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Adopting a child from Mexico: A guide for Texas families

Given our state's close proximity to Mexico, it is likely that many of you reading this blog either have family that lives in Mexico or is yourself a resident of that country. If you are interested in learning more about the adoption process and how the United States handles international adoptions from Mexico then today's blog post is for you. Not only do you have to consider the laws of the United States, but you also have to contend with Mexican law as it relates to international adoptions.

For starters, Mexico is a country that has adopted the Hague Convention on Protection of Children and Co-operation in Respect of Intercountry Adoption. All adoptions that take place across the border of Mexico will be administered by the laws of this Convention. Mexico and the United States both have laws in addition to the Convention that must be followed as well. 

Like the United States, Mexico is comprised of states. Federal authorities that govern international adoptions have offices in each of Mexico's 31 states. Each of those states may have laws that differ from one another when it comes to adoption. For that reason, it is highly recommended that you hire an attorney who is knowledgeable not only of American adoption laws but in the laws of the Mexican state where you are trying to adopt out of.

The adoption service provider that you choose to work with must both be approved by the U.S. and Mexican governments. This is a critical step. If you do not make sure that the agency that you have chosen to work with is approved by the Mexican government it may delay the adoption process. Ultimately you are seeking to have the government issue a visa on behalf of your adopted child. 

Simple vs. Plenary Adoptions

If you are both a citizen of Mexico and a citizen of the United States it is crucial that you understand the difference between a plenary and simple adoption. In Mexico, a simple adoption is one where a Mexican national such as yourself can complete a relatively quick adoption. A plenary adoption is one that is more complex from a legal perspective but is more likely to meet the standards of the Hague Convention on Adoption. Simple adoptions are faster, but many times do not go through all the steps necessary to meet those requirements.

For starters, in most simple adoptions there is no creation of a permanent legal parent-child relationship between the child and yourself. Furthermore, there is no termination of the parent-child relationship that is necessary for all United States based adoptions. The United States will only issue a visa to a child that has been adopted via the more complex and formal plenary adoption. In the final paperwork, there must be a language that states that you are a citizen of both Mexico and the United States and reside in the U.S.

What are the requirements of the Mexican government for internationally adopting a child?

If you are interested in adopting a Mexican child, the Mexican government will first require that you live together with the child for three weeks in Mexico. After this stage, the Mexican government will begin to consider your application and petition for adoption. While there is only a three-week requirement for living with the child before the adoption is finalized, there is a great deal of paperwork that comes along with the adoption process. As a result, it is expected that you will remain in Mexico for up to three months.

In addition, there are certain income requirements that you must meet in order to adopt a child living in Mexico. You must have the financial wherewithal to adopt a child and provide for that child’s basic needs. A letter verifying your employment and length of employment is a good place to start. Pay stubs, tax returns, photos of your home, bank statements and other financial disclosure forms are helpful in this endeavor. 

These documents will be presented to the court in Mexico in order to support your contention that you have the financial strength to add a child to your family. Having at least two witnesses with you to verify that the information you are disclosing is accurate, as well as to certify that you are of strong moral character will also be helpful to you. 

Which children in Mexico can you adopt?

Mexican children must meet requirements found in the Hague Convention. It is typical that before a foreigner can adopt a Mexican child, consideration must have first been given to whether or not it would be possible for the child to be adopted to a family within Mexico. If a court determines that it is in the best interests of that child to be adopted by a family outside of Mexico then the adoption can proceed. 

The authorities in Mexico that govern adoptions will do as much as possible to keep brothers and sisters in the same household. As such, if you plan on adopting a child then you should give consideration to whether or not you would be able or willing to adopt their siblings as well. If you are a member of the child’s family you must still go through the same process as any other person in order to adopt the child. The only difference is that you should specify in your application that you are a family member to the child that you are attempting to adopt. 

What are the steps in the adoption process for a Mexican adoption?

There are a series of six steps that you must follow in order for the successful adoption of a Mexican child to occur. If the steps that I am about to go over are not completed in order an immigration visa to the United States may be denied to your child. 

First off, an adoption agency that is certified and approved to work in the U.S. and Mexico must be chosen by you and your spouse. The adoption agency is the primary group that will make sure that you are meeting all of the requirements both in the United States and Mexico as far as conducting foreign divorces. 

Next, once an adoption agency is chosen you will need to apply to be found eligible to adopt a Mexican child by the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services. A form will need to be submitted directly to that entity. Once the USCIS determines that you are eligible to adopt a child the adoption agency that you are working with will provide you with the approval directly. A home study and any other pieces of information that will need to be collected will occur. 

Your eligibility to adopt a child will then be determined by the Mexican government 

Once you are found to be eligible to adopt in the United States, the Mexican authorities will conduct a similar review on their own. As soon as it is determined that you are also eligible to adopt a Mexican child, the government of Mexico will then need to determine whether or not there are any children that are available for you to adopt. For you to adopt a Mexican child it must be determined that it is in that child's best interests for you to adopt him or her. The child who best fits your application and is in need of adoption will be matched up with you.

You will be given a great deal of information about the child as far as their background, health history and other pieces of information in order to figure out whether or not you would like to adopt the child. If you believe that you would not be able to meet the long term needs of this child then you can pass on the referral and seek the adoption of another child. 

After you have been successfully matched up with a child you will need to apply to the United States Department of Homeland Security in order to secure approval for that child to immigrate to the United States. Once your child is approved for adoption and entrance into the United States you will then need to apply for a visa for that child. The United States Embassy in Mexico City is the entity that is responsible for issuing immigrant visas to Mexican children seeking to enter the United States. 

Going to court and getting the adoption legally approved

At this stage, once approval of the adoption has occurred and a visa has been issued you can move on to the fifth stage of a Mexican adoption- the legal adoption of the child. The adoption agency that you are working with will receive all adoption paperwork and will send on to the appropriate Mexican government authorities for their review and processing. The United States-based adoption agency that you are using will be approved by their Mexican counterpart.

After this, a Mexican court case will ensure that legally allows you to adopt the child. The applications submitted to the court by the Mexican government will be reviewed by a judge. An order will then be issued that places your child with you. This whole process can take up to six months to complete. You and your spouse will have to appear before the judge at least two times prior to the adoption being finalized. As I mentioned at the outset of today's blog post, you will need at least two people to attend court and act as witnesses to testify to your moral character and financial wherewithal.

The specific documents that will need to be submitted to the Mexican government, as well as the fees that are associated with adopting a Mexican child, can be found on the United States government website that covers issues related to adoption. Select Mexico as the country that you are interested in reading about in order to learn more in-depth material.

Get a visa and come home with your child

Once all of the above steps are met and completed in order, all that is left to do is apply for a few documents and then come home with your child.

First, a birth certificate is needed so that your child can travel with you back to the United States. A Mexican judge will issue an adoption decree that names you as your child's new parent. This decree can be used to obtain a birth certificate and then a Mexican passport that allows for him or her to travel abroad.

A Mexican passport is necessary because your child is not yet a citizen of the United States. The Mexican passport will allow him or her to travel internationally while their United States citizen application is being reviewed. Your visa application through the Embassy in Mexico City will be almost complete at this stage. Once an immigrant visa is issued, your child can travel with you back to the United States. 

If you have made it this far, you will not only make it through some difficult beaurocratic steps but will have a brand new member of your family to welcome home to Texas.

Questions about international adoption? Contact the Law Office of Bryan Fagan 

International adoption cases are among the most difficult and time consuming of all family law related matters but can also be the most rewarding. If your heart is leading you towards wanting to adopt a child who lives either in the United States or in a foreign country then it is a good idea to contact the attorneys with the Law Office of Bryan Fagan.

Our licensed family law attorneys work on behalf of people just like you to accomplish their goals in whatever family law related matter they present to us. We work in courts across southeast Texas and do so with a great deal of pride. Thank you for your time and consideration and I hope that we are able to work alongside you moving forward. 

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