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U.S. Department of State
1995:  International Adoption -- Vietnam
Bureau of Consular Affairs

     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
     acceptable alternatives.
     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
     D.C., 20520-4818.

                            ADOPTIONS IN VIETNAM
     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
     adoptable children.
     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
     registration book.  
     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
     two weeks.  
     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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