Please Note: The information on this webpage is a summary of the country specific information for Nigeria provided on the Department of State’s Travel.State.Gov website. The U.S. Mission in Nigeria encourages anyone considering adopting in Nigeria to thoroughly review the Nigeria Intercountry Adoption Information page for the most up-to-date information available.
U.S. Immigration Requirements
To bring an adopted child to the United States from Nigeria, you must meet certain suitability and eligibility requirements. USCIS determines who is suitable and eligible to adopt a child from another country and bring that child to live in the United States under U.S. immigration law.
Additionally, a child must meet the definition of orphan under U.S. immigration law in order to be eligible to immigrate to the United States on an IR-3 or IR-4 immigrant visa.
Introduction to Adoptions in Nigeria
Nigeria is not a party to the Hague Convention on Protection of Children and Co-operation in Respect of Intercountry Adoption (Hague Adoption Convention or Convention). The Intercountry Adoption Universal Accreditation Act of 2012 requires that an accredited or approved adoption service provider act as the primary provider in every Convention or non-Convention intercountry adoption case, and that adoption service providers providing any adoption services, as defined at 22 CFR Part 96.2, on behalf of prospective adoptive parents be accredited or approved, or be a supervised or exempted provider. See additional guidance for limited situations when a primary provider may not be required.
Nigerian courts, except courts in Lagos and Ogun states, only allow Nigerian citizens (dual citizens included) to adopt a child in Nigeria. If married, both members of a married couple must be Nigerian citizens, except in Lagos and Ogun states. In general, prospective adoptive parents must first obtain temporary custody of the child and must have physical and temporary legal custody of the child for a bonding period immediately prior to petitioning the court for an adoption decree. The length of the bonding period is determined by the court at the time the child is placed with the prospective adoptive parents but is usually at least three months. A prospective adoptive parent cannot have the child reside with another family member in lieu of living with the prospective adoptive parent, even if a Power of Attorney is in effect. Depending on where the adoption takes place in Nigeria, the specific law and regulations governing the adoption may differ. Courts may also waive or amend any or all of these provisions on a case by case basis if it is deemed in the best interest of the child.
Please note that the only legal way to adopt in Nigeria is to work with the respective state social welfare office (usually named the Ministry of Women Affairs and Social Development). Prospective adoptive parents are advised to obtain information on adopting in individual states through the state social welfare office. Prospective adoptive parents should not attempt to process their adoption through local officials who may attempt to circumvent the legal process. Adoption decrees must state that they are final in order for an immigrant visa to be issued to the adopted child. The U.S. Consulate in Lagos only issues IR3 classification immigrant visas for adoption applicants originating from a Nigerian state that recognizes adoption as a legal transfer of parental rights. For Nigerian States that do not have a legal authority to complete an adoption, the U.S. Consulate in Lagos may issue an IR4 classification immigrant visa if all U.S. immigration requirements are met. Often times, adoption decrees from Nigerian courts put stipulations on the adoption, such as not allowing the child to travel beyond the jurisdiction of the court or requiring periodic visits of the child by the social welfare office of the respective Nigerian state. These stipulations may prevent the consular officer from issuing an immigrant visa or cause a delay in the processing of the immigrant visa.
Prospective adoptive parents must appear in court to answer questions regarding the adoption. Courts in Nigeria do not allow proxy adoptions (whereby prospective adoptive parents appear in court via an intermediary) to minimize document and identity fraud concerns related to adoptions. Due to adoption fraud and child buying concerns, the U.S. Consulate completes the Form I-604, Determination on Child for Adoption, commonly referred to as the orphan determination, to verify the authenticity of the information provided in the adoption decree and with the Form I-600 petition. This step is required by U.S. law for all international adoptions to the U.S. from countries not party to the Hague Convention. In many cases, further investigation may be required. For security reasons U.S. government personnel are frequently restricted from traveling to certain parts of the country. As a result, investigations and the in-country visa application and approval process can cause adoption processing in Lagos to take up to six months to complete, after the initial approval of the Form I-600 by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).
How to Adopt in Nigeria
Nigeria’s Adoption Authority
The Magistrate Court (from the state where the child resides)
The process for adopting a child from Nigeria generally includes the following steps:
- Choose a U.S. Accredited or Approved Adoption Service Provider To Act as Your Primary Provider
- Apply to USCIS to be Found Suitable and Eligible to Adopt (Form I-600A)
- Apply to Nigeria’s Authorities to Adopt, and to be Matched with a Child
- Adopt the Child in Nigeria (or Obtain Legal Custody of the Child for Purposes of Emigration and Adoption)
- Apply for Your Child to be Found Eligible to Immigrate to the United States as an Orphan (Form I-600)
- Apply for a U.S. Immigrant Visa for Your Child and Bring Your Child Home
Each of these steps in explained in detail on the Department of State’s Nigeria Intercountry Adoption page, under the How to Adopt section. Please review each step carefully before proceeding with an adoption to ensure that the adoption is conducted in conformity with both U.S. and Nigerian law.
Some Nigerian states may require status updates on the child until the child’s 18th birthday. Parents should confirm any post-adoption requirements with their legal representatives.
Many adoptive parents find it important to find support after the adoption. There are many public and private non-profit post-adoption services available for children and their families. There are also numerous adoptive family support groups and adoptee organizations active in the United States that provide a network of options for adoptees who seek out other adoptees from the same country of origin. You may wish to take advantage of all the resources available to your family, whether it is another adoptive family, a support group, an advocacy organization, or your religious or community services. Your primary provider can provide or point you to post-placement/post-adoption services to help your adopted child and your family transition smoothly and deal effectively with the many adjustments required in an intercountry adoption.
If you have concerns about your intercountry adoption process, we ask that you share this information with the U.S. Consulate in Lagos, particularly if it involves possible fraud or misconduct specific to your child’s case. The Department of State takes all allegations of fraud or misconduct seriously. Our Adoption Comment Page provides several points of contact for adoptive families to comment on their adoption service provider, their experience applying for their child’s visa, or about the Form I-600/A process.
The Complaint Registry is an internet based registry for filing complaints about U.S. accredited or approved adoption service providers. If you think your provider’s conduct may not have been in compliance with accreditation standards, first submit your complaint in writing directly to your provider. If the complaint is not resolved through the provider’s complaint process, you may file the complaint through the Complaint Registry. A complaint may be filed at any time, including after your child has received an immigrant visa and travelled to the United States.