How do I adopt a child from another country?
Intercountry adoptions are a two step process. First, there is the adoption process, which involves your province or territory of residence and the country from which you want to adopt. Please consult the intercountry adoption authority in your home province/territory for more information on how to adopt.
The second step is the immigration or citizenship process. This is where Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada comes in. Once the adoption has been authorized by the adoption authorities of your province/territory and the country where the child lives, you can proceed with the immigration or citizenship process to bring your adopted child to Canada. You should consult the website to decide which process to use.
We play no role in the first step of the intercountry adoption process. The immigration or citizenship process cannot proceed until the adoption has been approved by your province or territory and the adoption authority of the country where the child is being adoption from.
I’m a temporary resident, can I apply to adopt a child from another country?
No. In order to be eligible to adopt a child from another country you must either be a Canadian citizens or a permanent residents. Temporary residents are not eligible to apply for sponsorship to adopt a child.
My adoption is complete. What do I need now to bring my adopted child to Canada?
Once the province or territory issues a letter of no objection, you can begin the immigration or citizenship process to bring your adopted child to Canada. You should consult the website to decide which process to use.
Once you’ve decided on the process, you can get an application online. For more information see: how to apply through the immigration process; and through the citizenship process.
Does an adopted child need a travel document, like a visa, to come to Canada?
Yes. Before bringing your child to Canada, you must apply for the necessary travel document in order for your child to legally enter Canada. The document is either a permanent resident visa, or a Canadian passport through a grant of citizenship. To avoid unnecessary delays and costs, adoptive parents should not plan to return to Canada with the adopted child until they know with certainty that all immigration or citizenship requirements have been met.
How long will the adoption process take?
Adopting a child in another country takes time. Depending on the child’s country of origin, the process may take two years or longer.
Adoption cases are processed on a priority basis. That is true whether parents are applying for permanent residence or citizenship for their adopted child. There are no significant differences in processing times between the two processes. Find out more about processing times.
Long waits can seem unreasonable when you are anxious to welcome a new family member. However, to protect the child’s rights, international adoption must be a rigorous process. Both your provincial or territorial government in Canada, and the government of the country where the child lives, must approve the adoption.
To ensure the child’s rights are protected, visa officers must be satisfied that:
- adoptions are made in the best interests of child;
- adopted children have not been sold, trafficked or abducted from their parents; and
- documentation for the child is valid.
While not common, in countries where there is evidence of fraud or trafficking, investigations may be required. These investigations may take time.
See also Checking Processing Times questions.
I’ve done the necessary paperwork, I’m a citizen or permanent resident of good standing, and I went through a reputable adoption agency. Why is my adoption taking so long?
Intercountry adoption is a complex process. Canadian families planning to adopt a child in another country should understand that, even under ideal conditions, the process will take time. Depending on the child’s country of origin, it is not unusual for the entire process to take two years or even longer.
Intercountry adoption procedures established by IRCC are intended to protect the child. These include evidence that the biological parents have given their free and informed consent to the adoption before it takes place, and confirmation that the adoption is in accordance with the laws of both countries.
In some parts of the world, child trafficking is a serious concern, and documentation is non-existent or unreliable, or there is evidence of wrongdoing in the adoption system or limited infrastructure to support the protection of children. In these cases, we must do additional verifications to ensure the child was not taken from, or sold by, their biological parents.
Do the criteria for permanent residence and for a grant of citizenship differ for adopted children?
Yes. For an adopted person to be eligible for a direct grant of citizenship for adopted persons at least one of the adoptive parents must be a Canadian citizen at the time of the adoption, or, for adoptions that took place prior to January 1, 1947, at least one adoptive parent must have become a Canadian citizen on January 1, 1947 (or April 1, 1949, in the case of Newfoundland and Labrador for adoptions that took place prior to April 1, 1949) and be able to pass on Canadian citizenship to the adopted person. Other types of custody arrangements and adoption-like situations (guardianships) do not meet the requirements for a direct grant of citizenship for adopted persons. The adoptive parent must be eligible to pass on citizenship by descent.
If you choose to apply for citizenship through the direct grant of citizenship, your child will be affected by the first-generation limit to citizenship by descent. That means they will not be able to:
- pass on their citizenship to any children they may have outside Canada; or
- apply for a direct grant for any children they later adopt outside Canada, unless the co-sponsor for the adoption is a Canadian citizen by birth in Canada or through naturalization.
Both Canadian citizens and permanent residents can use the immigration process for their adopted children if the adopted person is going to live in Canada right after the adoption.
Another difference between the two processes is the adopted child does not have to undergo a medical exam or background checks when applying for a direct grant of citizenship. These are requirements when applying for permanent residence.
Where the requirements are the same for both types of applications, the adoption must:
- be in the best interests of the child;
- create a genuine parent-child relationship that permanently severs the legal ties to the child’s biological parents;
- accord with the laws of the country where the adoption took place and the laws where the adoptive parents live; and
- not have been entered into primarily to get a citizenship or immigration status or privilege.
If the adoption took place after the person turned 18:
- all the requirements listed above must be met (except for the “best interests of the child”);
- a genuine parent-child relationship must have existed when the adoption took place; and
- that relationship must have existed before the adopted person turned 18.
In addition to these requirements, the Strengthening Canadian Citizenship Act introduced a new requirement for direct grants of citizenship for adopted persons that the adoption must not have occurred in a manner that circumvented the legal requirements for international adoptions.
Are the fees the same for an adopted child for the permanent residence and citizenship processes?
No. The fees for permanent residence and citizenship applications differ. The Immigration and Refugee Protection Act and the Citizenship Act also use different age ranges for their fees.
A sponsorship fee and processing fee are required. If, when applying, the adopted person 19 years of age or over, the processing fee is higher. See the fees list for sponsorship and processing fees for permanent residence.
A separate processing fee is required. If, when applying, the adopted person is an adult (18 or older), the processing fee is higher and the right of citizenship fee is required. See the fees list for the processing and right of citizenship fees.
Are there countries from which I cannot adopt?
The list of countries with restrictions or suspensions can change at any time.
I have applied for permanent residence for my adopted child. Is it too late to apply for citizenship instead?
No. You can apply for a grant of citizenship for your adopted child, if:
- at least one parent is a Canadian citizen by birth in Canada or through naturalization at the time of the adoption; and
- you submit a citizenship grant application with the right documents and fees.
You do not need to withdraw your existing permanent residence application. However, if you do, you may be eligible for a refund, depending on when you withdraw.
- If you withdraw your application before the visa office has assessed the sponsorship portion, you will get a full refund.
- If the visa office has assessed the sponsorship portion but hasn’t started processing the permanent residence portion, you will get a partial refund (C$75 for children under 19 and C$475 for adults 19 or older).
- Once the visa office has started processing the permanent residence portion, you will not get a refund.
My adopted child has permanent residence. How can I apply for their citizenship?
If your adopted child is already a permanent resident, you can apply for a grant of citizenship. The same application form and fees apply to permanent or non-permanent residents. Adoptive parents can apply for either:
- a regular grant for a minor child of a Canadian; or
- a grant of citizenship under the adoption provision.
If you are an adoptive parent with permanent resident status, you can apply for citizenship for the child at the same time you apply for yourself.
Applying under the adoption provision
If you choose the grant of citizenship under the adoption provision, your child will be affected by the first-generation limit. That means your child will not be able to:
- pass on their citizenship to any children they may have outside Canada; or
- apply for a direct grant for any children they later adopt outside Canada unless the other adoptive parent is a Canadian citizen by birth in Canada or through naturalization.
Passing on citizenship to an adoptive child
Adoptive parents can pass on their Canadian Citizenship to an adopted child if the:
- Adoptive parents were Canadian citizens by birth in Canada or by naturalization at the time of adoption.
- Adoptions happened before January 1, 1947, and at least one parent was a Canadian citizen on January 1, 1947.
- Adoptions happened in Newfoundland and Labrador before April 1, 1949.
How does adoption affect my child’s relationship with their biological parents?
For both the immigration and citizenship process, an adoption is valid only if it ends the child’s legal relationship with the biological parents, and a new legal relationship is established between the adopting parents and the adopted child.
This means the child cannot later sponsor any of their biological relatives to come to Canada.
If my adopted child’s application is refused, what can I do?
The process to appeal the decision is different for the immigration and citizenship process.
If your adopted child’s application for permanent residence is refused, you may appeal the decision to the Immigration Appeal Division at the Immigration and Refugee Board.
If your adopted child’s application for a grant of citizenship is refused, you may apply for a judicial review of the decision to the Federal Court of Canada.
Will my child automatically have the right to a Canadian passport once they get citizenship?
Yes. As a Canadian citizen, your child can apply for a Canadian passport right after getting citizenship. To do so, they’ll need a citizenship certificate. However, if you cannot wait for the citizenship certificate to be issued to your adopted child, you may apply for a passport without one. With your consent, we’ll send confirmation of your child’s grant of citizenship to the Canadian government office outside Canada that will issue the passport.
I live in Quebec. Must a Quebec court recognize the adoption before my child can get citizenship?
No, your child can obtain Canadian citizenship before that recognition if:
- the adoption meets the requirements of subsection 5.1(3) of the Citizenship Act; and
- the Québec government confirms that the formal recognition is the only part of the adoption process still to be completed.
Please note that a Québec court must formally recognize the adoption for it to have effect in Québec only if the sending country has not ratified the Hague Convention. This is not required in cases where the sending country has ratified the Hague Convention.
The Secrétariat à l’adoption internationale (SAI) is the authority responsible for intercountry adoptions in Québec.
Should I apply for permanent residence for my adopted child, rather than Canadian citizenship?
Permanent residence might be better suited to some people than citizenship. For example, some parents might want to let their adopted child choose to become a Canadian citizen as an adult, rather than decide on behalf of their child. That might be especially true if their adopted child is from a country that does not recognize multiple citizenships.
Also, adoptees who become permanent residents before applying for citizenship will be able to:
- pass on their citizenship to children they may later have abroad; or
- apply for a direct grant of citizenship for children they may later adopt abroad.
Adoptees acquiring citizenship directly will not be able to do either of those things due to the first-generation limit, unless the other parent is a Canadian citizen through birth or naturalization in Canada.
Also, in order to apply for the direct route of citizenship on the behalf of your adoptive child, you must be a Canadian citizen born or naturalized in Canada.
Parents applying on behalf of a child whose adoption will be finalized in Canada will still need to apply for permanent residence.
What is the Hague Convention?
The Hague Convention protects children and their families against the risks of illegal, irregular, premature or ill-prepared adoptions abroad.
To do this, the Hague Convention puts:
- safeguards in place to make sure that all intercountry adoptions are in the best interests of the child and respects their human rights,
- a system in place of cooperation among countries to guarantee that these safeguards are respected, and to prevent the abduction of, sale of, or traffic in children.
For Hague adoptions, the authorities in both countries must agree to go ahead with the adoption. For non-Hague adoptions, requirements may vary from one country to another.
The Hague Convention does not allow private adoptions in the child's home country.
Adoption is a handled by the provinces and territories, and they all have and follow laws implementing the Hague Convention. They can explain the rules you need to follow under the Hague Convention and for adoptions from a country that is not a party to the Convention.
Find an intercountry adoption authority in Canada.
Can I adopt a child from countries experiencing armed conflict or natural disasters?
No. Canada follows the recommendations set out by the Hague Convention: Children from countries suffering from armed conflicts and natural disasters should not be considered for international adoption, and family tracing should be the priority in all cases.
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