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09. U.S. Department of State telegram to all diplomatic and consular posts abroad regarding participation in the Orphan First pilot program (June 26, 2003)


R 261644Z JUN 03



E.O. 12958: N/A

1. Summary: DHS/BCIS has informed CA that they will offer
participation in the Orphan First Pilot Program to
prospective adoptive parents on July 1, 2003. The Orphan
First program is an effort to prevent situations in which
prospective adoptive parents travel overseas, complete
adoption/custody arrangements for a child, and then find
that they cannot bring the child to the Untied States
under U.S. immigration law. Orphans adopted in Haiti,
Honduras, the Philippines, Poland, and Sierra Leone will
be the initial participants in the pilot program. End

2. The Bureau of Citizenship and Immigration Services
(BCIS) in the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and
Consular Affairs have agreed on the terms of the Orphan
First Pilot Program. The goal of the Orphan First program
is to make a determination on an orphan's eligibility
under the INA prior to the prospective adoptive parents
(PAP) traveling to post or incurring legal responsibility
for the orphan. We expect that early adjudication of the
orphan status elements of the I-604 investigation will
mitigate potential issues to prospective parents, adoptive
children, and consular and immigration officials in
processing adoption cases. BCIS will begin offering some
prospective parents the option of participating in the
Orphans First Pilot Program as of July 1, 2003.

3. The pilot program involves five countries: Haiti,
Honduras, the Philippines, Poland, and Sierra Leone. DHS
officials at post will administer the Orphan First program
in Port au Prince, Tegucigalpa, and Manila. Consular
officers will administer the Orphan First program in
Warsaw and Dakar. These five missions should be prepared
to implement the Orphans First program as of July 1. All
prospective parents enrolling in the Orphan First program
will do so through their local BCIS office, unless they
are residing overseas. Amcit residents of these five
countries will have the option of participating in the
Orphans First pilot program through the Embassy.

4. Orphan First cases will be processed as follows:

-PAP(s) submits a Form I-600A to BCIS.
-If the I-600A is approved, BCIS will send the PAP a
letter explaining the Orphan First program along with the
I-600A approval notice.

-The PAP may opt to participate in the program so long as
no final adoption or legal custody arrangement for the
child has taken place. PAPs who choose to participate
will submit their I-600 orphan petition and all required
supporting documents except a final adoption decree or
custody decision to the appropriate domestic BCIS field
office (or if the PAP resides overseas, to the Embassy's
DHS office or consular section).

-The I-600 will be reviewed for prima facie eligibility.
If the supporting documents establish that the identified
child is prima facie eligible as an orphan, BCIS will send
the supporting original documents with an Orphans First
cover letter to the NVC for forwarding to the appropriate
overseas post.

-The receiving office will review the case and complete
the non-medical aspects of the I-604 investigation, giving
such cases the same high priority as other cases involving
immediate relatives of U.S. citizens. The essential I-604
processing standards remain unchanged under Orphan First:
I-604 investigations that would normally be completed
based on the documentation submitted would continue be
completed in the same fashion under Orphan First
procedures. Cases that currently would lead to follow-up
questions and field investigations likewise would be
pursued according to existing standards.

-If the I-604 investigation leads to an assessment that
the child would qualify as an orphan, the overseas post
will return the completed I-604 and original supporting
documents to the appropriate BCIS domestic field office.
BCIS will notify the PAP of the findings and invite the
PAP to continue processing the case. Following submission
of the final adoption decree/legal custody order, BCIS
will approve the I-600 petition and notify posts as per
current practice. If the relinquishing country's law
requires the petitioner to travel overseas to complete
adoption/custody proceedings, BCIS will forward the I-600
packet to the overseas post adjudicating the petition.

-If the I-604 investigation indicates that the child is
not an orphan under U.S. law, the completed I-604 and
original supporting documentation will be returned to the
appropriate BCIS domestic field office. BCIS will notify
the PAP of the findings.

5. The Orphan First program will also have a Quality
Assurance component, details of which will be sent to
participating posts separately. Questions from the field
regarding the Orphan First program can be directed to Mark
Strege in CA/VO/F/P.

6. Minimize considered.


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