TN 31 (04-06)

GN 00306.155 Evidence of Legal Adoption

A. Policy—U.S. adoption

An amended birth certificate (BC) issued as the result of a U.S. adoption will establish that there has been a final order or decree of adoption, and that the persons shown as parents of the adopted child were named as parents in the decree or order.

However, since a BC does not show the date of adoption, it establishes only that the adoption has occurred as of the date the amended BC was issued (or, where an issuance date is not shown, as of the date it is submitted to SSA).

B. Procedure— U.S. adoption

1. Evidence

Where the date of a U.S. adoption is material, obtain one of the following types of evidence:

  1. Records of the court which granted the adoption,

  2. Official notice received by the adopting parents, or

  3. Records of the State Attorney or Child Welfare Division.

CAUTION: Do not solicit a copy of the adoption decree. You may use the decree to establish the date of adoption only if the adopting parent(s) has (have) possession of the decree and voluntarily submits it.

2. Interlocutory decrees

If an adoption is effective from the date of the interlocutory decree, do not await issuance of the final decree to determine entitlement. See GN 00306.160 for the effective dates of adoption decrees for entitlement purposes.

3. Disclosure warning

In developing an adoption, do not disclose the adoption to anyone not directly concerned with the claim for child's benefits.

C. Policy—Foreign adoption

In a domestic claim when an applicant for child’s benefits was adopted abroad, SSA applies the adoption laws of the country where the adoption took place. There is no need to determine if the domiciliary State recognizes the foreign adoption.

D. Background—Foreign adoption

In order for a child adopted abroad to enter the U.S., the parent(s) must petition the Department of Homeland Security, United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (DHS, USCIS) to have the child classified as an immediate relative for the purpose of bringing the child into the United States. Before they determine that the child meets immigrant classification code of IR3/IH-3, or IR2 and may be legally admitted to the United States, DHS, USCIS and the Department of State determine that the child has been fully and finally adopted in compliance with the laws of the country where the adoption took place. Children admitted with IR-4/IH-4 visas may or may not have completed the adoption process abroad. If the adoption process was not completed abroad, then parents will need to take the additional steps to complete the adoption process after arriving in the U.S. The issuance of documents showing the IR-4/IH-4 status is not evidence alone that the child was fully and finally adopted in the foreign country.

Since January 20, 2004, DHS, USCIS automatically issues a Certificate of Citizenship to a foreign-born adopted child when the child is admitted to the U.S. and meets the requirements of the Child Citizenship Act of 2000. Prior to that date the parents were required to apply for proof of the child's citizenship, either to DHS (for a Certificate of Citizenship) or to the Department of State (for a U.S. passport).

E. Procedure — Foreign adoption

Since DHS, USCIS and the Department of State determine that a foreign adoption is valid prior to granting the child the immigrant classification code of IR3/IH-3, or IR2, we can use the issuance of documents showing IR3/IH-3, or IR2 status as evidence that the child was fully and finally adopted in the foreign country.

Note: For those children admitted to the U.S. with an IR-4/IH-4 visa, additional development or documentation is needed. If the adoption was completed after entry into the United States, follow U.S. Adoption policy and for adoptions finalized abroad, follow the foreign adoption policy.

If there is no available evidence which raises questions about the validity of either the child’s adoption decree or immigrant visa, we may accept that the adoption is valid in the foreign country in which it took place if we obtain the original foreign adoption papers plus evidence of one of the following:

  • A Certificate of Citizenship issued by the DHS, USCIS, or

  • A Certificate of Naturalization issued by DHS, USCIS, or

  • A valid United States passport, or

  • A valid permanent resident card, I-551 (Alien Registration Receipt Card) issued by DHS, USCIS, including an IR3/IH-3, IR-4/IH-4 or IR2 immigrant classification code, or