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International Adoption - Slovak Republic

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b>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: On October 1, 2001, Slovakia became a party to the Hague Convention on International Adoptions. International adoptions of Slovak children are now possible only by parents already residing in Slovakia or in countries which are party to the Hague Convention. Adoption of Slovak Children by parents residing in non-member countries, including the United States, is no longer possible.

The United States signed the Hague Convention in 1993. The State Department is preparing the implementing regulations so that the United States can become a full party to the Convention. The current target date for the United States to join the Intercountry Adoption Convention is 2004.

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 the Slovak Republic. This process can be expensive, time-consuming and difficult, involving complex Slovak and American legal requirements. Adoptions are given careful consideration on a case by-case basis by both Slovak 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 the Slovak Republic before formalizing an adoption agreement to ensure that appropriate visa procedures have been followed.

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

Fiscal Year - 1997 IR-3 immigrant visas issued to the Slovak Republic orphans adopted abroad - 0
IR-4 immigrant visas issued to the Slovak Republic orphans adopted in the U.S. - 6
FY-1998: IR-3 Visas - 0, IR-4 Visas - 2
FY-1999: IR-3 Visas - 0, IR-4 Visas - 3
FY-2000: IR-3 Visas - 0, IR-4 Visas - 15
FY-2001: IR-3 Visas - 0, IR-4 Visas - 24

Slovak orphanages house about 2,500 children aged 3-18 in 56 orphanages in Slovakia. Ten percent of these children are in the process of being adopted. Forty percent have guardians who are not their parents, and remaining forty percent were placed in orphanages for legal institutional care. Due to the small number of children who are "legally free for adoption," coupled with restrictive Slovak legislation, no Slovak children have been adopted by foreigners until very recently.

Slovak orphanages for children up to age 3 are administered by the Ministry of Health of the Slovak Republic; orphanages for children of ages 3-18 by the Ministry of Education and Science of the Slovak Republic.

SLOVAK CENTRAL ADOPTION AUTHORITY:
Centrum pre medzinrodnoprvnu ochranu det a mldee
(Center for the international legal protection of children and youth)
pitlska 6
P.O.Box 57
814 99 Bratislava, Slovakia
tel: 011 421 2 5975 2315
fax: 011 421 2 5296 2895

The Center primarily communicates with the partnership centers in other member countries of the Hague Convention. It will respond to private calls only if the caller is a long-term resident of Slovakia.

ADOPTION PROCEDURES: Foreign adoptive parents must, during the whole adoption procedure, have the status of long-term or permanent residents of Slovakia and be physically present in the country. The procedure may take up to two years.

Slovak family law requires that the child reside from six months to one year with prospective adoptive parents before a court may issue a final adoption decree. During this period the family will be observed by social workers representing the child. Foreign adoptive parents are also required to present a good-conduct statement from their home country, proof of their financial situation and evidence of their own good health. They will also be required to pass psychological tests.

AGE AND CIVIL STATUS REQUIREMENTS: Slovak law sets no age limits for adoptive parents; the law merely recommends that the age difference between child and adoptive parents be "adequate". Embassy officials have been told that the age difference should be at least 15 years, and at the most, 40 years. Couples and single persons may apply for adoption.

ADOPTION AGENCIES AND ATTORNEYS: There are no government-approved adoption agencies; individual cases are handled on the Center - court basis.

A local attorney may be of assistance. A list of English speaking attorneys is available at http://www.sak.sk

DOCUMENTARY REQUIREMENTS:

Applications for adoption must be supported by the following basic documents:
- a home study from an accredited social agency
- a good conduct statement (police report from the home country of the adoptive parent)
- proof of financial situation
- good health condition report
- psychological test (can be passed locally as well)

AUTHENTICATION PROCEDURES: All U.S. documents submitted to the Slovak government/court must be authenticated. The Slovak Republic 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 apostille must be affixed by the state's Secretary of State. Tax returns, medical reports and police clearances should likewise be authenticated.Prospective adoptive parents should contact the Secretary of State for their home state for instructions and fees for authenticating documents. Documents issued by a federal court must be authenticated by a clerk or deputy clerk of the federal court system.

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.

DOCTORS: The U.S. Embassy maintains current list of doctors should either you or the child experience health problems while in Slovakia.

U.S. IMMIGRATION REQUIREMENTS

A Slovakchild adopted by an U.S. citizen must obtain an immigrant visa before he or she can 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. 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. There are two distinct categories of immigrant visas available to children adopted by U.S. citizens. A detailed description of the orphan definition used by INS is described below and can also be found on the INS web site at http://www.ins.usdoj.gov.

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 the Czech Republic. U.S. citizens who believe this category may apply to their adopted child should contact the U.S. Embassy in Czech Republic 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 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 (see footnote 1)

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

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

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 adoptive or prospective adoptive parent must be a U.S. citizen.

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 the Czech Republic.

Detailed information about filing these forms can be found on the INS web site at http://www.ins.usdoj.gov. U.S. citizens who have adopted or hope to adopt a child from the Czech Republic should request, at the time they file these forms, that INS notify the U.S. Embassy in Czech Republic 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 which 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 U.S. immigration law.

The I-604 investigation is conducted at the U. S. Embassy in Bratislava. However, United States Embassy Bratislava, Slovakia is not an Immigrant Visa (IV) issuing post. IV applications for Slovak citizens, including Slovak children adopted by U.S. citizens, are processed at the United States Embassy Prague, Czech Republic.

NATURALIZATION: The Child Citizenship Act of 2000 allows for the automatic acquisition of U.S. citizenship for the adopted children of U.S. citizens who are born abroad. If a foreign -born child was adopted abroad and entered the United States on an Immediate Relative (IR) -3 visa, the child automatically becomes a U.S. citizen. If a foreign-born child enters the United States on an IR-4 visa and is adopted in a U.S. court, the child will become a U.S. citizen when the adoption is finalized (the child will be a legal permanent resident until then).

SLOVAK EMBASSY IN THE UNITED STATES:

3523 International Court N.W.
WASHINGTON, D.C. 20008
Tel: 202 237 1054

U.S. EMBASSY IN SLOVAKIA

Hviezdoslavovo nam. 4
811 02 Bratislava
Slovakia
Tel: 011-421 2-5443 0861
Fax: 011-421 2-5441 8861

U.S. EMBASSY IN THE CZECH REPUBLIC:

American Citizen Services unit
U.S. Embassy
trziste 15
118 01 Prague
Czech Republic
Tel. (420)(2) 5753-0663
Fax: (420)(2) 5753-4028
Web site: http://www.usembassy.cz

QUESTIONS: Specific questions concerning immigrant visas for adopted children may be addressed to: American Embassy, Trziste 15, 118 01 Prague, Czech Republic, tel: 011-4202-5732-0663. You may also contact the Office of Children's Issues, U.S. Department of State, SA-1, L-127, 2401 E Street, NW, Washington, DC 20522, tel: (202) 736-7000.

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 visa 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 Adoption 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 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
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