In an international adoption situation, the adoptive parents receive a first call when a specific child has become available and then a second call when it is time for them to bring the child home. With an international adoption, most countries will require one or both of the adoptive parents to travel to the birth country and personally transport the child back to the United States. Multiple trips may be required, one or more of which is mandated to last for an extended period of several days or weeks. Other countries allow the adoptive parents to hire someone to act as their proxy for bringing the child home. Either option can become quite expensive.
Most countries will process and finalize the adoption before the adoptive parents and child return to the United States. The local courts will usually require documentation about the child being adopted, the home study report and dossier, and the BCIS approval forms before they will finalize the adoption.
While the adoption may have already been finalized in the birth country, it is not yet final in the United States. Once the family has brought the child home, they will need to contact the BCIS again and submit a form asking the United States to classify the child as their immediate relative. The BCIS will then issue the child one of two types of visas. The IR-2 Immigrant Visa is issued when the birth parents have had full legal and physical custody of their child in the birth country for at least 2 years. This type of visa would be granted to families who had been living overseas when they chose to adopt. The IR-3 Immigrant Visa is granted to families when the adoption has been finalized in the birth country more recently than two years ago, and when all requirements for adoption have been met in the United States.
Though not strictly necessary in all cases, most international adoption agencies and lawyers will strongly recommend to adoptive families that they go through the adoption process a second time in the U.S. after first doing so in the birth country so that there is no question that the adoption is fully recognized within the United States. A secondary U.S. adoption process is also required when the adoptive parents have hired a proxy individual to bring the child into the United States and have not actually seen the child prior to its arrival in the U.S. or when the family lives in the state of Iowa. Once the adoption has been finalized and recognized by the United States, the child officially gains U.S. citizenship without the family having to make any further applications.