All of the Hague standards are important to the operation of a well-functioning adoption program and adoption service providers must strive to comply with them. However, some standards are weighed more heavily than others, and failure to comply with certain standards reflects a fundamental weakness in operations or inconsistency with the principles of the Hague Convention. All sub-sections have been designated as Mandatory, Critical, or Foundational Standards. For a complete list of Mandatory, Critical, and Foundational standards, see the description of the Substantial Compliance System.

Mandatory Standards:
Mandatory standards represent practices that are essential to fulfillment of the aims of the Hague Convention, the Intercountry Adoption Act (IAA), and 22 CFR Part 96, and have the highest value in accreditation/approval. Mandatory standards require a rating of full compliance (1) in order for the adoption service provider to be accredited or approved (see below).

Critical Standards:
Critical standards represent practices that have a significant impact on fulfillment of the aims of the Hague Convention, the IAA, and 22 CFR Part 96, and have a high value.

Foundational Standards:
Foundational standards are important to the operation of a well-functioning adoption program. They derive from and support compliance with the Hague Convention, the IAA, and the Hague Regulations.