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Adopting Russian Orphans

We do not provide any adoption services. For general adoption questions please feel free to contact our friends at Heart to Heart.


4,939 Russian orphans were adopted by American families in 2002. Russia is likely to provide the majority of adopted children to the families in the United States for the next three years, as China has sharply reduced their quota for international adoptions. It only takes six to twelve months to complete adoption process in Russia. Supporting Russian orphanages helps American families find and adopt healthier children.


Based on interviews with adoptive parents by U.S. Embassy officials, the average cost of an adoption from Russia is approximately $20,000 including travel. It is much less expensive to adopt a child over 18 months old or a child with special needs.


There are no age requirements, however most adoptive parents are 25-55 years old. Singles and divorcees are permitted to adopt. Russia requires that singles show evidence of above average financial ability and a child care plan if they are currently employed. Singles are also required to submit a psychiatric evaluation for the Russian Government and are only allowed to adopt one child at a time. In addition, there must be at least 16 years difference between single parent and adoptive child. There are no residency requirements for adopting parents.


Recent U.S. immigration statistics reflect the following pattern for visa issuance to orphans from Russia (IR-3 and IR-4 visas combined)*:

FY-2011…. 962
FY-2010…. 1079
FY-2009…. 1586
FY-2008…. 1861
FY-2007…. 2310
FY-2006…. 3706
FY-2005…. 4639
FY-2004…. 5865
FY-2003…. 5209
FY-2002…. 4939
FY-2001…. 5004
FY-2000…. 4687
FY-1999…. 4470

*Immediate Relative (IR)-3 visas are issued to orphans adopted in Russia. IR-4 visas are issued to orphans whose adoption will be finalized in the United States.

Russian law requires that a child must have been registered in the state database for children left without parental care for at least three months before he or she is considered eligible for international adoption.


The government office responsible for adoptions in Russia is the Ministry of Education of the Russian Federation.

Ministry of Education
#6 Chistoprudny Blvd.
Moscow, Russia
Tel: 7-095-237-9763 (Russian only)
Fax: 7-095-924-6989(legal office), 236-0171(main)
Web site: (English version)


Prospective adoptive parents are advised to fully research any adoption agency or facilitator they plan to use for adoption services. For U.S.-based agencies, it is suggested that prospective adoptive parents contact the Better Business Bureau and licensing office of the Department of Health and Family Services in the state where the agency is located. The U.S. Embassy in Russia has a list of agencies accredited by the Russian authorities to provide adoption services. The list is available at the Adoptions page of the U.S. Embassy's in Moscow Web site. Neither the U.S. Embassy nor the Department of State can vouch for the efficacy or professionalism of any agent or facilitator. Please see Important Notice Regarding Adoption Agents and Facilitators at the Web site for the Bureau of Consular Affairs.


Parents first apply to a regional Ministry of Education, which directs them to an orphanage. Adoptive parents are required to travel to Russia to meet prospective adoptive children. There they select a child and apply to the court to get a court date. Adoptive parents may return to the United States after applying for a court date. However, the prospective adoptive child must remain in Russia during this time. Adoptive parents travel a second time to Russia to attend the court hearing. After the court hearing, they obtain the adoption certificate and a new birth certificate (showing the child's new name, and the adoptive parents as the parents) from the ZAGS (civil registration office), after which they can obtain the passport for the child from the OVIR (visa and registration department). Parents then can contact the Embassy to make an appointment to apply for the immigrant visa. (Note: the child's passport will be issued in the child's new name, which will appear in Cyrillic characters and in "English." However, the Russian officials will transliterate the name from Cyrillic into English and the result usually will not be spelled as your family spells it. For example, Smith will be Smit (there is no "th" in Russian); Callaghan will be Kalahan, etc. The fact that the child's name is "misspelled" in the passport will NOT cause a problem when you travel and should not be a cause for concern.)


Adopted Russian children must be registered with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs before they leave the country. For U.S. citizen families, this is done after an adopted child receives an immigrant visa to the United States.

The Consular Section of the MFA is open for the registration of adopted children
Monday through Thursday from 2 p.m. to 5 p.m.; on Friday - from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m.

The fee for the registration is $65 (the equivalent in rubles)

The following documents are needed for registration:

1. Original of the child's passport
2. Copies of the parents' passports
3. Letter from the orphanage (orphanage release)
4. Letter from the Ministry of Education of Russia
5. Court decision
6. Adoption certificate
7. Immigrant visa of the child (original)


The following documents are required by the Russian court for an adoption:

1. Home Study
2. BCIS approval notice (I-171H or I-797)
3. Copies of prospective adoptive parents' passports
4. Marriage certificate/divorce certificate (if applicable)
5. Police certificate
6. Medical examination report
7. Financial documents: employment verification letter, bank statements, tax forms
8. Evidence of place of residence

All of these documents should be translated into Russian and apostilled (see below for information on authenticating documents). After prospective parents identify the child they should fill out the adoption application, which can be obtained at the Russian court where the adoption hearings will take place.

Additional required statements for the court hearings from the parents, which should be signed in front of a Russian notary, are:

1. Prospective adoptive parents have been informed about the health conditions of the child and they accept them;
2. They will register their adopted child with the MFA; and
3. They will provide the Department of Education with periodic, required post placement reports on time.

A Home Study is merely a report required by adoption officials affirming that you are suitable to be a parent(s) of a child and can provide the stability and home environment that a child needs. It generally consists of 1-2 interviews and a home visit. You will likely be asked to write a brief autobiography and to submit the following photocopies (not originals):

1. Photocopies of Birth Certificates for each family member.
2. Photocopy of Marriage Certificate.
3. Photocopy of letter from local police stating "no criminal record".
4. Photocopy of financial statement.
5. Photocopy of medical from your Doctor on his/her letterhead stating positive condition of physical/mental health.
6. Reference letters.
7. Post-Placement agreement must be completed and included in the Home Study.

BCIS (Bureau of Citizenship and Immigration Services)

Because you are adopting from abroad, you need to get their approval for a visa for the child. If you do not have the forms for an adoption packet application you may obtain them directly from BCIS. Call BCIS at 1-800-870-FORMS or download from Also see INS Forms and Fees.

1. Fill out the I-600A only.
2. Send photocopy of Birth certificates, or proof of citizenship.
3. Send photocopy of divorce decree if applicable.
4. Send photocopy of marriage certificate if applicable.
5. Favorably recommended home study.
6. Submit $460.00 plus $50 per person for fingerprints, must be cashier's check or money order.


All U.S. documents submitted to Russian government must be authenticated. Russia is a party to the Hague Legalization Convention. Generally, U.S. civil records, such as birth, death, and marriage certificates, must bear the seal of the issuing office and an apostle must be affixed by the state's Secretary of State where the document was issued. Copies of tax returns, medical reports and police clearances should likewise be authenticated. Prospective adoptive parents should contact the Secretary of State for the state where documents originate for instructions and fees for authenticating documents.

Documents issued by a federal agency must be authenticated by the U.S. Department of State Authentications Office. Their address is Authentications Office, Department of State, 518 23rd St., N.W., Washington, D.C. 20520, (202) 647-5002. Fee: $5.00. For additional information, call the Federal Information Center: 1-800-688-9889, and choose option 6 after you press 1 for touch tone phones. Walk-in service is available from the Authentications Office from 8 a.m. to 12 noon Monday-Friday, except holidays. Walk-in service is limited to 15 documents per person per day (documents can be multiple pages). Processing time for authentication requests sent by mail is 5 working days or less.

For additional information about authentication procedures, please see the Judicial Assistance page of the Bureau of Consular Affairs web site.


Embassy of the Russian Federation
2650 Wisconsin Avenue, N.W.
Washington, D.C. 20007

The Russian Federation also has consulates in San Francisco, California, New York, New York, and Seattle, Washington.


A child adopted by a U.S. citizen must obtain an immigrant visa to enter the U.S. as a lawful permanent resident. The child must be an orphan, as defined by U.S. immigration regulations. Children who do not qualify under this definition may not immigrate to the U.S. as an orphan even if legally adopted by a U.S. citizen. There are two distinct categories of immigrant visas available to orphans adopted by U.S. citizens. The two categories are Immediate Relative-3 (IR-3) and IR-4. An IR-3 is issued when a child is adopted under the laws of a foreign country. An IR-4 is issued when a child will be adopted in the United States. (That is, the American parents have custody of a child to take him or her to the United States to be adopted there.) An IR-4 is also issued when state pre-adoption requirements require that a child be adopted in that state or if both parents have not seen the child. The Department of State encourages U.S. citizens to verify that a particular child is an orphan according to U.S. immigration law and regulations before proceeding with an adoption.


If an adopted child has not resided with and been in the legal custody of the adoptive parent for at least two years (or if the child has not yet been adopted) the child must qualify under section 101(b)(1)(F) of the U.S. Immigration and Nationality Act in order to apply for an immigrant visa. The main requirements of this section are as follows:

The child is under the age of 16 at the time an I-600 Petition is filed with the BCIS on his or her behalf;
The child meets the U.S. immigration law definition of "orphan" either because:
(a) The child has no parents because of the death or disappearance of, abandonment or desertion by, or separation from or loss of both parents**; or
(b) The sole or surviving parent is incapable of providing proper care and has, in writing, irrevocably released the child for emigration and adoption
The adopting parents must have completed a full and final adoption of the child (for IR-3) or must have legal custody of the child to take the child to the United States for adoption (for IR-4).
**Prospective adopting parents should note that the terms "disappearance of both parents," "abandonment by both parents," "desertion by both parents," "separation from both parents," and "loss from both parents" all have specific legal meanings defined in section 204.3(b) of Title 8 of the U.S. Code of Federal Regulations. Whether a child qualifies as an orphan under any of these categories is determined by reference to the U.S. regulatory definitions and not by any local (foreign) law designations that may be used to identify a child as orphaned.

The adopting parent(s) must meet the following BCIS requirements in order to file the I-600 petition for the immigrant visa for an adopted child:

1. If the adoptive or prospective adoptive parent is married, his or her spouse must also be a party to the adoption;
2. If the adoptive or prospective adoptive parent is single, he or she must be at least 25 years of age;
3. The adoptive or prospective adoptive parent must be a U.S. citizen.
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