When you adopt a child through an international adoption, there are two main types of visas issued by the U.S. government, either an IR-3 or an IR-4.
An IR-3 visa means the child is an automatic U.S. citizen upon entry into the United States. An IR-3 visa is issued when the adopting parent(s) physically see the child before the adoption procedure is completed in the foreign country. When an IR-3 visa is issued, because the child is an automatic U.S. citizen upon entering the U.S., a Certificate of Citizenship will be automatically issued for the child by the Citizenship and Immigration Service (CIS) -- the Certificate of Citizenship will be mailed directly to the Adoptive Parents home within a few months of the child entering the U.S. Because citizenship is automatic with an IR-3 visa, registration/adoption/re-adoption is not required to attain U.S. citizenship, but it is very strongly recommend that the registration/adoption/re-adoption be completed for many other reasons, including obtaining a state issued birth certificate, formal legal name change, insuring rights of inheritance, and obtaining a Social Security Card with the child's American name and with U.S. citizen designation. A person who automatically obtains citizenship is not required to file an Application for Certificate of Citizenship (Form N-600). A person who seeks documentation of such status, however, must submit an application to obtain a Certificate of Citizenship from USCIS. A person may also apply for a U.S. Passport with the Department of State to serve as evidence of his or her U.S. citizenship.
If an IR-4 visa is granted, the child does not automatically gain U.S. citizenship upon entering the U.S. An IR-4 visa is issued when only one of the partners of the married couple travels, or if the adoption is completed through power of attorney prior to the adopting parents physically seeing their child in the foreign country. With an IR-4 visa, after returning home, the adoptive parents must register/adopt/re-adopt the child according to their home state's adoption laws in order for the child to attain U.S. citizenship. This registration/adoption/re-adoption process must be completed before the adoptive parents can apply to the CIS for the child's Certificate of Citizenship.
Jennifer Fairfax handles re-adoptions in Maryland, Virginia and the District of Columbia. Contact her at JFairfax@jenniferfairfax.com to schedule a consult.