Under Section 101 (b) (1) (F) of the Immigration and Nationality Act an “orphan” is a child who does not have any parents because of the death or disappearance of, abandonment or desertion by, or separation or loss from both parents. “Abandonment” means the child was legally placed in the custody of a child welfare agency, made a ward of a court, or left in the care and custody of another competent authority in the child’s home country. A child left to the care of a relative or temporarily placed in a orphanage where the natural parent(s) still contribute to the child’s support or otherwise demonstrate that they have not ended their parental obligation to the child, may not be considered an abandoned child.
An orphan can also be a child with a sole or a surviving parent who is incapable of providing for the child’s basic needs, and has, in writing, irrevocably released the child for emigration and adoption.
If the prospective adopting parents have not identified a child to be adopted, they may file an I-600A (Application for the Advance Processing of an Orphan Petition) at the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) office having jurisdiction over the petitioner’s place of U.S. residence. The I-600A determines whether the prospective adoptive parents are eligible to file an immediate relative petition on behalf of an adoptive or prospective adoptive child who is a foreign national. Once a child is identified, the prospective adopting parents must file an I-600 (Petition to Classify Orphan as an Immediate Relative) on behalf of the child.
Visit the USCIS website for more information about petitioning an orphan child.