Please note that these regulations apply to any national adopting from Bulgaria intending to live outside Bulgaria.
The Bulgarian government allows for the adoption of Bulgarian children by families and individuals in foreign countries. The issue of foreign adoptions is sensitive, and the Bulgarian government has implemented the requirements of the Hague Adoption Convention to regulate the process.
Adoption does not automatically confer U.S. citizenship. Adoption allows the adoptive parents to apply for an immigrant visa for the child. For adoptions finalized abroad, the Child Citizenship Act of 2000 grants an adoptive child automatic U.S. citizenship when the child enters the United States on an immigrant visa.
The Hague Adoption Convention entered into force for the United States on April 1, 2008. The Convention strengthens protection for adopted children, birth parents and adoptive parents involved in intercountry adoptions. Its key principles include:
- Ensuring that intercountry adoptions take place in the best interest of children
- Preventing the abduction, exploitation, sale, or trafficking of children
- Facilitating communication between Central Authorities in countries of origin and destination countries
The Adoption Process
The adoption process is complex and can take considerable time. Recent changes in the Bulgarian government’s processing of adoptions has increased the speed with which cases come to conclusion, but most cases take many months to process. The Government of Bulgaria has stated its intention to prioritize adoptions of special needs (to include older) children and maintains a publicly available registry of such children, in Bulgarian.
Prospective adoptive parents must first contact an accredited adoption service provider in the United States, who will then work through a Bulgarian adoption agency accredited by the Bulgarian Ministry of Justice (as of February 2010, there were 20 Bulgarian and no U.S. providers accredited in Bulgaria.) There is no upper age limit for American prospective adoptive parents but Bulgarian law requires a difference of at least 15 years between the adoptive parents and the adoptee.
All prospective adoptive parents must file an I-800A with the domestic USCS office having jurisdiction over their usual place of residence. This form is used to determine suitability of the prospective adoptive parents. Dual U.S. –Bulgarian citizens are subject to the same requirement. Regardless of citizenship or place of residence, if a prospective adoptive parent or couple is adopting with the intention of moving to the United States, they MUST follow Hague adoption procedures.
Important note: If the adoption process was initiated before April 1, 2008 and the prospective adoptive parents filed Form I-600A with USCIS before that date, the case may be brought to conclusion under the old regulations. Form I-600A is valid for 18 months and adoptive parents are responsible for updating the form before it expires. If the Form I-600A has expired, the parents must start the adoption procedure under the provisions of the Hague Convention by filing an I-800A Form with USCIS.
The Hague Convention adoption cases require two interviews at the Consular Section in Sofia.
1. Provisional interview: After the Bulgarian Ministry of Justice has offered a child to the prospective adoptive parent(s) and they have accepted the child and filed an I-800 with USCIS, the immigration service will send the approved I-800 to the U.S. Embassy in Sofia. At that point, either the adoptive parents or their representative in Bulgaria file a provisional visa application by submitting a passport-size photograph (5x5 cm), Forms DS 230-I and DS 230-II and paying a $400.00 visa fee. Before prospective adoptive parents gain legal custody of a child they must have completed the application processing of the I-800A and the petition form I-800 at USCIS.
The interviewing officer reviews all documents which are part of the I-800 form and if they are in order, the Embassy issues a letter and sends it to the Bulgarian Ministry of Justice stating that the case meets all requirements of the Hague Convention. The Ministry of Justice may then proceed with the adoption process by sending the case to Sofia City Court.
2. Final interview: As soon as Sofia City Court issues an adoption court decree giving full custody of the child to the adoptive parents, their legal representative in Bulgaria may obtain a new birth certificate and passport for the child. The parents may schedule an appointment with the Consular Section for the final visa interview. No additional fee is required for the final interview. The parents (usually accompanied by their legal representative in Bulgaria) submit the following document: 1) passport; 2) birth certificate translated into English; 3) adoption court decree translated into English; 4) Medical Certificate issued by one of the two panel physicians in Sofia; 5) I-864W Form (if needed).
Availability of Children for Adoption
Statistics on visa issuance by the U.S. Embassy reflect the recent modest uptick in adoptions of Bulgarian children by American citizens after several years of very little activity:
2003 - 198
2004 - 110
2005 - 29
2006 - 28
2007 - 20
2008 - 5
2009 - 15
2010 - 40
2011 - 75
2012 - 125
An adoption council at the Ministry of Justice reviews the applications and matches children to families. Priority is given to parents wishing to adopt a child with a medical condition. Approximately 80% of the children adopted have been considered “special needs,” including older children (over age 7). The Embassy expects this trend to continue in the near to medium term.
Adoption Agencies Licensed by the Bulgarian Ministry of Justice
The Embassy is not in a position to recommend specific adoption agencies. We urge all prospective adoptive parents to investigate an agency thoroughly before committing any funds.
Parents should be aware that the adoption process takes many months, sometimes more than one year. While the U.S. Embassy maintains a strong interest in safeguarding the integrity of international adoptions from Bulgaria, the Embassy cannot act as a representative of the parents or as an adoption facilitator. If you have questions, please feel free to write or call the Consular Section of the Embassy. Our telephone numbers are as follows:
+359 (2) 937-5444 (9:00 – 12:00)
+359 (2) 937 5122 (Immigrant Visa Unit Fax)
You may also send us a written inquiry at the following address:
Department of State
5740 Sofia Place
Washington, D.C. 20521-5740