Adopting from Belarus
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After seven decades as a constituent republic of the USSR, Belarus attained its independence in 1991. It has retained closer political and economic ties to Russia than have any of the other former Soviet republics. To learn more, read About Belarus.
Hague Convention Information
Belarus is party to the Hague Convention on Protection of Children and Co-operation in Respect of Intercountry Adoption (Hague Adoption Convention). Intercountry adoption processing in Hague countries is done in accordance with the requirements of the Convention; the U.S. implementing legislation, the Intercountry Adoption Act of 2000 (IAA); and the IAA’s implementing regulations, as well as the implementing legislation and regulations of Belarus. To learn more, read about Belarus and the Hague Convention.
How to Adopt
1. First, you must find and work with a licensed adoption agency or provider that employs representatives or facilitators in Belarus. Since prospective parents are advised not to 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. Prospective adoptive parents 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. (Note: This is usually handled by your adoption agency.) 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. The laws in Belarus state 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 or 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.
9. 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 (taking into consideration the recommendations of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the MNO, and its superiors in the oblaspolkom).
10. Following the approval by the Raispolkom, the parents apply for their adopted child's passport with the local office of visas and registration (OVIR). The passport is issued in the child's new name if the adoptive parents wish to change the name. Upon receipt of the child's passport the adoptive parents then go to the U.S. Embassy in Warsaw, Poland, where the child will undergo medical and immigrant visa processing. After this, the parents can bring their adopted child to the U.S. (Note: U.S. Embassy in Minsk does not do immigration work, and is not in a position to offer medical or immigrant processing for Belarusian children adopted by U.S. citizens!)
In a Nut Shell
Travel Requirements: Both parents are required to travel. One trip is required, lasting approximately ten days.
Time Frame: From the time you complete your initial application until you bring your child home averages 18 months.
Number of Children Adopted by Americans in 2004: 202
Additional Information: The children available for international adoption from Belarus live in orphanages. U.S. entry visas for children adopted from Belarus are issued in Warsaw, Poland (and not in Belarus). A side-trip to Poland is required to obtain your child’s visa.
U.S. Embassy in Belarus
46 Starovilenskaya St Minsk, Belarus 220002 Tel: 375 – 17-2101283 Fax: 375 – 17-2177160 Email: ConsularMinsk@state.gov
Embassy of Belarus
Office of Children’s Issues
U.S. Department of State 2201 C Street, N.W. SA-29 Washington, D.C. 20520 Tel: 1-888-407-4747 Email: AdoptionUSCA@state.gov
U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS)
For questions about immigration procedures: National Customer Service Center (NCSC) Tel: 1-800-375-5283 (TTY 1-800-767-1833)
For questions about filing a Form I-800A or I-800 petition: National Benefits Center Tel: 1-877-424-8374 (toll free); 1-816-251-2770 (local) Email: NBC.Adoptions@DHS.gov