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Adoption in Kenya

For more information on international adoptions, please visit the Department of State's International Adoption web site.

The information on this page relating to the legal requirements of specific foreign countries is provided for general information only. Questions involving interpretation of specific foreign laws should be addressed to foreign legal counsel.

A recent change in the Kenyan Adoption law does not permit the issuance of IR-4 visas for any children to be adopted to the United States. The new law says that all intended adoptee children living in Kenya must be adopted in Kenya prior to their departure. Any exceptions to this law must be granted directly by the High Court.

Please Note: Kenyan courts are not institutionally biased against foreigners seeking to adopt children in Kenya. However, Kenyan law specifically states that that an adoption order shall not be made in favor of a sole applicant who is male or an applicant who is of a different race than the child unless there are extenuating circumstances. Although it still remains an issue, the courts are beginning to take a more liberal view of racial differences between potential adopters and the child. Overall, when considering an adoption case, Kenyan courts view the welfare of the child as paramount. Foreigners interested in adopting a child in Kenya may wish to employ legal representation that is familiar with the practices of Kenya's legal system, as the court's interpretation of adoption laws can vary widely depending on the case.

It is illegal to publish an advertisement indicating that a parent or guardian desires to give up a child for adoption, that a person wants to adopt a child, or that a person (who is not an adoption society) is willing to make arrangements for the adoption of a child.

Prospective adoptive parents are advised to fully research any adoption agency or facilitator they plan to use for adoption services. For U.S. based agencies, it is suggested that prospective adoptive parents contact the Better Business Bureau and licensing office of the Department of Health and Family Services in the state where the agency is located.

Doctors and Attorneys

The U.S. Embassy in Nairobi maintains current lists of doctors (PDF 140 KB) and sources for medicines, should either you or your child experience health problems while in Kenya.  The Embassy also maintains a list of attorneys, but is not aware of any specializing in adoptions.


The following is a guideline for U.S. citizens who are interested in adopting a child in Kenya and applying for an immigrant visa for the child to come to the United States. This process involves complex Kenyan and U.S. legal requirements. U.S. consular officers give each petition careful consideration on a case-by-case basis to ensure that the legal requirements of both countries have been met, for the protection of the prospective adoptive parent(s), the biological parents(s) and the child. Interested U.S. citizens are strongly encouraged to contact U.S. consular officials in Nairobi, Kenya before formalizing an adoption agreement to ensure that appropriate procedures have been followed which will make it possible for the Embassy to issue a U.S. immigrant visa for the child.

Availability of Children for Adoption 

Recent U.S. immigrant visa statistics reflect the IR-3 immigrant visas issued to Kenyan orphans adopted abroad:


  • FY-1999: IR-3 (8)
  • FY-2000: IR-3 (3)
  • FY-2004: IR-3 (29)
  • FY-2005: IR-3 (43)


The Kenyan Adoption Authority is the government office responsible for adoptions in Kenya is the civil court system.

Adoption Procedures

When adopting a child, many steps must be taken before a child can be placed in the care of the adoptive parent. If anyone other than an adoption agency places a child with prospective adoptive parents, the Chief Inspector of Children must be notified of the placement. The adoption society or a legal guardian must make inquiries and obtain reports on the personal circumstances of the applicant, child, and child's parents or guardians.

After an infant has been placed into the care and possession of the prospective adoptive parent, visits by the adoptive parents are made to the child at least once every month. If the child was received from an adoption society, a representative of that society will make the visits. If the child was not received from an adoption society, the prospective adoptive parent makes the visits. The adoption society representative is required to make a report on such visits to the court appointed guardian, unless the visits are made in the company of the guardian. The court's guardian then completes a full report, which is submitted to the court, along with a certified copy of the child's birth certificate. Once completed, notice of the hearing of the application for adoption is served on all parties.

Unless otherwise directed, the applicant, as well as the child to be adopted, must attend the hearing on the application for adoption. If the court approves the adoption order, the Registrar draws it up and a certified copy is served on the Registrar-General within thirty days. After an adoption decree is approved and the appropriate paperwork has been filed and issued, the adoptive parents can apply for a Kenyan passport for the child. Once the passport has been issued, the child is free to depart the country.

Age and Civil Status Requirements

Those applying for the adoption of a child must be 25 years of age or older and must be at least 21 years older than the child. However, if the adopter is a relative, the adoptive parent must be at least 21 years of age. Both the adoptive parent and the child must be resident in Kenya at the time of the proposed adoption. The required length of residency for the adoptive parent is generally six months. The child must be in the continuous care and possession of the applicant for at least three consecutive months immediately proceeding the date of the submission to the court of the application for the adoption order.  

No specific documents are required by the Kenyan Adoption Authority, although it may be prudent to carry documents regarding identity, marital status, family status and financial means.

U.S. Immigration Requirements

A Kenyan child adopted by an American citizen must obtain an immigrant visa before he or she can enter the U.S. as a lawful permanent resident. There are two distinct categories of immigrant visas available to children adopted by American citizens.

A Previously Adopted Child

Section 101(b)(1)(E) of the U.S. Immigration and Nationality Act defines an "adopted child" as one who was adopted under the age of 16 and who has already resided with, and in the legal custody of, the adoptive parent for at least two years. Parents who can demonstrate that their adopted child meets this requirement may file an I-130 petition with the Department of Homeland Security - Citizenship & Immigration Services (DHS) having jurisdiction over their place of residence in the United States. Upon approval of the I-130 petition, the parents may apply for an immigrant visa for the child at the U.S. Embassy in Nairobi. American citizens who believe this category may apply to their adopted child should contact the U.S. Embassy in Nairobi for more information.

An Orphan

If an adopted child has not resided with the adoptive parent for two years (or if the child has not yet even been adopted) the child must qualify under section 101(b)(1)(F) of the U.S. Immigration and Nationality Act in order to apply for an immigrant visa. The main requirements of this section are as follows:

  • The adoptive or prospective adoptive parent must be an American citizen;
  • The child must be under the age of 16 at the time an I-600 Petition is filed with the DHS on his or her behalf;
  • If the adoptive or prospective adoptive parent is married, his or her spouse must also be a party to the adoption;
  • If the adoptive or prospective adoptive parent is single, he or she must be at least 25 years of age;
  • The child must be an orphan, as defined by U.S. regulations. Although the definition of an orphan found in many dictionaries is "A child whose parents are dead," U.S. immigration law and regulations provide for a somewhat broader definition. Children who do not qualify under this definition, however, may not immigrate to the U.S. as an orphan even if legally adopted by an American Citizen. The Department of State encourages Americans to consider if a particular child is an orphan according to U.S. immigration law and regulations before proceeding with an adoption. A detailed description of the orphan definition used by USCIS can be found on their website.

U.S. Immigration Procedures for Orphans: The Petition

Adoptive and prospective adoptive parents must obtain approval of a Petition to Classify Orphan as an Immediate Relative (Form I-600) (PDF 114 KB) from the Department of Homeland Security Citizenship & Immigration Services (USCIS) before they can apply for an immigrant visa on behalf of an orphan. The adjudication of such petitions can be very time-consuming and parents are encouraged to begin the process well in advance.

Filing the Form I-600 & I-600A

Prospective adoptive parents residing in the United States should send the completed application to the nearest USCIS office in the US. Prospective adoptive parents residing outside the United States should contact the nearest American consulate or USCIS Office to determine the office designated to act on the application.

A prospective adoptive parent may file Form I-600A Application for Advance Processing of Orphan Petition with the DHS office having jurisdiction over their place of residence. This form is the most time-consuming part of the process and must be completed in advance, even before the parent has located a child to adopt. In addition, a parent who has an approved I-600A may file an I-600 in person at the U.S. Embassy in Nairobi . Detailed information about filing these forms can be found on the USCIS web site.

Americans who have adopted or hope to adopt a child from Kenya should request, at the time they file these forms, that DHS notify the U.S. Embassy in Nairobi as soon as the form is approved. Upon receipt of such notification, the Embassy will contact the parents and provide additional instructions on the immigration process. U.S. consular officers may not begin processing an orphan adoption case until they have received formal notification of approval from an DHS office in the US.

The Orphan Investigation

One part of the petition process that DHS cannot complete in advance is the "orphan investigation". An orphan investigation Form I-604 Report on Overseas Orphan Investigation) is required in all orphan adoption cases - even if an I-600 has already been approved - and serves to verify that the child is an orphan as defined by US immigration law. This investigation is performed by an officer at the time of the child's immigrant visa interview.

Kenyan Embassy in the United States:
Embassy of Kenya
2249 R Street, NW
Washington, DC 20008
(202) 387-6101

Kenya also has Consulates General in New York, New York and in Los Angeles, California.

U.S. Embassy in Kenya:
Local Mailing Address:
U.S. Embassy
United Nations Avenue Nairobi
P. O. Box 606 Village Market
00621 Nairobi, Kenya
Nairobi, Kenya

U.S. Mailing Address:
U.S. Embassy
Unit 64100
APO, AE 09831-4100
Tel: (254)(020) 363 6000
Fax: (254)(020) 363 6157


Kenyan law prohibits financial transactions between individuals involved in an adoption proceeding. Some payments are permitted, for example to an adoption society for maintenance of the child, or to an attorney who acts for any of the parties or in connection with an application for an adoption order. Any payment or reward made by adoptive parent or guardian of a child, or a third party facilitating the adoption for the purpose of making an adoption order, is considered illegal.

Additional Information

Prospective adoptive parents are strongly encouraged to consult DHS publication M-249, The Immigration of Adopted and Prospective Adoptive Children, as well as the Department of State publication, International Adoptions.


Specific questions regarding adoption in Kenya may be addressed to the Consular Section of the U.S. Embassy in Nairobi, Kenya. You may also contact the Office of Children's Issues, U.S. Department of State, SA-1, L-127, 2401 E Street, NW, Washington, DC 20522, Tel: (202) 736-7000 with specific questions.

Information is also available 24 hours a day from several sources:

  • Telephone - Office of Children's Issues - Recorded information regarding changes in adoption procedures and general information, (202) 736-7000.- State Department Visa Office - Recorded information concerning immigrant visas for adoptive children, (202) 663-1225.- Immigration and Naturalization Service - Recorded information for requesting immigrant visa application forms, 1-800-870-FORM (3676).
  • Automated fax - contains the full text of the office's international adoption information flyers and general information brochure, International Adoptions. From the telephone on your fax machine, call (202) 647-3000.

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