Congress Raises Age of Adoption From Sixteen to Eighteen

On December 7, 1999, President Clinton signed Public Law 106-139, which allows children over the age of sixteen (16) but under the age of eighteen (18) to be adopted and thereafter immigrated by their adoptive parent.

Prior to this new law, and in addition to meeting physical custody requirements in order for an “adoptee” to be considered a “child” in the eyes of the INS, the adoption would need to have been completed prior to the child’s sixteenth birthday. As many of you are unfortunately well aware of, the time constraints associated with this process will be extremely difficult to overcome. At times, we were forced to request local courts in the Philippines to consider the adoption retroactive to the date the child came into the physical custody of the adoptive parents who are now attempting to petition their adopted child.

Although the process described above, namely nunc pro tunc adoption will sometimes still be necessary, it will more likely than not occur with less frequency, since the general age for a child to be adopted has changed. Public Law 106-139 amends the Immigration and Nationality Act to provide than an adopted child who is under the age of 18, may be considered a child, if and only if, the child is adopted with or after a sibling who is also considered a child under the Act.

In other words, the newly enacted law pertains to situations where there are two or more minors that will be adopted. Simply put, if you are planning on adopting and petitioning an overseas child who is between the age of 16 – 18, you must adopt and petition this child’s sibling before the sibling turns 16. of course, both children must be adopted through legal custodianship, or as an orphan as defined in the Act.

Please be advised that adoption is a long, complicated and cumbersome process which involves the interaction of laws which are both domestic and international in scope. Public Law 106-139, although raising the age for adoption of a sibling from 16 to 18, neither shortens nor simplifies the adoption and petition process. Consequently, if you are interested in adopting and petitioning an overseas child, it is important to act swiftly, as normal delays in Philippine Courts, not to mention INS processing times, may prevent you and your children from being together.