The desire to adopt a child from Japan might spring from any number of reasons, but the reality of adoption in a country with a declining birth rate can be frustrating. Any adoption comes with a hefty amount of paperwork and waiting time, but Japan has rules that change depending on the specific type of adoption and whether the adoption is finalised within or outside of Japan.
Learn the two basic types of adoption, and understand the difference between them. In the first type, called a regular adoption, the child retains family ties and his name is not erased from the family registry. A regular adoption is only performed when the adopting party is a blood relative who claims custody when the birth parents are dead or unable to care for the child.
The second type of adoption is a special adoption. This is the most common form of adoption when the adopting party is an international couple. The child's name is erased from the family registry in Japan, although he is allowed to maintain dual citizenship until age 22. According to the U.S. Embassy in Japan, this dual citizenship clause is because the child is not leaving Japan by his own choice.
Research the agencies that handle Japanese adoption, and choose one you believe has your best interest in mind. Some agencies have branches in the United States, while others have English-speaking representatives in Japan. A good agency will be upfront about the eligibility requirements you must reach to proceed with adoption. For example, you need to be married and age 25 or older. The agency will match you with a child under 6 years old who is eligible for special adoption and will help you through the court process.
Obtain the necessary documentation that supports your claims of eligibility to adopt. This includes paperwork in both Japan and your own country. The adoption agency should provide you with a comprehensive list of documents, but at minimum, you should provide birth certificates for both adoptive parents, passports, proof of financial stability and a clean criminal record, employment history and proof of consent to adopt from the child's biological parents or orphanage.
Be prepared to wait. According to the U.S. Embassy in Japan, the time frame for international adoptions from Japan can take anywhere from six to 18 months to complete. The Family Court in Japan tries to work with the court system of the adoptive parents' state of residence, which can cause significant delays before the paperwork is finalised. Although you are not required to be a Japanese resident prior to the adoption process, you are required to stay in Japan during the process itself and be present in court when the adoption is finalised.
There are no specific adoption regulations in Japan regarding same-sex couples from another country, but according to the U.S. Embassy, there have been no known such adoptions as of 2010. Japan does not legally recognise same-sex couples.