The China Adoption Process…Step-by-Step

If you are an “experienced” adoptive parent who has already navigated the waters of China Adoption, you likely think this whole thing is like floating down a gentle stream! But if you are just dipping your toes in these waters, it may appear to be a raging sea! And although some definitely have smoother experiences than others, we hope this post will take a little bit of the intimidation and mystery out of adopting from China.

Although the steps vary a little depending on how you begin the process (note the “a” and “b” for the first few numbers), there is a basic pattern that will be followed. In future posts, we will discuss these steps in more detail, so be sure to check  But barring any surprises, here is the summary of events:

1) Decision is made to adopt. This is obviously a personal part of your story and a decision that is made for many different reasons.

2a) An agency is chosen and the paperwork to be accepted into their program begins as you wait to be matched with a child.


2b) A waiting child is noticed from an advocacy page like Red Thread Advocates or an agency website such as WACAP. You then make your agency choice based on who currently has this particular child’s file and start paperwork to be matched with him/her.

Researching your agency choice is VERY important. Please read our previous post about choosing an agency here.

3a) You continue to work on building your dossier (homestudy, clearances, birth certificates, marriage certificates, references, etc) while you wait to be matched with your child. Your agency will usually keep an eye out for children that are considered to be a good match for your family based upon your homestudy recommendations and personal preference/experience.


3b) You have already identified a child you feel would be a great fit for your family. You begin your home study. Once your home study is approved, if the child you previously identified is still waiting, you work with your agency to submit your Letter of Intent (LOI) to adopt this child. You are now officially “matched.”

Knowing your family’s limits and abilities when considering a child with special needs is also VERY important. Please read our previous post about how to know which needs are a good match for your family here.

4a) You finish all of your paperwork to complete your dossier. Your agency mails it off and you are now “Dossier to China” or more commonly DTC! Whew! And you continue to wait to be matched with your child.


4b) Now that you are matched with your child, you work on gathering your documents for your dossier (home study, clearances, birth certificates, marriage certificates, references, etc.). Once these are complete, your agency mails your “dossier to China” and you are now DTC! Take a big breath! The biggest bulk of the paperwork is OVER!!! Whew!


5a) Your agency identifies a child for your family. After reviewing his/her file, you accept the referral and submit a Letter of Intent (LOI). You are now officially “matched” and begin the wait for your Letter Seeking Confirmation (affectionately termed LSC or by some agencies, LOA). Although perhaps not as long as your wait to be matched, waiting for LOA is not usually a favorite part of this process.


5b) You begin your wait for your Letter Seeking Confirmation (the prized LSC, also referred to as LOA). For families who are matched before sending their dossier to China (DTC), this can sometimes be the most excruciating wait of the process. For some it happens in a few weeks, others may wait 3-4 months. Thankfully, adoptive mamas are usually known for their great patience during this time ability to pass time with various adoption-related distractions such as Facebook groups, fundraisers, and planning for the new addition!

6) LSC/LOA, BABY!!! Now no matter how you started the process, from here on out, everyone follows these steps in the same order!

7) More immigration paperwork is now filed (I-800). Once this is approved, the National Visa Center will send your provisional approval to adopt this specific child to the US Consulate in Guangzhou.

8) An electronic copy of this approval is emailed to you and forwarded to your agency.

9) You file a DS-260 form online (more visa stuff).

10) Your agency rep in China drops off several pieces of paperwork at the US Consulate in Guangzhou. This is sometimes referred to as your Article 5 drop off. Now you wait approximately 2 weeks or 10 business days until the assigned day for pick up.

11) Your agency rep in China picks up your Article 5 (A5) and overnights it to the CCCWA offices in Beijing.

12) After an undetermined amount of time…anywhere from 2 days to 2 weeks it seems like…the CCCWA will issue your travel approval. You can now do the happy TA dance and stress over how you are going to fit 75 lbs worth of stuff into one suitcase and not exceed your 50 lb limit. Perhaps the most complicated piece in the process for me for some people. 🙂

13) After receiving TA, your agency will request a consulate appointment (CA).

14) Once the CA is confirmed, travel arrangements are made. Final packing and unpacking and re-packing is completed. And before you know it, you are leaving on a jet plane!


I cannot take credit for this graphic in any way, and I am not sure who to give the credit to either, but many find it helpful to understanding and explaining the process that will bring your next beloved child HOME!


So hold on! It is quite a ride, but OH, so worth it! You’ll be in China before you know it!