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Adopting a child from abroad

Region: Ontario Answer # 664

It can be very difficult and time-consuming to adopt a child in Canada. For personal or humanitarian reasons, many people choose to adopt a child from abroad. This is a complicated process, and you should consult an immigration lawyer.

For all international adoptions, two separate processes must be followed: 1) the adoption process, and 2) the immigration or citizenship process. In Canada, while the same immigration laws apply across the country, the rules for adoption differ in each province and territory.


1.   The adoption process

The first step in the adoption process is to contact the adoption authorities of the province where the child will live to determine the provincial adoption requirements.  All Ontario residents adopting a child from another country are required to use the services of an Ontario licensed adoption practitioner and adoption agency involved in international adoptions.  Generally, adoption agencies charge between $20,000 to $50,000 for their services.

Ontario residents are required to undergo a homestudy evaluation and complete a program before being permitted to adopt a child from abroad.

The Structured Analysis Family Evaluation (SAFE) homestudy is completed by licensed social workers approved by the Ministry of Children and Youth Services before approving the arrangements for the adoption. The purpose of the homestudy is to assess the ability of the applicants to parent an adopted child, and involves discussions about the applicants’ attitudes towards parenting as well as exploring their values and beliefs. It can include references, medical reports and other personal information. The homestudy must be submitted to the Ministry for review and approval. If the homestudy is favourable, in most cases, the Ministry will issue a letter approving the parents as suitable and eligible to adopt. This approval is valid for 24 months.

The Parent Resources for Information and Development and Education (PRIDE) program is a training program developed to help prepare prospective parents for the responsibilities of raising an adopted child. The course includes a number of topics, such as: the importance of connections to the child’s birth family and relatlives, and the importance of cultural and racial awareness.

Once the Ministry approves the applicants to become parents and they have completed the PRIDE program, their adoption agency will prepare and submit a file with all the relevant information to the country from which the child is being adopted. The wait-time to hear a response differs from country to country. However, if within two years you do not receive a proposal regarding a child available for adoption, you will have to update your homestudy and get a new letter of approval from the Ministry.

Once the adoption agency has received a proposal, they will review it to ensure it is compatible with the recommendations in the homestudy. After you have reviewed the details of the proposal with your practitioner, if you decide you want to proceed with the adoption, your practitioner will prepare a consent report. The consent form, along with supporting documents, will be sent to the Ministry for review.

You must then travel to child’s country to meet the child you are planning to adopt. For adoption in some countries, you may be required to visit the child more than once. You will then complete the necessary steps for adoption required by the child’s country.


2.   Obtain immigration status for the child

Once the adoption process has been completed, the parents must make an application to Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) to obtain immigration status for the child to enter Canada.

If at least one adoptive parent is a Canadian citizen at the time of adoption, you will likely be able to obtain Canadian citizenship for the child right away, without having to obtain permanent residency first. If both parents are permanent residents of Canada at the time of adoption, you must sponsor the child and make an application for him or her to become a permanent resident.

Canadian citizenship application

If you qualify, once the adoption process is complete, you can apply for Canadian citizenship for your child.

You must complete the two-part Application for Canadian citizenship for a person adopted by a Canadian citizen and mail it, together with the non-refundable application fee, and any required documents to IRCC. If your child’s application is approved, the adopted child will be granted citizenship and official documentation confirming this will be sent to you. Once citizenship is granted, you must obtain a passport or other official travel document in order for the adopted child to enter Canada.

Visit IRCC for complete instructions and list of what is needed in an application for Citizenship for your adopted child.

To determine whether you qualify to apply for your adopted child to become a Canadian citizen, contact IRCC or consult an immigration lawyer.

Permanent residence application

This immigration process has two parts: 1) the application for sponsorship; and 2) the application for permanent residence for the child.

1) Application for sponsorship

After a child has been adopted according to the laws of the child’s home country, the adoptive parents sponsor the child to come to Canada. Begin the immigration process by submitting a sponsorship application for a family class immigrant. The application will include a number of required documents and a non-refundable processing fee.

To sponsor the immigration of an adopted child, you must be a Canadian citizen or permanent resident aged 18 or older. You must promise to provide support for the child for 10 years or until the child reaches the age of 25, and you must demonstrate that you are able to provide financial support.


2) Application for permanent residence

Next, the adoptive parents should complete an application for permanent residence in Canada on behalf of the child. This application should be submitted to the Canadian visa office in the child’s home country.

When the sponsorship application is approved, a visa officer will decide whether the child can be admitted into Canada as an immigrant.

Three conditions must be satisfied before the immigrant visa is issued:

  1. the child must meet all the basic immigration requirements including a medical exam,
  2. the provincial child welfare authority must approve the adoption, and
  3. the foreign authority must allow the transfer of the child to the adoptive parents.

After the child arrives in Canada as a permanent resident, parents can apply for citizenship on the child’s behalf. However, the adoption must be finalized before the child can be granted citizenship.

You should not return to Canada with the adopted child until you know that all immigration requirements have been met. When your adoptive child arrives in Canada, he or she will be met by an officer from the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) who will ask to see the child’s passport or travel documents.

You can obtain more information about international adoption from an immigration lawyer or the Ministry of Children, Community and Social Services, or from Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada. To find foreign consulates and embassies in your province, click here.

Get help

A criminal record will delay, and can even prevent you from getting your immigration status. To erase your criminal record, call toll-free 1-888-808-3628 or learn more at Pardon Partners. It’s easier than you think.

For legal advice and assistance with your international adoption application and other immigration matters, contact our preferred Immigration experts, Bright Immigration Consultants .

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