Following up on the post placement reports post, this post is an overview of all of the documents you will receive after the adoption and how to obtain important US documents. This post was co-written with my friend Judy, who wrote up the original version available in the China Adoption Questions group. This and more information is included in the Mine in China book.
In province, you will receive the:
- Chinese Birth Certificate (white folder, in Chinese, with translation)
- Abandonment Decree (white folder, in Chinese, with translation)
- Adoption Decree (pretty red folder, in Chinese and English)
You will often receive multiple copies of the birth certificate and abandonment decree. They are sometimes marked with an A and B on the front to make it easier for you to know which is which since the white folders are identical on the outside.
You will also receive your child’s Chinese passport in their Chinese name, usually on your last day in province, although sometimes it will be forwarded to you in Guangzhou. After the medical in Guangzhou, a US immigration entry visa will be added to the Chinese passport. Consider the Chinese passport a single use passport only. It can not be used again once the child has passed through immigration onto US soil. However, keep the passport in a safe place when you get home, more on that later.
On your way home, before you get on the plane, you will receive a sealed brown folder. Do not lose it, do not open it. Put it in your carry on and hand it to the immigration officer at your port of entry. It contains copies of all the USCIS paperwork and copies of the birth certificate, abandonment decree and adoption decree. You can receive these documents back at a later date if you file form G-884, Request For Return of Original Documents.
You will also receive a Hague Adoption Certificate. This certifies that your adoption has been completed in accordance with the Hague convention governing adoption.
Social Security Card
After you return home, you MAY receive a social security card with your child’s Chinese name on it in the mail about 2 weeks after arriving home. Do not be alarmed if you do not receive one, even if you checked the magic box on your paperwork. The arrival of the social security card is entirely dependent on factors outside of any rational understanding and the mystery, like adoption gremlins, is something best accepted as part of the wonders of adoption.
If you receive a social security card (with the Chinese name on it) in the mail, feel blessed and use it in good faith. This is your child’s social security number and will never change. You will sit tight until the Certificate of Citizenship (CoC) arrives. If you DON’T receive a social security card in the mail in a couple of weeks, again, do not be alarmed. You can sit tight and wait for the Certificate of Citizenship to arrive or if you need a social security number right away, you can go to your local Social Security office to get a card in the Chinese name. It’s your choice, based on your medical insurance and tax needs.
If you go to the Social Security office before the Certificate of Citizenship arrives, take with you the Chinese birth certificate, adoption decree, child’s Chinese passport, and your ID. The Chinese passport can serve as a second proof of the child’s birthdate and theoretically the IR-4/IH-4 visa will serve as proof of citizenship. If you do this, you will need to make a second trip after the Certificate of Citizenship arrives to change the name and register your child as an American citizen if they don’t accept the IR-3/IH-3 visa.
If you choose to wait for the Certificate of Citizenship to go to the Social Security office for a social security card in your child’s new legal name, you will need to take the following:
Chinese birth certificate, adoption decree, Certificate of Citizenship, and your ID. You don’t need to take your child, although some offices will tell you otherwise. You also only need one parent to go. It is not uncommon for the person at the Social Security office to have no idea what they are doing. Print off the criteria from the Social Security website to show the person if they object to your documents. Ask to speak with a manager if you continue to have problems.
Certificate of Citizenship (CoC)
Your Certificate of Citizenship will arrive 6 – 12 weeks after you arrive home. Keep it on your radar – they can get lost in the mail, and I understand now someone needs to sign for it, so keep an eye out for missed delivery slips.
According to USCIS, if it has been 50 days since you entered the US with your child but your Certificate of Citizenship has not arrived, you can use the following contact information to check on the status:
U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services
Buffalo District Office (NER, D02)
306 Delaware Avenue
Buffalo, NY 14202
You may also call 1-800-375-5283. You have to provide them with your reference number (listed on the child’s passport) and other simple identifying info. However, they will probably simply say that they are behind on processing so you should continue to wait. If you need the Certificate of Citizenship sooner, don’t hesitate to get your Congressperson or Senator involved. That’s their job, to help constituents navigate government officialdom.
If you have lost your child’s Certificate of Citizenship, form N-565 and $555 will get you a new copy.
Note: When I did an image search for Certificate of Citizenship there were many images of actual CoCs from adoptive parent blogs including birthdates and addresses clearly visible. I know this sounds obvious, but do not post photos of your child’s legal documents online without covering personal information.
US Birth Certificate and/or Delayed Registration of Foreign Birth and/or Re-Adoption
Once you get the Certificate of Citizenship, you will need to get a US birth certificate or equivalent (which in most states is called a Delayed Registration of Foreign Birth or Foreign Birth Registration). Whatever it is called in your state, you will want to get this. In case of loss or damage, it’s a lot easier and faster to replace the US birth certificate than it is to replace the Chinese birth certificate. Also, you’ll get less hassle when you go to register your child for school or he/she applies for a driver’s license or college or job or any other circumstance where a birth certificate is required. Just trust me on this. Every state has different rules about getting the US birth certificate, some states it’s as easy as submitting a form, some document copies, and a check for $25 to juvenile court, and some states require you to re-adopt. You will need to look up your state’s rules, or check with your homestudy social worker for more details. Childwelfare.gov has a listing of state statutes, but it is from 2014 so it might be outdated.
At some point, you will want to get a US passport for your child. This serves as an important additional proof of citizenship. Passports are more portable than the Certificate of Citizenship and far cheaper to replace. Information on obtaining a passport is found on this State Department page on the US Child Citizenship Act of 2000. Note that you will have to send original documents when you file for a passport. This includes your child’s Chinese birth certificate and Certificate of Citizenship. If you need the passport before you receive your child’s Certificate of Citizenship you can send your child’s Chinese passport because the the IR-4/IH-4 visa serves as proof of citizenship. The documents you send will be mailed back separately from the passport. You will typically receive them 1 to 7 days after the passport, so don’t panic when only the passport shows up in your mailbox.
For passport renewals, you no longer need to send the Chinese birth certificate and Certificate of Citizenship. I was able to renew my adoptee’s passport in 2022 with a state issued birth certificate and state issued adoption document so you can now use these if you have completed the process for these in your state.
Nullifying the Chinese Passport
Upon your child’s first application for a tourist visa for a visit back to China, you will need to send both your child’s US passport AND your child’s Chinese passport. You will receive both back. When the embassy affixes the Chinese tourist visa to your child’s US passport, they will also stamp and puncture the Chinese passport to nullify it. Don’t worry if you misplace the Chinese passport. You can still get your child a visa to go back to China, but it may take longer and you might have to provide more documentation.
DO NOT, under any circumstances, leave the US on the child’s Chinese passport once they have entered through US immigration. Your child will not be allowed back into the US without a lot of hoop jumping and questions. If anything involving the police or hospitals or other officials were to happen during your travel abroad, the situation for your child would be handled according to the treaties and laws applying to Chinese citizens. The US embassy would not be contacted, and would not be able to intervene on your child’s behalf, even if they were contacted. If you know that you will be traveling abroad, it is imperative that you obtain a US passport for your child.