Applications for surviving child's benefits were filed on behalf of Charity R~, Faith
A~, and Joyeaux B~ on the account of deceased wage earner Elizabeth B~, who was domiciled
in Illinois at the time of her death. You asked whether (1) the adoptions of the three
children by Elizabeth and Richard B~ in China were valid, and (2) whether Illinois
would recognize these adoptions. For the reasons discussed below, we conclude that
there is sufficient evidence for SSA to assume that the adoptions of Charity R~, Faith
A~, and Joyeaux were valid under Chinese law, and that SSA need not determine whether
Illinois would also recognize the adoptions as valid.
Elizabeth and Richard B~, both U.S. citizens, adopted three children in China. On
August 30, 2000, they adopted twin girls, Charity R~ and Faith A~ (born February 6,
2000). On April 14, 2003, they adopted another girl, Joyeaux (born April 13, 2001).
On both occasions, Elizabeth and Richard B~ traveled to China to finalize the adoptions.
Notarized certificates of adoption in the original Chinese language have been submitted
for all three children; notarized English translations have been provided only for
Faith A~ and Joyeaux. The translations state that the legal guardians of the children,
the presidents of the Institutes of Children's Welfare where the children were residing,
consented to the adoptions.
All three children were lawfully admitted to the United States as permanent residents
with an immigrant status of IR-3. Richard B~ indicated that the children also became
U.S. citizens as a result of their adoptions, but he has not provided proof of citizenship.
Elizabeth B~ died domiciled in Illinois on September 4, 2004. On October 18, 2004,
Richard B~ filed a disability after death claim for Elizabeth and claims for surviving
child's benefits for their four children, including Charity R~, Faith A~, and Joyeaux.
A child may be entitled to surviving child's benefits on the earnings record of an
insured person who has died. See 20 C.F.R. § 404.350(a). A legally adopted child is considered the insured's child
for purposes of entitlement to child's insurance benefits. See id. § 404.356. When a child is adopted in a foreign country, SSA applies the adoption
laws of the foreign country where the adoption took place to determine whether the
child is the insured's legally adopted child. See
id; POMS GN 00306.135. Therefore, we must determine whether the adoptions of Charity R~, Faith A~, and
Joyeaux were valid under the laws of China. We need not determine whether Illinois
also would recognize the adoptions.
As we have previously opined, SSA "generally may consider that a child who was lawfully
admitted to the United States with IR-3 status was fully and finally adopted in compliance
with the laws of the country where the adoption took place, unless there is information
or evidence indicating that the foreign adoption or visa may be invalid." Memorandum
from Reg'l Chief Counsel, Chicago, to Assistant Reg'l Comm'r-MOS, Chicago, Foreign Adoption-Validity
of Salvadoran adoption by parent domiciled in Michigan, at 2 (December 3, 2001). In that memorandum, we explained that before a child adopted
abroad is issued an IR-3 visa, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) and
the U.S. Department of State must determine that "the adoption was conducted in full
compliance with both the laws of the U.S. and the foreign country." Id. at 2-3. As
such, we concluded that, absent evidence that raises a question about the validity
of the adoption or immigrant visa, a child's IR-3 status can "be considered sufficient
evidence to support a finding of childhood status under 20 C.F.R. § 404.356." Id.
at 4. Moreover, in a similar previous legal opinion involving a foreign adoption of
a child from China by Illinois residents, we concluded that the adoption was valid
in China, based on the issuance of an IR-3 immigrant visa by INS (now USCIS). See
Memorandum from Reg'l Chief Counsel, Chicago, to Assistant Reg'l Comm'r-MOS, Chicago,
Foreign Adoption-Validity of Chinese adoption by
parents domiciled in Illinois (April 30, 2001).
The information you sent shows that Charity R~, Faith A~, and Joyeaux were all admitted
to the U.S. as permanent residents with IR-3 status. We have not been provided with
any evidence to suggest that either the children's adoptions or their assignments
of IR-3 status were improper. Therefore, SSA may find that the adoptions of Charity
R~, Faith A~, and Joyeaux by Elizabeth and Richard B~ were valid under Chinese law.
We conclude that the Agency may consider Charity R~'s, Faith A~'s, and Joyeaux's IR-3
status as sufficient evidence that their adoptions in China were final and valid under
the laws of that country, for purposes of determining their entitlement to surviving
child's benefits. In determining childhood status, SSA applies the laws of the country
where the children were adopted, China, and not the laws of the state where Elizabeth
B~ was domiciled at the time of her death, Illinois.