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International Adoption - Lithuania

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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 legal counsel

PLEASE NOTE: The Department of State has been informed that some unscrupulous individuals in Lithuania have promised U.S. adoption agencies and prospective adoptive parents that they can escort Lithuanian orphans to the United States to be adopted, and have collected fees from parents in order to cover their "expenses." However, the U.S. Embassy in Vilnius confirms that such escorts are not allowed under Lithuanian law and orphans must be adopted in Lithuania. Prosepctive adoptive parents are advised to read carefully the adoption procedures described below.

The Republic of Lithuania has ratified the Hague Convention of 1993 on Protection of Children and Cooperation in Respect of Intercountry Adoption. The adoption process is complicated therefore; we encourage prospective adoptive parents to contact the U.S. Embassy in Vilnius and the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization early in the process, before you have identified a specific child to adopt

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.

GENERAL: The following is a guide for U.S. citizens who are interested in adopting a child in Lithuania and applying for an immigrant visa for the child to come to the United States. This process involves complex Lithuanian and U.S. legal requirements. U.S. consular officers give each petition careful consideration on a case-by-case basis to ensure that the legal requirements of both countries have been met, for the protection of the prospective adoptive parent(s), the biological parents(s) and the child. Interested U.S. citizens are strongly encouraged to contact U.S. consular officials in Warsaw 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 for the child.

AVAILABILITY OF CHILDREN FOR ADOPTION: Recent U.S. immigrant visa statistics reflect the following pattern for visa issuance to orphans.

FY-1997: IR-3 immigrant visas issued to Lithuanian orphans adopted abroad - 77
IR-4 immigrant visas issued to Lithuanian orphans to be adopted in the U.S. - 1
FY-1998: IR-3 Visas - 72, IR-3 Visas - 0
FY-1999: IR-3 Visas - 61, IR-3 Visas - 2
FY-2000: IR-3 Visas - 29, IR-3 Visas - 0

LITHUANIAN ADOPTION AUTHORITY: Adoption Agency under Ministry of Social Security and Labor (Ivaikinimo agentura) is responsible for intercountry adoption in Lithuania. This agency maintains a registry of foreign families wishing to adopt in Lithuania.

LITHUANIAN ADOPTION PROCEDURES: Prospective parents must register on this list before beginning any adoption proceedings. The application can be written in English with the translation into Lithuanian. The agency registers the applications according to the application receiving date. As children become available, the agency contacts parents according to their position on the list. Prospective adoptive parents may register with the Adoption Agency in person or by writing to the following address: Vivulskio 11, 115 kab, Vilnius, Lithuania. The fax number for the agency is (370-2) 60-38-13. Representatives of prospective adoptive parents may register on their behalf, if they have a power of attorney. At the time of registration, prospective adoptive parents should provide a statement in which they specify the age, health condition, sex or other qualities they are seeking in an adopted child. Along with the statement, prospective adoptive parents must present to the agency copies of the following documents:

1. home study;

2. health certificates of the prospective adoptive parents;

3. financial statements, indicating their income;

4. police certificates, indicating that they have never been convicted of a crime;

5. copy of the first page of each of their passports;

6. copy of each of their birth certificates; and,

7. Copy of their marriage certificate.

A Secretary of the State in which the document has been produced must translate all documents into Lithuanian and authenticated with an Apostille. Translation of the originals must be notarized.

Once a child has been identified for adoption, the adoptive parent(s) or their representative must prepare a cover letter providing the following information:

full names and addresses of adoptive parents;

names and addresses of interested parties (i.e., the state representative in charge of the orphanage or institution);

statement regarding why they want to adopt a child;

statement as to whether the child is to be their stepchild or adoptive child;

new name of the adoptive child; and,

List of documents attached (see below).

The documents required are as follows:

parental affidavit surrendering all rights to the child, if there is/are surviving parents(s);

statement from the institution responsible for the child, agreeing to the adoption;

financial statement of the adoptive parent(s) indicating that they are financially able to provide for the child (the home study will suffice for this);

original birth certificate of the child; and,

Filing fee receipt obtained at the Taupomasis Bank.

Prospective adoptive parent(s) should present the cover letter and accompanying documents to the Civil Cases Department Chairman at Vilnius District Court, Gedimino 40/1, tel: 61-49-23. They must also forward copies of the cover letter and documents to interested parties (other than the natural parent(s)), i.e., the state representative or local official in charge of the orphanage or institution. After the Chairman verifies that all is in order, he passes the documents to one of the Vilnius District Court judges for final review. This judge will then set a court date. The adoptive parent(s) is/are expected to attend the hearing. After the judge approves the adoption and after expiration of the 14-day period (see below), the adoptive parent(s) then present(s) the Adoption Decree to the Vilnius Civil Registry Office, Kalinausko Street #21, Room 8, in order to obtain a new birth certificate and an adoption certificate. As applicable, both parents must appear at the Registry Office with their passports and marriage certificate, or one of them must submit the power of attorney for the other. This completes the adoption process.

*Because all decisions of Lithuanian District Courts are subject to appeal to the Supreme Court within 14 days, the Adoption Decree issued by the Vilnius District Court will not become final for 14 days. During the 14-day period, the adopted child will remain in the custody of the institution where he or she resided prior to the adoption hearing. After 14 days, absent any appeals from any party, the adoption will become final*

*While it may add to the expense and inconvenience of the adoption process initially, we strongly suggest that both parents attend the adoption hearing and that both return to complete the immigration visa process at the U.S. Embassies in Vilnius and Warsaw, Poland (see below). In the case of a married couple, both parents must see the child before the U.S. visa can be issued if the child is to be considered adopted abroad*

The U.S. Embassy in Vilnius, however, is responsible for completing the I-604 Adoption Investigation Report, which describes the circumstances of the adoption. The Embassy in Vilnius will also try to ascertain that all documents needed for the immigrant visa are in order and that the child qualifies as an orphan under U.S. law. *Please note, however, that adjudication of the immigrant visa, including the determination as to whether the child meets the legal definition of an orphan in accordance with U.S. immigration law, and the U.S. Embassy in Warsaw will do approval of the immigrant visa petition. If the visa petition is not clearly approvable, it will be referred to the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization service for final determination* Once the parents have adopted a child, they should contact the Consular Section of the Embassy in Vilnius to arrange an appointment to complete the I-604 Report. The following documents (originals or certified copies) that are required along with the cover letter are listed in documentary requirements below:

AGE AND CIVIL STATUS REQUIREMENTS: Foreign nationals can adopt a child in Lithuania only 6 months after the application is registered. The law does not permit foreign nationals to adopt children younger than 6 months.

ADOPTION AGENCIES AND ATTORNEYS: There are no adoption agencies in Lithuania.

DOCTORS: The U.S. Embassy (Consulate) maintains current lists of doctors and sources for medicines, should either you or your child experience health problems while in Lithuania.

LITHUANIAN DOCUMENTARY REQUIREMENTS:

original birth certificate of the child;

death certificate(s) of parent(s), if applicable;

parental affidavit surrendering all rights to the child (if father is "unknown," a statement to that effect by a competent authority must also be presented;

final Adoption Decree signed by the District Court;

new birth certificate of the child;

and,

adoption certificate.

Also useful are statements from the institution responsible for the child and the CRPS that describe the conditions under which the child became an orphan. All Lithuanian documents required to prove that the child is an orphan and has been legally adopted must be translated into English and notarized. A list of qualified translators is available below. If more than one child is being adopted, make sure there are separate copies of all necessary documents (e.g., court decision) for each child.

A consular officer must also view the child in order to complete the I-604 Report. Adoptive parents may contact the Consular Section in Vilnius as needed to discuss the documents listed above. Occasionally it is necessary to contact the director of the institution responsible for the child to clarify the child's status as an orphan. All questions concerning these documents and the completion of the I-604 Report should be addressed to the Consular Section of the U.S. Embassy in Vilnius. If the U.S. Embassy in Vilnius may be of further assistance, please contact them at:

U.S. EMBASSY IN VILNIUS:
Consular Section
U.S. Embassy Vilnius
PSC 78, Box V
APO AE 09723
Consular Section telephone: 011-3702-22-30-31
011-3702-22-27-37
Consular Section fax: 011-370-670-6084

U.S. IMMIGRATION REQUIREMENTS

A Lithuanian child adopted by an American citizen must obtain an immigrant visa before he or she can enter the U.S. as a lawful permanent resident. There are two distinct categories of immigrant visas available to children adopted by American citizens.

A Previously Adopted Child. Section 101(b)(1)(E) of the U.S. Immigration and Nationality Act defines an "adopted child" as one who was adopted under the age of 16 and who has already resided with, and in the legal custody of, the adoptive parent for at least two years. Parents who can demonstrate that their adopted child meets this requirement may file an I-130 petition with the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) having jurisdiction over their place of residence in the United States. Upon approval of the I-130 petition, the parents may apply for an immigrant visa for the child at the U.S. Embassy in Warsaw. American citizens who believe this category may apply to their adopted child should contact the U.S. Embassy in Warsaw for more information.

An Orphan. If an adopted child has not resided with the adoptive parent for two years (or if the child has not yet even 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 adoptive or prospective adoptive parent must be an American citizen;

The child must be under the age of 16 at the time an I-600 Petition is filed with the INS on his or her behalf;

If the adoptive or prospective adoptive parent is married, his or her spouse must also be a party to the adoption;

If the adoptive or prospective adoptive parent is single, he or she must be at least 25 years of age;

The child must be an orphan, as defined by U.S. regulations. Although the definition of an orphan found in many dictionaries is "A child whose parents are dead," U.S. immigration law and regulations provide for a somewhat broader definition. Children who do not qualify under this definition, however, may not immigrate to the U.S. as an orphan even if legally adopted by an American Citizen. The Department of State encourages Americans to consider if a particular child is an orphan according to U.S. immigration law and regulations before proceeding with an adoption. A detailed description of the orphan definition used by INS can be found on INS's web site at .

U.S. IMMIGRATION PROCEDURES FOR ORPHANS

I. The Petition.

Adoptive and prospective adoptive parents must obtain approval of a Petition to Classify Orphan as an Immediate Relative (Form I-600) from the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) before they can apply for an immigrant visa on behalf of an orphan. The adjudication of such petitions can be very time-consuming and parents are encouraged to begin the process well in advance.

A prospective adoptive parent may file Form I-600A Application for Advance Processing of Orphan Petition with the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) office having jurisdiction over their place of residence. This form allows the most time-consuming part of the process to be completed in advance, even before the parent has located a child to adopt. In addition, a parent who has an approved I-600A may file an I-600 in person at the U.S. Embassy in Warsaw .

Detailed information about filing these forms can be found on INS's web site at http://www.ins.usdoj.gov. Americans who have adopted or hope to adopt a child from Lithuania should request, at the time they file these forms, that INS notify the U.S. Embassy in Warsaw as soon as the form is approved. Upon receipt of such notification, the Embassy will contact the parents and provide additional instructions on the immigration process. U.S. consular officers may not begin processing an orphan adoption case until they have received formal notification of approval from an INS office in the U.S.

II. The Orphan Investigation

One part of the petition process that INS cannot complete in advance is the "orphan investigation". An orphan investigation Form I-604 Report on Overseas Orphan Investigation) is required in all orphan adoption cases - even if an I-600 has already been approved - and serves to verify that the child is an orphan as defined by US immigration law. A consular officer performs this investigation at the time of the child's immigrant visa interview.

The adoptive parent(s) then will need to obtain a Child's Travel Document from the local migration office where the child was residing before the adoption. Adoptive parents will need three photos of the child for the Child's Travel Document. The document will be issued the same day.

A visa is not required to travel to Poland for American and Lithuanian citizens. The adoptive child, however, must travel on the Child's Travel Document described above.

Immigrant visa applicants from Lithuania must obtain their medical examinations in Warsaw, so adoptive parents should plan to arrive there three to five days before the scheduled visa interview. They should contact the Consular Section in Warsaw at the number listed above for information on physicians who are authorized to perform immigrant visa medical examinations. An appointment also is necessary for the immigrant visa interview at the Embassy in Warsaw. Call the same number to make an appointment or for further information.

LITHUANIAN EMBASSY IN THE U.S.:
2622 16th Street NW
Washington, DC 20009
(202) 234-5860

WARSAW EMBASSY IN THE UNITED STATES:
Consular Section, IV Unit/Adoptions
U.S. Embassy
U.S. Department of State
Washington, DC 20521-5010

The U.S. Embassy in Warsaw is responsible for the issuance of all immigrant visas for applicants from Lithuania. Therefore, we suggest that you request a copy of their standard information packet from the following address:

U.S. EMBASSY IN WARSAW:
Consular Section, IV Unit/Adoptions or
U.S. Embassy Warsaw
Al. Ujazdowskie 29/21
00-540 Warsaw, Poland
Consular Section telephone: 011-48-22-628-3041, ext. 2105
Consular Section Fax: 011-48-22-627-4734

INTERPRETERS AND TRANSLATORS
Zodis
Upes street #5
Tel: 75 16 49
HRS: 09:00-13:00, 14:00-17:00

Litinterp
Bernardinu street 7 - 2
Tel: 22 32 91, 22 38 50
HRS: 09:00-18:00, Sat 09:00-16:00

ADDITIONAL INFORMATION: Prospective adoptive parents are strongly encouraged to consult INS publication M-249, The Immigration of Adopted and Prospective Adoptive Children, as well as the Department of State publication, International Adoptions.

QUESTIONS: Specific questions regarding adoption in Lithuania may be addressed to the Consular Section of the U.S. Embassy in Vilnius. You may also contact the Office of Children's Issues, U.S. Department of State, 2401 E. Street, NW, Room L-127, Washington, DC 20022, and telephone (202) 736-7000 with specific questions.

Information is also available 24 hours a day from several sources:

Telephone - Office of Children's Issues - Recorded information regarding changes in adoption procedures and general information, (202) 736-7000.- State Department Visa Office - Recorded information concerning immigrant visas for adoptive children, (202) 663-1225.- Immigration and Naturalization Service - Recorded information for requesting immigrant visa application forms, 1-800-870-FORM (3676).

Automated fax - contains the full text of the office's international adoption information flyers and general information brochure, International Adoptions. From the telephone on your fax machine, call (202) 647-3000.

Internet - The Consular Affairs web site, at: http://travel.state.gov contains international adoption information flyers and the International Adoptions brochure.

INS web site- http://www.ins.usdoj.gov

Other information:

Consular Information Sheets - published by the State Department and 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. The information is available 24 hours a day by calling the State Department's Office of Overseas Citizens Services at (202) 647-5225. The recordings are updated as new information becomes available, and are also accessible through the automated fax machine and the internet web site, as above.
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