A couple of years ago, I was contacted by a Pakistani American who was trying to get an immigrant visa for an orphaned baby. The baby had been found outside in the freezing cold in January of 2012 in the Hindu Kush Mountains. Only God knows how she survived. After the baby came home to California, the same client sent me an article from the Dawn Newspaper. According to the article, over 10,000 newborns were found dead in trashcans across the country in 2012. Think about that: 10,000 newborns- most of them little girls. I could have gotten orphan visas for most of those babies. In fact, I’m pretty confident I could have gotten a visa for every single one of them. Yet only 29 visas were issued to Pakistani orphans in 2012.
According to State Department Statistics international adoptions in general fell to 8,668 in 2012 after peaking at 22,884 in 2004. Of the almost 9,000 visas issued to foreign orphans last year, less than 200 of those visas were issued to orphans from predominantly Muslim countries. These numbers are surprising when you consider the relatively small pool of Muslim children who are available for adoption in the United States. The statistics become more shocking when we look at what is happening overseas. As stated above, 10,000 babies perish in trashcans across Pakistan. 1.5 million Iranian children live in orphanages; but only 4 visas were issued to Iranian orphans by the US State Department last year. Don’t get me started on what’s happening in Afghanistan.
Why are so few visa applications made for Muslim orphans? Many are daunted by the complex procedure for obtaining an immigrant visa. The United States has strict guidelines on visa issuance for orphan children. First, the adoptive parents must undergo an intensive background check which includes a criminal background check. Second, the child must be proven to be an orphan due the disappearance, death, desertion or abandonment by the biological parents. Although the orphan definition is quite restrictive, even children who are never placed in an orphanage can and do qualify for visas. Third, the United States will not issue a visa to an orphan child unless the adoptive parents comply fully with foreign laws and obtain the express permission of a Judge in the child’s home country to take the child out of that country for the purpose of emigration and adoption. The recently enacted Universal Accreditation Act has thrown another hurdle in front of parents trying to adopt from Muslim countries. Although the journey to adoption is difficult, the reward for those who are willing to navigate the emigration/adoption process is great.
If you have questions about the adoption/ emigration process, please feel free to contact me. It’s my favorite thing to talk about!