Q: My partner and I (both United States citizens) know a child who is in the United States but undocumented. Could we adopt her?

A: Immigration issues are commonly found in adoption. Since Greenberg Adoption focuses only on adoption and family formation, I have consulted with New York immigration lawyer Kiran Siddiqi at Lehach & Filippa to address your question.

A child who is present in the U.S. but undocumented is ineligible for adoption in the U.S. These laws were made with the protection of children and prevention of child trafficking in mind. The child must return to her home country (or country of origin), which must first approve the adoption, and the U.S. Consulate in the child’s home country issues the child an immigrant visa to reenter the U.S.

However, another way for an undocumented child in the U.S. to be adopted by a U.S. citizen is if such child has been granted Special Immigrant Juvenile (SIJ) Status. An undocumented child in the U.S. who has been deemed eligible for long-term foster care by a juvenile court (based on abuse, neglect, or abandonment, and declared a dependent by the juvenile court) may be eligible for SIJ. SIJ will grant the child legal permanent residence in the US if approved for such status. Applicants for SIJ status must be under 21 years of age. The process generally involves first obtaining an order from a Family Court, and then filing the respective applications for SIJ Status and Adjust of Status to legal permanent residence with USCIS. Now as a child with legal status in the U.S., she is eligible to be adopted in the U.S. through the proper means.

For answers to your adoption questions or to set up a free consultation, please visit

Evita Nancy Torre is an adoption attorney with Greenberg Adoption: The Law Offices of Clifford L. Greenberg in New York City. The firm’s founder, Cliff Greenberg, is the resident legal expert at The Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual & Transgender Community Center, and published a children’s book (illustrated by his young daughter) about a girl’s adoption by two loving mothers, “Living the Dream with Mommy and Mama.” Greenberg Adoption hosts The Center’s monthly Family Law Clinic, and exclusively practices adoption law.

Please Note: This article, or its content, does not create an attorney-client relationship. The information provided is about legal issues but it is not intended as legal advice.

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