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Adoption Information: Russia

Recent Developments

Please see the Department of State website for the most current information on Russian legislation that may impact intercountry adoptions from Russia.  At present, USCIS continues to accept and process paperwork filed by prospective adoptive parents intending to adopt children from Russia. We, along with the Department of State, are monitoring the situation and will inform prospective adoptive parents of any changes.

What Russia’s Law Affecting Adoptions Means for U.S. Parents

On December 28, 2012, Russian President Vladimir Putin signed Federal Law No. 272-FZ, which went into effect on January 1, 2013.  The law:

  • Prohibits the adoption of Russian children by U.S. citizens,
  • Prohibits adoption service providers from assisting U.S. citizens in adopting Russian children, and
  • Requires termination of the U.S.-Russia Adoption Agreement.  Russia has given the U.S. official notice that the agreement will terminate on January 1, 2014.

On January 22, 2013, the Russian Supreme Court issued a letter to city and regional courts explaining the implementation of Federal Law No. 272-FZ. The letter instructs Russian courts to transfer children to the custody of their adoptive U.S. citizen parents if the court made its adoption decision before January 1, 2013 (including those that entered into force after January 1, 2013, following the 30-day waiting period after which the Russian court’s adoption decision enters into legal force and the final adoption decree is issued).

What This Means to Prospective Parents

USCIS continues to accept and process paperwork filed by prospective adoptive parents intending to adopt children from Russia. However, we remind parents that since Russian Law 272-FZ became effective, Russian courts haveonly issued adoption decrees if the court made a decision in the case before January 1, 2013, whether that decision entered into legal force before or after January 1, 2013.  Therefore, U.S. families with pending Russian adoptions may wish to explore options, particularly if the Russian court hearing their case did not make a decision on their adoption before January 1, 2013.

The information below is designed to help families decide how best to proceed.  

If you have

Then you may

A pending Form I-600A application for a Russian adoption

  • Change your country of intended adoption to another country that, like Russia, is not party to the Hague Adoption Convention (a “non-Hague” or orphan country) without fee;
  • Change your country of intended adoption to a country that is party to the Hague Adoption Convention (a “Hague” country) without fee; or
  • Wait to make choices about your pending Form I-600A for Russia.

An approved Form I-600A application for a Russian adoption

  • Change your country of intended adoption to a non-Hague country without fee (if certain circumstances apply);
  • Change your country of intended adoption to a Hague country with fee;
  • Wait to make choices about your approved Form I-600A for Russia and retain your approved Form I-600A.

For the most current information on a country’s Hague or non-Hague status, please visit www.adoption.state.gov.

To Continue Pursuing an Adoption in Russia

You may maintain your approved Form I-600A for Russia until it expires.  If you wish to request a one-time, no-fee extension of your approval for an additional 18 months:

 You must request an extension in writing with the USCIS office that approved your Form I-600A;

  • You must request the extension before the expiration of your approved Form I-600A and no earlier than 90 days before its expiration; and
  • You must submit an amended or updated home study, as appropriate.

To Switch to an Adoption in a Hague Country

 If USCIS has approved your Form I-600A:

You may not transfer your Form I-600A approval to initiate a Hague Convention adoption with USCIS.  A family that wishes to pursue a Hague Convention adoption must meet Hague-specific requirements, which are not evaluated in the USCIS review of a Form I-600A application.  Therefore, USCIS must complete a new review if a family chooses to pursue a Hague adoption.  To initiate a Hague adoption, you must file Form I-800A, Application for Determination of Suitability to Adopt a Child from a Convention Country, and include:

 The appropriate filing fee;

  • A Hague-compliant home study specifying the designated Hague country where you now intend to adopt; and
  • All other documentation required on the Form I-800A instructions.

 If your Form I-600A is still pending:

You may change to a Hague country.  There is no fee associated with a change to a Hague Convention country before Form I-600A approval.  To request this change:

  • You must notify the USCIS National Benefits Center (NBC) in writing of your desired change; and
  • You must also submit a completed Form I-800A application with a Hague-compliant home study specifying the Hague country from which you now wish to adopt, and all other documents required in the Form I-800A instructions.

To Switch to an Adoption in a Non-Hague Country

If USCIS has approved your Form I-600A:

You must notify USCIS.  There is no fee for your first change of country request for a Form I-600A. Additional change of country requests typically must be made by filing Form I-824, Application for Action on an Approved Application or Petition, with fee; however, USCIS has agreed to exempt prospective adoptive parents who were adopting from Russia from the normal Form I-824 process and fee if certain circumstances apply.  To request your first no-fee change of country with USCIS after your Form I-600A approval:

  • You must notify the USCIS office that approved your Form I-600A in writing of your intention to change from Russia to another identified non-Hague country; and
  • You may need to submit an amended home study if your previous home study only recommended you to adopt a child from Russia.  (You may also need to submit an amended home study if there have been any significant changes in your household. See the “Significant Changes” link on the USCIS website for details.) 

If your Form I-600A is still pending:

You may change to a non-Hague country.  There is no fee associated with a change to a non-Hague country before Form I-600A approval.  To request this change:

  • You must notify the USCIS office where your application is pending in writing of your desired change; and
  • You may need to submit an amended home study if your previous home study recommended you to adopt a child from only Russia. (You may also need to submit an amended home study if there have been any significant changes in your household. See the “Significant Changes” on the USCIS website for details.) 

Change of Country Fee Exemptions

Typically, those who have already used their one-time, no-fee change of country request must file a Form I-824 with fee for any subsequent change of country requests.  However, given the recent events in Russia, USCIS has decided to exempt prospective adoptive parents from filing a Form I-824 and its associated fee for a second change of country request.  This exemption is available if you meet the following criteria:

  • You had an approved and valid Form I-600A when Russia enacted its recent law prohibiting adoptions (January 1, 2013) and the approval remains valid;
  • You have already requested your one-time, no-fee change of country request and changed to Russia;
  • You wish to pursue an adoption in another non-Hague country.

 If you meet the above criteria, you may request a no-fee change of country by notifying the USCIS office that approved your Form I-600A in writing of your intention to change from Russia to another identified non-Hague country.  

If you already paid for a second change of country from Russia since Russia enacted its recent law prohibiting adoptions on January 1, 2013, you may request a refund for your Form I-824.  Refund requests must be made in writing and may be sent to the USCIS National Benefits Center to the attention of the Adoption Division. 

Please note:  You may also need to submit an amended home study if your previous home study only recommended you to adopt a child from Russia. (You may also need to submit an amended home study if there have been any significant changes in your household. See the “Significant Changes” link on the USCIS website for details.) 

How to find out if your Form I-600A for Russia is still pending with USCIS

  • If you filed your Form I-600A with the USCIS National Benefits Center, you may contact the Adoption Unit directly for more information about your specific case at 1-877-424-8374 or by email at: nbc.adoptions@uscis.dhs.gov.
  • If you filed your Form I-600A with a USCIS overseas office, please contact that office directly. 

Contacting USCIS National Benefits Center

  • If you use the U.S. Postal Service (USPS), write to:

USCISNational Benefits Center
Attn: Adoptions
P.O. Box 8025
Lee’s Summit, MO  64002

  • If you use express mail and courier delivers, write to:

USCISNational Benefits Center
Attn: Adoptions
850 NW Chipman Road, Suite 500
Lee’s Summit, MO  64063

 Information for Dual Nationals

If you are a citizen of the United States and another country, and if you plan to adopt a child in Russia and file a Form I-600, Petition to Classify Orphan as an Immediate Relative, on that child’s behalf, USCIS will require evidence that the Russian court that granted the adoption was aware of your U.S. citizenship and your intent to bring the child to the United States to reside after the adoption. 

If you plan to adopt a child in Russia and file a Form I-130, Petition for Alien Relative, on that child’s behalf, USCIS may require evidence that the Russian court that granted the adoption was aware of your U.S. citizenship and your intent to bring the child to the United States to reside after the adoption.  

Please note:  In Form I-130 adjudications, USCIS determines on a case-by-case basis whether a child meets the definition of an “adopted child” under Section 101(b)(1)(E) of the Act, which requires an adoption finalized before the child turns 16 years of age, and two years of legal custody and physical residence with the child, in order to qualify for an immigration benefit.

Please visit www.uscis.gov/adoption and www.adoption.state.gov for the most up-to-date information.

Last Reviewed/Updated: 05/28/2013