Tuesday, August 31, 2010

The Difference Between an IR-3 and IR-4 Visa

Adopted children generally come to the US on one of these two types of visas. While both allow the families to bring their children to the US, there are significant practical differences. A child who comes to the US on an IR-3 visa will automatically be a citizen once they have reached US soil and legally entered the country. The family will receive their certificate of citizenship in the mail within a few weeks or months. A child coming to the US on an IR-4 visa is NOT automatically a citizen and must be “re-adopted” in their home state. This child will receive only an alien registration card (a “green card”) in the mail and while they are free to grow up and get a job, they are not automatically a citizen.

How does a child come to the US on an IR-3 visa? An IR -3 visa requires that the parents (both if a couple are adopting) meet the child before the court adoption process is completed in the child’s country of origin. Families traveling to China meet their child before they go to the Civil Affair’s Bureau office and complete the adoption. The first trip to Russia by the parents allows a Russian child who comes home on the parents’ second trip allows that child to come in on an IR-3 visa. Children up until recently from Ethiopia came home on IR-4 visas. Now that parents are traveling to court, most of these children will come to the US on an IR-3 visa. However, if ONLY ONE PARENT travels to court for some reason and the other parent has power of attorney, the child will still come home on an IR-4 visa. Both parents have to see the child before the adoption.

If both parents travel for court and for some reason only one parent returns to pick up the child, the child can still come home on an IR-3 visa, however, the traveling parent will have to produce documentation that both parents have previously seen the child and this can include copies of passport entries for the previous trip and photos of the parent with child when they traveled for court.

If the child comes home on an IR-4 visa, the parents are required by US immigration to “re-adopt” the child here in their home state and then send in the paperwork in order to obtain a certificate of citizenship for their child.

Sometimes families get their re-adoption completed and then just get a passport for their child. It is recommend that in ALL cases, a family obtain a certificate of citizenship for their child and not simply rely on a passport. Passports get lost and expire. Perhaps the child will have no difficulty, but should questions arise when the child is an adult and the parents have died or are incapacitated, the parents will not be available to explain the process, provide alternative paperwork and navigate the system for their child.

There is nothing better than an actual certificate of citizenship for the child to have available to produce at various times throughout their lives.

If a child is here and is not a citizen and they run afoul of the law, they risk being “deported” to a country they haven’t lived in for decades and do not know the language. It is the parent’s responsibility to make sure that their children are completely and legally adopted and have their US citizenship as soon as possible after returning home. Sometimes parents are tired of paperwork when they get home and put it off. It is very important NOT to neglect this part of the process. You cannot see the future and your child will benefit from your diligence.

I had a client family years ago where within months of the adoption, the father was tragically killed. Fortunately he had already filed the initial re-adoption paperwork and although their initial court finalization date had ironically been cancelled because of a court holiday, the adoptive mother was able to complete the re-adoption with no difficulties. It was a very sad time, but his child was benefited by his lack of procrastination.

If your child comes to the US on an IR-4 visa and you obtain a social security card for your child, the child’s status with the Social Security administration will be a non-citizen. After you have done your readopt and gotten your certificate of citizenship, be sure to go back to Social Security and make sure that their “status” is changed to “citizen.”

In a few days I’ll add to this topic, why it is important to readopt regardless of whether your child comes in on an IR-3 or IR-4 visa.

Kathy L, MA

No comments:

Post a Comment