If a child is physically present in the United States, is it possible to adopt them? In general it is possible. There are several ways to obtain legal status for a Muslim child who is present in the United States.

Option 1: Special Immigrant Juvenile Status. If the child is physically present in the United States, prospective adoptive parents can obtain a Guardianship Order from their local Juvenile Court. The Guardianship Order has to be carefully worded to indicate that it is in the child’s best interests to remain in the United States, among other things. With this order in hand, a child can self-petition for a green card. Yes, that’s right! The child can apply for a green card without a sponsor. And it gets better! One of the great things about this type of petition is that USCIS is legally obligated to adjudicate them within 180 days of filing. Once the child becomes a green card holder, he or she should be adopted by the US citizen adoptive parent or parents. The child will become a citizen automatically, by operation of law, upon adoption.

Option 2: If a child is adopted by a US citizen and lives with that citizen for two years and is under the legal custody of a the citizen for two years, he or she can apply for classification as an immediate relative and get a green card. In simpler terms, the parent must adopt the child and have two years of legal custody and shared residency. Once all of these terms are met, the parent can petition for the child. Remember that the child has to be adopted before he or she reaches age 16. There are limited exceptions to this rule. The child becomes a citizen automatically be operation of law once the green card is approved.

Some food for thought:

Most Muslim countries are not members of the Hague Intercounty Adoption Convention. If a child is a citizen of a country that has enacted the Hague Convention, then Option 2 described above may not be viable. Different rules apply to children who are Hague Convention country citizens.

The law does not require children in either situation described above be an orphan. Furthermore, the religion of the child is completely irrelevant for immigration purposes once the child is in the United States. The intricacies of the immigration law which apply to Muslims only apply when the child to be adopted is outside of the United States. Always consult a qualified immigration attorney before apply for status of a child who is present in the United States.