Parents who have adopted a child in a foreign county may be surprised to find out they need to take additional steps once returning to the U.S. with their child. After working with foreign adoption agencies and foreign judicial systems for lengthy periods of time the process is not complete once you are home with your child. Citizenship and Birth Certificates are essential items in the adoption process, unfortunately neither of these are guaranteed to be automatically granted based on the foreign adoption alone. The good news is that these issues can be acquired much easier than the initial adoption process. T.C.A. §36-1-106 provides guidance on what steps to take in Tennessee to formalize the adoption of your child from another country.


Depending on the type of Visa your child used to enter the U.S. after the foreign adoption, they be not automatically be a U.S. citizen. Children who entered the U.S. with an IR-3 visa automatically become U.S. citizens, but children who entered with an IR-4 visa do not become citizens until the adoption is formalized in the U.S.


The foreign country which granted the initial adoption should have issued certified translated copies of the adoption decree as well as the birth certificate from the originating country. In order to obtain a Tennessee Certificate of Foreign Birth the parents must either file a petition for re-adoption or have the foreign adoption recognized in Tennessee. While either of these options will provide the child with a Tennessee Certificate of Foreign Birth, there are some differences in the two processes.


One process to formalize the foreign adoption in Tennessee is to file a petition for re-adoption. While this may sound like an intimidating and timely process, a majority of the requirements for an initial adoption in the U.S. are waived due to the foreign country previously terminating the parent(s)’ rights and approving the adoption abroad. While your family will obtain a Tennessee Certificate of Foreign Birth, this process will also provide your new family with a Tennessee Final Order of Adoption and will remedy any citizenship issues related to the IR-3 visa. T.C.A. §36-1-116 provides additional details on what information and documents must be included in the petition for re-adoption. Original documents from the foreign court are required to be submitted with the petition, but you can request to have the originals returned to your family before the court seals the Tennessee adoption file.

Recognition of foreign adoption

The other option is to request a Tennessee Court to recognize the foreign adoption. This process is only an option if your child already has a certificate of citizenship, and may be a simpler method of obtaining a Tennessee Certificate of Foreign Birth since a final hearing in a Tennessee Court is not required, but this process will not provide your family with a Tennessee Final Order of Adoption.

In conclusion, if the child you adopted in a foreign country entered the U.S. with an IR-4 visa and has a certified translated copy of their original foreign birth certificate, your child automatically became and U.S. citizen and it is not necessary to formalize the adoption in the U.S. immediately. While it is recommended to formalize this process as quickly as possible, a situation may not arise that your child needs a certificate of foreign birth immediately and you could postpone to a move convenient time. It is important to remember that foreign birth certificates may suffice in certain circumstances but may not be as readily recognized as a Certificate of Foreign Birth issued by the State of Tennessee.

If you have any questions about formalizing a foreign adoption in Tennessee, please contact our office at Freeman & Fuson.

Marissa Keen, Esq.

Contact Information