Immigration, Adoption and Citizenship

This is not a political blog post. It is a blog post, however, that arrives in the midst of a political storm. I hope you will hear the intent. The immigration debate is far from over. Emotions are high, and understandably so. At WACAP, we want to take this opportunity to repeat a message we have, like many adoption professionals, addressed for decades: the importance of obtaining a Certificate of Citizenship for all foreign born adopted children. Below is information gleaned from our welcome home packet for all newly established adoptive families. The information is worth repeating at this time.

A U.S. Certificate of Citizenship (CoC) is one of the most important documents you can obtain to fully support your child’s future. The CoC is proof that your child is a citizen of the United States and, as such, is entitled to all benefits of citizenship.

Many have asked, “Isn’t our adoption decree, U.S. passport or birth certificate enough proof?”

Close-up on Statue of Liberty, face, crown, and uplifited arm, against blue sky

The answer, unfortunately, is “No, not for everyone.” While some adoptive parents assume their local court’s adoption decree and U.S.-issued birth certificate are all that is needed, these documents do not always provide their children with that extra layer of protection afforded to the children, and eventual adults, who can produce a CoC.

February 27, 2001 is a significant date, here. This is when the Child Citizenship Act of 20001 went into effect, for those adopted internationally under age eighteen. The law was not retroactive, however.

There is a blog post making its way around online adoption groups, posted in May of 2016, which states, “The passport is issued by the U.S. State Department. It is a proof of citizenship, allows one to travel, and can be used as a form of identification. It expires and must be renewed.”

WACAP regularly receives reports from adoptees or their parents advising that some offices (government and private) have not accepted the adoptee’s passport as sufficient evidence of citizenship. While the US government may intend the passport to be sufficient evidence of citizenship, the experience of adoptees in communities large and small throughout the U.S. attests that a passport alone isn’t always enough.

“The Certificate of Citizenship is issued by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. It never expires. It is the most definitive proof of citizenship that the U.S. offers.” 2

If social media posts, comments, and statuses are any indicator, there is a significant and vocal population of adoptive parents who do not view their children as immigrants. It is important, however, to understand that the United States Government has always viewed internationally adopted children as immigrants. Legal immigrants, mind you, but immigrants nonetheless. Some argue that there is evidence to support the notion that the U.S. Congress views adoptees as immigrants only, rather than family members, citing the lack of retroactive citizenship in the Child Citizenship Act as well as the fear many adoptees have over being deported.3,4,5

Our hope at WACAP is that you can feel confident in your child’s citizenship, and that you can instill that confidence in your child(ren) with accurate and relevant information. If you have any questions about CoCs or the process for getting one, please consult this website or contact WACAP’s post placement and finalization team at 206.575.4550 or 800.732.1887.



About WACAP’s Clinical Director, Zoila Lopez: Zoila joined WACAP in 2016 as Clinical Director. She is an adoptive mom, a former foster parent, and brings to her new role an extensive background of work as a therapist and adoption coach to support all members of the adoption triad.


WACAP (World Association for Children and Parents) is one of the largest and most experienced international nonprofit adoption and child assistance agencies in the United States. Since 1976, we’ve placed over 10,000 children with loving adoptive parents and provided food, medical care and education to more than 200,000 children around the world.
This entry was posted in Adoption, Adoption FAQ, International Adoption, Staff/Board Spotlight, Support Services and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to Immigration, Adoption and Citizenship

  1. Narda says:

    If we changed our child’s name after receiving the CoC, do we need to apply for an updated one, or is the US birth certificate and SSN enough to prove the name was changed?

  2. Pingback: Adoption FAQ: “What about the Certificate of Citizenship?” | wacap

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