Overseas dossier requirements
Updated: 01 July 2013
Each sending country has its own set of adoptive applicant criteria and processes governing dossier collation and validation.
Overseas country's applicant criteria
A decision to pursue an intercountry adoption from a particular country will need to take each country’s criteria into account. The choice of country should be primarily governed by the capacity of the applicants to meet the need of the children available there, and not because it is the country that will allow them to adopt.
Legally able to adopt in New Zealand
Most countries have as a criterion that the applicants must be legally able to adopt in New Zealand before embarking on an intercountry adoption. This can have the effect of expanding the criteria of the sending country. For example, to be legally qualified to adopt in New Zealand, section 4a of the Adoption Act 1955 requires that the applicant be at least 20 years older than the child unless the applicant is a relative, but the overseas country may have a lower age requirement.
Citizenship of applicants
The citizenship/residency status of the applicants is a criterion for some ICA programmes and will have a direct impact on the citizenship entitlements of any child to be adopted. This status must be determined (and evidenced) prior to any Home Study Report writing.
Some countries require a psychologist’s report on the applicants, both as a couple and also as individuals. The report needs to include information on the applicants’ relationship with each other and extended families, their childhood experiences, coping with stress, personal stability, and ability to care for a child. The cost for this report is the responsibility of the applicants.
The psychologist report is part of the documentation that informs, but does not determine, the contents of the Home Study Report and its recommendation. Refer to the individual country process for the Guideline for Psychological Assessment to be given to applicants to inform the psychologist they have selected to undertake this report.
Evidence of financial stability must be produced. A social worker should sight evidence of applicants’ income, assets (including property) and liabilities and note this in the Home Study Report. Applicants, having already completed a financial worksheet as part of the process of their initial application to adopt, can use this worksheet information to complete the summary contained in the country-specific chapter Certificate of Financial Status.
The form has four sub-totals to be calculated and then the applicants’ net worth. “Total value” is the sum of the applicants’ annual income, any other annual income and life insurance. This is totalled for the current year and also totalled for the previous year. Total Assets is the sum of value of all the different assets including savings the couple own (but excludes incomes and insurances). Total Liabilities (or debts) is the sum of the amount of money they owe on credit cards, mortgage or other significant loans etc. Net Worth = Total Assets minus Total Liabilities.
It is common in New Zealand for applicants to have money held in a Family Trust. This can be problematic to convey to some authorities as the concept of Family Trust is not familiar to all countries overseas, most notably China. The following description is for social worker information but any applicants who have a substantial involvement with Family Trusts will need to produce a professional statement of their situation from their lawyer and/or accountant.
When people form Trusts to protect their assets, the common scenario is they will sell their assets to the Trust. To finance the purchase, the Trust will borrow money from the applicants. A debt is then owed to the applicants by the Trust. This is evidenced by a "deed of acknowledgement of debt". It is common for the debt owed by the Trust to be repayable on demand. Many people will forgive the debt owed to them by the Trust in increments according to the maximum amount that an individual can gift per year without having to pay gift duty. A debt owed to a person is recognised as an asset for legal and accounting purposes.
Each country has its own requirements for validating an applicant dossier. The specific sending country indicates what documentation is required to apply for an intercountry adoption from that country, and what procedures are required to identify that the documents are legal and official. These will also specify costs and task division between accredited bodies, the social worker and the NZCA. Broadly these steps may include:
Some countries require all documentation to be translated prior to being sent. Translation must be done by a recognised translator, and any costs are the responsibility of the applicants.
Notarisation is the process by which a notary public attests by affidavit that a document is authentic. There is a cost which is the responsibility of the applicants but the notary’s responsibility is to the transaction and not to the client. This is organised by the NZCA.
If authentication of the documentation is required there are usually three steps which are organised either by the NZCA or the accredited body. There is a fee for each of these steps, also the responsibility of the applicants, which includes the documents being forwarded back to the NZCA in Wellington.
As a notary public is a specialist role outside that of barrister and solicitor, the Determinations and Authentications Unit of the Department of Internal Affairs (DIA) needs to authenticate by affidavit that the person performing the notary role is a recognised notary public.
The DIA passes the bound documents to the Consular Division of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade (MFAT), which then authenticates that the DIA affidavit is genuine.
The NZCA then arranges for the MFAT affidavit of authentication to be confirmed with a seal from the sending country Embassy.