Bilateral Adoption Agreement between the United States and Russia Entered into Force on November 1, 2012
The Agreement between the United States of America and the Russian Federation Regarding Cooperation in Adoption of Children (the Agreement) entered into force on November 1, 2012, following the exchange of diplomatic notes between the U.S. and Russian governments. The Agreement aims to provide additional safeguards to better protect the welfare and interests of children and all parties involved in adoptions between the United States and Russia.
Authorization of Adoption Service Providers
This Agreement will not add any additional accreditation or authorization requirements under U.S. law for adoption agencies seeking to provide adoption services in Russia.
Under Russian law, new authorization requirements may be established only following entry into force of the Agreement. The Russian government has provided assurances that it plans to establish new authorization requirements for adoption service providers and expects them to become effective on or about March 1, 2013. On the date of entry into force, as an interim measure, the Russian government will recognize as authorized adoption service providers all U.S. adoption service providers which are currently authorized to provide adoption services in Russia and which are U.S. Hague accredited (pending implementation of the new authorization requirements). These agencies may continue processing both existing and new cases.
The Russian Ministry of Education and Science will announce which adoptions service providers remain authorized to provide adoption services in Russia.
Non-Hague accredited U.S. adoption service providers operating in Russia prior to entry into force of the Agreement will not be able to initiate any new cases following November 1, 2012. However, these agencies may continue processing those cases that were registered at a Regional Authority in Russia at the time of entry into force.
Pre-Adoption Processing Requirement
Under Article 10 of the Agreement, Russia may require the United States to perform an immigration-related eligibility review, which we refer to as “pre-adoption processing,” before an adoption takes place in Russia. While the Agreement entered into force on November 1, 2012, the pre-adoption processing requirement, which USCIS will implement, is not expected to be required by the Russian government until on or about March 1, 2013.
This pre-adoption processing will:
- Allow USCIS to ensure that the child appears eligible to immigrate to the United States under U.S. law and to ensure that the prospective adoptive parent(s) are aware of and properly trained and in a position to handle any special needs that the child may have; and
- Provide more time for U.S. families to obtain an amended home study and submit an amended USCIS Form I-600A, Application for Advance Process of Orphan Petition, before the final adoption court hearing and final Form I-600, Petition to Classify Orphan as an Immediate Relative, adjudication, if needed.
USCIS understands that when the pre-adoption processing requirement takes effect, Russian courts will immediately begin to require evidence of USCIS’s pre-adoption processing for any adoption proceeding before the courts. After the effective date of the new pre-adoption processing requirements in Russia, if the child has not been preliminarily determined to be eligible for immigration by USCIS, the Russian court is legally precluded from finalizing the adoption.
USCIS’s Pre-Adoption Processing Procedures Will Work as Follows:
a. After prospective adoptive parent(s) accept a match with a specific child but before they appear in a Russian court to complete the adoption, they will file their Form I-600 with USCIS. This pre-adoption filing will not include the adoption decree but will include documentation showing that the family has been found suitable and eligible to adopt (including the Form I-600A approval and home study), detailed information about the specific child the family has been matched with, and all available documentation in support of the Form I-600 petition.
b. USCIS will then evaluate the case, including the suitability and eligibility determination of the prospective adoptive parent(s) in light of the specific information about the child, in order to issue a pre-adoption processing letter to the prospective adoptive parent(s).
c. Once USCIS issues the pre-adoption processing letter to the prospective adoptive parent(s), they will be able to schedule their court date in Russia to complete the adoption and engage in final immigration processing at the U.S. Embassy. Russian courts will require prospective adoptive parent(s) to show this pre-adoption processing letter before the courts approve the adoption.
USCIS will implement new procedures before the effective date of any new pre-adoption processing requirements in Russia, so that families adopting from Russia who are not covered by the grandfathering provision can begin filing their Form I-600 petitions for pre-adoption processing. Having a pre-adoption letter will not have a negative effect on any case -- even if it turns out the letter is not needed because the case is completed before the effective date of the new pre-adoption processing requirements.
Under the Agreement, Article 17 allows certain cases to proceed to completion under the procedures that existed before the Agreement entered into force. These grandfathered cases include any cases -- including independent adoption cases and cases being handled by non-Hague-accredited adoption service providers (ASPs) -- in which U.S. prospective adoptive parent(s) registered their dossier of documents with the appropriate Regional Authority in Russia before entry into force of the Agreement on November 1, 2012.
Russia has indicated that it will provide the Department of State and USCIS a list of all cases that will be treated as grandfathered.
Cases Not Grandfathered Under the Agreement
- Cases with Hague-accredited ASPs: Prospective adoptive parent(s) working with a U.S. Hague accredited adoption service provider whose documents were not registered with a Regional Authority in Russia at the time of entry into force will be able to continue with their adoption.
- Cases with non-Hague-accredited ASPs: Prospective adoptive parent(s) working with a non-Hague accredited U.S. adoption service provider whose documents were not registered at a Regional Authority in Russia at the time of entry into force will be required to identify and use the services of a Hague accredited adoption service provider that is authorized to provide services in Russia if they wish to continue with their adoption. That new U.S. Hague accredited adoption service provider will be required to submit documentation confirming that it has responsibility for working with the family to carry out their obligations in completing the adoption.
- Independent adoptions: After entry into force of the Agreement, independent adoptions not covered by the grandfathering provision or involving a relative can only proceed if the U.S. prospective adoptive parent(s) work(s) with an authorized U.S. Hague accredited adoption service provider.
USCIS understands that beginning to work with an adoption service provider or changing adoption service providers in the middle of the adoption process may cause families more work and expense. However, Russian authorities have informed us that they will not require prospective adoptive parent(s) to repeat steps already completed in the process. USCIS is hopeful that the adoption service providers assuming responsibility for these cases will try to minimize cost and the duplication of steps for families to the extent possible, while ensuring that the case preparation fulfills the requirements under the Agreement.
Any case not grandfathered under Article 17 of the Agreement will need to undergo pre-adoption processing with USCIS prior to prospective adoptive parent(s) appearing in a Russian court to complete the adoption if their court date is set on or after the date new pre-adoption processing requirements take effect. We anticipate the new pre-adoption processing requirement effective date will be on or about March 1, 2013. USCIS will provide additional updates regarding the pre-adoption processing step as we design and begin to implement this provision of the Agreement.
Background on the Agreement
The Agreement was signed on July 13, 2011, by U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov in Washington, D.C. Because Russia required a ratification process, the Agreement was later approved by the Russian Duma on July 10, 2012, and by the Russian Federation Council on July 18, 2012. Russian President Vladimir Putin signed it into law on July 28, 2012.
To learn more, please see U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services’ (USCIS’s) FAQs and U.S. Department of State’s FAQson the Agreement. Please also monitor uscis.gov and adoption.state.gov for updated information.