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Can adoption save an undocumented child from deportation?

In this era of uncertainty surrounding the future of the so-called “dreamers” under DACA, you may have questions about other avenues for immigration of young people in the U.S. Perhaps you know an undocumented child and are wondering whether you could adopt them to ensure that they’re safe from deportation.

While technically such an arrangement is possible, it would only work if your situation fits certain criteria:

  • You must be a U.S. citizen or green card holder.
  • The child must be under the age of 16 by the time the adoption is finalized. While you may adopt a child 16 and older, doing so does not assist them in obtaining a green card.
  • In most cases, you must have had formal custody—legal and physical—of the child for at least two years prior to adoption. Under certain circumstances—such as for abused children—this requirement may be dropped. Note that getting legal custody of an illegal immigrant does not automatically legalize the child’s stay in the U.S.

In addition to the above requirements, there are other factors that go into determining whether—and how—an undocumented child can gain permanent resident status. For instance:

  • Did the child arrive in the country illegally and without inspection?
  • Did the child arrive in the country legally but illegally stay in the country past their visa expiration date?
  • Is the child an orphan?

The answers to the above questions all have an impact on the type of legal proceedings necessary.

Adopting an undocumented immigrant can be a long, complicated and uncertain process. Having an experienced immigration attorney on your side is an important asset.

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