Open Letter from Embassy, Kyiv
November 18, 2004
Dear Members of the American Adoption Community Interested in Ukraine:
As many of you know, we in the Embassy meet regularly with Ukrainian adoption officials and others involved in the intercountry adoption program in Ukraine. We strive to keep the American adoption community updated regarding the latest trends in adoptions through information on our webpage, and through e-mails like this one. We're also always looking for ways to improve orphan immigrant visa processing for the benefit of American parents and the children they adopt. Although consular officers are prohibited by law from acting on behalf of individual American citizens with regard to their private legal matters, such as an adoption, there are ways we can help - most notably in the area of communication.
Is Adoption Processing Getting Harder, or Does it Just Seem Like It?
Over the past two months we have noticed what seems to be an up tick in the number of American families encountering problems with their Ukrainian adoption processing. Or, perhaps there are simply more American families reporting problems to us. These problems include processing delays beyond what parents expected. Four to five weeks in country is a common wait time; more if the family's first referral does not work out for some reason (usually because the child's health problems are more serious than records indicated, or because the child is not available for adoption, often because s/he is part of a sibling group that must be adopted together). The three-week time frame, which many American families expect, is becoming increasingly overly optimistic, from what we've noticed. Some parents have also told us they have encountered significant additional costs, in part due to the additional time in country. Worse still, a few families have left Ukraine without adopting a child, after failing, for various reasons, to obtain a mutually satisfactory referral from the National Adoption Center (NAC).
Yet, Many American Parents Still Adopting Ukrainian Orphans with Relative Ease; IVs are Up
Even though the Ukrainian adoption process may seem more complicated than before, the majority of American parents report relatively few problems to the Embassy, and our orphan immigrant visa (IV) issuance numbers (which are reflective of the number of successful Ukrainian adoptions by Americans) have not abated. In FY04 Americans adopted 784 Ukrainian orphans, compared to 703 in FY03.
Creation of Embassy Checklist to Help with Orphan IV Paperwork; Fingerprint Expiration Dates
In an effort to assist parents with their adoption paperwork, we have created a checklist of documents required by the Embassy for the orphan immigrant visa application package. We strongly encourage parents to complete all immigrant visa forms prior to arrival at the Consular Section for the visa interview. This will significantly speed up processing of your case and will help expedite your departure from Ukraine, and, most importantly, your return home!
Please pay careful attention to the expiration date of parents' FBI fingerprint checks. This expiration date is listed on the I-171H (DHS approval notice) as well as our Embassy confirmation letter, both of which are mailed to parents in advance of their travel. Fingerprint clearances are valid for 15 months only (vice 18 months for the I-600 A). No immigrant visa can be issued to your child unless a valid fingerprint check is on record. Many parents end up having to get their fingerprint checks re-done prior to their travel date. To avoid delays, updates should be done BEFORE you leave the U.S.
Booking Your Orphan Visa Appointment at the Embassy; Holiday Closures
And speaking of orphan immigrant visas, remember that each family should allow at least three working days when requesting an appointment at U.S. Embassy Kiev for the interview and final visa processing. Appointment requests can be made by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or via phone at 38-044-490-4079. (Please note that an e-mail or voicemail request from you does not constitute a confirmed appointment. We will contact you to confirm the date and time.) With the upcoming holiday season approaching - both U.S. and Ukrainian holidays - be sure to pay careful attention to the Embassy's and Ukrainian government authorities' work schedules. Updated schedules are included at the end of our American Citizens Services monthly newsletter, which can be found on the Embassy's web page.
Pardon our Mess: Consular Annex Is Under Construction
We eventually plan to transfer from Warsaw to Kiev all IV cases involving Ukrainian family members of American citizens and residents. In order to do this we need additional space. Renovation of the Consular Building began in October and is slated to last through February. We apologize for the inconvenience this construction may cause American adopting families in the next several months as we strive to continue to expand and improve our services.
Latest News from the Ukrainian National Adoption Center: Notarized Medical Forms (Again)
We were informed recently by the NAC that they will accept parents' medical certificates in one of two ways: Either accompanied by a notarized copy of the doctor's license; or if the doctor's license is not available, the medical form must bear the doctor's notarized signature under a properly notarized statement which includes the phrase, "Subscribed and sworn to before me on...date/year."
NAC Waiting Times Increasing; December 30 - January 10 Likely to be Slow
Even in early October, the NAC Director told us that no new appointments for referrals would be handed down until the beginning months of 2005. (Exceptions occur in the case of seriously ill or older children, she said.) When we stressed the lead-time that American families need to plan their trans-Atlantic travel, the NAC leadership undertook to inform American families in advance of their appointment dates (mid-November for January appointments). The NAC advised us of the holiday season in Ukraine from December 30 - January 10, indicating that few, if any appointments would be scheduled during that time. Parents who obtain a referral before December 30 can expect to encounter significant delays in finalizing their Ukrainian adoption paperwork during that period, which corresponds to the Orthodox Christmas season.
Impact of Transfer of NAC Jurisdiction from Ministry of Education to Ministry of Family
We asked the NAC Director what impact there might be on adopting families when the NAC is transferred from its current jurisdiction under the Ministry of Education to the new Ministry of Family, Children, and Youth (as per recent presidential decree). From what we learned from the Director and other sources, nothing will happen until after Ukrainian presidential elections (slated for November 21) and until Ukraine's parliament can enact the implementing Ukrainian legislation. We will continue to monitor this situation and any impact the change in jurisdiction might have on American families and the adoption process.
NAC to Register Adoption Agencies/Facilitators?
We asked about rumors that the NAC intended to license adoption agencies and facilitators and were told by the Director that there was no mechanism in Ukrainian law to do this. It would only become possible with Ukraine's accession to the Hague Convention on Intercountry Adoption, which has yet to be taken up by Ukraine's parliament. (For more information on the Hague Convention on Intercountry Adoption: http://www.travel.state.gov/family/adoption_hague.html)
NAC Stays True to Word (for Most Part) re Simultaneous Multiple Adoptions for Siblings Only
From what we've witnessed during IV interviews with American parents, the NAC is sticking to its decision to no longer process adoptions of two unrelated orphans on the basis of one dossier. Currently only sibling groups may be adopted together. (Ukraine's Family Code forbids separation of siblings by adoption, and many orphans have siblings.) We've seen only a few exceptions which involved older children and/or children with special needs.
How Can Parents' Dossiers be Submitted to the NAC?
According to the NAC Director, adoption dossiers must be submitted either in person by a facilitator who has the adopting parent(s)' power of attorney or mailed by families directly. We learned that individual facilitators are limited to submitting one dossier per month, and American families' dossiers are accepted only one day per week (though not on a fixed day per week). According to the Director, the average number of American dossiers submitted per week is about twenty.
If adopting parents elect to send their dossier to the NAC by mail, the mailed packets must originate from an overseas address. American parents' dossiers will only be accepted if they arrive by mail directly, and provided that the dossier is complete and translated properly.
Please Continue to Help us Help You
Although we try to stay ahead of the information curve, and to publish information on changes in Ukrainian adoption laws and regulations just as soon as we receive it, sometimes the first notice we get of a new requirement or problem is when it is brought to our attention by a member of the American adoption community. We welcome your input, and hope you will feel free to e-mail us at email@example.com.
Thank you for taking time to read this letter. If you are interested in receiving our adoption e-mail updates, please contact us by e-mail so that we can add you to our list. We remain committed to providing a high level of service to all American citizens in Ukraine, including those who are adopting Ukrainian children. We look forward to working with you.
The document is avialable at USA Embassy site http://web.usembassy.kiev.ua/amcit_adoptions_openletter_nov18_eng.html