Index of "International Adoptions Reports"
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U.S. Department of State
1995: International Adoption -- El Salvador
Bureau of Consular Affairs
INTERNATIONAL ADOPTION - EL SALVADOR
DISCLAIMER: THE INFORMATION IN THIS CIRCULAR RELATING TO THE
LEGAL REQUIREMENTS OF SPECIFIC FOREIGN COUNTRIES IS PROVIDED
FOR GENERAL INFORMATION ONLY. QUESTIONS INVOLVING
INTERPRETATION OF SPECIFIC FOREIGN LAWS SHOULD BE ADDRESSED TO
The U.S. Embassy in San Salvador is currently awaiting
clarification of significant changes in El Salvador's foreign
adoption law that occurred with the October 1, 1994
implementation of the new Salvadoran Family Code. Salvadoran
government officials have informed the embassy that it is not
possible at this time to legally initiate a foreign adoption,
as the administrative procedures and mechanisms necessary under
the new Family Code are not yet in place.
It is possible that Salvadoran law will no longer permit
prospective adoptive parents, attorneys or adoption agencies to
identify a child for adoption and to file an adoption
application for that specific child. The new Family Code
appears to specify that a committee from the Procurador
General's office and the Institute for the Protection of Minors
will review adoption applications and decide which Salvadoran
child will be considered available for adoption by prospective
parents. There are also new requirements regarding age and
number of years of marriage that foreign adoptive parents must
meet. Foreign adoptions will no longer be permitted by a
single parent. However, these and many other points remain to
be clarified and the actual implementation of the law has not
yet taken place. For further information on all these points,
please contact your U.S. adoption service provider or local
Additionally, the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS)
has published new worldwide regulations on the definition of
legitimacy, which will have an impact on which Salvadoran
children qualify as orphans and for subsequent immigration to
the United States. Salvadoran law is currently being examined
in light of the new INS regulations.
GENERAL: El Salvador's adoption laws were amended October 1,
1994. In order to adopt a child from El Salvador, a U.S.
citizen must comply with the laws of El Salvador, with U.S.
Immigration law, and any state pre-adoption requirements
(including home study and fingerprint check). The Government
of El Salvador has advised the U.S. Embassy that it is not
possible to begin a foreign adoption at this time. U.S.
citizens interested in adopting a child from El Salvador should
contact the American Embassy for the latest information. The
Supreme Court of El Salvador advises that the granting of
guardianships to prospective foreign adoptive parents for the
purpose of children leaving El Salvador and their eventual
adoption abroad is prohibited. The American Embassy and the
Department of State stand ready to assist adoptive parents,
within the limits of our authority. Reports to the American
Embassy or the Department of State about successes or problems
with foreign adoptions are very useful and any assistance
adoptive parents can provide in this regard is much appreciated.
AVAILABILITY OF CHILDREN FOR ADOPTION: Recent U.S. immigrant
visa statistics reflect the following pattern for visa issuance
IR-3 Immigrant Visas IR-4 Immigrant Visas
Fiscal Issued to Salvadoran Issued to Salvadoran
Year Orphans Adopted Abroad Orphans Adopted in U.S.
FY-1988 2 84
FY-1989 4 90
FY-1990 2 101
FY-1991 3 120
FY-1992 3 115
FY-1993 3 97
FY-1994 1 37
EL SALVADOR ADOPTION AUTHORITY:
There are several Salvadoran Governmental bodies involved in
the adoption process. These include the Family Courts and the
Procuraduria. The Procuraduria is responsible for family
welfare law in El Salvador. The Ministry of Justice oversees
the Consejo de Menores (Council of Minors) which is responsible
for the care of orphans and other children in government
custody. Information regarding Salvadoran laws and procedures
for the purposes of adoption in the United States may be
obtained by contacting:
Jefe de Seccion de Adopciones
Procuradurea General de la Repoblica
Centro de Gobierno
San Salvador, El Salvador
tel: (503) 22-4444 or (503) 22-4133
EL SALVADOR ADOPTION PROCEDURES:
CAVEAT: If, in the future, it becomes possible to initiate a
foreign adoption, U.S. citizens should ensure that the child
they plan to adopt meets the U.S. Immigration definition of an
"orphan" since El Salvador allows the adoption of non-orphans.
At this time, the only legal way to take a child out of El
Salvador is by first adopting the child legally in El
Salvador. Under Salvadoran law, an orphan is a child whose
parents have died. An adoptable child is any child surrendered
by his/her natural parent(s) for adoption. Under Salvadoran
law, to be eligible for adoption, a child with no identifiable
parents must first be legally emancipated and represented by
the Procuraduria. However, this process is cumbersome and time
consuming. For this reason, most adoptions in the past were
arranged with the child's biological mother through an
attorney. Lawyers usually had private arrangements with the
mothers of children. The new family code prohibits such
private arrangements, and caution should be used when dealing
with foreign adoption attorneys until there is clarification on
this critical issue and the role attorneys are allowed under
the new family code. A final adoption decree is issued by a
Salvadoran court and is necessary in order to remove a child
for adoption in a foreign country.
AGE AND CIVIL STATUS REQUIREMENTS:
Adopting parents must be 25 years of age and married for 5
years. There must be a minimum of 15 years age difference
between the adopting parents and child. Parents adopting a
child under year of age cannot be older than 45. Single
individuals may not adopt.
EL SALVADOR ADOPTION RECORDS:
El Salvador places adoption information in the margin of the
child's original birth report. This report is usually written
into a bound book kept at the alcaldia (city hall).
Additionally, the adoption is recorded in a separate book of
adoptions in the alcaldia.
In the past, adoptions in El Salvador have taken between 12 and
18 months to complete, including the U.S. Embassy fraud
investigation. Unfortunately, because of the high incidence of
fraud in adoption cases in El Salvador, an investigation of
each adoption is necessary to ensure that the child is an
orphan under the provisions of U.S. law. Investigations
generally take between two and six weeks to complete.
EL SALVADOR FEES:
Reliable information is not available at this time regarding
costs for adoptions processed under the new family code. In
the past adoptions cost between $5,000 and $12,000, with most
costing approximately $10,000. It is useful for U.S. citizens
adopting a child in El Salvador to report any exorbitant fees
to the American Embassy or the Department of State.
ADOPTION AGENCIES AND ATTORNEYS:
El Salvador does not have private adoption agencies. U.S.
citizens should be wary of adoption agencies or facilitators
whose promises seem too good to be true. Fraudulent activities
involving adoption in El Salvador have included kidnapping and
trafficking in children. One Salvadoran attorney was disbarred
and his accomplices placed in custody charged with illegal
child trafficking. The states of Georgia, Florida, Alabama and
Massachusetts have undertaken their own investigations of
adoption agencies and facilitators involved in irregular
adoption practices in El Salvador.
EL SALVADOR DOCUMENTARY REQUIREMENTS:
Unavailable at this time.
EL SALVADOR EMBASSY AND CONSULATES IN U.S.:
Embassy of El Salvador
2308 California St. N.W.
Washington, D.C. 20008
tel: (202) 265-9671
Consulate General of El Salvador
2412 West 7th St., 2nd Fl.
Los Angeles, CA 90057
tel: (213) 383-6134
Consulate General of El Salvador
870 Market St., Suite 508
San Francisco, CA 94102
tel: (415) 781-7924
Consulate General of El Salvador
300 Biscayne Blvd., Suite 1020
Miami, FL 33131
tel: (305) 371-8850
Consulate General of El Salvador
104 S. Michigan Ave., Suite 423
Chicago, IL 60603
tel: (312) 332-1393
Consulate General of El Salvador
1136 World Trade Center
New Orleans, Louisiana 70130
tel: (504) 522-4266
Consulate General of El Salvador
46 Park Ave., 3rd Floor
New York, NY 10016
tel: (212) 889-3608
Consulate General of El Salvador
6420 Hillcroft Street, Suite 100
Houston, TX 77081
tel: (713) 270-6239
In addition, El Salvador has honorary consuls in Mobile,
Alabama; Phoenix, Arizona; Oakland, California; San Diego,
California; Denver, Colorado; Coral Gables, Florida; Atlanta,
Georgia; Baton Rouge, Louisiana; Detroit, Michigan; Billings,
Montana; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; Bayamon, Puerto Rico and
San Juan, Puerto Rico.
U.S. IMMIGRATION REQUIREMENTS:
Orphans adopted abroad who have been in the custody of the
adoptive parents less than two years require orphan petitions
for U.S. immigrant visa processing to enter the United States.
Get Started Early With U.S. Immigration Procedure:
Prospective adoptive parents should be aware that, whether they
identify a child prior to leaving the U.S. or locate the child
on a trip to El Salvador, certain very time consuming processes
will have to be completed before the required U.S. Immigration
petition(s) (either the preliminary I-600A or the final I-600
petitions) can be approved. These include, but are not limited
to satisfactory completion and submission to INS of a home
study of the adopting parent(s), compliance with any state
pre-adoption conditions and a fingerprint check by INS of those
parent(s), certified copy of prospective adoptive parents'
birth certificate in U.S. or other evidence of U.S.
citizenship; certified copy of marriage certificate; certified
copy of death certificate or divorce decree reflecting
termination of previous marriage (if applicable). It is
therefore suggested that prospective adopting parents get in
touch with the INS office having jurisdiction over their place
or residence in the U.S. at the earliest opportunity.
Unconditional Abandonment and Meeting the Definition of Orphan:
U.S. law provides for the immigration of children adopted
overseas by Americans under section 101(B)(1)(F) of the
Immigration and Nationality Act. The law states that an
eligible child must be under the age of sixteen at the time the
immigrant visa petition is filed. The child must have no
living parents or only one living parent who is incapable of
providing for the child according to local living standards and
has irrevocably released the child for emigration and
adoption. A child with two living parents can meet the
definition of an orphan only through the disappearance of,
abandonment or desertion by or separation or loss from both
parents. Abandonment of a child must be unconditional.
Agreeing to give a child up for adoption by a specific person
does not constitute unconditional abandonment, since the
parents are giving up custody with the understanding that the
child will be cared for and will be adopted by a particular
individual. The Board of Immigration Appeals of the U.S.
Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) has ruled that a
child with one surviving parent who has not been abandoned may
qualify for orphan status only if the sole surviving parent is
destitute by local standards or is otherwise physically or
mentally unable to care for the child. This means that the
child may not be classified as an orphan unless the sole or
surviving parent cannot provide the child the nourishment and
shelter necessary for subsistence consistent with the local
standards of the child's place of residence. The parent must
also irrevocably release the child for emigration and
adoption. INS usually requires consular officers to
investigate the parent's inability to care for the child.
Consular Authority to Approve a Case:
Under the U.S. Immigration and Nationality Act (INA), consular
officers can only approve clearly approval I-600 petitions. If
there are any questions regarding the eligibility for orphan
status or whether petition conditions have been met, consular
officers must refer these petitions to the nearest INS office.
Taking the Child to the U.S.:
The U.S. immigrant visa petition (I-600) may be filed for the
child at the U.S. Embassy in San Salvador or any INS office.
If it is filed at the Embassy, the petitioner (or at least one
of the members of a married adoptive couple) and the child must
be physically present in the consular district. The I-600 is
filed by one person, but if the petitioner is married, the
petitioner's spouse must also sign the petition. Both parties
must sign the I-600 after the child has been identified. This
means that if one party has already gone abroad to arrange the
adoption, the I-600 must be sent by the spouse abroad to the
spouse in the United States (generally by express courier). If
the petitioner is married and his or her spouse has not seen
the child before or during the adoption proceedings, then the
child must be readopted in the U.S. To do this, the petitioner
must show he or she has met state pre-adoption requirements.
INS makes this determination at the time the I-600A is filed or
it must be established that pre-adoption requirements have been
met at the time of filing the I-600 at the Embassy.
If the INS has already approved an I-600A advanced processing
application, the I-600 petition may be filed and adjudicated at
the post to which the I-600A was sent. If advanced approval
has not yet been granted, the I-600 petition must be forwarded
to the INS for adjudication. If so, as noted above, a home
study and fingerprinting of parent(s) and any state preadoption
requirements will be necessary, perhaps requiring several
Scheduling Appointment With U.S. Consular Officer:
It is advisable to contact the Consular Section of the U.S.
Embassy in San Salvador at least one day in advance to check
that the documents are in order and to set an appointment for
the immigrant visa interview. The Embassy cannot guarantee
issuance of the visa in advance of the interview. If you are
outside the U.S. and the child has completed his medical
examination, you will have a preliminary interview with the
consular officer in order to complete form I-604 "Request for
and Report on Overseas Orphan Investigation". The child must
be present at the Embassy for the immigrant visa application.
The medical examination must be performed by a physician from
an approved list of physicians using a specified form. Unless
special circumstances, such as a physical handicap, indicate
the child's care will be particularly costly, the adopting
parents will not be required to provide further proof of their
financial situation, as this information will have already been
provided at the time of petition (I-600A or I-600) approval.
Upon receipt of an approved I-600 or I-600A by the American
Embassy from INS, the Embassy sends a letter to the adopting
parent(s) which describes the application procedures, outlines
the possibility of an often lengthy investigation and advises
the adoptive parents not to come to El Salvador until a visa
appointment date has been set. Unfortunately, because of the
high incidence of fraud in adoption cases in El Salvador, an
investigation of each adoption is necessary to ensure that the
child is an orphan under the provisions of U.S. law. The
consular section currently spends over four staff hours each
day on adoption processing, and investigations generally take
between two and six weeks to complete.
What Documents to Bring With You to U.S. Embassy:
Note: Since each case is different, it is possible that the
Embassy will request additional documents after a preliminary
review of the application of the prospective adoptive parent(s).
For the immigrant visa application the following original
documents with translations are necessary:
1. Certified copy of child's amended birth certificate.
2. Certified copy of final adoption decree registered by civil
authorities (Adoption Certificate).
3. Adoption Writ. (Must include a statement to the effect
that the biological parent(s) have willingly renounced all
rights to the child in the presence of a competent authority.
If such a statement is not included, the document must state
clearly the reasons.
4. Valid Salvadoran passport.
5. Two 1 3/4 inch color visa photographs.
6. Medical examination (according to Embassy instructions).
If the minor has a physical or mental disability, a notarized
statement will be required from the prospective adoptive
parent(s) in the United States indicating that they are fully
aware of the physical or mental disability of the minor and in
spite of that fact that they have the intention of finalizing
the adoption. This statement can be included in item 19 of
form I-600 and also in the home study if more convenient. In
that case a separate notarized statement will not be required.
7. In cases where the minor has not been seen or observed in
person by the prospective adoptive parent(s), a notarized
statement by those parents will be required indicating that
although they have not seen or observed the minor in person,
they are nevertheless willing to adopt or re-adopt the minor in
the United States. Both parties must sign the I-600 after the
child has been identified. This means that if one party has
gone abroad to arrange the adoption, and the other remained in
the U.S., the I-600 must be sent by one spouse to the other
with the child's identity information completed and an original
signature of the spouse reflecting their concurrence with the
procedure. This is generally done by express courier in the
interests of time.
8. In the case of a minor taken to the United States by a
third party, for example a legal representative or social
assistant of an adoption agency or other entity, a notarized
statement will be required authorizing that person to take the
minor the United States with the purpose of placing him/her
with the prospective adoptive parent(s). This statement can
also be included in the Judge's authorization for the child to
leave El Salvador. Note: There are no provisions in INS
regulations for approving petitions signed by agents with
powers of attorney. Consequently, even if an agent is
physically accompanying the child to the U.S., the petition
itself must be signed by the adoptive parent(s), after the
child has been identified.
INS Fees for I-600 and I-600A Petitions: There is an INS fee
of $155 for an I-600 or I-600A petition. If you have a valid
I-600A and file an I-600 within one year of the approval of the
I-600A, no fee will be charged for the I-600 provided you are
only petitioning for one child or for siblings. If you are
petitioning for more than one child and the children are not
siblings, the I-600 fee will be charged.
U.S. State Department authentication fee: If you are having
documents authenticated by the Department of State
Authentication Office, there is a fee of $4.00 per document.
Medical Examination Fee:
The adopted child must have a medical examination performed by
one of the U.S. Embassy or Consulate's panel physicians before
the immigrant visa can be issued. The cost of this medical
examination is approximately U.S. $15.00 and must be borne by
the adoptive parent(s).
U.S. Immigrant Visa Fee: The fee for the immigrant visa is
$200.00 and may be paid either in U.S. dollars or local
currency. This $200 does not include medical examinations,
costs of documents, the petition, etc. The American Embassy
does not accept personal checks or credit cards.
Prospective adopting parents should consult INS publication No.
M-249, "The Immigration of Adopted and Prospective Adoptive
Children" and the Department of State information flyer
AMERICAN EMBASSY ASSISTANCE:
Upon arrival in El Salvador to try to arrange an adoption, U.S.
citizens should register at the American Embassy, Consular
Section, American Citizens Services. The Embassy will be able
to provide information about any outstanding travel advisories
and to provide other information about El Salvador including
lists of physicians, attorneys, interpreters and translators.
The American Embassy is located at Final Boulevard Santa Elena,
Antiguo Cuscatlan, La Libertad, El Salvador; tel:
011-503-78-4444; fax: 011-503-78-6011.
QUESTIONS: Specific questions regarding adoptions in El
Salvador may be addressed to the Consular Section of the U.S.
Embassy or Consulate. You may also contact the Office of
Children's Issues, U.S. Department of State, Room 4800 N.S.,
2201 C Street, N.W., Washington, D.C. 20520-4818, telephone
(202) 647-2688 with specific adoption questions. Recorded
information concerning significant changes in adoption
procedures is available 24 hours a day at: (202) 736-7000, or
by automated fax (calling from the telephone on your fax
machine) at (202) 647-3000. If the country you are interested
in is not listed, procedures have not significantly changed.
Information on immigrant visas is available from the State
Department's Visa Office, at (202) 663-1225. This 24 hour
automated system includes options to speak with consular
officers during business hours for questions not answered in
the recorded material. Application forms and petitions for
immigrant visas are available from the U.S. Immigration and
Naturalization Service, the nearest office of which is listed
in the federal pages of your telephone book, under U.S.
Department of Justice.
In addition, the State Department publishes Consular
Information Sheets and Travel Warnings. Consular Information
Sheets are available for every country in the world, providing
information such as the location of the U.S. Embassy, health
conditions, political situations, and crime reports. When
situations are sufficiently serious that the State Department
recommends U.S. citizens avoid traveling to a country, a Travel
Warning is issued. Both Consular Information Sheets and Travel
Warnings may be heard 24 hours a day by calling the State
Department's Office of Overseas Citizens Services at
(202) 647-5225 from a touch-tone telephone. The recording is
updated as new information becomes available. In addition,
this information is accessible through the automated fax
machine, as above, and is also available at any of the 13
regional passport agencies, field offices of the U.S.
Department of Commerce, and U.S. Embassies and Consulates
abroad. Furthermore, you may write in requesting information,
sending a self-addressed, stamped envelope to Overseas Citizens
Services, Room 4811 N.S., 2201 C St., N.W., U.S. Department of
State, Washington, D.C. 20520-4818. Finally, information is
available through your personal computer. If you have a
computer and a modem, you can access the Consular Affairs
Bulletin Board (CABB). This service is free of charge, and may
be reached at: (202) 647-9225. Consular Information Sheets and
Travel Warnings may also be accessed by subscribers to many
on-line services. For complete information on accessing
consular information via computer, please request document
1016, entitled "Consular Information Program," from the
automated fax system, which is described in the preceding
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