Information for U.S. Citizens in the Process of Adopting Children from Ukraine
From the U.S. Department of State, Office of Children’s Issues:
February 28, 2022
The Department recognizes the security situation in Ukraine is of great concern to prospective adoptive parents (PAP) at any stage of the process.
PAPs should be aware that the Department has issued a Level 4 Do Not Travel Alert urging U.S. citizens not to travel to Ukraine and advising U.S. citizens in Ukraine to depart immediately if it is safe to do so. The Department has also issued several Security Alerts that address the ongoing crisis. On February 23, the Government of Ukraine declared a state of emergency and closed its airspace to all commercial flights due to Russian military actions. There are currently no in-person U.S. consular services available in Ukraine and the U.S. government will not be able to evacuate U.S. citizens from Ukraine.
Q: Who is the primary point of contact for PAPs adopting in Ukraine?
PAPs should communicate primarily with their ASP throughout all stages of the adoption process. ASPs are responsible for providing adoption services in individual cases, are knowledgeable about the next steps for your adoption, have contacts in Ukraine with whom they can consult, and are in frequent communication with the Department’s Office of Children’s Issues. PAPs may also contact the Office of Children’s Issues directly at Adoption@state.gov. PAPs who do reach out to any U.S. agency, the U.S. Embassy, or individuals in Ukraine related to their adoption case should copy their ASP for awareness.
Q: Can the State Department expedite the processing of Ukraine adoption cases?
The Government of Ukraine, through their Adoption Authority, has sole authority for several aspects of the intercountry adoption process. The Department has requested the Government of Ukraine expedite processing for children with finalized adoptions who need new documents or where the 30-day waiting period is pending, as well as those where a specific court date to finalize the adoption has been assigned. We have also requested court hearings for these cases be conducted virtually to allow for them to take place outside of Ukraine. We are aware of some cases that have been expedited but have not received confirmation that expedited processing will be granted for all the cases we requested. We are also aware that some courts have allowed virtual hearings. Continued military action in Ukraine will likely impact whether government offices and courts are open or are able to conduct business.
ASPs may be able to request expedited processing through their contacts in Ukraine as well.
Q: What if I have a final adoption order for my child but the judge did not waive the 30-day waiting period before the child may depart Ukraine?
The Department has requested the 30-day waiting period be waived in all cases but has no ability to determine the decisions of individual judges. Adoptive parents should contact their ASP for information and guidance specific to their situation, including how to safely facilitate the child or children’s exit from Ukraine. The U.S. Embassy in Warsaw, Poland will process immigrant visa applications for adopted children so they may immigrate to the United States. ASPs are encouraged to work with their Ukrainian providers to facilitate exit through the border with Poland where possible but should prioritize safety.
Q: What if I have a final adoption order for my child but the child has not been issued a new passport or birth certificate?
ASPs and their Ukrainian providers should collect all available documents for the child’s adoption and immigration and ensure they transfer with the child. If crossing by land from Ukraine to Poland, the child’s identification and citizenship documents will be requested by Ukrainian and Polish authorities for authorizing the child’s departure from Ukraine and entry to Poland and by the consular official at the U.S. Embassy in Warsaw.
The Department has requested the Ukrainian government expedite issuance of new birth certificates and passports for all adopted children that require them. We have not received confirmation that this is possible. Continued military action in Ukraine will likely impact whether government offices are open or are able to conduct business.
Not all children will require a new birth certificate or passport, especially if the child’s name will not be changed or will be changed after arrival in the United States. Many Ukrainian children living in orphanages already have a passport; however, some may be “internal” passports invalid for international travel. Children who have previously traveled to the United States usually have international passports and may be able to use them to depart Ukraine.
Q: What if I have started the adoption process and I have had one or more court hearings, but additional hearings are required?
The Department has requested adoption hearings be expedited and conducted virtually whenever possible. However, the judge has sole discretion over this decision. Closures of judicial offices are possible at any time, and we are unable to track the operating status of each. PAPs should expect this to fluctuate throughout the country in accordance with the specific security situation of each location.
Q: What if I have accepted an official referral form the Ministry of Social Policy (MSP) but there have not yet been any court hearings, or I have rejected a referral and not yet been offered another one? Can those cases be expedited?
The Department has not yet learned from the Ukraine Adoption Authority whether it is able to allow for the continuation of adoption cases at this time and whether required court hearings may be conducted virtually to allow for the process to continue outside of Ukraine. Lengthy closures of government and judicial offices are possible and cases at these early stages of the process are not likely to progress in the near term. The Department is working closely with ASPs to track the status of all pending adoption cases in Ukraine. PAPs should consult their ASP about how the current security situation in Ukraine will impact their adoption plans in the short and long term.
Q: What if I have started the adoption process but I have not yet received an official referral form the Ministry of Social Policy (MSP)? Can those cases be expedited?
PAPs that have not yet received an official referral have not yet been approved to adopt a child from Ukraine. The Department is unable to assist with these cases.
Q: Can the State Department facilitate the removal of children from Ukraine and entry into another country for their safety for the remainder of the adoption process?
Children without a final adoption or guardianship order generally need authorization from their legal guardians in Ukraine to depart Ukraine in order to apply in another country for a U.S. visa and for onward travel to the United States. The Department is unable able to request such authorization on PAPs’ behalf.
Q: What if I am partway through the adoption process and the child’s orphanage or another entity is able to get the child to Poland or another neighboring country? Will I be able to resume the intercountry adoption process from there?
Children without a final adoption or guardianship order are generally not eligible for an adoption-based immigrant visa to the United States. Children in the process of adoption without a final adoption or guardianship order are also generally not eligible for issuance of a non-immigrant visa as they are intending immigrants. Visa eligibility and adjudication is governed by U.S. immigration laws, and State Department consular officers do not have the authority to make exceptions to U.S. law.
Q: Is the State Department able to facilitate humanitarian parole for a child I am in the process of adopting so that I may bring the child to the United States?
Questions about humanitarian parole for Ukrainian children in institutional care should be directed to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), which has jurisdiction over this issue. Information about the humanitarian parole application process and refugee and asylum status is available on the USCIS website.
Q: What if I am in the process of adopting a child that has previously traveled to the United States through a hosting program? If the visa expiration date has not yet passed will the child be able to enter the U.S.?
Children who travel to the United States for hosting programs do so with the Ukrainian government’s authorization and on a U.S. non-immigrant visa that is typically valid only for one entry to the United States and only during the narrow date range of the program. To travel to the United States again, a child would need a new non-immigrant visa. Children in the process of intercountry adoption without a final adoption or guardianship order are generally not eligible for issuance of a non-immigrant visa as they are intending immigrants. Visa eligibility and adjudication is governed by U.S. immigration laws, and State Department consular officers do not have the authority to make exceptions to U.S. law.
Q: What if I have previously hosted a child or children and now I am interested in adopting them?
While many families that host a child through a hosting program subsequently decide to pursue intercountry adoption, these are not intercountry adoption cases unless or until the family has started the intercountry adoption process. Although hosting programs are often referred to as “orphan hosting,” not all of the participating children are orphans under the Ukrainian laws that determine eligibility for intercountry adoption or under U.S. laws that determine eligibility to immigrate to the United States. The Ukrainian Adoption Authority has authority for determining a child’s eligibility for adoption, and there is also no guarantee you will be able to adopt a specific child, even if you have previously hosted that child.
Persons interested in pursuing intercountry adoption are encouraged to visit the Department’s website for more information about the intercountry adoption process, including how to locate an ASP.
Q: What if I am considering adoption or I know I am not in a position to adopt a child but I would like to host a child so that they can leave Ukraine temporarily while the country is at war?
We frequently receive inquiries from U.S. citizens concerned about the plight of children who are refugees or are in war zones. We share this concern for these children, and we understand that some U.S. citizens want to respond by offering to open their homes and adopt these children in need.
It can be extremely difficult in such circumstances to determine whether children who appear to be orphans truly are eligible for adoption and immigration under U.S. laws. Children may be temporarily separated from their parents or other family members during a conflict or natural disaster and their parents may be looking for them. It is not uncommon in dangerous situations for parents to send their children out of the area, for safety reasons, or for families to become separated during an evacuation. Even when it can be demonstrated that a child’s parents have died, children are often cared for by other relatives. Many children living in orphanages in Ukraine are not orphans.
During times of crisis, it can also be exceptionally difficult to fulfill the legal requirements for intercountry adoption of both the United States and the child’s country of origin. This is especially true when civil authority breaks down. It can be very difficult to gather documents necessary to establish that the child meets the requirements of U.S. immigration law, so persons interested in adoption may wish to consult with an experienced immigration attorney and take extra caution when considering adopting or caring for a child under these circumstances. For context, you may wish to review the general procedural information on our website about applying to adopt and immigrate a child from another country to the United States. See in particular those sections describing the U.S. immigrant visa process for an eligible adopted child.
The Department does not have a role in seeking approval for a child’s participation in a hosting program, nor is there a special non-immigrant visa category for children participating in these programs.
Bureau of Consular Affairs
Overseas Citizens Services | Office of Children’s Issues