I had a great conversation today with a prospective adoptive parent who had lost a family member in Pakistan under very tragic circumstances.  A child was left orphaned as a result. Over the years I have had many people approach me and ask if they can adopt a relative (often an infant) from a Muslim country. Happily, the answer is a resounding “Yes!”

Pakistan is a “non-Hague” country, as are most predominantly Muslim countries. Also, Pakistan does not issue adoption decrees, but rather guardianship orders. This is the case in most predominantly Muslim countries. These two factors mean that prospective adoptive parents are limited to the I-600 or “orphan visa” process.

The process for adoption of a family member goes as follows:

  1. Contact a qualified immigration lawyer to determine whether the or not the child is an orphan.
  2. Complete a home study.
  3. File an I-600A
  4. Obtain guardianship and gather supporting evidence.
  5. File an I-600

The success of the case will hinge on whether or not the children fall under the definition of orphan. Remember that an orphan is not just a child abandoned to a children’s home or orphanage. An orphan is also a child that has been deserted or the child of a single parent. In limited situations, even children and babies with two living and married biological parents can qualify for orphan status.

With careful preparation and appropriate evidence, there is no reason why a child who is a related to the adopted parents cannot qualify for an orphan visa.

But what if my relative is here in the United States? In this case- an entirely different set of rules will come into play. The process will look like this:

1. Obtain an adoption decree in the United States.

2. Wait until you have had two years of legal custody and two years of joint residency.

3. Apply to sponsor your relative as an immediate relative.

Children who are already here in the United States might be better off applying for Special Immigrant Juvenile Status. Remember folks, there are deadlines and age limits for children to receive immigration benefits through adoption or as special immigrant juveniles.