You requested a legal opinion asking whether Missouri requires readoption of foreign-born
adopted children upon arrival in the United States. The information you provided to
us indicates that a Missouri resident presented to a Social Security field office
to apply for a Social Security number for a child he reportedly adopted from South
Korea. However, the gentleman did not have proof of U.S. Citizenship for the child.
For the reasons explained below, we conclude that Missouri does not require readoption
when the adoption has been completed in the foreign country. On the facts you presented,
the adoption was not completed in South Korea. Therefore, the adoption must be finalized
in Missouri in order for the child to be a U.S. citizen.
A Missouri resident presented to a Social Security field office to apply for a Social
Security number for a child he stated that he had adopted from South Korea. The child,
Jee S. L~, was born in South Korea on October 1, 2004. Her name has been changed to
Rachel K~. The gentleman did not have proof of U.S Citizenship for the child, but
produced other documentation including a birth certificate issued by the State of
Missouri, and a Judgment for Transfer of Legal and Physical Custody for Purposes of
Subsequent Adoption from the Circuit Court of Buchanan County, Missouri. He also produced
a U.S. Immediate Relative-4 (IR-4) visa, a U.S. permanent resident card, and a South
Korean travel certificate.
Missouri law states that "when an adoption occurs in a foreign country and the adopted
child has migrated to the United States with the permission of the United States Department
of Justice and the United States Department of Immigration and Naturalization Services,
this state shall recognize the adoption." See MO. ANN. STAT. § 453.170.2 (2006). Accordingly, Missouri does not require readoption
of a child when the adoption has been completed abroad and the child has properly
come to the United States. As explained below, in this case, the adoption was not
completed in South Korea.
The IR-4 visa is issued when the orphan will be adopted after arriving in the U.S.,
and the adoption will be finalized by the courts of the state in which the adoptive
parents reside. See U.S. Dep't of State, Determining Orphan Classification, http://travel.state.gov/visa/laws/telegrams/telegrams_1408.html (last visited Jan. 18, 2007); see also U.S. Dep't of State, International Adoption: How Can Adopted Children Come to the
United States?, http://travel.state.gov/family/adoption/info/info_449.html (last visited Jan. 18, 2007). In order to complete an adoption in Korea, both adopting
parents are required to "have seen and lived with the child for more than three months
either prior to or during the processing of the adoption papers." See Embassy of the United States of Seoul, Korea, Visas to the U.S.: Visa Categories:
Adopting in Korea, http://seoul.usembassy.gov/adoptions-4.html (last visited Jan. 18, 2007). Accordingly, the IR-4 visa is commonly issued in conjunction
with adoptions from Korea.
The Child Citizenship Act of 2000 (CCA) allows certain foreign-born children to acquire
American citizenship automatically. The CCA states that foreign-born adopted children
automatically acquire citizenship when the adoption is full and final. The other requirements
for automatic citizenship are that the child: (1) has at least one parent who is an
American citizen; (2) is under 18 years of age; (3) lives in the legal and physical
custody of the American citizen parent; and (4) was lawfully admitted to the U.S.
for permanent residence. See 8 U.S.C. § 1431. See
also U.S. Dep't of State, Child Citizenship Act of 2000, http://travel.state.gov/family/adoption/info/info_457.html (last visited Jan. 18, 2007). Consequently, children entering the country on an IR-4
visa do not become U.S. citizens until their adoption is finalized. See id.
Based on the documentation provided in this case, the child entered the U.S. on an
IR-4 visa. Accordingly, the adoption had not yet been finalized when the child entered
the country, and she was not yet a U.S. citizen. The document submitted from the Circuit
Court of Buchanan County, Missouri, indicates that, at least as of September 12, 2005,
adoption proceedings had commenced, but were not yet complete. Once the adoption is
complete, the adoptive parents can obtain a Certificate of Citizenship, which is primary
evidence of U.S. Citizenship. See POMS RM 203.310.B.1.
You also asked whether there are instances when Missouri birth certificates cannot
be accepted as secondary evidence of citizenship, as is the case in Louisiana, Nevada,
New Jersey, and Wisconsin. See POMS RM 203.320.B.4.b. Birth certificates from these states cannot be accepted as
secondary evidence of citizenship when the certificate contains a statement to the
effect that it is not proof of citizenship. See id. This section is applicable only to states which require a child, whose adoption abroad
was final, to be readopted in the U.S. See
id. As discussed above, Missouri has no such requirement. However, because the birth
certificate submitted in this case states that it is not proof of citizenship, it
does not appear that it could be accepted as secondary evidence of U.S. citizenship.
Missouri does not require readoption of a foreign-born adopted child upon arrival
in the U.S. The documentation submitted in this case indicates that the child had
not yet been adopted upon her arrival in the U.S. Accordingly, she was not yet a U.S.
citizen. The individual will need to finalize the adoption in order for the child
to become a U.S. citizen and to obtain a Certificate of Citizenship. Finally, the
Missouri birth certificate submitted in this case may not be used as secondary evidence
of U.S. Citizenship.
Very truly yours,
Frank V. S~
Regional Chief Counsel
Kristin L. E~
Assistant Regional Counsel