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Russian Adoption Information

The following is a guide for U.S. citizens who are interested in adopting a child in Russia and applying for an immigrant visa for the child to come to the United States.

The adoption of a Russian child involves complex foreign and U.S. legal requirements. U.S. consular officers give each file careful consideration on a case-by-case basis to ensure that the legal requirements of both countries have been met, for the protection of the prospective adoptive parent(s), the biological parents(s) and the child. Interested U.S. citizens are strongly encouraged to contact U.S. consular officials in Russia before formalizing an adoption agreement to ensure that appropriate procedures have been followed, which will make it possible for the Embassy to issue a U.S. immigrant visa for the child.

AVAILABILITY OF CHILDREN FOR ADOPTION: Recent U.S. immigration statistics reflect the following pattern for visa issuance to orphans from Russia (IR-3 and IR-4 visas combined)*:

FY-2002…. 4939
FY-2001…. 5004
FY-2000…. 4687
FY-1999…. 4470

*Immediate Relative (IR)-3 visas are issued to orphans adopted in Russia. IR-4 visas are issued to orphans whose adoption will be finalized in the United States.

Russian law requires that a child must have been registered in the state database for children left without parental care for at least three months before he or she is considered eligible for international adoption.

ADOPTION AUTHORITY: The government office responsible for adoptions in Russia is the Ministry of Education of the Russian Federation.

Ministry of Education
#6 Chistoprudny Blvd.
Tel: 7-095-237-9763 (Russian only)
Fax: 7-095-924-6989(legal office) 236-0171(main)

AGE AND CIVIL STATUS REQUIREMENTS: Single parents can adopt a Russian child but there must be at least 16 years difference between the parent and adoptive child.

RESIDENTIAL REQUIREMENTS: There are no residency requirements for adopting parents.

TIME FRAME: The average time for the adoption process was 5 months from the time BCIS approved the petition to the issuance of the IV visa.

ADOPTION AGENCIES AND ATTORNEYS: Prospective adoptive parents are advised to fully research any adoption agency or facilitator they plan to use for adoption services. For U.S.-based agencies, it is suggested that prospective adoptive parents contact the Better Business Bureau and licensing office of the Department of Health and Family Services in the state where the agency is located. The U.S. Embassy in Russia has a list of agencies accredited by the Russian authorities to provide adoption services. The list is available at the Russian adoption agencies. U.S. Passport Service Guide cannot vouch for the efficacy or professionalism of any agent or facilitator.

FEES: Based on interviews with adoptive parents by U.S. Embassy officials, the average cost of an adoption is approximately $20,000.00.

ADOPTION PROCEDURES: Parents first apply to a regional Ministry of Education, which directs them to an orphanage. Adoptive parents are required to travel to Russia to meet prospective adoptive children. There they select a child and apply to the court to get a court date. Adoptive parents may return to the United States after applying for a court date. However, the prospective adoptive child must remain in Russia during this time. Adoptive parents travel a second time to Russia to attend the court hearing. After the court hearing, they obtain the adoption certificate and a new birth certificate (showing the child's new name, and the adoptive parents as the parents) from the ZAGS (civil registration office), after which they can obtain the passport for the child from the OVIR (visa and registration department). Parents then can contact the Embassy to make an appointment to apply for the immigrant visa. (Note: the child's passport will be issued in the child's new name, which will appear in Cyrillic characters and in "English." However, the Russian officials will transliterate the name from Cyrillic into English and the result usually will not be spelled as your family spells it. For example, Smith will be Smit (there is no "th" in Russian); Callaghan will be Kalahan, etc. The fact that the child's name is "mis-spelled" in the passport will NOT cause a problem when you travel and should not be a cause for concern.)

REGISTRATION OF RUSSIAN ORPHANS WITH THE MFA: Adopted Russian children must be registered with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs before they leave the country. For U.S. citizen families, this is done after an adopted child receives an immigrant visa to the United States.

The Consular Section of the MFA is open for the registration of adopted children
Monday through Thursday from 2 p.m. to 5 p.m.; on Friday - from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m.

The fee for the registration is $65 (the equivalent in rubles)

The following documents are needed for registration:

1. Original of the child's passport
2. Copies of the parents' passports
3. Letter from the orphanage (orphanage release)
4. Letter from the Ministry of Education of Russia
5. Court decision
6. Adoption certificate
7. Immigrant visa of the child (original)

DOCUMENTARY REQUIREMENTS: The following documents are required by the Russian court for an adoption:

1. Home Study
2. BCIS approval notice (I-171H or I-797)
3. Copies of prospective adoptive parents' passports
4. Marriage certificate/divorce certificate (if applicable)
5. Police certificate
6. Medical examination report
7. Financial documents: employment verification letter, bank statements, tax forms
8. Evidence of place of residence

All of these documents should be translated into Russian and apostilled (see below for information on authenticating documents).

After prospective parents identify the Russian child they should fill out the adoption application, which can be obtained at the Russian court where the adoption hearings will take place.

Additional required statements for the court hearings from the parents, which should be signed in front of a Russian notary, are:

1. Prospective adoptive parents have been informed about the health conditions of the child and they accept them;
2. They will register their adopted child with the MFA; and
3. They will provide the Department of Education with periodic, required post placement reports on time.

AUTHENTICATION PROCESS: All U.S. documents submitted to Russian government must be authenticated. Russia is a party to the Hague Legalization Convention. Generally, U.S. civil records, such as birth, death, and marriage certificates, must bear the seal of the issuing office and an apostille must be affixed by the state's Secretary of State where the document was issued. Copies of tax returns, medical reports and police clearances should likewise be authenticated. Prospective adoptive parents should contact the Secretary of State for the state where documents originate for instructions and fees for authenticating documents.

Documents issued by a federal agency must be authenticated by the U.S. Department of State Authentications Office. Their address is Authentications Office, Department of State, 518 23rd St., N.W., Washington, D.C. 20520, (202) 647-5002. Fee: $5.00. For additional information, call the Federal Information Center: 1-800-688-9889, and choose option 6 after you press 1 for touch tone phones. Walk-in service is available from the Authentications Office from 8 a.m. to 12 noon Monday-Friday, except holidays. Walk-in service is limited to 15 documents per person per day (documents can be multiple pages). Processing time for authentication requests sent by mail is 5 working days or less.

Russian Embassy in the United States

Embassy of the Russian Federation
2650 Wisconsin Avenue, N.W.
Washington, D.C. 20007

Travel Notes: SARS continues to be a concern in areas near the Russia-China border. Prospective adoptive parents traveling to these areas are advise to read the State Department notice on SARS and the CDC Web site for the recent information on SARS.

NATURALIZATION: Under the Child Citizenship Act of 2000, which became effective on February 27, 2001, children automatically become U.S. citizens when all of the following requirements have been met: at least one parent is a U.S. citizen; the child is under 18 years of age; there is a full and final adoption of the child; and, the child is admitted to the United States as an immigrant. A foreign-born child who enters the United States on an Immediate Relative (IR) -3 visa, the child automatically becomes a U.S. citizen that day. A foreign-born child who enters the United States on an IR-4 visa and is adopted in a U.S. court, will become a U.S. citizen when the adoption is finalized in the United States (the child will be a legal permanent resident until then).

ADDITIONAL INFORMATION: Prospective adoptive parents are strongly encouraged to consult BCIS publication M-249, The Immigration of Adopted and Prospective Adoptive Children, as well as the Department of State publication, International Adoptions. The BCIS publication is available at the BCIS Web site. The Department of State publication can be found on the Bureau of Consular Affairs Web site under "International Adoptions" (see link below to return to International adoptions page).

QUESTIONS: Specific questions regarding adoption may be addressed to the Consular Section of a U.S. Embassy or Consulate abroad. Parents may also contact the Office of Children's Issues, SA-29, 2201 C Street, NW, U.S. Department of State, Washington, DC 20520-2818, toll-free Tel: 1-888-407-4747 with specific questions.

Information is also available from several sources:

  • Telephone - Call Center -Toll Free Hotline: Overseas Citizens Services in the Bureau of Consular Affairs (CA/OCS) has established a toll free hotline for the general public at 1-888-407-4747. The OCS hotline can answer general inquiries regarding international adoption and will forward calls to the appropriate Country Officer. This number is available from 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. Eastern Standard Time, Monday through Friday (except U.S. federal holidays). Callers who are unable to use toll-free numbers, such as those calls from overseas, may obtain information and assistance during these hours by calling 1-317-472-2328.
    - State Department Visa Office - recorded information concerning immigrant visas for adoptive children, (202) 663-1225.
    - Bureau of Citizenship and Immigration Services - recorded information for requesting immigrant visa application forms, 1-800-870-FORM (3676).
  • Internet - the Consular Affairs section of the Department of States has a wealth of information on their Intercountry Adoption, website. The site contains international adoption information flyers and the International Adoptions brochure.

Other information:

  • Consular Information Sheets - The State Department has general information about hiring a foreign attorney and authenticating documents that may supplement the country-specific information provided in this flier. In addition, the State Department publishes Consular Information Sheets (CIS) for every country in the world, providing information such as location of the U.S. Embassy, health conditions, political situations, and crime reports. If the situation in a country poses a specific threat to the safety and security of American citizens that is not addressed in the CIS for that country, the State Department may issue a Public Announcement alerting U.S. citizens to local security situations. If conditions in a country are sufficiently serious, the State Department may issue a Travel Warning recommending that U.S. citizens avoid traveling to that country. These documents are available on the Internet at

DISCLAIMER: The information in this notice concerning the legal requirements of specific foreign countries is provided for general information only. Questions involving interpretation of specific foreign laws should be referred to a local attorney.

PLEASE NOTE: Please plan to stay a minimum of three business days in Moscow to obtain documents and complete the medical exams necessary for the immigrant visa interview. Parents should calculate a five-day "cushion time" in the validity dates they request when applying for a Russian visa. The U.S. Embassy recommends that flight arrangements for departing Russia not be finalized until the immigrant visa is issued.

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