Adoptive parents: Before you travel

There are 2 steps you must complete for an intercountry adoption:

  1. the adoption process, which is governed by
    • the laws of the child’s country of birth
    • the province or territory where the adoptive parents live
    • international conventions
  2. the citizenship or immigration process to bring the child to Canada

Time frames vary widely from country to country and case to case. Even under ideal conditions, it’s normal for both processes to last 2 years or longer.

There are cases where a child’s grant of citizenship or visa is denied because it is not evident that the requirements under laws at various levels, including provincial and territorial, Canadian, local or international law, have been met.

Adoptive parents should therefore exercise caution. Each country’s rules are different.

To avoid unnecessary expense and disappointment, you should not plan to return to Canada with the adopted child until you know for certain that all citizenship or immigration requirements have been met.

The Government of Canada is committed to protecting the rights of families and children. We have obligations under international conventions to ensure children are not abducted, bought or sold, or removed from their biological families without legal consent. In some cases, extra steps in the citizenship or immigration process will be needed to make sure the adoption is truly in the best interest of the child.

Canada’s laws specify that children must be protected when they are adopted from foreign countries. In certain countries, lengthy investigations may be needed to determine a child’s status. This can delay a child’s entry to Canada. If a child is found not to be available for adoption, the child’s application for Canadian citizenship or a permanent resident visa will be refused.

In order to be issued a permanent resident visa, a child must meet a number of immigration requirements, including a medical exam, conducted in the child’s country of origin by a doctor approved by Citizenship and Immigration Canada. The timing of the exam is another factor that can sometimes delay the immigration process.

For these reasons, adoptive parents must remember that the adoption process and the citizenship or immigration processes are separate. The second portion of the process may be lengthy, so you may want to return to Canada between completing the legal adoption and completing the citizenship or immigration process. This is especially true when adopting from countries that do not have a well-established adoption program in place with Canada. Please remember: It is mandatory for a child to either have a grant of Canadian citizenship or a permanent resident visa issued by the embassy, and the necessary travel documents, before that child can be brought back to Canada.

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