My wife and I are both French citizens and we would like to adopt a Vietnamese baby, however, as my name is not Brad Pitt and as I am unfortunately not married to Angelina Jolie, I expect that the process for us may be quite complicated. Could you please give us some information about the conditions that we must fulfill and the steps that we should take in order to adopt a child here?
In Vietnam, matters relating to adoption are governed by the Vietnamese Law on Adoption of 2010 and the implementing Decree No. 19/2011/ND-CP (Decree 19). Additionally, Vietnam has been a member of the Hague Adoption Convention since 2010, and has signed bilateral adoption agreements with various countries.
For a non-Vietnamese citizen who wants to adopt a child in Vietnam, the most relevant principles, rights and obligations, conditions and procedures can be found in the Law on Adoption. Article 4 of this law contains an important restriction: “Adoption by a person living abroad is only allowed when no domestic substitute family can be found.” The law also provides for a priority list, whereby foreigners permanently residing abroad are ranked fifth place, after family members of the adopted child, Vietnamese citizens permanently residing in the country, foreigners permanently residing in Vietnam, and Vietnamese citizens settling abroad.
In practice, every year a few thousand so-called “intercountry adoptions” from Vietnam take place, where the Vietnamese government actively encourages the adoption of disadvantaged children, such as abandoned and disabled children or children with serious illnesses like HIV/ AIDS or heart disease.
According to the Law on Adoption, one single foreigner or two foreigners (husband and wife) can adopt a Vietnamese child under 16-years-old if either meets one of the following criteria:
1) You are the stepfather or stepmother of the child.
2) You are the natural aunt or uncle of the child.
3) You have previously adopted a sibling of the child.
4) The child is disabled or infected with HIV/AIDS or another dangerous disease.
5) You are currently working or studying in Vietnam for at least one year.
On top of that you must have full civil capacity to act. You must at least be 20 years older than the child. You must be able to provide the health, financial and accommodation conditions to assure good care, nurture and education of the child. You must have good ethical qualities. And, finally, you must meet all conditions required by the law of the country of your permanent residence concerning intercountry adoption.
Those who are not allowed to adopt children in Vietnam include ones whose parental rights over a minor child have been restricted and persons who have a criminal record relating to serious offences.
If you meet all of these conditions, then it is time for the paperwork! Both the Law on Adoption and Decree 19 contain detailed provisions on the required documents that should be submitted to the Vietnamese Department of Adoption under the Ministry of Justice, which is the authority in charge of processing your adoption dossier. In practice, the whole process can take several months.
The Hague Adoption Convention of 1993 intends, among other things, to ensure that intercountry adoptions take place in the best interests of the child, and with respect to the fundamental rights of the child and to promote cooperation between the member countries. Even though Vietnam ratified this Convention in 2011, intercountry adoption from Vietnam has recently been subject to scandals involving alleged falsification of adoption papers and human trafficking. As a result, the US has put a ban on all adoptions from Vietnam, which is still in force today.
To answer your question: Is the process of adopting a baby from Vietnam complicated? Depending on your situation, the answer would probably be ‘yes’. Is it impossible? Well, as long as you are not Brad Pitt, Angelina Jolie, or a citizen of a country suspending intercountry adoptions from Vietnam then no, it is not!
If you have any legal questions you want answered, send them to [email protected].
Bio: A member of the Paris Bar, Hadrien Wolff has been practicing law in Vietnam for six years, currently as a partner of Audier & Partners. He specializes in banking and corporate law, regularly advising major foreign banks and assisting foreign investors in setting up joint venture companies with Vietnamese partners in sensitive sectors such as media, power and natural resources