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Immigration rules, and links to Citizenship and Immigration Canada


Robin Hilborn
October 2000

If you are considering adopting abroad, you need to know the rules, especially if you hope to get your child past the immigration officer!

I've summarized the following from International Adoption and the Immigration Process, by Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC), dated March 2000.

International adoption can appear daunting at first. Its complexity stems from the various legislations involved in the process: social welfare laws, immigration laws and, not least, the laws of the child's country.

Each province manages its own adoption legislation. If you are considering an international adoption you should first contact the ministry or department in your province to learn about its requirements. See the list of provincial adoption coordinators

You need to "sponsor" a child

About 2,000 foreign children are adopted by Canadians every year. CIC gives these children high priority in the immigration process.

To sponsor a child from abroad you should be a Canadian citizen or permanent resident, over 18 and living in Canada. Other criteria are in the application kit "Sponsoring a Family Class Relative." (You apply to sponsor a child within what is called the "family class".)

The child must undergo a medical examination and get a passport from her birth country. Then CIC issues an immigrant visa which allows the child you have adopted, or intend to adopt, to come to Canada. (The visa expires one year after the medical exam.) At your port of entry you present the immigrant visa to an immigration officer who grants the child permanent residence in Canada. A child adopted abroad does not automatically become a Canadian citizen -- you have to apply for citizenship for your child.

Foreign laws

You must comply with the laws of the child's country of origin. Some countries don't allow adoption by foreigners; others may require a lengthy adoption process. Before embarking on the sponsorship process, make sure you are familiar with the requirements of the country where the child is living. To find out if adoption is legal for a country, call the embassy of the country -- see your phone book or the list at

Visa officers need to be satisfied that the adoption is legal in the country of origin, before issuing an immigrant visa. If the adoption has already occurred, it's up to you to provide the documents to establish this fact.

An adoption completed in a foreign country is automatically recognized in all jurisdictions in Canada except Quebec, where a Quebec court must grant recognition after arrival of the child.

Home study

The home study is an essential component of the adoption process; all provinces and territories require it. Its objective is to assess your ability to parent an adopted child. It can include references, medical reports and other personal information, and is usually done by a licensed social worker. Contact your provincial adoption coordinator for details.

A home study will assist you in dealing with international adoption and its implications. Bringing up an adoptive child sometimes requires special skills. Children may have had a difficult start in life, or may have been deprived of emotional support or physical stimuli in an orphanage, or may even have suffered some health ailments. You will have to be prepared for the reactions of their family, racial and cultural differences, and adjustment problems. All the possible implications for both you and the child will need to be well thought-out before proceeding.


Once a home study has been done, you begin the immigration process by completing an Undertaking Form (in the application kit). You can leave the name of the child blank if the child hasn't yet been identified. The undertaking is your binding commitment to provide the necessary care and support for your child. There is a (nonrefundable) fee of $100 for the sponsorship, to cover the cost of processing the sponsorship and the visa application.

Approval to sponsor

You send the undertaking and fee to the Case Processing Centre (CPC) in Mississauga, Ont., which approves the family class sponsorship and informs the Canadian visa office abroad. The CPC also sends you an Application for Permanent Residence. The CPC tries to process the sponsorship as quickly as possible, usually taking no more than two weeks. The overseas portion of the processing depends on many factors, such as the time needed to complete the medical examination.

Provincial agreement

Once a sponsorship application has been approved, the CPC writes to the provincial or territorial authority to get its agreement, or lack of objection, to the proposed adoption. This takes the form of either a "notification of agreement" or a "letter of no objection or no involvement", depending on whether you are dealing with a Hague or a non-Hague country. Either way, the province provides its written statement, which goes to the Canadian visa office abroad, clearing the way for issuing the immigrant visa.

Medical exam

Immigration requirements must be met before the adoption can take place and before a visa officer can issue an immigrant visa for the child.

To issue a visa, the visa office needs your Application for Permanent Residence. Also, to get a visa, your child must undergo a medical examination conducted by CIC's approved doctor in your child's country of origin. This examination is crucial to the child's acceptance in Canada. The medical examination should be done as early as possible and certainly before the adoption. The results may affect your decision to go ahead with a particular adoption, especially if there is a difficult medical history. If the child is medically inadmissible in Canada, he or she will be refused a visa.

When the child has met immigration requirements and is ready to be issued a visa, the visa office notifies the provincial authority. You should not go abroad before you have been officially informed that the immigration process has been completed. You travel abroad and either finalize the adoption in court (if the adoption takes place in the country of origin) or take custody of your child (if the adoption is finalized in Canada). The visa office verifies the adoption or legal custody papers, and the travel document, and issues an immigrant visa. Then you must get a passport from the child's home country, permitting travel to Canada.

Hague Convention

The Hague Convention was finalized in 1993 so that countries could cooperate on regulating international adoptions. It aims to safeguard the best interests of adopted children, standardize processes, clarify the status of the child, and prevent abuse, such as trafficking in children. Canada ratified the Convention in December 1996. All provinces except Quebec have passed legislation to conform to the Hague Convention. Each country that is party to the Convention must designate a central authority to monitor requests for intercountry adoption. In Canada each province and territory has its own central authority. The Hague Convention applies only when the child to be adopted resides in a country that has implemented the Convention.

For more information:
International Adoption (CIC),

The Application Kit "Sponsoring a Family Class Relative" is available online and also from the CIC Call Centre: Toronto (416) 973-4444; Montreal (514) 496-1010; Vancouver (604) 666-2171; toll-free outside these cities: 1-888-242-2100. It contains: Information Guide, Application to Sponsor a Member of the Family Class and Undertaking, Financial Evaluation, Sponsorship Agreement, Statutory Declaration of Common-Law Union, Document Checklist - Sponsor.

[URLs updated Dec. 3, 2003.]

Robin Hilborn is editor of Family Helper magazine and webmaster of Family Helper web site. See his biography.

First published in Adoption Helper No. 36, October 2000.

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Contact: Robin Hilborn,
Box 1203, Southampton, Ont. N0H 2L0 Canada
Copyright 2013 Robin R. Hilborn
Updated Feb. 10, 2013

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