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U.S. Department of State
1995:  International Adoption -- Belarus
Bureau of Consular Affairs


     
     
                     INTERNATIONAL ADOPTION IN BELARUS
     
     
     
                                                                     
     DISCLAIMER:  THE INFORMATION IN THIS CIRCULAR RELATING TO THE
     LEGAL REQUIREMENTS OF SPECIFIC FOREIGN COUNTRIES IS PROVIDED
     FOR GENERAL INFORMATION ONLY.  QUESTIONS INVOLVING
     INTERPRETATION OF SPECIFIC FOREIGN LAWS SHOULD BE ADDRESSED TO
     FOREIGN COUNSEL.                                                
     
     
     
     PLEASE NOTE
         The government of Belarus stresses that American citizens
     interested in adopting a child in Belarus should not travel to
     that country until the stipulated adoption procedures have been
     completed.
     
     
     GENERAL
         The following is a guideline for U.S. citizens who are
     interested in adopting a child in Belarus.  This process can be
     expensive, time-consuming, and difficult, involving complex
     foreign and American legal requirements.  Adoptions are given
     careful consideration on a case-by-case basis by both foreign
     judicial authorities and American consular officers to ensure
     that the legal requirements of both countries have been met for
     the protection of the adoptive parent(s), the natural
     parent(s), and the child.  Interested Americans are strongly
     advised to read the following information carefully.  Contact
     the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service early in the
     process, before you have identified a specific child to adopt. 
     Contact American consular officials in Belarus before
     formalizing an adoption agreement to ensure that appropriate
     visa procedures have been followed.
     

     AVAILABILITY OF CHILDREN FOR ADOPTION
         Recent U.S. immigrant visa statistics reflect the following
     pattern for visa issuance to orphans:
     
                  IR-3 Immigrant Visas       IR-4 Immigrant Visas
     Fiscal       Issued to Belarusian       Issued to Belarusian
     Year         Orphans Adopted Abroad     Orphans Adopted in U.S.
     
     FY-1992              13                           8
     FY-1993              32                           4
     FY-1994               2                           1
     
     
     BELARUSIAN ADOPTION AUTHORITY
         The Ministry of National Education in Minsk (Ministerstvo
     Narodnovo Obrazovaniya, or MNO) is the government agency
     responsible for foreign adoptions in Belarus. 
         It has been the experience of the American Embassy in Minsk
     that the presence of an adoption agency representative acting
     on behalf of the prospective adoptive parents in Belarus is
     critical to success.  The representative preferably should
     speak Russian, and understand the local system of government
     with its hierarchy of executive committees.
     
     
     BELARUSIAN ADOPTION PROCEDURES
         The following procedures pertain to adoption in Belarus. 
     It is stressed that an American citizen wishing to adopt in
     Belarus should not travel to that country until these
     procedures have been completed.
     
         Prior to Notification of Approval of a Child for Adoption
     
     1.  Interested American citizens should find and work with a
     licensed adoption agency or provider which employs
     representatives or facilitators in Belarus.  Because
     prospective parents are advised that they should not travel to
     Belarus until a suitable child has been selected for them, a
     representative in Belarus is absolutely essential in order to
     work through the adoption process, .
     
     2.  Applicants must send their completed application, together
     with Russian language translations of all documents, to the
     consular section of the Belarusian Embassy in Washington, D.C. 
     (addressed attention: Mr. Ostrovskiy.)  The Belarusian consul
     verifies and notarizes the documentation, after which the
     application is sent to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Minsk.
     
     3.  The consular department of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs
     in Minsk checks to see that the application has been verified
     and properly notarized and then passes the application to the
     Ministry of National Education in Minsk (Ministerstvo Narodnovo
     Obrazovaniya, or MNO).
     
     4.  The MNO reviews the application and decides whether or not
     to allow the process of selecting a child for the applicant(s)
     to go forward.  If the MNO approves the request, it will then
     task its regional and local branches to locate an appropriate
     child in a Belarusian orphanage to be matched with the
     application.
     
     5.  Belarusian legislation on this issue, although still not
     complete, does insist that only those children in orphanages
     formally described as "unadoptable" by Belarusian families can
     be considered for adoption by foreigners.  The Government of
     Belarus currently defines "unadoptable" children as children
     with various forms of physical or mental defects (including
     Chernobyl-related health problems), or children who have not
     been placed with prospective adoptive Belarusian families.  MNO
     officials have said that a child should be officially offered
     at least 3-4 times to Belarusian families before being
     considered "unadoptable."
     
     6.  If an appropriate child is located, MNO then sends its
     approval of the application to the executive branch of the
     regional government of the geographic region in which the child
     resides (known as the regional executive committee, or
     "oblaspolkom").  Belarus has six regions, centered around the
     regional capitals of Minsk, Grodno, Brest, Mogilev, Gomel, and
     Vitebsk.
     
         At this point, the prospective adoptive parents should be
     notified by the Government of Belarus that they have been
     matched with a potential adoptee, and that they should now come
     to Belarus in order to meet the child in question.  MNO
     officials were very clear that prospective parents should not
     enter Belarus prior to this time, i.e., before the Government
     of Belarus has selected a child for them to consider. 
     Unfortunately, specific notification procedures have not yet
     been developed by the MNO.
     



                 Following Approval of a Child for Adoption
     
     1.  Upon notification by the Government of Belarus, the parents
     may travel to Belarus.
     
     2.  Meanwhile, in Belarus, the adoption request is reviewed by
     the oblaspolkom.  Following approval by the oblsapolkom, the
     application is sent to the city district executive committee
     ("raispolkom") responsible for the city district in which the
     child resides.  The raispolkom makes the actual decision
     whether to allow the adoption or not, in light of the
     recommendations of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the MNO,
     and its superiors in the oblaspolkom.  
     
     3.  Following the approval by the raispolkom, the parents
     should apply for their adopted child's passport with the local
     office of visas and registration (OVIR).  Please note that
     significant delays may occur at this point.  The adoptive
     parent(s) should then go to the U.S. Embassy in Warsaw, where
     the child undergoes medical and immigrant visa processing,
     following which the parents are free to take their adopted
     child to the U.S.  U.S. Embassy Minsk does not do immigration
     work, and is not in a position to offer medical or immigrant
     processing for Belarusian children adopted by American citizens.
     
     
     TRANSLATION REQUIREMENT
         All documents prepared for transmission to Belarusian
     adoption authorities must be accompanied by a certified
     Belarusian or Russian translation.  The consular section of the
     Belarusian Embassy in Washington, D.C. will verify and notarize
     the documentation for transmission to the Ministry of Foreign
     Affairs in Minsk.
     
     
     BELARUSIAN EMBASSY AND CONSULATES IN THE UNITED STATES
         The address for the Embassy of Belarus is as follows:
     
                   Embassy of the Republic of Belarus
                   1619 New Hampshire Avenue, N.W.
                   Washington, D.C.  20009
                   tel:  (202) 986-1604
                   fax:  (202) 986-1805
     
     Belarus also maintains a consulate in New York.

     
     AMERICAN EMBASSY IN BELARUS
         The address of the American Embassy in Belarus is as
     follows:
     
                   U.S. Embassy, Minsk
                   Starovilenskaya #46
                   Minsk, Belarus
                   tel:  7-0172-34-65-37
     
     
     WHAT TO BRING FOR YOUR NEW BABY/CHILD
         Since it is difficult to predict how long it may be
     necessary for you to remain in Belarus with your adopted child,
     you may want to consider what articles you might want to bring
     with you.  You should be aware that not all U.S. style baby
     products are readily available abroad.  You may wish to
     consider bringing certain items with you.  These might include:
     
         - Plastic or cloth baby carrier
         - Bottle nipples
         - Disposable paper diapers
         - Baby wipes
         - Baby blankets
         - Infant wear
         - Thermos bottle, for hot water to prepare dry formula
         - Milk bottles (plastic, glass, and disposable)
         - Disposable plastic bags for milk bottles
     
     
     DOCTORS
         The U.S. Embassy and Consulates maintain current lists of
     doctors and sources for medicines, should either you or your
     child experience health problems while still in Belarus.
     
     
     QUESTIONS
         Specific questions regarding adoptions in Belarus may be
     addressed to the Consular Section of the U.S. Embassy or
     Consulate.  You may also contact the Office of Children's
     Issues, U.S. Department of State, Room 4800 N.S.,
     2201 C Street, N.W., Washington, D.C. 20520-4818, telephone
     (202) 647-2688 with specific adoption questions.  Recorded
     information concerning significant changes in adoption
     procedures is available 24 hours a day at: (202) 736-7000, or
     by automated fax (calling from the telephone on your fax
     machine) at (202) 647-3000.  If the country you are interested
     in is not listed, procedures have not significantly changed. 
     Information on immigrant visas is available from the State
     Department's Visa Office, at (202) 663-1225.  This 24 hour 
     automated system includes options to speak with consular
     officers during business hours for questions not answered in
     the recorded material.  Application forms and petitions for
     immigrant visas are available from the
     U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service, the nearest office
     of which is listed in the federal pages of your telephone book,
     under  U.S. Department of Justice.
     
         In addition, the State Department publishes Consular
     Information Sheets and Travel Warnings.  Consular Information
     Sheets are available for every country in the world, providing
     information such as the location of the U.S. Embassy, health
     conditions, political situations, and crime reports.  When
     situations are sufficiently serious that the State Department
     recommends U.S. citizens avoid traveling to a country, a Travel
     Warning is issued.  Both Consular Information Sheets and Travel
     Warnings may be heard 24 hours a day by calling the State
     Department's Office of Overseas Citizens Services at
     (202) 647-5225 from a touch-tone telephone.  The recording is
     updated as new information becomes available.  In addition,
     this information is accessible through the automated fax
     machine, as above, and is also available at any of the 13
     regional passport agencies, field offices of the U.S.
     Department of Commerce, and U.S. Embassies and Consulates
     abroad.  Furthermore, you may write in requesting information,
     sending a self-addressed, stamped envelope to Overseas Citizens
     Services, Room 4811 N.S., 2201 C St., N.W., U.S. Department of
     State, Washington, D.C.  20520-4818.  Finally, information is
     available through your personal computer.  If you have a
     computer and a modem, you can access the Consular Affairs
     Bulletin Board (CABB).  This service is free of charge, and may
     be reached at: (202) 647-9225.  Consular Information Sheets and
     Travel Warnings may also be accessed by subscribers to many
     on-line services.  For complete information on accessing
     consular information via computer, please request document
     1016, entitled "Consular Information Program," from the
     automated fax system, which is described in the preceding
     paragraph.
     
     APPLYING FOR U.S. CITIZENSHIP FOR AN ADOPTED CHILD
         Questions about naturalization of an adopted child as a
     U.S. citizen after the child has entered the United States
     should be addressed to the INS office with jurisdiction over
     the adoptive parent(s)' place of residence.  The process
     requires that INS Form N-643 Application for Certificate of
     Citizenship in behalf of an Adopted Child, be filed with the
     INS before the child is 18 years of age.
     

     CONCLUSION
         Interested Americans should be aware that the process of
     adopting a child in Belarus and bringing the child to the U.S.
     may be time-consuming and difficult.  The American Embassy and
     Consulates General and the Department of State stand ready to
     assist adoptive parents, within the limits of our authority. 
     U.S. citizens arriving abroad to finalize an adoption are
     advised to proceed carefully with all local foreign legal
     procedures.  They should also work closely with the nearest
     U.S.Embassy/Consulate throughout the adoption process to ensure
     that the child selected will qualify for U.S. immigration
     benefits and that all the necessary documents are in order. 
     Any feedback adoptive parents are willing and able to provide
     about their experiences while trying to adopt children would be
     very helpful to us in ensuring the validity and usefulness of
     the information in this and similar brochures.  Please contact
     the Office of Children's Issues at 202-647-2688 with ideas
     about how we can try to make the experience easier (if
     possible) or, at least, easier to understand.
     
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