Samoa is not party to the Hague Convention on Protection of Children and Co-operation in Respect of Intercountry Adoption (Hague Adoption Convention). Therefore, when the Hague Adoption Convention entered into force for the United States on April 1, 2008, intercountry adoption processing for Samoa did not change.
Samoan law places restrictions on the “overseas adoption” of Samoan children by any person who is not a citizen of Samoa. See the “Eligibility Requirements” section below for further details.
The American Embassy Apia, Samoa, does not process immigrant visas. This process must be completed through the American Consulate General in Auckland, New Zealand.
WHO CAN ADOPT
To bring an adopted child to United States from Samoa, you must 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, Samoa also has the following requirements for prospective adoptive parents:
RESIDENCY REQUIREMENTS: There is no specific requirement that the applicants be residents of Samoa.
AGE REQUIREMENTS: Prospective adoptive parents must be of the age of majority, which is 21.
MARRIAGE REQUIREMENTS: Prospective adoptive parents may be married or single.
INCOME REQUIREMENTS: Prospective adoptive parents must be able to demonstrate a sufficient income to comfortably provide for an adopted child.
WHO CAN BE ADOPTED
Samoa has specific requirements that a child must meet in order to be eligible for adoption. You cannot adopt a child in Samoa unless he or she meets the requirements outlined below.
In addition to these requirements, a child must meet the definition of an orphan under U.S. law for you to bring him or her back to the United States. Learn more about these U.S. requirements.
Relinquishment Requirements: A form confirming the relinquishment of the rights of the natural parents over the child is included in the Court adoption application.
Age Requirements: The child must be below the age of 21 years old.
Waiting Period: Subject to the time required to prepare and process Court papers and Court schedule.
Other Requirements: Samoan law requires that before any Samoan court grants an adoption of a Samoan child to a citizen of another country, the Samoan Attorney General must certify that:
(a) the child has no suitable family members in Samoa who are willing and able to care for the child in Samoa; and
(b) there is no other suitable arrangement available in Samoa.
HOW TO ADOPT
Samoan Adoption Authority
The government offices responsible for adoptions in Samoa are the Ministry of Justice & Courts Administration, and the Office of the Attorney General.
The process for adopting a child from Samoa generally includes the following steps:
Choose an Adoption Service Provider
Apply to be Found Eligible to Adopt
Be Matched with a Child
Adopt the Child (or Gain Legal Custody) in Samoa
Apply for the Child to be Found Eligible for Adoption
Bring Your Child Home
1. Choose an Adoption Service Provider
The first step in adopting a child from Samoa is usually to select a licensed agency in the United States that can help with your adoption. Adoption service providers must be licensed by the U.S. state in which they operate. Learn more about choosing the right adoption service provider.
Samoan law requires that adoption agencies, prior to facilitating adoptions in or from Samoa, must be registered with the Samoan Government and have the prior written authorization from the Attorney General.
The U.S. Embassy in Apia maintains a list of attorneys at: http://wellington.usembassy.gov/pacific_islands.html.
2. Apply to be Found Eligible to Adopt
To bring an adopted child from Samoa to the United States, you must apply to be found eligible to adopt (Form I-600A) by the U.S. Government, Department of Homeland Security, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). Learn how.
In addition to meeting the U.S. requirements for adoptive parents, you need to meet the requirements of Samoa as described in the Who Can Adopt section.
3. Be Matched with a Child
If you are eligible to adopt, and a child is available for intercountry adoption, the central adoption authority in Samoa will provide you with a referral to a child. Each family must decide for itself whether or not it will be able to meet the needs of a particular child and provide a permanent family placement for the referred child.
The child must be eligible to be adopted according to Samoan requirements, as described in the Who Can be Adopted section. The child must also meet the definition of an orphan under U.S. law. Learn more.
4. Adopt the Child (or Gain Legal Custody) in Samoa
The process for finalizing the adoption (or gaining legal custody) in Samoa generally includes the following:
ROLE OF THE ADOPTION AUTHORITY: The Attorney General must certify that the child has no family or other possibilities within Samoa before an adoption degree may be granted.
ROLE OF THE COURT: Adoption applications must be made to the District Court.
ROLE OF ADOPTION AGENCIES: To facilitate the adoption of a child.
ADOPTION APPLICATION: Prepared by law firm who is also an adoption agency.
TIME FRAME: The adoption process may take from several months to a year or more.
ADOPTION FEES: Attorneys’ fees range from ST$900- ST$3000. In addition, prospective adoptive parents should expect to pay approximately ST$300 for justice and court administration fees. [As of the date of this flyer, the exchange rate is approximately ST$3 to USD$1.]
- Original Birth Certificates for adoptive parents
- Original Marriage Certificate for adoptive parents
- Proof of Citizenship – Naturalization Certificates/Passports
- Original birth certificate for adopted child
- Proof of ownership of home from adoptive parents - proof of adequate space in the home to accommodate an additional household member.
NOTE: Additional documents may be requested.
5. Apply for the Child to be Found Eligible for Adoption
After you finalize the adoption (or gain legal custody) in Samoa, the U.S Government, Department of Homeland Security, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) MUST determine whether the child is eligible under U.S. law to be adopted (Form I-600). Learn how.
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 several 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 Samoa.
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 Consulate General in Auckland 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-600 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.
The U.S. Embassy in Apia, Samoa does not handle immigrant visa applications or issue immigrant visas. Immigrant visa applications for Samoan citizens are handled at the U.S. Consulate General in Auckland, New Zealand. Processing an immigrant visa may require both the adoptive parent(s) and the child to travel to Auckland for the formal interview after all documentation is in order. Adoptive or prospective adoptive parents of Samoan children should contact the U.S. Embassy in Apia for additional information and guidance as soon as possible after locating a child. This is particularly true if it appears that the Samoan court is expected to act favorably on the adoption application. The U.S. Embassy in Apia will then notify the Immigrant Visa Section at Consulate General in Auckland of the prospective case, so that the adoptive parents can be provided with the visa forms and medical examination instructions.
Once a Samoan court has approved an application for adoption by American prospective adoptive parents, those parents must file a Form I-600, Petition for Orphan Classification, with the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) division of the Department of Homeland Security. If the adoptive parents already have an approved Form I-600A, Application for Advance Processing of Orphan Petition, from USCIS, they may file the I-600 either in the United States or in person at the Consulate General in Auckland at the same time as the visa application on behalf of the adopted child. If the I-600 is filed in Auckland, generally both parents must be present. If one parent cannot be present, then the non-traveling parent must sign the I-600 before a U.S. notary public, and then the traveling parent will file the I-600 in Auckland. Please see the “Additional Information” section below for links to USCIS web pages where additional important guidance is available.
Please note: once a visa application has been lodged in Auckland, the applicant may need to wait up to 3 months until a consular officer has the opportunity to visit Samoa in order to conduct any necessary interviews with the adopted child’s birth parents, and conduct any necessary investigations before USCIS can approve the I-600 petition.
Note: Once the I-600 is approved and on file, and all documents are in order, the immigrant visa process in Auckland should take approximately 1-2 days.
Child Citizenship Act
For adoptions finalized abroad: The Child Citizenship Act of 2000 allows your new child to acquire American citizenship automatically when he or she enters the United States as lawful permanent residents.
For adoptions finalized in the United States: The Child Citizenship Act of 2000 allows your new child to acquire American citizenship automatically when the court in the United States issues the final adoption decree.
*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 Samoa. 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 Samoa, 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 Samoa registration assists the U.S. Embassy or Consulate in reaching you.
Registration is free and can be done online.
What does Samoa require of the adoptive parents after the adoption?
We strongly urge you to comply with the wish of Samoa 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 is a good place to start your support group search:
Note: Inclusion of non-U.S. Government links does not imply endorsement of contents.