Saroo would not make it now to Australia | AMVL Migrations

I am sure there are many people like me, who are very keen to see the new movie Lion. It is a moving true story about Saroo, a 5 year old boy in India who becomes separated from his brother on a train and ends up travelling across India before finding himself in an orphanage and is eventually adopted by an Australian couple.  He grows up in Tasmania and at 25 years old using Google Maps, he retraces his journey and finds his mother.  I know I will need the tissues ready for the reunion as just seeing the trailer bring tears to my eyes.


However being a Migration Agent and dealing with visas on a daily basis, it does make me think about the whole concept of inter-country adoption and the realisation that if Saroo was in an orphanage now in India, there would be no way for an Australian couple to adopt him.  Adoption now is a complex and difficult process for couples in Australia.  But it was not always like this and it is very different for Australian who are living overseas.


If you are in Australia and want to adopt a child from overseas, you need meet the eligibility criteria specified by the state and territory government where you live and also meet the eligibility criteria set by the country from which the adoption is occurring.  There are currently only 13 countries that have arrangements with Australia and so adoptions can only be sourced from these countries.  The whole process can take many years – if it happens at all.


Overseas adoptions number a few hundred a year now which has led to a push for greater access to overseas adoptions.  This push has been led by Deborra-Lee Furness, the wife of Hugh Jackman, who is a strong advocate for lessening the red tape and allowing more countries to have arrangements with Australia. When I worked for the Immigration Department in Los Angeles in the early 1990s, our office processed all the adoption visas for children from South America.  It was a weekly event to see an overjoyed Australian couple come into my office with their newly adopted child and pick up the child’s visa for Australia.  Some couples adopted a number of siblings at the same time and I remember admiring them for this – not an easy thing to suddenly have a complete family when the children usually only spoke Spanish.  However the love and care was evident and that was what mattered.


Most of the adoption visas that I assist with now involve couples who are living overseas due to work or family reasons.  The migration legislation states that if the Australian is overseas for at least 12 months and the reason for the residence there is for other than adopting a child, and the adoption in that country has been legally arranged, then they can apply for an adoption (subclass 102) visa.  I have assisted couples including family members, senior Australian government officials and same sex couples fulfil their dream of having a family by adopting children while overseas.  In some countries such as the USA, there are many children available for adoption and those that I still see, are now happy little Australians.  Of course there are still legal requirements and screening of the adoptive parents, but the whole process can be very fast in contrast to waiting times in Australia.


I know there have been issues in some countries in the past with children being sold and placed in orphanages however having lived in struggling countries and visited many orphanages, you come to realise that there are many children in the world like Saroo, who if given the chance, could grow up cared for and loved in Australia.