By April 15, 2011 7 Comments Read More →

Adoption advice for Australian expats

By Jerrie Alp, Hong Kong

Adopting while living overseas can be very challenging. There are no guidelines to follow and you can often feel like you are trying to work things out all on your own. The most important thing you can do is research, research and more research…and where there wasn’t a way before you will find one.

Below you’ll find some key steps and considerations that you need to keep in mind as an Australian Expat adopting while living overseas. Please note this only my understanding. There may be parts that have changed under new rules but you’ll see there are link references where you can check for the latest information.

The key steps are:

Find out if the country / government where you live will allow you to either adopt locally or from overseas and the relevant rules thereof e.g. immigration rules for bring adopted child in.

Identify the country you want to adopt from and the relevant rules/processes/agencies/contacts within that country. This would include who can do your home study.

Establish contact with the relevant Australian Consulate in the city you live in (will adopt from). Initially to gain your letter of no objection and later to apply for your child’s adoption visa, citizenship and passport.

Collect all relevant documents for dossier and home study.

Submit adoption application either locally or overseas via facilitator, lawyer or agency.

Work through the process. Once adoption is complete, ensure you have documents/applications in place to gain entry visa or dependents visa for your child to get into the country you will live in.

If you haven’t already done so, apply for adoption visa and then later – citizenship and Australian passport.

More detailed information:

A. The Country You will live in / adopt from. Where you adopt from and how you go about it depends a lot on the country you will be adopting from:

In some countries you can adopt locally. E.g. adopt locally while living in Hong Kong. Each country will have their own rules re prerequisites (e.g. how long you need to live there first) or requirements (e.g. age, marital status).

Some countries have locally based agencies that can assist you to adopt from other countries. E.g. In Hong Kong ISS (International Social Services) assist with adoptions from Thailand, Philippines, China, India and Russia.

Using an agency based overseas. In some cases you can use an agency based overseas (usually an American one) which will assist you to complete an adoption from another country. In these cases they will either fly in a social worker to complete your home study or if there are independent and accredited social workers where you live you might be able to use them.

Private adoptions – where you can not use local services or agencies you can do a private adoption where you directly hire a social worker to complete the home study and communicate directly with an orphanage either with someone at the orphanage or via a facilitator or solicitor. All court proceedings are usually managed by your lawyer / facilitator.

Local Immigration rules. Each country has it’s own immigration policies as to how dependent adopted children can gain access/ a visa to reside in the same country as their adoptive parents. Find out what your local immigration rules are for bringing in your adopted child before you start the adoption process. For example in Hong Kong, we are supposed to apply for our child’s “dependant visa” once the adoption is complete – while still in the country of adoption. We need to provide evidence of a genuine relationship between applicant & sponsor; we have to show that we can financially support the dependant and show that there is no known record to the detriment of the dependent/applicant. This process  can take up to 6 weeks. In some cases/countries you can first apply for a tourist visa (in a matter of days) & then apply for a change in status once back home). This is what we did.

B. Identify the Country you want to adopt from. Some people have a very specific country they want to adopt from and others are open to where they adopt from. Some of this depends on where you live and adopt from and the rest of it is down to a lot of research as to what programs are open and possible for you as an Australian living overseas.

I found it very useful to look at the U.S. Department of State website. It not only talks about the basics of intercountry adoption, but also explains the Hague Convention and lists adoption information by country including the key rules for adopting from that country and sometimes has the relevant contacts. You can usually exchange the US immigration rules with the Australian immigration rules…the general US state intercountry adoption page is:

You can also look up the country specific information here.

For e.g  Ethiopia:

There is some really useful information. For e.g. there are contact details for MOWA – the ministry that handles adoptions in Ethiopia.

Some of the key countries that people are adopting from at the moment (only from what I have heard) are Russia, China, Ethiopia, Philippines, India, Thailand, Ukraine and Poland. Many countries allow you to adopt locally and usually have residency requirements.

Another great reference is the Joint Council of Children’s Services. This website usually has up to date information on which programs are open, which are experiencing delays etc

Home Study / Dossier Component for Australians

Most home studies contain the following information:
Your suitability as adoptive parents
Description of where you live
Background clearances
Financial information
Medical certificates
Marriage certificates (or dissolution certificates) if relevant
Birth certificates
Reference letters
Power of attorney letters

All these documents either need to be certified copies provided by the relevant authority (e.g Births Deaths and Marriages) or authenticated as required (see below on notarisations and apostille). Note you don’t want to start this process too early / before finding your contacts / agency as most documents have a ‘valid period’ and may need to be re-issued.

Some countries have semi-government bodies who can conduct home studies. In most cases, I believe Australians use an independent social worker if they cannot use an adoption agency’s social worker. There is a document under the Files section for Asia (within the Australian Expat Adoption Yahoo group) that lists some of the current home study suppliers in Asia. The best thing to do is to find out if there are any local providers first and then start looking at flying someone in. The American forums for adopting while overseas also have a lot of information and sometimes posts on there can connect you with a local social worker. If you are working with an agency, they usually have someone on their books.

* A special note I want to make here is about post-placement requirements. Some countries (if I remember correctly like Russia) require post-placement reports that can extend into two years after the child has been adopted. This is all fine if you are still living overseas but parents need to watch this part if they intend and declare that they will move back to Australia during this period. In Australia, adoptions are managed by state government bodies. The adoption authority in the adoption country may ask for documentation which shows that the parents will be able to provide post-placement reports once back in Australia.

* Police checks. In some cases you need to provide criminal clearances for the last 5-10 years.  Criminal clearances for the country of residence – in some countries Australians can apply directly to the local police authorities. In other countries, such as Hong Kong this can only be done in conjunction with the relevant Australian Consulate i.e. The parents ask the Australian Consulate to write to the police authorities to help them get a criminal clearance report as some police authorities generally provide this service for immigration purposes. Criminal clearances for Australians for their time in Australia are applied for via the Australian Federal Government. The relevant application form & information can be accessed at this link:

* Notarisation & Apostilles: For most documents which were sourced in Australia or which needed to be signed by references or accountants in Australia, I had these notarised and apostilled in Australia by a licensed Notary Public. Explanations of this process in Australia can be found at these two links.

For documents sourced in Hong Kong or where I had the originals in Hong Kong I had these processed in Hong Kong via a solicitor who is a licensed notary.

C.  Australian Government / Australian Visas.

As far as I understand the following applies to all Australians regardless of which overseas country they live in. They need to ask the Australian Consulate or Australian foreign office where they are living for a letter that is generally called a  ”Letter of No Objection” for them to adopt from their nominated country. Also, most agencies / adoption authorities also require some form of acknowledgment from the Australian Government that there is a process in place which allows Australians to adopt while living overseas and that they can get citizenship for their adopted child.

I think getting this letter is wise even if it is not asked for so that you can ensure your foreign office is going to be co-operative when it comes to applying for your child’s Australian citizenship and passport. This letter just ensures that you as an Australian Citizen understand / satisfy the following criteria (this is taken from our letter):
” A foreign child adopted without the involvement of an Australian adoption authority by an Australian citizen or permanent resident must meet the following legal requirements in order to be granted permanent entry to Australia:

1. the adoptive parent has been residing outside Australia for at least 12 months, and that residence was not for the purpose of adopting a child (i.e. later when applying for your child’s citizenship, you must provide a written statement outlining reasons for the adoptive parent’s residence overseas. Part of the reason for this is to show that you did not move overseas to circumvent the adoption queue / system in Australia – which is currently run by the government & is very lengthy when adopting from overseas).
2. the adoption of the child has taken place in accordance with the adoption laws of the child’s country.
3. the adoption order grants full & permanent parental rights to the adoptive parent.
4. the authorities of child’s country agree to the child migrating to Australia.
5. the child is under 18 & meets health & character requirements for entry to Australia. [Health checks must be made and examination forms must be provided as part of your Australian visa application. The Australian Government provides a list of doctors (in your relevant country) approved by Australian Authorities who can conduct medical examinations].

If your citizenship application is denied for health reasons or because the Australian Consulate believes your adoption was not completed legally or the child has been trafficked – you face a long battle and may be stuck living overseas till the situation is resolved. Hence I think it’s important that all prospective adoptive parents obtain this letter and fully understand the Australian Government’s requirements.

In terms of the process for applying for Australian Citizenship, the current provisions are that unless the child is adopted under full Hague Convention provisions, the child must be initially sponsored by the parents for a Permanent visa (also called Adoption Visa). In some cases I have heard of families getting this visa within weeks and in others – like ours – it took ten months, as there was no Australian consulate in the country we adopted from and they had to request the Moscow office to verify the legitimacy of our adoption.

Once your child has their permanent visa – they can travel in and out of Australia or live in Australia.
After the child acquires a Permanent visa / Adoption Visa, you then apply for Citizenship by Conferral for the Child. See below. It is after this that the child can apply for their Australian passport.

Information about child migration where a child has been adopted can be found at:

The last time I looked, the above two links include all the Australian Government laws, rules & forms Australians need to be aware of when completing an adoption overseas. It is very worthwhile becoming familiar with this information.

Adoption Education

In some countries, local agencies (some government based) provide adoption education. These are usually very useful in helping you prepare for adoption and you usually meet other families going through the same thing as you are. If there are no local services you can do some training online – we were required to do this as part of our home study and present the relevant completion certificates. Adoption Learning Partners provides some great courses – some of them are free:

The courses I got the most out of where:

With Eyes Wide Open – A preparation for international adoption
The Journey of Attachment
Lets Talk Adoption

I hope this helps. Best wishes on your adoption Journey.

Posted in: Paperwork, Process, Resources

7 Comments on "Adoption advice for Australian expats"

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  1. Jodie Runge says:

    Hi Jerrie,

    Thank you so much for the information you have provided! I am an Aussie living overseas just commencing this process and struggling through researching how to even get started. The overview of the basics you’ve provided as been the best information I’ve found so far – thanks for sharing from your own experiences! I’ll follow through on the links you’ve provided and see what more I can find.


  2. sharon says:

    Hi Jerry, we are trying to adopt whilst living in Vietnam but finding the process very difficult in terms of how to access an agency that can help us. We would really appreciate any help you can offer. The laws have recently changed in Vietnam and any adoption on a local basis cannot be processed until the adoptive parents have lived in Vietnam for one year. This is fine as it is what the Australian government want as well. However, we are looking to try and get paper work and a prospective adoption started in the meantime. If you have any suggestions, please let us know.

    Best regards

  3. Bruce Grant says:

    Hi I’m an Australian who has adopted a child in Hong Kong and am about to start the process to get an Australian passport for them. Is there a law firm/agency you’d recommend to assist with, and possibly speed up this process? Thanks Bruce G

  4. sarah says:


    I am also an Australian living in Vietnam and hoping to adopt. I was wondering if Sharon was successful?


  5. Jo says:

    Hi Sarah

    Im also now living in vietnam and hoping to adopt. I was wondering if you had started your process and had any luck

    Kind regards

  6. Sandy says:

    Hi Jerrie (or Sarah or Jo)

    I’m also interested, like Sarah and Jo, in adopting from Vietnam while living in Singapore or Vietnam. My husband and I are Australian. Do you know of any forums covering this or contacts? In particular we have been offered a consulting opportunity in Vietnam so want to know whether it’s possible to adopt from Vietnam while living there.

    Many thanks, Sandy

  7. Niki Kara says:

    Hi all,

    Thank you for that information.

    I’m about to open a business in Asia,
    And was hoping to adopt while there. But where you say that you must live abroad for 12 months, dose that mean consecutive?? I know a bouth the 12 months but can’t seem to find anywhere where it says consecutive.
    What if I have business in other countries and need to go there?? Or if a parent is ill and need to return home.

    Just wondering if someone could clarify that?


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