How long does an international adoption take?

by Sue Merriam
(International Adoption Facts and Information)

How long does an international adoption take? The answer will depend on several factors, including you and the country you choose, and unfortunately the whims of bureaucrats both in the United States and overseas. In this article we'll go over each of these factors:


Yes, the length of time it takes for you to bring your child home from another country will depend greatly on you. That's because even though you will likely be paying an agency to facilitate your adoption, it will ultimately be up to you to get all your paperwork together.

Your international adoption caseworker can give you tips on the process, but you are the one who will have to get your birth certificates and marriage license, as well as referrals, criminal records and other important documents. You will also likely need to find a home study provider.

All of this may seem intimidating to a hopeful parent who has never had to gather these documents before, but it can be done. But you do have to start it now.

The Country You Choose

Different countries will take different lengths of time. For example, should you choose to adopt from China, expect the process to take 2-3 years. Adopt from Ethiopia on the other hand, and the process could be much shorter: a year or less.

If you choose to adopt independently from Ukraine, the process could be less than a year or more, depending on the time of year when you submit your application and again how fast you get your paperwork together.


Unfortunately, it's both necessary and maddening. The length of your international adoption process will depend on how long it takes for your documents to get processed. When we were in the process of adopting a child from Guatemala, the agency we worked with would not give us a referral until we obtained our clearance from the INS.

Due to the political environment at the time, it took a full nine months to get that clearance. Then, because there were fewer girls than boys, and it took another nine months to get our referral.

You may find similar road blocks and bumps in your international adoption process as well, but hang in there. Before you know it, your child will be in your arms, and those long days of waiting will just melt away.

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