International Adoption and Immigration to Canada

Adoption can be a life-transforming event for everyone involved — the parents who bring a child into their lives and the child who gets a new loving family. Intercountry or international adoption is a legal process that enables a person or a couple to become the legal parent(s) of a child from another country.

Most countries around the world allow foreigners to adopt a child. There are some exceptions. It is the country of origin of the child being adopted that determines which children are eligible for intercountry adoption. Generally, most countries do not allow newborns to be adopted internationally because priority is given to placing the child for adoption in his or her country of origin. The majority of international children who are adopted by parents in Canada are between 12 and 48 months old.

Intercountry adoption involves two separate but interrelated processes:

  1. The adoption process;
  2. The immigration or citizenship process.
In most cases, an adoptive parent must complete the adoption process and the citizenship (or immigration) process before he or she may bring the adopted child to live in Canada. In some cases, the legislative requirements of the child’s home country may require that the adoption must be completed in Canada; in such cases, the immigration or citizenship process can begin before the adoption process is completed.
These two stages are independent, involve different government authorities, and do not coincide in time. In Canada, the adoption process is managed by the provincial or territorial government where the parents reside. The Canadian federal government is involved only in the immigration or citizenship process. Specifically, Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) is the federal authority that manages the immigration for the adopted child.
How Can You Bring the Adopted Child to Canada?

There are two ways in which an adopted child can be brought to Canada:

  1. The immigration process grants the adopted child permanent resident status; and
  2. The citizenship process results in immediate Canadian citizenship for the adopted child.

There are specific rules that govern which of these processes must be used by the parents. In general, if at least one adoptive parent is a Canadian citizen at the time of adoption and that parent was not personally adopted from outside Canada, either the citizenship or the immigration process can be used. If the adopted child will not begin living in Canada immediately after both processes are complete, the citizenship process must be used. If both parents are permanent residents at the time of adoption or are Canadian citizens but were adopted from outside Canada, the immigration process must be used. In such a case, an adoptive parent must become a Sponsor for the child. The Sponsor must sign an Undertaking agreement that binds him or her for 10 years or until the child reaches the age of 25 (whichever comes first) to provide the necessary support and care for the child.

There are some exceptions to the above situations. Please contact our team if you need assistance in choosing the proper route for intercountry adoption.

International Adoption Process in Canada

This process starts between the adoptive parent(s) and the central adoption authority in the respective province or territory where the parent(s) reside. Note that each province or territory has its own adoption authority, and the names of these authorities differ in each state. This authority is mandated to support and guide the parents in the adoption process.

It will advise on the adoption regulations of the country from which the prospective parents wish to adopt, explain the adoption related international treaties, provide general guidance, etc.

Most international adoptions must be initiated and completed in the child’s home country. Each country has its own regulations and procedures governing adoptions by foreigners. For example, some countries allow adoptions by same-sex couples, while others do not.


In 2019, Elton John wanted to adopt a child from Ukraine. He visited Ukraine several times and announced his desire to adopt a 14-month-old HIV-positive boy. However, the government of Ukraine blocked this adoption because he did not meet the requirements established by Ukrainian adoption legislation. At the time, the singer was 62 years old; Ukrainian law requires a parent to be no more than 45 years older than an adopted child. Furthermore, Ukraine requires adoptive parents to be married. However, Elton John and David Furnish, his partner, were registered as a civil union in Britain but were not married; the Ukrainian adoption legislation does not recognize same-sex unions as marriage.

What are the requirements for intercountry adoption in Canada?

For the purposes of immigration or citizenship, the intercountry adoption may be completed either:

  • Outside Canada;
  • Inside Canada.

In most situations, the location of adoption is dictated by the regulations of the child’s home country.

All intercountry adoptions must:

  • Be legal in the child’s home country and in the province or territory where the adoptive person(s) lives;
  • End the legal relationship between the adopted child and his or her biological parents;
  • Meet the requirements of the adoptive person’s province or territory; the specific requirements established by the provincial or territorial central adoption authority vary.
  • Create a genuine parent-child relationship between the adoptive parent(s) and the child;
  • Be in the best interests of the child;
  • Not simply be a cover to gain permanent resident status for the child in Canada.

Please note that if the child is adopted outside Canada, he or she may be sponsored to come to Canada only if informed consent has been given by both of the child’s biological parents (presuming that they are still alive).

There are some restrictions on intercountry adoption in Canada.

Can a Sponsor live outside Canada when applying for sponsorship?

The answer depends on the legal status of the Sponsor, as follows:

  • Permanent residents living outside Canada cannot become Sponsors. They cannot apply to be a Sponsor until they return to Canada.
  • However, Canadian citizens living outside Canada can become Sponsors if they prove that they intend to be living in Canada when the child they are sponsoring comes to Canada.

Note that a person cannot become a Sponsor for an adopted child if she or he:

  1. Did not fulfill their obligations under any previous sponsorship agreement;
  2. Previously defaulted on alimony or child support;
  3. Has ever been convicted of a violent criminal ofence;
  4. Does not plan to live full-time in Canada when the child becomes a permanent resident.

Please note that Quebec has its own immigration sponsorship requirements for an adopted child.

Are same-sex couples in Canada allowed to adopt a foreign child?

Canada does not discriminate against same-sex couples in any manner. Therefore, this issue solely depends on the adoption legislation of the child’s home country. Most countries do not allow LQBTQIA+ couples to adopt a child. Therefore, Canadian same-sex couples should look to adopt a child from a country where both LGBTQIA+ marriage and LGBTQIA+ adoption are legal (e.g. United States, Brazil, Argentina, etc.).

Who can be sponsored as a child?

Any adopted child can be sponsored to come to Canada. If an adopted child is under 18 years of age, the requirements for obtaining permanent resident status for the adopted child relate only to the Sponsor who applies for permanent residence on behalf of the adopted child. But if the adopted child is 18 years of age or older at the time of application, he or she must apply himself or herself.

The main requirement for the adopted child is that he or she must complete the medical exam.

How to Apply to Sponsor an Adopted Child?

The adoption process is managed by the Canadian provinces and territories. Therefore, the process must be initiated with the appropriate provincial authority. Once you have received a Letter of No Objection from the province or territory, you can start your application to sponsor your adopted child. After completing the sponsorship application, you must apply for permanent residence status for the child. There are some situation wherein you can apply directly for citizenship for your adopted child. Thus, to bring your adopted child to Canada, you must complete two applications:

  1. Sponsorship application: If your application is approved, you are allowed to become an official Sponsor for the child;
  2. Application for permanent resident status: You act on behalf of your adopted child if he or she is under 18 at the time of application. This process results in granting your adopted child permanent resident status.

Step-by-step guide for sponsoring an adopted child in Canada

  1. Submit the application to IRCC office: The Sponsor must submit the correct application (the applications differ depending on the home country of the adopted child) and pay the appropriate fees.
  2. Wait for approval: If your sponsorship application is accepted by IRCC, you will be informed and invited to fill out an application for permanent residence for your adopted child.
  3. Submit the application for permanent residence form on the child’s behalf to the Canadian visa office: While the application is processed, the adopted child will be invited to have an interview with the visa officer in his or her home country. Of course, this does not apply if the adopted child is an infant.
  4. Wait for approval: The approval times vary but are generally quite predictable.

After receiving a permanent resident status for your adopted child, you can later apply to obtain Canadian citizenship for your child via the naturalization process.

How to Apply for Citizenship for an Adopted Child?

You must complete the adoption process before applying for Canadian citizenship for your adoptive child. This is a two-stage process:

  1. IRCC must confirm your Canadian citizenship; and
  2. IRCC processes your adopted child’s application: Note that an adoptive parent must fill out the Application for Citizenship for his or her adopted child who is under 18 years of age. An adoptive child 18 years of age or older must apply himself or herself.

Steps involved

  1. Submit two application packages to IRCC: You must fill out the Confirmation of Canadian Citizenship for the adoptive parent package and the Adoptee’s application package and pay all fees.
  2. Wait for approval: The approval times vary from country to country. To avoid unnecessary expense and disappointment, don’t plan a trip in order to return to Canada with the adopted child until IRCC approves the child’s citizenship application. Remember that you must get a passport or a travel document for the adopted child before the child can travel to Canada.
Table of Comparison



Final status

Canadian citizen

Permanent resident of Canada

Who can apply 

An adoptive parent who is a Canadian citizen at the time of the adoption.

  • An adoptive parent who is a Canadian citizen; or
  • An adoptive parent who is a permanent resident.

What documents will be issued for the adopted child

Certificate of Canadian Citizenship

Permanent Resident card

Medical exam necessary?



Will adopted child lose foreign citizenship after the process?

Yes, if the country does not allow dual citizenship.



If the adopted person is:

  • Under 18 years:
    • processing fee is CAN $100
  • 18 and over:
    • processing fee is CAN $630
    • right of citizenship fee is CAN $100

If the adopted person is:

  • Under 22 years:
    • sponsorship fee is CAN $75
    • processing fee is CAN $75
  • 22 and over:
    • sponsorship fee is CAN $75
    • processing fee is CAN $475

Processing time

  • To obtain Proof of Citizenship for the adoptive parent: 5 months;
  • To obtain a Citizenship Certificate for the adopted child: at least 12 months.

Varies by country (12 to 24 months)

Commonly Asked Questions

Are there any restrictions on the countries from which children can be adopted?

Yes. Some countries do not allow intercountry adoption. This means that Canadian citizens or permanent residents cannot legally adopt a child from these countries.

Does a child need a passport to move to Canada?

Yes, an adoptive child must have a passport or a travel document. As soon as citizenship is granted for the child, you must apply for:

  • A Canadian passport through a Canadian embassy, high commission, or consular office outside Canada, or
  • A facilitation visa from the Canadian visa office that processed the citizenship application, if the child will be travelling to Canada on the passport of their home country.

Are there any support networks that can help someone considering adoption?

Yes, there are special Adoption Support Groups on both levels, national and provincial. These organizations raise public awareness about adoption and promote the placement of children. They provide support and information for adoptive parents and assist them in communication with their provincial or territorial central adoption authority.

What is the naturalization process in Canada?

After an adopted child receives permanent resident status in Canada, the citizenship process can be initiated. The child’s parents can apply for the child to become a citizen, or
when the child turns 18, the child can apply on his or her own. The process of obtaining citizenship after receiving permanent residence is called citizenship by naturalization.

We Can Help

Although the Canadian government prioritizes family reunification in Canada, there are strict requirements for a Sponsor who wants to adopt a child from abroad. If you are interested in intercountry adoption, please ensure that all your application forms are filled out accurately and completely. The importance of providing clear, complete, and accurate information throughout the process cannot be overstated. It is usually a good idea to seek the assistance of a professional who is an expert in the process. If you need such assistance, please contact us. Our team will evaluate your situation to determine if the immigration or the citizenship process is appropriate. We will assist you in all tasks of the process that you select. Our team will help you choose the application package appropriate for your circumstances, prepare all necessary documents, assist in any credentials assessments, and assist in preparing the applications for either the immigration or citizenship process.

If you are unsure about your likelihood of success, contact us for a free evaluation. We can give you a realistic assessment of your chances and assist you in developing the best strategy for a successful outcome.