Kenya 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 Kenya and the United States must meet the requirements of the Convention and U.S. law implementing the Convention.
PLEASE NOTE: Kenyan courts are not institutionally biased against foreigners seeking to adopt children in Kenya. Although it still remains an issue, the courts are beginning to take a more liberal view of racial differences between prospective adoptive parents (PAPs) and the adoptive child. Kenyan courts view the welfare of the child as paramount in reviewing an adoption case. Foreigners interested in adopting a child in Kenya may wish to employ legal representation that is familiar with Kenya's legal system, as the Kenyan Department of Children’s Services and the Kenyan Regional High Court’s interpretation of adoption laws can vary widely, depending on the case.
For an IR-3 (child adopted in Kenya) transition cases, the prospective adoptive parents will need to obtain an “Adoption Order” from the High Court of Kenya at Nairobi and a “Certificate of Entry in the Adopted Children Register.” The Kenyan government is not currently allowing children to be taken from Kenya if there is any intention that they will be adopted in the United States. Therefore, the U.S. Embassy in Nairobi is not issuing IR-4 (child to be adopted in the United States) visas.
It is illegal to publish an advertisement indicating that a parent or guardian desires to place a child for adoption, that a person wishes to adopt a child, or that a person (who is not an adoption society) is willing to facilitate the adoption of a child.
Prospective adoptive parents must reside in Kenya with the child for at least three months before legal procedures begin. Adoptive parents must submit post adoption reports on the child’s welfare (with pictures) for five years, every three months for the first 2 years immediately following the adoption and then every 6 months for the last three years. Post adoption reports are submitted to the adoption society that was initially identified by the prospective adoptive parents.
Note: Special transition provisions apply to adoptions initiated before April 1, 2008. Learn more.
WHO CAN ADOPT
Adoption between the United States and Kenya is governed by the Hague Adoption Convention. Therefore to adopt from Kenya, 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, Kenya also has the following requirements for prospective adoptive parents:
- Residency Requirements: After the placement, the prospective adoptive parents must reside in Kenya with the child for at least three months before Kenyan legal procedures begin. Although some legal adoption steps can be initiated before the three months period has been completed, and must be initiated under Hague, most of the legal work will only begin after the three month “homestay” with the child is finished.
- Age Requirements: One of the applicants must be more than 25 years old and more than 21 years older than the child and less than 65 years.
- Marriage Requirements: Adoption orders will not be granted to a single male applicant. However, for single female applicants, the courts make a determination when there are special circumstances. Under Kenyan law, adoption orders will not be granted to joint applicants not married to each other.
- Other Requirements:
- The applicants can be a relative.
- Prospective adoptive parents must be of sound mind, as defined by the Kenyan Mental Health Act.
- Under Kenyan law, adoption orders will not be granted to applicant(s) who have been charged and convicted by a court of competent jurisdiction for or of any offence against children under Kenyan laws. (Note: USCIS also requires a criminal background check to be done on all petitioners and may find families ineligible as well).
- Under Kenyan law, adoption orders will not be granted to gay and lesbian individuals or couples.
WHO CAN BE ADOPTED
Because Kenya is party to the Hague Adoption Convention, children from Kenya must meet the requirements of the Convention in order to be eligible for adoption. For example, the Convention requires that Kenya attempt to place a child with a family in Kenya before determining that a child is eligible for intercountry adoption. In addition to Kenyan requirements, a child must meet the definition of a Convention adoptee for you to bring him or her back to the United States.
- Age Requirements: Child(ren) must be at least 6 weeks old and declared free for adoption by a registered adoption society
- Consent Must be Obtained as Follows:
- 1. If applicable, from existing parents, guardians or any one else contributing to the maintenance of the child under any agreement or order;
- 2. If applicable, from parents or guardian(s) of the mother of the child in a case where the mother is a minor;
- 3. If applicable, from the step-father who has acquired parental responsibility
- 4. From the spouse of the prospective adoptive parent, if the spouse is not available in person.
- 5. In case of foreigners not residing in Kenya, the consent of a competent jurisdiction or a government authority situated in the country where both or one of the spouses ordinarily resides, permitting the spouses to adopt a foreign child. (Note: An approved I-800A is usually acceptable);
- 6. In case of a child who has attained the age of 14 years, the consent of the child.
- Other Requirements:
- It is of high importance to note that under the Hague Convention the child to be adopted must not be previously adopted or subject to a grant of custody (has not had prior contact with the prospective adoptive parents) before processing begins. The Kenyan Department of Children’s Services has the responsibility of matching and placing a child to be adopted with prospective adoptive parents.
- Any child who is resident in Kenya must be legally adopted whether or not the child is a Kenyan citizen or was born in Kenya.
- The adoption order cannot be granted unless the child concerned has been in the continuous care of the prospective adoptive couple for more than three consecutive months preceding the filling of the applications and both the child and the applicant(s) may be evaluated and assessed by a registered adoption society in Kenya.
HOW TO ADOPT
Kenya’s Adoption Authority
The government office responsible for adoptions in Kenya is the High Court and the Department of Children’s Services.
Because Kenya is party to the Hague Adoption Convention, adopting from Kenya 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 Kenya 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 Kenya
Bringing your Child Home
1. Choose an Accredited Adoption Service Provider:
The first step in adopting a child from Kenya 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 Kenya. Learn more.
The Department of Children’s Services can provide a list of currently registered adoption societies with which PAPs may deal.
The U.S. Embassy in Nairobi maintains a list of attorneys, but is not aware of any specializing specifically in adoptions. The attorneys list can be found on the U.S. Embassy website at http://nairobi.usembassy.gov under the Consular Section tab.
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 Kenya. Kenya’s adoption authority will review your application to determine whether you are also eligible to adopt under Kenyan law.
3. Be Matched with a Child:
If both the United States and Kenya determine that you are eligible to adopt, and a child is available for intercountry adoption, the central adoption authority in Kenya 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.
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 inelegibilities. If the Consular Office determines that the child appears eligible to immigrate to the United States, he/she will notify the Kenyan 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 Kenya:
Remember: Before you adopt (or gain legal custody of) a child in Kenya, 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 Kenya.
The process for finalizing the adoption (or gaining legal custody) in Kenya generally includes the following:
- · Role of Adoption Authority: The Kenyan Department of Children’s Services has the responsibility of matching and placing a child to be adopted with prospective adoptive parents.
- · Role of the Court: A guardian ad litem will be appointed by the court for the child pending the hearing and determination of the adoption application.
Duties of the Guardian Ad Litem:
- 1. Safeguard the interests of the child pending the determination of the adoption proceedings;
- 2. Investigate and appraise the court as to the circumstances pertinent to the adoption of the child in the prescribed manner;
- 3. Make recommendations as to the priority of making any interim orders or an adoption order in respect of the child;
- 4. Intervene on behalf of the child and arrange for the care of the child in the event of the withdrawal of any consent;
- 5. Undertake such duties as the court may direct.
Where arrangements for adoption of any child have been made by the Child Welfare Society of Kenya, neither the society nor any member thereof shall be appointed Guardian Ad Litem of the same child.
The appointment of a Guardian Ad Litem expires upon the making of a final adoption order by the court.
The couple must satisfy the court that the country where they ordinarily reside and where they expect to reside with the child immediately after adoption will respect and recognize the adoption order and will grant resident status to the child. (Note: An approved I-800A and I-800 should be sufficient to meet this requirement. However, the High Courts have had additional concerns regarding this requirement and at the time of this revision, it has sometimes caused significant delays.)
The couple must have been authorized and recommended as persons who are suitable (including being “morally fit” and “financially capable”) to adopt a foreign child by a competent government authority or court of competent jurisdiction in the country where they expect to reside with the child immediately following the making of the adoption order. (Note: Submission of the U.S. home study approval has often, but not always, been allowed to meet this requirement.)
The court may impose such terms and conditions as it deems fit:
- 1. Require the adopter by bond or otherwise to make for the child such provision as in the opinion of the court just and expedient;
- 2. Require the adopter to accept supervision by and advice from an adoption society specified by the court for such period as the court may specify;
- 3. Where the consent to the making of an adoption order is conditioned upon the child being brought up in a particular religious persuasion, require the infant to be brought up in that persuasion;
- 4. Where the adopter is not a resident of Kenya, require him/her to avail such periodical reports from a court of competent authority in the adopters’ country of residence for such period as the Kenyan court may specify. (Note: The U.S. Embassy in Kenya is not aware of what might be asked of the adoptive parent to meet this requirement or if the government asks for any additional documents.)
- ROLE OF ADOPTION AGENCIES: Every foreigner wishing to adopt a child should be sponsored by a social or child welfare agency recognized or licensed by the Government of the country in which the foreigner is resident. The adoption service provider identified by the prospective adoptive parents conducts the home study. Families can contact Kenyan Department of Children’s Services at Tel: (254) (020) 2228-411 for a list of registered Kenyan adoption agencies.
The Home Study must include the following information:
- Social status and family background;
- Description of home including the number of bedrooms and whether it can comfortably accommodate the child;
- Standard of living as it appears in the home;
- Current relationship between husband and wife;
- Current relationship between the parents and children (if any children);
- Development of previously adopted children (if any);
- Current relationship between the couple and the members of each others family;
- Employment status of the couple;
- Health details such as clinical tests, past illnesses etc., (medical certificates);
- Economic status of the couple;
- Accommodation for the child;
- Schooling facilities;
- Amenities in the home;
- Reasons for wanting to adopt a Kenyan child;
- Attitudes of relatives towards adoption;
- Anticipated plans for the adoptive child;
- Legal status of the prospective adoptive parents.
- TIME FRAME: Bearing in mind that the adopting couple must reside in Kenya with the child for at least three months before the legal procedure begins; the average length of the adoption process is likely to be between six to twelve months after placement of the child with the PAPs. Please note that this time frame includes the three month residency requirement.
- ADOPTION APPLICATION: All adoption orders are finalized in Kenya prior to applicant’s leaving the country and upon their fulfillment of all requirements.
- 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.
The U.S. Embassy in Kenya discourages the payment of any fees that are not properly receipted, “donations,” or “expediting” fees, that may be requested from prospective adoptive parents. Such fees have the appearance of “buying” a baby and put all future adoptions in Kenya at risk.
Kenyan law prohibits financial transactions between individuals involved in an adoption proceeding. Some payments are permitted, for example, to an adoption society for maintenance of the child, or to an attorney who acts for any of the parties or in connection with an application for an adoption order. Any payment or reward made by a prospective adoptive parent or guardian of a child or a third party facilitating the adoption for the purpose of making an adoption order, is considered illegal.
- DOCUMENTS REQUIRED:
- Home study report of the adoptive parents prepared by a professional social worker;
- Recent photographs of the adoptive family;
- Marriage certificate of adoptive parents;
- Declaration concerning health of adoptive parents;
- Certificate of medical fitness of adoptive parents duly certified by a medical doctor;
- Declaration regarding financial status of foreign adoptive parents along with supporting documents including employers’ certificate, where applicable;
- Employment certificate of adoptive parents, where applicable;
- Income tax records of adoptive parents;
- Bank references;
- Particulars of property owned by the adoptive parents;
- Declaration from adoptive parents stating willingness to adopt the child;
- Undertaking from the social or child welfare enlisted agency sponsoring the foreigner to the effect that child would be legally recognized as a citizen of the adoptive parent’s country without any form of discrimination and that the child would be entitled to the same rights as citizens of that country;
- Undertaking from the adoptive parents that adopted child would be provided necessary education and upbringing according to the status of adoptive parents;
- Undertaking from the social and child welfare enlisted agency that a report relating to progress of the child, along with his/her recent photograph, will be sent to Child Welfare Society of Kenya every three months during first two years, and every six months for the next three years, for a total of five years;
- Power of Attorney from adoptive parents in favor of Child Welfare Society of Kenya which will be required to process the case and such Power of Attorney should authorize the Attorney to handle the cases on behalf of the foreigner in case the foreigner is not in a position to come to Kenya during the initial stages of the adoption. (Note: Kenyan law requires that both the minor being adopted and the adoptive parents MUST be resident in Kenya for at least three consecutive months before the legal process begins and both MUST also be present during the court hearing for the adoption);
- Certificate from the enlisted social or child welfare agency sponsoring the application of the foreigner to the effect that the prospective adoptive parents are permitted to adopt a child according to the laws of their country. (Note: An approved I-800A should be sufficient to meet this requirement.)
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.
Your child is not yet a U.S. citizen, so he/she will need a travel document or Passport from Kenya.
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. Learn more.
Once the U.S. Embassy in Nairobi receives the provisionally approved I-800 form from USCIS , the PAPs will be asked to submit form DS – 230, photos of the child(ren) to be adopted, and the visa fee. Parents will also need to pick up a medical exam packet from the Consular section at this time. The medical exam will need to be completed by a physician in Nairobi certified by the Embassy to perform exams. After the PAPs have obtained the final court order from the Kenyan High Court in Nairobi as well as the “letter of no objection” (Article 23 certificate) from the Kenyan Department of Children’s Services, PAPs or the adoption service provider should contact the Consular section to make the Immigrant visa appointment.
Parents are strongly advised to read the instructions found at http://nairobi.usembassy.gov on how to apply for an immigrant visa for the adopted child.
NOTE: Visa issuance after the final interview now generally takes at least 48 hours and it will not normally be possible to provide the visa to adoptive parents on the day of the interview. Adoptive parents should verify current processing times at the appropriate consulate or embassy before making final travel arrangements.
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 Kenya. 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 Kenya, 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 Kenya, registration assists the U.S. Embassy or Consulate in reaching you.
Registration is free and can be done online.
What does Kenya require of the adoptive parents after the adoption?
Kenya’s post-adoption regulations require adoptive parents to submit post adoption reports on the child’s welfare (with pictures) for five years - every three months for the first two years immediately following the adoption and then every six months for the last three years.
We strongly urge you to comply with the wish of Kenya 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.
Here are some good places to start your support group search:
Note: Inclusion of non-U.S. Government links does not imply endorsement of contents.