 137 and 141 of Belizean Adoption Law specify the requirements for Non-Belizean citizens who would like to adopt a Belizean child.
3. Be Matched with a Child:
If both the United States and Belize determine that you are eligible to adopt, and a child is available for intercountry adoption, the central adoption authority in Belize may provide you with a referral for a child. Each family must decide for itself whether or not it will be able to meet the needs of the particular child and provide a permanent family placement for the referred child.
A child who is not a Belizean citizen cannot be the subject of an adoption in a Belizean court, although Belizean courts can issue custody for any child residing in Belize.
4. Apply for the Child to be Found Eligible for Adoption:
After you accept a match with a child, you will apply to the U.S Government, Department of Homeland Security, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) for provisional approval to adopt that particular child (Form I-800). USCIS will determine whether the child is eligible under U.S. law to be adopted and enter the United States. Learn how.
After this, your adoption service provider or you will submit a visa application for to a Consular Officer at the U.S. Embassy. The Consular Officer will review the child’s information and evaluate the child for possible visa ineligibilities. If the Consular Office determines that the child appears eligible to immigrate to the United States, he/she will notify the Belize’s adoption authority (Article 5 letter). For Convention country adoptions, prospective adoptive parent(s) may not proceed with the adoption or obtain custody for the purpose of adoption until this takes place.
Remember: The Consular Officer will make a final decision about the immigrant visa later in the adoption process.
5. Adopt the Child (or Gain Legal Custody) in-country:
Remember: Before you adopt (or gain legal custody of) a child in Belize, you must have completed the above four steps. Only after completing these steps, can you proceed to finalize the adoption or grant of custody for the purposes of adoption in Belize.
The process for finalizing the adoption (or gaining legal custody) in Belize generally includes the following:
- Role of the Adoption Authority: The Adoption Authority processes the adoption application and upon approval forwards the dossier to the Belizean court.
- Role of The Court: Upon any application for an adoption order, the court may postpone the determination of the application and may make an interim order which shall not be an adoption order for the purposes of the Act, giving the custody of the child to the applicant for a period not exceeding two years by way of a probationary period upon such terms as regards provision for the maintenance, education, supervision of the welfare of the child and otherwise as the court may think fit.
All such consents as required to an adoption order shall be necessary to an interim order, but subject to a like power on the part of the court to dispense with any such consent.
As mentioned above, according to sections 137 and 141 of Belizean adoption law, the court may (and usually does) postpone the granting of a final adoption decree and issue an interim order. Under this circumstance, the prospective adoptive parent(s) will have custody of the child for a probationary period of one year during which there must be quarterly reports regarding the child’s care and progress. Prospective parents who receive an interim order from the Belizean Court and would like to carry it out in the U.S. may seek an IH-4 visa for the child. This visa is granted to the prospective parents only with the understanding and agreement that they will also seek a final adoption decree from their state of legal residence. Even though the child will be living in the U.S., the Belizean Court may request home study reports from U.S. Social Services agencies during the interim.
Prospective adoptive parents may carry out the interim order in Belize if they so desire. If this is the case, prospective adoptive parents should also take note that a final adoption decree that is issued from the Belizean court is necessary to obtain a U.S. IH-3 immigrant visa for the child.
- Role of Adoption Agencies: International adoptions occur before a Supreme Court Judge and require the services of a local attorney authorized to present cases to the Supreme Court. Those persons desirous of information regarding the forms and procedures to follow for adoptions should contact a Belizean attorney. A list of attorneys can be found at http://belize.usembassy.gov/list_of_lawyers.html.
- Time Frame: The processing time for adoptions can vary, depending on the circumstances of the case. The Belize Department of Human Services reports that “ward adoptions” (children in the custody of the Department of Human Services) can take up one year or more to process because of the need for home study reports, matching, placement and legal proceedings. For independent adoptions (children not in the custody of the Department of Human Services) the processing time is shorter. Because the adoption is child-specific – that is, the prospective adoptive parents have already selected a child – matching and placement are not necessary. These adoption proceedings take from 3 months to one year.
- Adoption Application: The prospective adoptive parents will file the adoption application to the Belize Human Services Department.
- Adoption Fees: In the adoption services contract that you sign at the beginning of the adoption process, your agency will itemize the fees and estimated expenses related to your adoption process.
Prospective adoptive parents can expect to pay attorney’s fees for adoption services in Belize ranging from $1,500 USD to $5,000 USD. The cost can vary based on the attorney selected, the type of adoption (local vs. international) and the number of children being adopted. Attorneys’ fees include all costs related to the adoption process, such as court costs and filing fees.
The U.S. Embassy in Belize discourages the payment of any fees that are not properly receipted. In addition, “donations,” or “expediting” fees, which may be requested from prospective adoptive parents, have the appearance of “buying” a baby and put all future adoptions in Belize at risk. U.S. citizens adopting a child in Belize should report any exorbitant fees to the U.S. Embassy in Belize or to the U.S. Department of State.
- Documents Required: The following documents are required by the Belize Human Services Department:
- A valid police certificate;
- An approved home study;
- Proof of home government approval to adopt (for U.S. citizens, this is an approved I-800 or I-800A).
NOTE: Additional documents may be requested.
6. Bringing Your Child Home
Now that your adoption is complete (or you have obtained legal custody of the child), there are a few more steps to take before you can head home. Specifically, you need to apply for three documents for your child before he or she can travel to the United States:
You will first need to apply for a new birth certificate for your child, so that you can later apply for a passport. Your name will be added to the new birth certificate.
[How to obtain a new birth certificate for the child in Belize.]
Your child is not yet a U.S. citizen, so he/she will need a travel document or Passport from Belize.
[How to obtain a Passport for the child in Belize.]
U.S. Immigrant Visa
After you obtain the new birth certificate and passport for your child, you also need to apply for an U.S. visa from the United States Embassy for your child. After the adoption (or custody for purpose of adoption) is granted, visit the U.S Embassy for final review and approval of the child’s I-800 petition and to obtain a visa for the child. This immigrant visa allows your child to travel home with you. As part of this process, the Consular Officer must be provided the “Panel Physician’s” medical report on the child if it was not provided during the provisional approval stage.
Adoptive parents will need the following documents for the immigrant visa application:
An original of the child’s birth certificate issued by the Registrar General indicating the name of both parents, if known;
If either or both birth parents are deceased: an original death certificate issued by the Registrar General;
If the child’s birth parents are not deceased: court documents indicating that the Government of Belize has terminated parental rights and made the child a Ward of the Department of Human Services;
If a sole or surviving birth parent voluntarily relinquished the child for the adoption: a report from the Belize Department of Human Services indicating that the birth parent was incapable of proper care of the child;
The original adoption certificate issued by the Registrar General;
The Final Adoption Order issued by the Supreme Court of Belize or, if the parents intend to finalize an adoption of the child in their home state, the Interim Adoption Order issued by the Supreme Court of Belize and evidence that all pre adoption requirements in that home state have been met;
A valid Belizean passport issued in the child’s name;
Two 2x2 inch color visa photographs;
Medical examination results. (Note: this medical examination must be conducted by one of the Panel Physicians located in Belize City and in accordance with guidelines set forth by the Centers for Disease Control. Detailed instructions and forms are provided by the Embassy once the I-800 is received.)
If the minor has a physical or mental disability, a notarized statement will be required from the prospective adoptive parent(s) in the United States that indicates that they are fully aware of the disability of the minor and they have the intention of finalizing the adoption. This statement can be included in item 19 of form I-800 and also in the home study if it is more convenient.
Evidence that the adoptive parent(s) have actually seen the child in person prior to or during the adoption process. (If either or both of the adoptive parents did not see the child, then the adoption is considered a “proxy” adoption and is not recognized as valid for U.S. immigration purposes. In those circumstances, the parents could still pursue an IH-4 visa for the child.)
IH-4 visas applicants only: An Affidavit of Support (Form I-864) completed by the adoptive parent(s), as well as the required supplementary documentation (generally copies of their most recent federal tax returns, including W-2s.)
In the case of an adoptive child to be escorted to the United States by a third party, a notarized statement will be required authorizing that person to take the minor to the United States with the purpose of placing him or her with the prospective adoptive parent(s). This statement can be included in the Judge’s authorization for the child to leave Belize.
Child Citizenship Act
For adoptions finalized abroad: The Child Citizenship Act of 2000 allows your child to acquire American citizenship when he or she enters the United States as lawful permanent residents.
For adoptions to be finalized in the United States: The Child Citizenship Act of 2000 allows your child to typically acquire American citizenship when the U.S. state court issues the final adoption decree. We urge your family to finalize the adoption in a U.S. State court as quickly as possible.
*Please be aware that if your child did not qualify to become a citizen upon entry to the United States, it is very important that you take the steps necessary so that your child does qualify as soon as possible. Failure to obtain citizenship for your child can impact many areas of his/her life including family travel, eligibility for education and education grants, and voting.
Learn more about the Child Citizenship Act.
Applying for Your U.S. Passport
A valid U.S. passport is required to enter and leave Belize. Only the U.S. Department of State has the authority to grant, issue, or verify U.S. passports.
Getting or renewing a passport is easy. The Passport Application Wizard will help you determine which passport form you need, help you to complete the form online, estimate your payment, and generate the form for you to print—all in one place.
Obtaining Your Visa
In addition to a U.S. passport, you also need to obtain a visa. A visa is an official document issued by a foreign country that formally allows you to visit. Where required, visas are attached to your passport and allow you to enter a foreign nation.
To find information about obtaining a visa for Belize, see the Department of State’s Country Specific Information.
Staying Safe on Your Trip
Before you travel, it's always a good practice to investigate the local conditions, laws, political landscape, and culture of the country. The State Department is a good place to start.
The Department of State provides Country Specific Information for every country of the world about various issues, including the health conditions, crime, unusual currency or entry requirements, and any areas of instability.
Staying in Touch on Your Trip
When traveling during the adoption process, we encourage you to register your trip with the Department of State. Travel registration makes it possible to contact you if necessary. Whether there’s a family emergency in the United States, or a crisis in Belize, registration assists the U.S. Embassy or Consulate in reaching you.
Registration is free and can be done online.
What does Belize require of the adoptive parents after the adoption?
Adoption orders made under section 141 shall remain provisional for 12 months during which time quarterly reports shall be submitted to the court by a competent authority in the country where the adopted child lives on the status and progress of the adopted child. After the 12 months period has expired, an application can be made to the court for the adoption to be made final.
We strongly urge you to comply with the wish of Belize and complete all post-adoption requirements in a timely manner. Your adoption agency may be able to help you with this process. Your cooperation will contribute to that country’s history of positive experiences with American parents.
What resources are available to assist families after the adoption?
Many adoptive parents find it important to find support after the adoption. Take advantage of all the resources available to your family -- whether it’s another adoptive family, a support group, an advocacy organization, or your religious or community services.