Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Below you’ll find answers to some of the most frequently asked questions. FAQs are organized into a few sections below:

  1. Adoptees for Justice
  2. Getting Involved
  3. Social Justice Terms
  4. Adoptee Citizenship Act of 2019
  5. Assistance for Impacted Adoptees

Still can’t find the answer to your question? Get in touch through our Contact Us Form.


Adoptees For Justice (A4J) is an intercountry adoptee-led organization formed in 2018. Our first campaign is to educate, organize, and advocate for an Adoptee Citizenship Act that is inclusive of all adoptees, including those with criminal backgrounds and those who have been deported. We view this commitment as part of the larger movement for immigrant, racial, and social justice.

Our organization began with a small group of adoptees brought together by the issue of adoptee citizenship. Adoptees For Justice formed in 2018 with support from NAKASEC, HANA Center, Korean Resource Center, and Asian Americans Advancing Justice – Atlanta.

We are currently working with members of Congress to advocate for citizenship for all adoptees. Our focus is to educate them about this issue and build legislative support towards an inclusive bill. At the same time, Adoptees For Justice is working to garner widespread constituent and organizational support for this legislation.

No! Adoptees for Justice sees passage of the 2019 Adoptee Citizenship Act as a first goal in the larger fight for justice for adoptees, people of color, and immigrants.

We approach our work through a historical and intersectional lens. We believe that, in order to empower and enact meaningful change for our community of transnational (intercountry) adoptees of color, we need to be rooted in an understanding of issues of adoption, race, immigration, and criminal justice. It is important that we forefront the experiences and leadership of those who are most impacted and remain cognizant of the varying privileges possessed by members of our diverse collective. With impacted adoptees in leadership positions, we deliberately work to center the priorities of impacted adoptees in our organization and decision-making.

Adoptees for Justice is organized into a leadership team (consisting of 2 co-directors, 1 manager, and several coordinators, core volunteers, and a wider group of volunteers). A4J has 7 committees (Legislative, Outreach, Impacted Adoptees, Digital Communications, Fundraising, Legal, Research) which meet separately in coordination with each another. Each committee has a Lead or 2 Co-Leads.

Leadership Team
Executive Director: Kristopher Larsen
Manager: Megan Boone

Board of Directors: Chair Emily Kessel, Vice Chair Anissa Druesedow, Treasurer/Secretary Emma Wexler, Taneka Jennings, Becky Belcore, Cori McMillan, and Daniel Ayoade Yoon.

Onboarding Coordinator: Olivia Pearl

Adoptees for Justice is located wherever its members are–all across the United States. We are a national organization with members especially concentrated in Atlanta, Seattle, Minneapolis, Chicago, and the D.C. metro area. We also have impacted adoptee members residing outside of the United States.

The National Korean American Service & Education Consortium (NAKASEC) is the fiscal sponsor and partner of Adoptees for Justice.

We welcome everyone to get involved and in whatever capacity they have! As an adoptee-led organization committed to being led by those most impacted, we especially welcome impacted adoptees (without citizenship including deportees). We work with members of adoptive families (e.g., parents, spouses, siblings, and children of adoptees), and adoptees of all types of adoption.

Join the movement! Fill out the Volunteer With Us Form on our website’s Contact Us page. A member of Adoptees for Justice will contact you to set up a 1:1 onboarding video-call with you. The purpose of this call is to get to know you, orient you to A4J’s mission & structure, answer any questions, and help you figure out which committees you’d like to start on.

All people are welcome and have something to offer. We especially welcome anyone with legal expertise, experience with grant-writing and/or fundraising, videography, graphic design, Photoshop, or website design.

Visit our Take Action page for ways to get involved in the campaign for the 2019 Adoptee Citizenship Act and view the Outreach Toolkit for more guidance.

Contact your Representative’s office in support of the 2019 Adoptee Citizenship Act.

  1. Sign the petition for the 2019 Adoptee Citizenship Act.
  2. Call or leave a message.
  3. Write a letter.
  4. Email.
  5. Donate.
  6. Meet with their office! Fill out this form and our Legislative Team will assist you with the process and/or meeting.
  7. Become a volunteer with Adoptees for Justice.

Build support in your community:

  1. Organize a phone-banking session in your family, community, school, organization (e.g., book club, sports team, neighborhood, etc, or faith-organization.
  2. Canvas on behalf of the 2019 Adoptee Citizenship Act.
  3. Work to pass a local or state resolution in support of the 2019 Adoptee Citizenship Act.
  4. Organize an event and bring Adoptees for Justice members to present.
  5. Build collaboration

Sign the petition here! We appreciate your support and hope you will share the petition as far and wide as possible.

Petition signatures are an important way we demonstrate to legislators that their constituents support the bill. If you are able, please provide your legal name and zip code with your petition signature. Congressional offices will consider your signature of the petition on par with a direct phone-call of support.

Yes! NAKASEC is a 501c(3). Donate through our website.

Please see “How To Pass a Local Resolution” in our Outreach Toolkit.  Also, see Question 4 above regarding how to get involved in the campaign for the 2019 Adoptee Citizenship Act.

Contact us through the Meet with Your Reps + A4J form and a member of our Legislative team will reach out to assist you. You can also reference our Outreach Toolkit.

We welcome collaborations and endorsements! Endorse us by signing the Adoptee Support Letter as an organization. Fill out the Contact Us Form to get in touch!

Buy Adoptees for Justice t-shirts and sweatshirts through our Shop page on the top right. T-shirts and sweatshirts are available while supplies last in unisex sizes S-XL. You can pay using credit card or PayPal.

Last updated 2/7/2020.

According to the U.S. State Department, intercountry adoption (also known as transnational or international adoption) is “the process by which you adopt a child from a country other than your own through permanent legal means and then bring that child to your country of residence to live with you permanently.” 

Adoptee refers to an adopted individual. Adoptee is a commonly used term and one that many adopted individuals identify with. However, not all adopted individuals identify as adoptees.

Citizenship For All states that all people possess inherent human rights including the rights to food, healthcare, shelter, respect, and dignity. We view citizenship as more than having the “right” papers, but rather as full inclusion in society.
The undocumented community at NAKASEC & Affiliates generated the #Citizenship4All campaign after Members of Congress threatened to trade DACA protections for the lives and safety of the 11 million other undocumented people living in this country, including DACA recipients’ parents. As we mobilize in coalition together to ensure the safety of DACA and TPS recipients, we must also continue organizing towards a vision and solution that grants citizenship for all 11 million undocumented immigrants (i.e. intercountry adoptees without citizenship, DACA recipients, TPS beneficiaries, and undocumented immigrants without protection from deportation). We must do this while also recognizing that homemaking on this soil, in the end, belongs to indigenous nations –they are the true stewards of this land.

The Center for Justice & Reconciliation explains that restorative justiceviews crime as more than breaking the law – it also causes harm to people, relationships, and the community. So a just response must address those harms as well as the wrongdoing. If the parties are willing, the best way to do this is to help them meet to discuss those harms and how to about bring resolution. Other approaches are available if they are unable or unwilling to meet. Sometimes those meetings lead to transformational changes in their lives.”

According to the United States Citizenship & Immigration Services (USCIS), citizenship gives a person certain legal rights. U.S. citizenship is gained at birth, through parents prior to reaching 18 years of age, or through naturalization. Learn more about U.S. citizenship broadly on the USCIS website.

The Child Citizenship Act of 2000 (CCA) eliminated the need for adoptive families to apply to naturalize their newly-adopted children. Under INA320 immigrating visa holders, this law grants automatic citizenship to all foreign-born children brought to the United States under the age of 18 and have at least one parent who is a U.S. Citizen. Under INA322, non-immigrating visa holders would qualify for citizenship and would have to apply thus not being automatic. Unfortunately, the 2000 CCA law only applied to adoptees who were under the age of 18 when it was enacted on February 27, 2001; it did not apply retroactively to those adoptees who faced the same dilemma but aged over 18 before the CCA took effect.

Prior to the Child Citizenship Act of 2001, adoption and naturalization were two separate legal processes, creating the potential for foreign-born children to be legally adopted by a U.S. citizen parent but not gain citizenship (via naturalization) before they became adults. This occurred for a host of reasons. Some adoptive parents assumed or were misinformed by their attorneys that their foreign-born children automatically acquired citizenship upon adoption. Some forgot to complete the naturalization process and adoptive agencies, due to a lack of post-adoption services, did not ensure this process was completed. Some adoptive parents died before completing the process. Some adoptive parents did not naturalize in order to control their adopted children. Some adoptions were disrupted by abuse, and when adopted children became wards of the state the naturalization process was not completed.

Although the Child Citizenship Act of 2000 made citizenship automatic upon the finalization of the adoption process in the United States, it only applied to legal minors at the date of enactment, leaving out adults who were adopted as children who had never received citizenship

Although the Child Citizenship Act of 2000 made citizenship automatic upon the finalization of the adoption process in the United States, it only applied to legal minors at the date of enactment, leaving out adults who were adopted as children who had never received citizenship.

It is estimated that thousands of legally adopted individuals who were born before February 27, 1982 and raised in the United States and/or did not enter the country on an “orphan visa” do not have U.S. citizenship and are therefore potentially subject to deportation. Since the 1940s, approximately 500,000 intercountry adoptees have been brought to the U.S. There are 18,603 Korean American adoptees alone who do not have American citizenship according to the Korean Health Ministry (Korea Herald, 2017). However, it is impossible to know how many intercountry adoptees do not have citizenship or who have been deported. Part of this has to do with fragmented data collection efforts, especially since the U.S. Census does not track adopted individuals once adoptees become legal adults. USCIS does not keep demographic data on the status of adoptees in deportation. Additionally, some adoptees without citizenship may be unaware of their status. Finally, since people without citizenship are vulnerable to deportation, it is difficult to quantify the numbers of adoptees without citizenship. The only way to know if an intercountry adoptee has been deported is if they either share their story publicly or reach out in some away (e.g. adoptee advocacy organizations, adoption agencies, legislative offices, etc).

There are at least 46 known cases where American adoptees have been deported. Adoptees have been deported to several countries including India, Costa Rica, South Korea, Jamaica, and Brazil.

Last updated 3/22/2020.

Deported adoptees are not tracked as adoptees. Legally, adoptees with orders of removal are foreign nationals of the country from which they emigrated from as children. As such, the known number of cases derives from adoptees who have spoken and/or had news coverage regarding their experiences and deportation.

Family law in the United States as in other countries provides that an adopted child is legally provided the same rights as a natural-born child. For adoptees without citizenship, federal immigration policy stands in contrast to family law, maintaining differing citizenship between parents and their legal children. A person who is legally adopted from another country but was never provided citizenship can be denied many public benefits their siblings automatically inherit. This can have an inconsistent and destructive effect on family relations, and devastating consequences such as deportation for the internationally adopted person.

There are cases of individuals without citizenship who were adopted from 28 countries including Argentina, Brazil, China, Colombia, Costa Rica, Germany, Greece, Guatemala, El Salvador, Ethiopia, Haiti, India, Ireland, Iran, Jamaica, Japan, Mexico, Panama, Peru, Philippines, Russia, Spain, South Korea, St. Kitts, Taiwan, Ukraine, Venezuela and Vietnam. However, since the cases of adoptees without citizenship are only reported through adoptees finding advocacy organizations or media outlets, there may be many more adoptees without citizenship from countries not listed. As a result, this list may not be complete. We are always looking to ensure our information is as accurate as possible.

Last updated 7/24/2020

Adoptees were legally admitted on either an immigrating visa or a non-immigrating visa, which is a requirement under INA320 and INA322. Due to changes in immigration policy some visas are no longer in existence due to being fazed out.

Non-citizen adoptees lack the necessary documentation for public benefits.

Last updated 1/19/2020

This is a difficult number to quantify due to the fact that the U.S. does not discern if a person who has committed a crime is an intercountry adoptee.

Laws begin as ideas. First, a representative sponsors a bill, oftentimes due to the advocacy of a group or groups of people with a vested interest in the bill’s passage. The bill is then assigned to a committee for study. If released by the committee, the bill is put on a calendar to be voted on, debated or amended. If the bill passes by simple majority (218 out of 435), the bill moves to the Senate. In the Senate, the bill is assigned to another committee and, if released, debated and voted on. Again, a simple majority (51 out of 100) passes the bill. Finally, a conference committee made of House and Senate members works out any differences between the House and Senate versions of the bill. The resulting bill returns to the House and Senate for final approval. The Government Printing Office prints the revised bill in a process called enrolling. The President has 10 days to sign or veto the enrolled bill. See the infographic here.

H.R. 2731 was introduced to the 116th Congress on May 14, 2019 by Congressman Adam Smith (D-WA 9). It is currently co-sponsored by 61 other Representatives with bipartisan support (see co-sponsors here). The bill was referred to the House Judiciary Subcommittee on Immigration and Citizenship. Track the progress of the bill here.

Last updated 3/22/2020.

The 2019 Adoptee Citizenship Act:

  • Grants retroactive U.S. citizenship to all intercountry adoptees regardless of when the Act was passed.
  • Grants retroactive U.S. citizenship to all intercountry adoptees regardless of visa with which they entered the U.S.
  • Creates a clear pathway for adoptees who have been deported for crimes to return to the U.S.

Last updated 1/19/2020.

The Child Citizenship Act of 2000 (Public Law 106-395) granted automatic citizenship upon the finalization of the adoption process for intercountry adoptees. It excluded intercountry adoptees who:

  • Were 18 years of age or older at the date of enactment (2/27/2001), broadly born prior to 1983
  • Did not enter on an “orphan visa” (“orphan” visas: HR-3, HR-4, IR-2, IR-3, IR-4, IR-5)

“IR” stands for “immediate relative.”

Last updated 1/19/2020.

Before a bill becomes law it is assigned a number when it is introduced. H.R.2731 references the 2019 Adoptee Citizenship Act, as introduced in the House of Representatives.
In the Senate, the 2019 Adoptee Citizenship Act was introduced as S. 1554.

You can find this information on the website.

Read the text of H.R. 2731 here and the text of S. 1554 here. The text of H.R. 2731 and S. 1554 are identical.

Find a current list of Representatives co-sponsoring H.R.2731 here and a current list of Senators co-sponsoring S. 1554 here.

Last updated 1/19/2020.

      1. Yes, the bill grants citizenship to American adoptees, including those with criminal records so long as such crimes have been “properly resolved,” primarily meaning that a person must serve out their sentence as a precondition to acquiring citizenship.

Yes, Sec 2(b)(3) of the Adoptee Citizenship Act creates a pathway home for deported adoptees who meet certain criteria upon entering the United States. Deported adoptees are eligible for citizenship if they initially entered the United States via, “lawful admission,” were adopted by a U.S. citizen parent before the age of 18, never received citizenship before, and have resolved their crime.

No. The bill applies to individuals who were minors (under 18 years old) at the time of their adoption by a U.S. citizen.

No, the bill applies to American adoptees who entered the United States under “lawful admission.”

Last updated 12/25/2019.

Yes, the bill applies to adoptees who were lawfully admitted. The bill specifies “lawful admission” as a requirement, but does not specify maintaining lawful admission as a requirement.

Due to the lack of information and misinformation about the process of acquiring citizenship prior to the passage of the Child Citizenship Act of 2000, many adoptees without citizenship did not realize they needed to become naturalized. Since many were not naturalized before their eighteenth birthday when their visas expired, there are many adoptees who may have technically overstayed their visas.

Last updated 2/2/2020.

Under the Adoptee Citizenship Act of 2019 there would not be any changes to acquiring citizenship under INA320. The adoptee would have automatic citizenship retroactive to the day of adoption. The individual would need to apply for a Certificate of Citizenship.

If you are an impacted adoptee, Adoptees for Justice can connect you with legal assistance and the support of a community of impacted adoptees. Please reach out to us through the Contact Form for Impacted Adoptees.