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April 5, 2022

This section provides an overview of the intercountry adoption process. The process varies greatly, as it is governed by the laws of the countries where the adoptive parents and the child reside (which in the case of the United States means both federal and state law), and also in which of these locations the legal adoption is finalized. Additionally, if the child’s home country is a party to the Hague Adoption Convention, the Hague processes of both countries must be followed. Prospective adoptive parents should consider all of these factors when evaluating what to expect.

We understand that the number of Austrian children available for adoption is very limited and that local authorities have a long waiting list of prospective adoptive parents.

Furthermore, Austrian authorities have been reluctant in some instances to release children for foreign adoption. Unless the prospective parents know of a specific child personally or through acquaintances, there are two methods of locating an Austrian child for adoption.

An Austrian attorney may be hired and provided with a power of attorney authorizing him to find a suitable child and proceed with the adoption process through the local court. Otherwise, authorities in the provinces (“Bundesländer”) would be in the best position to render information about children available for adoption within the area of their jurisdiction.

For additional information regarding adoption in Austria, please see: Intercountry Adoption

The Adoption Process in Austria Is as Follows:

Note: U.S. immigration law generally limits immigrant visas for children adopted abroad to those children who either have no parents or whose sole surviving parent has irrevocably released them for adoption abroad, unless the child has been in the legal custody of the adopting parents for at least two years.

An adoption contract containing certain legal requirements must be entered into by the adopting parent or parents and, if the adoptee is a minor legitimate child, by its father (if contact can be made) on behalf of the child. If the adoptee is a minor orphan or minor illegitimate child, its legal guardian must sign the adoption contract. In addition the adoptee’s mother (again, if contact is possible) must give her written consent to the adoption, unless she herself signed the adoption contract as legal guardian of the adoptee. If the adoptee is over 19 years of age, the adoptee must sign the adoption contract, and no parental consent is required. The adopting father must be at least 30 years old and the adopting mother must be at least 28 years old.

Adopting parents must normally be at least 18 years older than the adoptee. A married couple must adopt jointly. All signatures on the adoption contract as well as the natural mother’s signature on her consent to the adoption must be notarized either by an Austrian notary public (within Austria) or by a notary public outside of Austria whose signature is authenticated via the “Apostille” procedure. A fact sheet outlining this latter procedure is available from this office on request. (In addition to the United States, this procedure is used in the Federal Republic of Germany, Italy and Switzerland).

The adoption contract and the mother’s release are then submitted to the appropriate Austrian court with a petition for certification (“Bestätigung”). The court may require evidence of the adopting parent’s social and financial status. The court may also require a “home study” in the United Stares or at the place of residence abroad through an appropriate agency.

If the court is satisfied that the adoption would be in the best interest of the child, it issues a decree (“Beschluss”) certifying (“bestätigen”) the adoption contract. Such decree makes the adoption final and legally valid and a new birth certificate for the child giving its new name may be obtained from the appropriate Bureau of Vital Statistics (“Standesamt”).

Although it is possible for this entire process to be carried out by the prospective parents or parent alone, it may be advisable to engage the assistance of a local Austrian attorney.

A list of English-speaking Austrian attorneys, which might be useful in the adoption process, in the event the interested party desires to engage local legal services, may be obtained from the Embassy’s Consular Section.

In addition to notarial fees and that of any attorney selected, there are court costs and a considerable adoption contract tax to be paid in connection with an adoption.

Other Useful Links:

Why Adopt?

Every child benefits from a loving home in deeply profound ways.  Intercountry adoption has made this permanently possible for hundreds of thousands of children worldwide.  When children cannot remain with a relative, and new parents within their communities cannot be found, intercountry adoption opens another pathway to children to receive the care, security, and love that a permanent family can provide.

Some additional resources:

Child Welfare Information Gateway – A service of the Children’s Bureau, Administration for Children and Families, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services

Medline Plus – A service of the U.S. National Library of Medicine and the National Institutes of Health

Preparing Families for International Adoption – a brochure from the American Academy of Pediatrics.

Who Can Adopt?

To adopt a child from another country and bring that child to live in the United States, you must first be found eligible to adopt under U.S. law.  The federal agency that makes this determination is U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), part of the Department of Homeland Security.  You may not bring an adopted child (or a child for which you have gained legal custody for the purpose of immigration and adoption) into the United States until USCIS determines that you are eligible to adopt from another country.

National Requirements

You must meet certain requirements to bring a foreign-born child whom you’ve adopted to the United States.  Some of the basic requirements include the following:

  1. You must be a U.S. Citizen.
  2. If you are unmarried, you must be at least 25 years old.
  3. If you are married, you must jointly adopt the child (even if you are separated but not divorced), and your spouse must also be either a U.S. citizen or in legal status in the United States.
  4. You must meet certain requirements that will determine your suitability as a prospective adoptive parent, including criminal background checks, fingerprinting, and a home study.

State Requirements

In addition to qualifying to adopt under U.S. law, you must also meet your home state’s requirements for prospective adoptive parents.  Learn more about individual state requirements on the Child Welfare Information Gateway website.

Foreign Country Requirements

Each country has its own requirements for adopting parents.  These are explained in the Country Information section of this website.