Mexico 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 Mexico and the United States must meet the requirements of the Convention and U.S. law and regulations implementing the Convention.
Mexico has a complex system for adoptions, involving the Mexican Central Authority (MCA) and the Secretary of the Exterior Relations based in Mexico City and 31 adoption authorities (one in each Mexican state). The civil code in each state may vary, so prospective adoptive parents need to be aware of the state from which they plan to adopt and its applicable adoption laws. The Mexican Central Authority and the Secretary of the Exterior Relations finalize all adoptions.
Note: Special transition provisions apply to adoptions initiated before April 1, 2008. Learn more.
Updated: April 2008
WHO CAN ADOPT
The process for legally adopting a child in the Republic of Mexico is long and sometimes difficult. Unscrupulous agents who obtain children outside the legal network sometimes approach couples. Adoptive children who enter the United States without an immigrant visa may later encounter problems with U.S. citizenship, schools, Social Security, etc., and risk being deported back to the Republic of Mexico even if they have legal U.S.-citizen parents under Mexican law.
Adoption between the United States and Mexico is governed by the Hague Adoption Convention. Therefore to adopt from Mexico, 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, Mexico also has the following eligibility requirements for prospective adoptive parents:
- Residency Requirements: Mexican adoption procedures include a one to three week pre-adoption trial period, during which the child lives with the prospective adoptive parent(s) in Mexico. Because of the large amount of paperwork in both the Mexican and American processes, the State System for the Full Development of the Family (Desarrollo Integral de la Familia, or DIF) suggests adoptive parents be prepared to spend at least three months in Mexico including the pre-adoption trial period.
- Age Requirements: Prospective adoptive parents must be over 25 years of age and at least 17 years older than the child. If married, only one parent must meet the age requirement.
- Marriage Requirements: Prospective adoptive parents may be married or single, male or female.
- Income Requirements: Prospective adoptive parents must demonstrate the means to support the physical and educational needs of the child.
Note: While similar, each Mexican state does have its own civil code governing adoptions. Therefore, it is important to check with each state, as the laws among states will vary.
WHO CAN BE ADOPTED
Because Mexico is party to the Hague Adoption Convention, children from Mexico must meet the requirements of the Convention in order to be eligible for adoption. For example, the Convention requires that Mexico attempt to place a child with a family in-country before determining that a child is eligible for intercountry adoption. In addition to Mexico’s requirements, a child must meet the definition of a Convention adoptee for you to bring him or her back to the United States.
Learn more about the Convention’s requirements for adoptable children.
HOW TO ADOPT
Mexican Central Authority
State System for the Full Development of the Family, Desarrollo Integral de la Familia (DIF)
Because Mexico is party to the Hague Adoption Convention, adopting from Mexico 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 to meet all necessary legal requirements for adoption.
Note: If you filed your I-600A with Mexico before April 1, 2008, the Hague Adoption Convention may not apply to your adoption; it could continue to be processed in accordance with the immigration regulations for non-Convention adoptions. Learn more.
1. Choose an Accredited Adoption Service Provider
2. Apply to be Found Eligible to Adopt
3. Be Matched with a Child
4. Apply for the Child to be Found Eligible for Adoption
5. Adopt the Child in Mexico
6. Bring your Child Home
1. Choose an Accredited Adoption Service Provider
The first step in adopting a child from Mexico is to select an accredited or approved adoption service provider in the United States. Only these agencies and attorneys can provide adoption services between the United States and Mexico. Learn more.
Prospective adoptive parents should contact DIF in the state where the adoption will take place because procedures can vary by state.
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 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 adoption service provider will forward your information to the Central Authority in Mexico. The DIF’s Technical Councils on Adoptions will convene to review your application and determine whether you are also eligible to adopt under Mexican law. Once approved, your name(s) will be added to a waiting list maintained by DIF as the legal representative for abandoned children and provider of foster care for abused or orphaned minors.
3. Be Matched with a Child
If both the United States and Mexico determine that you are eligible to adopt, and a child is available for intercountry adoption, DIF 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.
When you receive a referral from DIF, it will arrive in the form of a letter directly to you or to your adoption service provider, informing you that the application for adoption has been approved. All available information on the child will be provided to the prospective adoptive parent(s) at this time. If you agree to adopt the child, send a letter to DIF instructing them to continue with the adoption process. At this point, DIF will coordinate a meeting to introduce the child to the prospective adoptive parent(s).
4. Apply for the Child to be Found Eligible for Adoption
After you accept a match with a child, you will apply to the USCIS for provisional approval to adopt that particular child (Form I-800). USCIS will determine whether the child is eligible under U.S. immigration law to be adopted and enter the United States (learn how). Form I-800, like Form I-800A, must be submitted in the United States. However, USCIS regional offices in Mexico handle cases in particular states: USCIS Tijuana handles the Mexican states of Baja California, Sinaloa and Sonora. USCIS Ciudad Juarez handles Chihuahua and Durango. USCIS Monterrey handles Coahuila, Nuevo León, Tamaulipas, San Luis Potosí, Zacatecas and Aguascalientes. The rest of Mexico is handled by USCIS Mexico City.
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 Officer determines that the child appears eligible to immigrate to the United States, he or she will notify the DIF (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.
Prior to the adoption proceeding any further, the prospective adoptive parent(s) will be required to reside in Mexico with the child for a one to three week period of time.
5. Adopt the Child (or Gain Legal Custody) in Mexico
Remember: Before you adopt (or gain legal custody of) a child in Mexico, 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 Mexico.
The process for finalizing the adoption (or gaining legal custody) in Mexico generally includes the following:
- Role of The Central Authority: The DIF is a government institution with branches in each Mexican state to handle family matters. The DIF acts as the legal representative for abandoned children and provides foster care for abused or orphaned minors. Children who are abandoned or orphaned can be given up for adoption by the DIF. The DIF and the Mexican Foreign Relations are assigned responsibility to study each child’s eligibility for international adoption and arrange adoptions. The DIF determines whether a family would be suitable for a particular child by ensuring that a home study has been done. The DIF makes every effort to place children with relatives or Mexican citizens living in Mexico before placing children for inter-country adoption.
Note: Although the DIF is more involved in the adoption process than the Mexican Central Authority (MCA), the MCA is the competent authority that certifies that an adoption or grant of custody has occurred in accordance with the Convention. All article 23 certificates or equivalent for grants of custody will be issued by the MCA.
- Role of The Court: Judicial proceedings occur in Mexico depending on the laws of the state.
- Role of The Adoption Agencies: Because Mexico is a Convention country, adoption services must be provided by an accredited agency, temporarily accredited agency, approved person, supervised provider, or exempted provider. Learn more.
- Time Frame: The general time frame for adoptions in Mexico ranges from three to eight months, but varies from state to state. Again, prospective adoptive parents should check with the state where the adoption will take place.
- Adoption Application: The application should be filed by the prospective adoptive parent(s) or the adoption service provider with DIF.
- Adoption Fees: DIF charges approximately $250 USD for adoption services but costs vary state-by-state. Generally, the fees include all applicable taxes. The DIF office also has its own lawyers and their services are also included in the fee. Using an attorney or adoption service provider for DIF adoptions is optional for the prospective adoptive parent(s). These expenses should have been itemized in the fees and estimated expenses section of your adoption services contract. Learn more.
Note: The U.S. Embassy in Mexico City discourages the payment of any fees that are not properly receipted, “donations,” or “expediting” fees, that may be requested of prospective adoptive parents. Such fees have the appearance of “buying” a baby and put future adoptions in Mexico at risk.
- Documents Required: The following documents are required for adoption in Mexico:
- Certified copy of prospective adoptive parent’s birth certificate or a U.S. passport as proof of U.S. citizenship;
- Certified copy of marriage certificate, if applicable;
- A statement from the employer of the prospective parent who is the primary supporter of the family. This statement must indicate the position, years of service with the employer, and salary;
- Copy of the most recent bank statement or other evidence of financial holdings as proof of financial solvency;
- Two letters of recommendation from people who can attest to the character of the adoptive parents. A married couple should obtain letters from persons who have known them as a married couple. Each letter should include the address and telephone number of the person writing the letter;
- Certificate from the state police from the prospective adoptive parent’s state of residence in the U.S. verifying that the adoptive parents have no police record. The FBI fingerprint check for the I-800A fulfills this requirement;
- A copy of a social, economic, and psychological study of the parent’s home situation conducted by an agency of the state of the child’s proposed residence, or an adoption service provider authorized by that state to conduct such a study, and or by an appropriate public or private adoption service provider accredited or approved in the United States. The home study conducted for the I-800A fulfills this requirement;
- One 3x3-inch color photograph of each prospective adoptive parent; and
- Two 3x5-inch photographs of the prospective adoptive parent(s) in the home or on a family outing.
All documentation listed above must be apostilled by the Secretary of State of the U.S. state of origin of the document, translated into Spanish by an official translator of the Mexican Consulate nearest to the prospective adoptive parent’s(s’) place of residence in the United States. When all the documents have been assembled, they should be sent to the person or organization in Mexico acting as the adoption agent/representative for presentation to the Mexican court.
6. Bring 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. At the same time, the child should be registered under his or her new name with the Mexican authorities.
Your child is not yet a U.S. citizen, so he or she will need a travel document or passport from Mexico to enter the United States. The Mexican Foreign Ministry, the Secretaría de Relaciones Exteriores (SRE), requires that a Mexican passport be issued to the child in the child’s new name after the adoption proceedings are completed. Passports issued to a child prior to the final decree of adoption are not valid for travel purposes under the new identity of the child. In order to obtain information on how to obtain the child’s new passport, please visit www.sre.gob/passports.
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 Department of State for your child. After the adoption (or custody for purpose of adoption) is granted, visit the U.S. Consulate General 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.
All immigrant visas, including visas for adopted children, are processed at the U.S. Consulate General in Ciudad Juarez, just across the border from El Paso, Texas. The immigrant visa is issued on the same day if the adoptive parents arrive at Consulate General Ciudad Juarez before 11:00 a.m. Prospective adoptive parents do not need an appointment.
Note: Visa issuance after the final interview generally takes at least 24 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 Consulate General in Ciudad Juarez 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 Mexico. 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.
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 Mexico, registration assists the U.S. Embassy or Consulate in reaching you.
Registration is free and can be done online.
What does Mexico require of the adoptive parents after the adoption?
We strongly urge you to comply with the wish of Mexico 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. Check with your adoption service provider to verify any post-adoption requirements.
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.