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Adopting from Korea - A Parent's Guide to Korean Adoption

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Now's the Time to Start
A Few More File Folders

By this time, you've already dealt with the USCIS and your state and local governments.

You ain't seen nothing yet.

Now we're going to meet the Social Security Administration and the Internal Revenue Service. From my research, my own experience and those of numerous adoptive parents, here's an important bit of information:

Different SSA offices will interpret the same laws differently. Ask your agency or other adoptive parents in your area which SSA offices will and won't give you a hard time.

Some folks you'll talk with be very knowledgeable. Others? Well, they won't know as much. So don't sweat this if you don't have to. Seek out the "friendlier" SSA offices and go there. (You can do your paperwork at any SSA office.)

Social Security Numbers -- Secure Now or Later?

In talking to other adoptive parents, the consensus is pretty evenly divided between those who get the Social Security Number (SSN) prior to adoption finalization (and in the child's Korean name) and those who wait until after their child has been legally adopted so that the card is issued once in the child's American name.

We went ahead and got our kids' SSNs prior to their formal adoption. Our reasons:

  • ability to open savings accounts and other financial instruments right away

  • identification number already in place for federal and state tax returns

So here's how you do it... to get the application, call 1-800-772-1213 or go to Social Security Administration online and download form Application for a Social Security Card (SS-5).

You'll need to have the following documentation:

  • your child's Korean passport -- your agency will lend this to you

  • your own identification -- passport, driver's license, or health insurance card

  • proof the child is in your custody -- a copy of the referral papers, notarized form for insurance purposes, or alien registration card (the so-called "Green Card" which is actually pink) should suffice

Unless you're comfortable sending original documents through the mail, I strongly suggest you apply in person at your local SSA office. (Check their website for locations.) If there aren't any hitches or glitches, you should have your child's SSA card in a few weeks.

Unfortunately, there are some SSA offices who mistakenly believe you have to wait until your child's adoption is finalized before issuing a SSA card. Try a different office, bring your documentation and be firm and persistent. The law states clearly that anyone lawfully admitted for permanent US residence is eligible for an SSN.

Applying for the SSN AFTER adoption finalization

If you prefer to get your child's SSN after adoption finalization, bring an original copy of your child's final adoption decree (they're going to feel for the raised seal), your child's green card (if you have it), and his/her health insurance card or US birth certificate (SSA is looking for an identity document with your child's American name on it) to your local SSA office. Bring proof of your own identity, as well. Complete the SS-5 and submit to the clerk.

The SSA worker will review your documents, you'll sign a receipt, and you're done. You can expect to receive your card within a few weeks or so.

Changing your child's name on the SSN is easy. Just follow the directions in the above paragraph and also bring your child's SSN with the Korean name. You'll complete the same SS-5 form. Submit everything to the clerk and they'll update the record. (Note: the SSN doesn't change. Just your child's listed name.)

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Important Info About Your Child's SSA US Citizenship Status

SSA, even after you present your child's finalization papers, will still consider your child to be a Permanent Resident, until you present your child's US Passport or Certificate of Citizenship.

YES, THIS IS INCREDIBLY STUPID, because our children do become US Citizens upon adoption finalization.

But SSA does not have the authority to determine who and who is not a US citizen. Therefore until the law is changed, you MUST get the passport or the Certificate of Citizenship and present it to SSA as proof of your child's US citizenship and to have his/her status changed. Otherwise, you place him or her at risk of reduced or eliminated benefits if needed.

You don't want to wait on this. Click here for more information about applying for your child's US Passport and the Certificate of Citizenship.

Don't want to get the SSN now? Say hey to the IRS/W-7 -- Application for Individual Taxpayer Identification Number!

This number is for tax purposes only. The IRS uses this number to identify taxpayers, dependents and spouses who are required or wish to file a US tax return, but are unable to obtain a SSN. (See why I like getting the SSN early?)

If you're going to claim your adopted child as a dependent -- and that child doesn't have an SSN -- he/she will need an ITIN.

To get an application, head to the IRS forms and publications website and download Form W-7. (Note: Form W-7a is for domestic adoptions only. International adoptions are processed using the W-7.)

You'll need the registration number from your child's Korean passport to complete the application. The rest is self-explanatory. You can handle this by mail. Expect to receive the ITIN within a few weeks.

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Adoption Tax Credit

In 2002, adoptive parents are eligible to take a tax credit of up to $10,000 for qualifying expenses we've paid to adopt an eligible child. The value of the credit is based on your modified adjusted gross income and is phased in at:

  • Less than $150,000 -- Will not affect your credit
  • 150,001-$189,999 -- Will reduce your credit
  • $190,000 -- Will eliminate your credit

Also, too, be aware that for international adoptions, the adoption must be finalized before you can take the credit. (This affects those of us who adopt from Korea since these adoptions are always finalized in the US.)

For more complete information, download IRS Publication 968/Tax Benefits for Adoption for speak with your accountant or tax preparer.


Paperwork Tip

Federal Tax Return Tip