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

     
     
                      INTERNATIONAL ADOPTION - ESTONIA
     
                                                                     
     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.                                                
     
     
     PROVISO  The Estonian Ministry of Social Welfare (MSW) has
     developed new regulations for processing foreign adoptions in
     Estonia.  The change in regulations is necessitated by the new
     family law which came into force on January 1st and by a social
     welfare bill currently in Parliament which MSW expects will
     come into force on April 1, 1995.
     
     GENERAL:  The following is a guideline for U.S. citizens who
     are interested in adopting a child in Estonia and applying for
     an immigrant visa for the child to return to the United
     States.  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 Tallinn before formalizing an adoption
     agreement to ensure that appropriate procedures have been
     followed which will make it possible for the Embassy/Consulate
     to issue a U.S. immigrant visa to the child.  The American
     Embassy and Consulates and the Department of State stand ready
     to assist adoptive parents, within the limits of our
     authority.  Please share your experiences and suggestions about
     how we can improve this information and better assist Americans
     adopting abroad.  Reports to the American Embassy or the
     Department of State about successes or problems with foreign
     adoptions are very useful and any assistance adoptive parents
     can provide in this regard is much appreciated.
     
     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 5                Issued to 0        
     Year 94      Orphans Adopted Abroad     Orphans Adopted in U.S.
     
     
     ESTONIAN ADOPTION AUTHORITY:
     
     The government office responsible for adoptions is the Ministry
     of Social Welfare (MSW).
     
     ESTONIAN ADOPTION PROCEDURES:
     
     An American wishing to adopt a child in Estonia must first
     contact a  U.S. adoption agency.  That agency will prepare the
     application, assist the applicants with their own local legal
     prerequisites, obtain all the necessary civil documents and
     forward them to the MSW.  The MSW will have a list of children 
     in Estonia who are currently available for international
     adoption.  A commission consisting of representatives from the
     ministries of Social Welfare, Foreign Affairs, and Culture will
     identify a child on that list and offer the prospective
     parent(s) the choice of adopting that particular child.  If a
     prospective parent declines three successive offers, his or her
     application will be terminated.
     
     RESIDENCE REQUIREMENTS:
     
     Effective immediately, the MSW will cease accepting new
     applications directly from non-resident prospective parents. 
     (The definition of "Non-resident" includes any American who
     does not have Estonian legal permanent residency, even if he or
     she should happen to be temporarily living in Estonia.)  In the
     future, application from non-residents will only be accepted
     through an adoption agency or non-governmental organization
     (NGO) that has been approved by and signed an agreement with
     the MSW.  There are currently no/U.S. adoption agencies or
     NGO's that meet this criteria, although that MSW is considering
     several U.S. adoption agencies with whom they have worked in
     the past.
     
     There are exceptions to this policy.  Americans who have
     already filed adoption applications with the MSW can continue
     without the use of an intermediary.  Estonian citizens residing
     abroad can also dispense with the intermediary, although they
     too must still apply for an "International Adoption" (i.e. -
     one processed through the MSW rather than a local civil court).
     
     ILLEGITIMACY
     
     Currently an illegitimate child born in Estonia has only one
     legal parent -its mother.  The father of an illegitimate child
     has no parental rights regarding that child, regardless of
     whether or not his name appears on the child's birth
     certificate.  He could acquire parental rights by establishing
     paternity in a competent court (this could even be done against
     his wishes, as the government of Estonia could thereby force
     him to fulfill his parental obligations vis-a-vis child
     support.)  Additionally, if a child's sole legal parent dies,
     the MSW will explore all avenues - relatives, a putative
     father, etc. - before the child's name is added to the adoption
     register.
     
     ALL IMMIGRATION VISA PROCESSING FOR ESTONIA IS DONE AT THE U.S.
     EMBASSY IN HELSINKI, FINLAND.
     
     The address and telephone number of the Embassy in Helsinki,
     provided below for your convenience:
     
         U.S. Embassy
         Consular Section
         Itainen Puistotie 14A
         Helsinki, Finland
         Tel: 011 (358) (0) 171931
         Fax: 011 (358) (0) 174681
     
     American citizens need a passport but no  visa to enter Finland
     for up to 90 days.  The Finnish Embassy in Washington can be
     contacted at:
     
         Embassy of Finland
         330 Massachusetts Ave., N.W.
         Washington, D.C.  20008
         Tel. (202) 298-5800
     
     ESTONIAN EMBASSY IN U.S.:
     
     American citizens need a passport but no  visa to enter Estonia
     for up to 90 days.  The Estonian Embassy in Washington can be
     contacted at:
     
         Embassy of Estonia
         1030 15th St., N.W
         Suite 1000
         Washington, D.C.  2005
         Tel: 202-789-0320
     
     AMERICAN EMBASSY ASSISTANCE
     
         U.S. Embassy
         Kentmanni 20
         Tallinn, Estonia
         Tel: 011-(372) (6) 312-021
         Fax: 011-(372) (6) 312-025
     
     Authentication Summary:
     
        Generally, U.S. civil records, such as birth, death, and
     marriage certificates must bear the seal of the issuing office,
     then be authenticated by the state Secretary of State in your
     state capital, then by the U.S. Department of State
     Authentications Office, then by the foreign Embassy or
     Consulate in the United States.
     
        Check with the foreign Consulate in the U.S. with
     jurisdiction over your state to see what seals and signatures
     the Consulate can authenticate.  It may be possible to
     eliminate some of the authentication steps if the Consulate has
     the seal of the local issuing authority on file.
     
        Tax returns, medical reports and police clearances should
     likewise be authenticated, beginning with the seal of a notary
     public in the United States or some appropriate issuing
     office.  The notary's seal should be authenticated by the clerk
     of court of the county where the notary is licensed or some
     similar authority.  The document should then be authenticated
     by the state Secretary of State (in your state capital), the
     U.S. Department of State Authentications Office, and the
     foreign Embassy or Consulate.
     
       The U.S. Department of State Authentications Office is
     located at 2400 M Street, N.W., Room 101, Washington, D.C.
     20520, tel:  (202) 647-5002.  Walk-in service is available 8
     a.m. to 12 noon Monday-Friday, except holidays.  The Department
     charges $4.00 per document for this service, payable in the
     form of a check drawn on a U.S. bank or money order made
     payable to the Department of State.
     
     Upon arrival in Tallinn, prospective adoptive parent(s) should
     register at the Consular Section, American Citizens Services
     Section of the American Embassy.  The Embassy will be able to
     provide information about any outstanding travel advisories,
     any recent changes in adoption procedures and to provide other
     information about the foreign country, including lists of
     physicians, attorneys, interpreters and translators.
     
     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 Estonia 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
         - Baby bottles (disposable)
         - Disposable plastic bags for milk bottles
     
     DOCTORS:  The U.S. Embassy/Consulates all maintain current
     lists of doctors and sources for medicines, should either you
     or your child encounter health problems while still in Estonia.
     
     QUESTIONS:  Specific questions regarding adoptions in Estonia
     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.

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