Ukrainian Adoptions: What Happens When Your Adopted Child Turns
18? The Facts About Citizenship, Passports and Compulsory
By Susan Kibler, owner of Adoption Services International
This past weekend I met Olga Ivanchenko, the new Vice-Consul in
charge of adoption and citizenship matters at the Consulate
General of Ukraine in New York. It was a great opportunity to get
the facts on what to do when your adopted child turns 18 years
Ukrainian Citizenship:The government of Ukraine considers every
child adopted from Ukraine to be a citizen of Ukraine for life
unless the child specifically denounces his or her Ukrainian
citizenship in writing through a formal procedure at the
Ukrainian Embassy or Consulates. Many parents were told that when
your child turns 18, he or she must choose between U.S. or
Ukrainian citizenship. This is NOT the case. Ukraine recognizes
dual citizenship - Ukrainian and U.S. for all children adopted
from Ukraine. (This is the only case where they do recognize dual
When your child turns 18 he or she is considered an adult by the
Ukrainian government (and the U.S.). If they wish to keep their
Ukrainian citizenship, all they need to do is register as an
adult Ukrainian citizen with the Ukrainian Embassy or Consulate
that covers the area where he or she lives. There is no rush to
do this. (Remember, your child is considered a Ukrainian citizen
for life.) If your child comes in at any age - 22, 35, 50 and
registers as an adult that is fine. They will never lose their
citizenship. Obviously, Ukraine would like your children to
register more promptly so they know where their citizens are. The
U.S. does the same and asks its citizens living outside the
country to register at the Embassy or Consulate. It is not
mandatory and your child will not lose their citizenship by not
U.S. Government perspective:The U.S. is not keen on dual
citizenship and recognizes only a few. It does not recognize dual
citizenship with Ukraine, but it does NOT forbid U.S. citizens
from being citizens of another country, nor from carrying
multiple passports. If you start asking around, you will find
many more U.S. citizens with dual citizenship than you might
think and that is just fine, so long as you are a law abiding
U.S. citizen and pay your U.S. taxes.
U.S. citizens are asked to denounce their Ukrainian citizenship
and that is if they wish to serve in the U.S. military.
Military Conscription in Ukraine:All Ukrainian adopted children,
who left Ukraine for permanent residency in another country
before the age of 18 are waived from the obligation to serve in
the Ukrainian military. This means any child adopted from the
Ukraine will NOT be called up to military service at any time or
Ukrainian Passports: Many adopted children have expired Ukrainian
passports. These may be renewed at any time, even if they are
expired for quite some time. Since, often your child's first
passport is a valuable keepsake, if you ask the consulate in
writing, they will return it to you with a punched hole
indicating that the passport is no longer valid. Some US States
do this with expired drivers' licenses.
Your child's passport will differ from those issued in Ukraine
only in that it will be indicated in the passport that they are
permanent residents of the U.S. Ukraine does not require that its
citizens enter the country on a Ukrainian Passport, so your
children can travel to Ukraine on their U.S. passports. No visa
is needed for a U.S. citizen to travel to Ukraine.
Those are the facts. The following is my option and thoughts on
keeping your child's Ukrainian citizenship.
Why should I care? What are the benefits for my child of having a
passport and Ukrainian citizenship?There are a number of reasons
I would argue that it would be a good idea for your son or
daughter to consider keeping their Ukrainian citizenship and
Travel:There are countries that citizens of Ukraine can travel to
without a visa, but U.S. citizens need a visa. Russia is an
example. Also, if your child would like to stay for more than 90
days in the Ukraine, on a year abroad, or a mission trip, they
can do so only on their Ukrainian passport. U.S. citizens no
longer need a visa to Ukraine, but their stay is limited to 90
days. Your children could get around this quite easily though if
they just go for a trip abroad every 90 days, but their Ukrainian
passport gives them this option to stay indefinately.
Future job and study opportunities:Right now, the European Union
looks like a disaster, but who knows how Europe will develop in
the next 20 years. If Ukraine becomes a member of the EU, your
child's passport would be a ticket to visa and work permit free
travel and study. Our children would be considered EU citizens.
Since 9/11 the U.S. has been offering fewer and fewer visas and
other countries have responded by granting fewer and fewer visas
to U.S. citizens. A European passport gives your child potential
opportunities without the government boundaries or visa
requirements. As the world becomes smaller and smaller, this can
be a real advantage.
Security:Your child has an option. When it might be preferable to
travel as a U.S. citizen he or she can use her U.S. passport.
There might also be scenarios when it would be favorable to have
a non-U.S. passport. Unfortunately, in this post 9/11 world,
Americans have the potential to be targets of violence
internationally. Yet, I can't think of a single instance when the
world has risen up and wanted to strike at Ukrainian citizens.
Heritage:Many adoptive parents encourage a pride in their adopted
children for their Ukrainian cultural heritage. What better way
than to have a physical reminder of this connection in the form
of a Ukrainian passport.
I believe this option of dual citizenship is yet another benefit
of adopting from Ukraine.
If you or someone you love want to welcome a child into their
lives and families, as my husband and I did, we can help.