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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
     FOREIGN COUNSEL.                                                
     
     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
     Salvadoran attorney.
     
     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
     to orphans: 
     
                  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.
     
     

     TIME FRAME:
     
     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
     Consular Section
     2308 California St. N.W.
     Washington, D.C.  20008
     tel:  (202) 265-9671
     

     Consulate General of El Salvador
     Consular Section
     2412 West 7th St., 2nd Fl.
     Los Angeles, CA  90057
     tel:  (213) 383-6134
     
     Consulate General of El Salvador
     Consular Section
     870 Market St., Suite 508
     San Francisco, CA  94102
     tel:  (415) 781-7924
     
     Consulate General of El Salvador
     Consular Section
     300 Biscayne Blvd., Suite 1020
     Miami, FL  33131
     tel:  (305) 371-8850
     
     Consulate General of El Salvador
     Consular Section
     104 S. Michigan Ave., Suite 423
     Chicago, IL  60603
     tel:  (312) 332-1393
     
     Consulate General of El Salvador
     Consular Section
     1136 World Trade Center
     New Orleans, Louisiana  70130
     tel:  (504) 522-4266
     
     Consulate General of El Salvador
     Consular Section
     46 Park Ave., 3rd Floor
     New York, NY  10016
     tel:  (212) 889-3608
     
     Consulate General of El Salvador
     Consular Section
     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
     months.  
     

     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.
     
     U.S. FEES:
     
     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.
     
     ADDITIONAL INFORMATION:
     
     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
     "International Adoptions".
     
     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
     paragraph.
     
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