Index of "International Adoptions Reports"
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U.S. Department of State
1995: International Adoption -- Vietnam
Bureau of Consular Affairs
VIETNAM ADOPTIONS MICROLOG TEXT
On November 30, 1994, the Ministry of Justice assumed
responsibility for adoptions in Vietnam. Prospective adoptive
parents are required to submit their applications directly to
the Ministry of Justice office in the province where the child
resides. The decree also limited the role of adoption agencies
to preclude their acting as agents for adoptive parents. The
new law states that only consular or diplomatic offices are
authorized to submit applications on behalf of the adoptive
parents. U.S. law prevents officers of the Department of State
from acting as agents, attorneys or in a fiduciary capacity on
behalf of U.S. citizens in private legal matters such as
adoptions. The U.S. Embassy will is currently discussing this
requirement with the Government of Vietnam in order to work out
Vietnamese adoption law mandates that both prospective adoptive
parents must travel to Vietnam for the giving and receiving
ceremony. Exceptions to this rule may be considered by the
Vietnamese only if someone is seriously or suddenly ill. While
this may take up to 30 days, in practice passports for the
children and exit visas have been issued in 5 to 10 days.
Since the U.S. Embassy does not issue immigrant visas, adoptive
parents must take their new child to the American Embassy in
Bangkok to apply for an immigrant visa through the Orderly
Departure Program. This will require obtaining a Thai visa in
Hanoi which will require about 2 days.
For detailed information on adoption procedures for Vietnam,
please send an 8 1/2" by 11" self addressed stamped envelope
with $3.00 in postage to: Vietnamese Adoptions, Office of
Children's Issues, Room 4811, Department of State, Washington
ADOPTIONS IN VIETNAM
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
U.S. citizens may legally adopt in Vietnam. All U.S. adoptions
must be initially submitted to the adopted child's home
province. In cases where the adopting parents have not yet
identified a child for adoption, the adoption request must be
submitted directly to the Ministry of Justice in Hanoi. The
Ministry will assist in locating a suitable child and then
refer the case to the Judiciary Service of that child's home
province. Both the provincial Public Security Bureau and the
provincial People's Committee must also review and approve the
adoption following its review by the Judiciary Service. Final
approval is issued by the People's Committee. The child is
formally handed over to the adopting parents or agency in a
ceremony at the provincial Judiciary Service office, in
accordance with the Vietnamese Office of the President's
November 20, 1994 Decree Regarding Procedures for Marriages,
Adoptions and Patronage for Vietnamese Children by Foreign
Nationals. U.S. citizens can adopt children from orphanages,
from hospitals or from private individuals.
According to the Vietnamese "Law on Marriage and the Family,"
adoptive parents must be at least 20 years older than the
children they wish to adopt. Children up to and including the
age of 15 can be adopted. If over nine years of age, a child
must consent in writing to his or her adoption. Children can
be adopted if they are orphaned, abandoned, or disabled.
Vietnamese law does not define "orphaned" or "abandoned."
Children with two living parents are sometimes placed in
orphanages by families who claim not to have the economic
wherewithal to support their offspring. The decision to accept
such children rests chiefly with the orphangae director, and
often depends whether space is available in the orphanage.
There are currently ten U.S. adoption agencies operating in
Vietnam (see attachment 1). U.S. citizens are not required by
Vietnamese law to work through an adoption agency, but the
Vietnamese government encourages it, and post also recommends
it. Prior to the promulgation of the Noverber 20, 1994 decree
on adoption, an agency would contribute to the support of an
orphanage or orphanages, which are controlled by the Ministry
of Labor, Invalids and Social Affairs (MOLISA). In exchange
for this support, the agency could place children from that
orphanage. Under the new decree, an agency or prospective
adoptive parent can adopt children from any orphanage which has
Vietnamese documents are not generally reliable, and
regulations regarding civil documentation are frequently
honored in the breach. Births are to be registered in 30 days,
but often are not, especially in the countryside. Late
registration is legal. Births are supposed to be registered
with the local People's Committee. The birth certificate
format is standardized (attachment 2), but non-standard "birth
certificates" made by the orphanages themselves are sometimes
submitted with orphan cases (attachment 3). These are
inevitabllly late-registered. All abandoned children are
supposed to have their births registered by the local People's
Death cerificate format is not standardized. Generally, any
pre-printed form is acceptable, and any death certificate
should be on such a form (attachment 4). At a minimum, the
death certificate should contain the name of the deceased,
cause of death, date of death, and the deceased's date of birth
or age at death. Vietnamese death certificates are unusually
vague about cause of death, "sickness" and "disease" being the
two most common causes given. All deaths are to be registered
within 24 hours with the local People's Committee. Late
registration is legal.
Document fraud is endemic in Vietnam. A document may be
"legal" i.e. have the correct format, but contain false
information. With the exception of birth certificates, the
format of official documents varies widely from province to
When an adoption agency receives a request from a client, the
agency contacts an orphanage (generally the orphanage it
supports) to locate children of the right age, sex, etc. When
a child is identified, the agency asks the client if the child
is acceptable. If so, the agency asks the orphanage to release
the child for foreign adoption.
If one was not already on file, the orphanage obtains an
unconditional release for foreign adoption from the child's
parent or guardian. Every parent or guardian must relinquish
custody of the child for him or her to be placed in an
orphanage, but such releases do not always specify that the
child can be released for foreign adoption. For this reason, a
second release is sometimes necessary. The orphanage director
then signs a document stating that the orphanage consents to
release the child, either to the adoptive parents or their
agents (attachment 5). The adoptive parents' names should be
specified in the Vietnamese version of this document. Once the
provincial People's Committee approves the adoption, the child
is formally relinquished in a "giving and receiveing" ceremony
held at the provincial Judisciary Service attended by at least
one of the adopting parents, and by representatives of the
orphanage, the People's Committee and the Judiciary Service.
After the agency or adopting parents have obtained all the
documents required for the adoption, the case is presented to
the provincial Judiciary Service. The Judiciary Service
coordinates with the local Public Security Bureau (police) to
review the application. The Public Security Bureau must
investigate the adoption within 30 days from the date of the
initial request from the Judiciary Service. This limit can be
exteded 15 days if additional investigation is required.
Following its review of the case, the Judiciary Service gives
the completed paperwork to the provincial People's Committee
for review, together with its recommendation. The People's
Committee decides within 60 days to accept or reject the
application for adoption. If further investigation of the case
is needed, the People's Committee can extend its decision an
additional 30 days.
If the People's Committee approves the adoption, the Judiciary
Service arranges the formal "giving and receiveing" ceremony.
A "Giving and Receiving" document signed by the People's
Committee is issued and the adoption is recorded in an adoption
Before the Vietnamese government's November 1994 approval of
new procedures for adoptions, MOLISA had coordinating and
oversight responsibility for foreign adoptions. Although
MOLISA no longer plays a direct role in adoptions, adoption
cases approved before March 1995 may still bear MOLISA, rather
than the provincial Department of Justice, approval.
MOLISA-approved adoptions will usually have an additional
document, the "Letter of Commitment" (attachment 6), commonly
referred to as the """MOLISA letter". It will usually be
signed by Nghiem Xuan Tue, a Deputy Minister in the Ministry of
Labor and the Director of the Office of Intercountry Adoption,
or by Le Thien Huong, Tue's conterpart in Ho Chi Minh City.
At a minimum, the following Vietnamese documents should
accompany an I-600 petition:
- Child's birth certificate (preferably in standard format,
signed by People's Committe representative).
- Death certificate(s) of parent(s), on a pre-printed form
and signed by a People's Committee representative.
- Release from sole or surviving parent or guardian.
- Release signed by orphanage director consenting to the
child's adoption and specifying the adoptive parents.
The orphanage director's signature on the Giving and
Receiving document is acceptable in lieu of this.
- An explanation of how the child became an orphan. In the
case of children abandoned at or shortly after birth,
this can often be satisfied with a combination of
hospital and orphanage records.
Vietnamese orphan cases have been processed since February 8,
1994 by the consular officers of the Orderly Departure Program
(ODP) in Bangkok. When the adopter or adoption agency informs
ODP that a case is complete, ODP reviews the file. If other
documents are needed or there are other problems with the case,
ODP takes appropriate action. If everything is complete, ODP
faxes a Letter of Confirmation (LOC) to the agency, informing
them that they can bring the child to Bangkok for his or her
medical exam and interview at the U.S. Embassy. If the chld is
found qualified, a visa is issued that day. All IR-4
interviews are conducted in Bangkok. However, in the future,
when Vietnamese IV operations move permanently to Vietnam,
interviews will be conducted there. The elapsed time between
file completion and visa issuance is generally about a week to
Vietnam has a rapidly-growing population and a per capita
income of about $200 a year. Either out of greed or with the
intent of securing them a better economic future, families may
be tempted to release their children inappropriately for
Because the United States has no diplomatic or consular
relations with Vietnam, ODP officers have no consular immunity
and so are not permitted to undertake field investigations in
The Vietnamese appear to have a more elastic definition than do
we of what constitutes an "orphaned" or "abandoned" child.
Children are sometimes relinquished to orphaages by two living,
healthy parents who claim they are not economically able to
care for the child. For the reasons stated above, such
assertions cannot be investigated.
With the November 30, 1994 Presidential Decree, the adoption
process has become decentralized. ODP expects adoption
standards and documentation will vary widely from province to
province. We will continue to follow the adoption process in
Vietnam and learn how the new procedures will be implemented.
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