Adoption from Uganda:

Adoption in Uganda is governed by the Children Act Chapter 59. The Children (Adoption of Children) Rules- Statutory Instrument 59-1 provides for the procedural requirements for making applications for adoption.

In order for a non- Citizen to adopt a child, they would have to have stayed in Uganda for at least three years and fostered the child for at least 36 months. This provision may be waived in exceptional circumstances however the exceptional circumstances mentioned as a requirement are not specified in the law and have been left to the court to determine.

Many inter-country adopting parents are not residents of Uganda and as such, the Courts are able to grant them Legal Guardianship instead of full Adoptions and this has enabled children to immigrate to the United States. There are no laws in Uganda that specifically relate to guardianship. Guardianship orders are applied for under section 3 of the Children Act and paragraph 1 (b) of the First Schedule to the Children Act Cap 59 which relate to the welfare principle. The principle is that in making any decision concerning a child, the welfare of the child is of paramount importance. Once it is in the best interest of the child, Court can appoint fit and proper persons as legal guardians.

Please note: This Law is now under review; a draft amendment has been finalized and is now waiting to go through the appropriate steps to become Law.  We shall let you know of the developments as they unfold; until then, the above Law applies.

Procedural advice on how to go about acquiring ‘that’ custody:

There are no set rules and procedures on how to go about acquiring custody of a child. Many people go about it in different ways:- some independently and others through an Adoption Agency, as such, even the matching process is not spelled out.

Regardless of which route one is using, prudence is key; Adoptive parents are urged to cross and double check all the information they are told about their future child.

What about fees?

The fees for the process are also not spelled out and most of them are not receipted so its important that parents act very cautiously and seek advice from independent people as much as possible before they unknowingly get involved in paying illegal fees.

What is an “orphan” as defined by the USCIS (US Citizen and Immigration Services?)

The Immigration and Nationality Act provides a definition of an orphan for the purposes of immigration to the United States.

A child may be considered an orphan because of the death or disappearance of, abandonment or desertion by, or separation or loss from, both parents. The child of an unwed mother or surviving parent may be considered an orphan if that parent is unable to care for the child properly and has, in writing, irrevocably released the child for emigration and adoption. The child of an unwed mother may be considered an orphan, as long as the mother does not marry (which would result in the child’s having a stepfather) and as long as the child’s biological father has not legitimated the child. If the father legitimates the child or the mother marries, the mother is no longer considered a sole parent. The child of a surviving parent may also be an orphan if the surviving parent has not married since the death of the other parent (which would result in the child’s having a stepfather or stepmother).

Note: Prospective adoptive parents should be sure that a child fits the definition of ”orphan” before adopting a child from another country, because not all children adopted abroad meet the definition of “orphan,” and therefore may not be eligible to immigrate to the United States.

More detailed information can be found here.

What kind of documentation should an orphanage have for children residing there, and what are some “red flags” that a family should look out for?

As a minimum, each child should have an orphanage file and the contents are crucial.

What is in that orphanage file? Minimally, it must contain an admission form for the child, proof of any medicals, proof of attempts to re-settle, and proof of residence at the orphanage.  Has a social welfare report ever been made for the child? How many times have they been visited by a probation worker at the orphanage, and is there proof of visits? Any lack of evidence or documentation is a red flag.

Compulsory fees payable to the orphanage are a red flag.

Agency-owned orphanages are a red flag.

In regards to orphanages, looks can be deceiving. Look further in to the orphanages’ child care plans. Are they open to questions? Are they forth coming with information? Would they let you look at random files?

What about “orphanage fees,” “humanitarian fees,” and “care and keeping fees” paid to an orphanage?

Many times we get inquiries about what is enough, too much, or ethical to pay an orphanage.  Parents are advised that there are some children’s homes that expect donations to be paid upon receiving a referral and donations from adoptive families is one of the main ways that homes are supported. There is a very fine line between supporting the children and “buying” babies and this is crucial to maintaining good ethical standards. We therefore advise that parents steer away from referrals which come with compulsory donations. If one feels the need to donate to the orphanage, that is your decision but please do not do it at any point along your adoption process. Such practice encourages orphanages to make orphans available only for inter-country adoptions and do not make any effort to make sure that the children they are referring for adoption are indeed orphans in need of it. Also, some adoption agencies incorporate compulsory orphanage fees within their fees- this is NOT good practice.

What is the process for obtaining a visa for my child?

This information changes from time to time, and it is always a good idea to check with the embassy for current requirements. We will endeavor to communicate any critical changes on this website, however its always best to check directly with the embassy.

What is an orphan investigation for immigration approval, and how does it work?

Orphan investigations are carried out by the embassy as a rule, in order for them to verify a child’s orphan status. Adoptive parents are also urged to carry out their own private investigations conducted before they commit to a child, to help ensure that there are no “surprises” at the time of the embassy’s investigation.

As part of the processing of your request for adoption immigration, USCIS (or, in some cases, the Department of State) will conduct an investigation overseas to verify that the child is an orphan. The purpose of the investigation is to:

  • Confirm that the child is an orphan as defined in the U.S. immigration law
  • Verify that you have obtained a valid adoption or grant of custody
  • The child does not have an illness or disability that is not described in the orphan petition
  • Determine whether the child has any special needs that were not fully addressed in your home study
  • Determine whether there are any facts showing that the child does not qualify for immigration as your adopted child

What is Hague, and is Uganda a Hague country?

Uganda is not a HAGUE Country.

The Hague Convention of 29 May 1993 on Protection of Children and Co-operation in Respect of Inter-country Adoption (Hague Adoption Convention) protects children and their families against the risks of illegal, irregular, premature or ill-prepared adoptions abroad. This Convention, which also operates through a system of national Central Authorities, reinforces the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (Art. 21) and seeks to ensure that inter-country adoptions are made in the best interests of the child and with respect for his or her fundamental rights, and to prevent the abduction, the sale of, or traffic in children.

What are the requirements for immigration approval to the USA?

You May Immigrate an Adopted Child Through the Orphan Process if:

  • You Are a U.S. citizen.

If you are married, your spouse must also sign Form I-600, Petition to Classify Orphan as an Immediate Relative and must also adopt the child.

If you are not married, you must be at least 25 years old when you file your Form I-600 petition

  • You establish that you will provide proper parental care to the child
  • You establish that the child whom you have adopted or plan to adopt is an “orphan” as defined in U.S. immigration law
  • You establish that either:

You (and your spouse, if married) have adopted the child abroad, and that each of you saw the child in person before or during the adoption proceeding


You will adopt the child in the United States after the child arrives in the United States (you must have permission to bring the child out of his or her own country and to the United States for adoption).

Go to the Before Your Child Immigrates to the United States page for information about the type of visa your child will receive and about how and when your child may become a U.S. citizen under the Child Citizenship Act.

After the Orphan Petition is Approved:

Apply to a U.S. embassy or consulate for a visa for your child. The Department of State officer who decides the visa application must determine whether your child is “inadmissible” under any provision in section 212(a) of the Immigration and Nationality Act. For children, the most common ground of inadmissibility is medical inadmissibility due to certain diseases, lack of required vaccinations, or other medical issues. If your child is inadmissible, you may be able to obtain a waiver of inadmissibility by filing Form I-601, Application for Waiver of Ground of Inadmissibility.