Hanoi: American parents will be allowed to adopt Vietnamese children again, authorities said Tuesday, ending a six-year ban imposed after allegations of baby-selling and fraud but with new restrictions.
Two American agencies have been awarded licences but new US adoptions will be limited to children over the age of five, sibling groups and those with special needs, the US State Department said.
Americans have been unable to adopt from Vietnam since a 2008 ban imposed due to US embassy concerns that many adoptees had been trafficked or given up after their families were coerced.
Vietnam denied these claims but agreed to suspend adoptions with the United States.
The communist country has since ratified the Hague Convention on Protection of Children and Co-operation in respect of inter-country adoption, and revised its domestic law on adoption.
"The United States welcomes Vietnam`s efforts to enhance its child welfare and intercountry adoption system," the State Department said in a statement.
It named Dillon International and Holt International Children`s Services as the American agencies newly authorised to facilitate adoptions in Vietnam.
Nguyen Van Binh, director of the international adoption department at Vietnam`s Ministry of Justice, confirmed it had granted licences to the firms.
There are now a total of 36 foreign adoption agencies operating in Vietnam, he told AFP, from countries including France, Italy and Sweden.
Prior to the ban, only some five percent of adoptees were aged five years or older, with the majority under two, state media reported.
Tad Kincaid, founder of Ho Chi Minh City-based Orphan Impact, welcomed the restarting of adoptions with new restrictions as "a good step".
"It makes sense to focus on children who are hardest to place, as they are most likely to spend their entire childhood in an orphanage," he told AFP.
The lifting of the US-Vietnam adoptions ban comes as the former wartime foes move closer together, with a string of recent high-level visits, talk of ending a ban on sales of lethal weapons -- in place due to human rights concerns -- and greater trade ties.
American interest in adopting from Vietnam is particularly high in part due to publicity generated when Hollywood star Angelina Jolie adopted her son Pax from Vietnam in 2007.
Estimates of the number of children in Vietnamese orphanages vary widely -- from around 143,000 to 1.5 million, Orphan Impact`s Kincaid said.