There are several categories of immigrant visas in the United States. One of them is the Immediate Relative Visa. This group of visas favors immediate relatives and family members of U.S. citizens who live outside the United States. They are designated by the letters IR and are as follows:
- IR1 visas for spouses of U.S. citizens
- IR2 visas for unmarried children under 21 of U.S. citizens
- IR3 visa for children of U.S. citizens adopted abroad
- IR4 visa for children adopted in the U.S. by U.S. citizens
- IR5 visa for parents of U.S. citizens over the age of 21.
As you can see, immediate relatives are only spouses, biological or adopted children, and parents. Grandparents, aunts and uncles are not considered immediate relatives and therefore do not qualify for these visas.
This article explains what an IR-4 visa is, its requirements, application process and other relevant details.
What is the IR-4 visa?
There are many Americans who want to adopt a child from a foreign country. To do so, the adopted child must have a valid immigrant visa and not live with the adoptive parents in the United States. There are many different types of U.S. immigrant visas available to U.S. citizens for this type of adoption, but the main ones are the IR-4 visa and the IR-3 visa.
The IR-4 visa allows parents to obtain guardianship of the child in a foreign country and then bring the child to the U.S. to complete the adoption; for the IR-3 visa, U.S. parents must complete the adoption process in the foreign country before the child can obtain a visa.
An IR-4 visa allows the child to legally remain in the U.S. after the parents have brought the child to the U.S. and completed the adoption. The child can attend school and, if possible, begin work without needing an Employment Authorization Document (EAD). They can also apply for U.S. citizenship if they qualify.
The advantage of the IR-4 visa is that there is no limit on the number of visas issued per year. This allows applicants to complete the process more quickly and live in the United States as a family.
What are the types of adoption that qualify for the IR-4 visa?
There are two types of adoptions that are recognized by the U.S. government, and they depend on the country from which the child was adopted. They are as follows
- Adoption by a Hague Convention country.
- Adoption by a non-Hague Convention country.
The Hague Convention on Intercountry Adoption was signed in 1993 and sets the rules for international adoptions.
The application process differs depending on whether a U.S. citizen is adopting from a Hague Convention country or a non-Hague Convention country.
The following countries are members of the Hague Convention, but for other political reasons, a U.S. citizen cannot easily adopt a child from one of these countries.
|Hague Convention Countries|
|Azerbaijan||Czech Republic||Israel||Namibia||Sri Lanka|
|Belgium||Dominican Republic||Kazakhstan||New Zealand||Sweden|
|Burkina Faso||Finland||Liechtenstein||Philippines||United Kingdom|
Adoptions from countries other than those listed above result in an adoption by a U.S. citizen outside the rules of the Hague Convention and are subject to different regulations and application procedures.
What are the requirements of the IR-4 visa?
To qualify for an IR-4 visa, both the foreign child to be adopted and the adoptive parents must be U.S. citizens. The requirements are as follows.
- The adopted child must meet the adoption criteria of the U.S. Immigration and Nationality Act (INA).
- The adopted child must be under 21 years of age and unmarried
- The child must be from a Hague Convention or non-Hague Convention country
- The U.S. citizen must be willing to assume guardianship of the child abroad and then adopt the child in the United States.
- The U.S. citizen must pass an eligibility test administered by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).
- The U.S. citizen must plan to bring the child to the U.S. to live with him or her.
- The U.S. citizen must have a valid address in the United States.
If a U.S. citizen plans to adopt a child while abroad, he or she must apply for an IR-3 visa. Also, if a U.S. citizen has adopted a child and has lived abroad with the child for more than two years, they are eligible to apply for an IR-2 visa.
How to apply for the IR-4 visa?
Since there are two types of international adoptions, there are different application procedures and steps applicants must take to apply for an IR-4 visa. Below are the procedures for both the Hague Convention and non-Hague Convention.
Application process for Hague Convention countries
To adopt a child from a Hague Convention country, you must select a U.S. certified or approved adoption agency in the country where you wish to adopt. This provision allows you to adopt a child from an agency that is within the scope of applicable laws and regulations.
- You must file Form I-800A with USCIS (Determination of Eligibility to Adopt a Child from a Convention Country). If this form is approved, you will be eligible for adoption; USCIS will review the completed form, conduct a background check, fingerprint check, and Home Study. Based on this, you will receive a recommendation regarding the age group and number of children you are eligible to adopt. It will also indicate whether or not you can adopt a child with special needs.
- You apply to be matched with a child from a foreign country of your choice that is a signatory to the Hague Convention. The authorities in that country will review your records and you will be given a list of required documents to review. They will also recommend children who meet the eligibility criteria, subject to USCIS approval. A file will be created for each child that includes background information, medical needs, special needs, and consent forms from necessary parties (birth parents, adoption agency, etc.).
- Form I-800 is filed with USCIS. If this form is approved, it means that the child you wish to adopt will be allowed to immigrate to the United States. You must also prove that you are not yet the child’s guardian. This is to prevent a U.S. citizen from becoming a guardian or adopting a child who is not eligible to immigrate.
- After all documents are approved, you can begin the visa application process for the child you wish to adopt in the United States. Submit Form DS-260 (Online Immigrant Visa Application) to the U.S. Embassy or Consulate in the foreign country where the child will be adopted; the DS-260 requires background information and other details about the child to be adopted. The application is completed online and you will then receive a confirmation letter and number.
- When the documents are complete, the U.S. embassy or consulate will issue a letter, called an Article 5/17 Letter, stating that the child you wish to adopt is eligible for immigration to the United States. If you have an IR-4 visa, you cannot adopt a child abroad, but must bring the child to the United States to do so. You must bring the child to the United States. If you want to adopt the child in the child’s country of residence, you must apply for an IR-3 visa.
- Once you have obtained a guardianship order, you will need to file the appropriate documents with the U.S. Embassy or Consulate. This includes the child’s birth certificate, passport, and medical documents. You will also schedule and attend an interview at the U.S. Embassy. At the interview, you will present the final guardianship order to the officer to complete the application. At this point, after processing, the U.S. Embassy will decide whether or not to grant the child an IR-4 visa.
Application procedure for non-Hague Convention countries
For non-Hague Convention countries, the application procedure is as follows:
- Select an adoption center in the country where you wish to adopt the child. Since this country is not a Hague Convention country, you will not receive a referral from a center licensed in the U.S. and must make your own decision.
- Submit Form I-600A to USCIS (Application for Advanced Processing of an Orphan Petition). In addition to this form, a background check, fingerprint check, and home study will be conducted to determine if you are eligible to adopt a child from a foreign country. However, unlike the Hague Convention process, USCIS does not make a recommendation regarding the classification of the child.
- Obtain a guardianship order from the country where you plan to adopt the child. This means that you will need to meet that country’s requirements for supporting documents and procedures.
- File a Form I-600 (Petition to Classify Orphan as an Immediate Relative) with USCIS to determine if the child you want to adopt is eligible for immigration to the United States.
- The child’s birth certificate or, if no birth certificate is available, a statement of the child’s identity and age
- Proof that the child has no parents or that the birth parents are unable to provide adequate care and agree to give the child up for adoption
- Proof that you have obtained guardianship of the child and intend to proceed with the adoption upon the child’s arrival in the United States
- Next, USCIS or a consular officer in the country where the child will be adopted will prepare a Form I-604.
- Once the form is approved, the National Visa Center (NVC) will notify you of the next steps.
- Submit the IR-4 visa application using the DS-260 online immigrant visa application and schedule a visa interview. At the interview, you will need to provide a complete set of documents for your child’s adoption.
What are the IR-4 visa fees?
Depending on which application method you use, you may be required to pay a fee to submit your application and other support costs. The amount is determined by USCIS, but generally the fees are as follows.
- Form I-800A Submission Fee
- Form I-800 Submission Fee
- Form DS-260 Processing Fee
- Form I-600A Filing Fee
- Form I-600 Filing Fee
- Fee for translation
- Fee for obtaining supporting documents
How long is the IR-4 visa processing time?
USCIS does not give a specific time frame for processing an IR-4 visa application. Generally, it depends on how long it takes for you to become the child’s guardian in the foreign country where you want to adopt the child. In the U.S., you must follow U.S. laws and regulations and other procedures to finalize the adoption.
Can I get medical care in the U.S. with an IR4 visa?
Yes, you can receive medical care in the United States with an IR4 visa. However, the cost of medical care in the United States is among the highest in the world.
Treatment for a broken leg or arm can cost up to $2,500, and an average stay in a U.S. hospital can cost more than $10,000. You need to choose a health insurance plan that is right for you and covers your needs in an overall affordable way.