PR 01325.302 Russia
A. PR 04-061 Validity of Russian Adoptions, NH-Gerald R~ SSN ~
DATE: January 12, 2004
The Russian adoptions of the four child claimants were valid under Russian law. Therefore, the requirement in GN 00306.135 is met, i.e., that to be legal, an adoption must be valid under the law of the foreign country where it took place.
You requested an opinion on whether the adoptions of four minor children in Russia by the number holder and his spouse were valid under Russian law and satisfied the requirements of Program Operations Manual System (POMS) GN 00306.135 and GN 00307.220.
The facts available indicate that Gerald B. R~ (SSN ~) and Debra V. R~ are the adoptive parents of four Russian children. At the time of the adoptions, Gerald and Debra resided in Salt Lake City, Utah. All adoptions at issue were finalized in Russia on two separate dates. By name, the children are Jonathan E. R~, Tatyana S. R~, Marina N. R~, and Karina A. R~.
Jonathan E. R~ (SSN ~) was born on May 28, 1995 and was adopted on October 8, 2002. His SSN~ was established October 22, 2002. Tatyana S. R~ (SSN ~) was born on November 10, 1998 and was also adopted on October 8, 2002. Her SSN~ was established on October 24, 2002. Marina N. R~ (SSN ~) was born on February 15, 1999 and was adopted on December 11, 2001. Her SSN~ was established on January 14, 2002. Karina A. R~ (SSN ~) was born January 3, 2001 and was adopted on December 11, 2001. Her SSN~ was established on January 15, 2002. All numident records for the children indicate that each was born in the City of Murmansk located in Russia.
Gerald R~ became eligible and applied for Title II retirement benefits in January 2003 at the Salt Lake City district office. Gerald's claim was approved and he began receiving $814 in monthly benefits. Each of the children filed for Title II auxiliary benefits on January 13, 2003, also in the Salt Lake City district office. Both adoption and birth certificates for each of the children were submitted at the time the claims were taken, and subsequently translated by an authorized agency employee. Debra B~, the claims representative for this case, in a report of contact (SSA-5002) indicated that there was no precedent opinion on the requirements for Russian adoptions at the time the claim was processed. Although she did not have any reason to doubt the validity of the Russian adoption decrees, POMS GN 00306.135 and GN 00307.220 require a legal opinion as to whether the adoption proceedings and documents are valid.
Children of Social Security beneficiaries may receive benefits if they meet certain criteria. Section 216 of the Social Security Act states that every child of an individual entitled to old-age or disability insurance benefits is entitled to a child's insurance benefit provided that the child 1) files an application for child's benefits, 2) is unmarried at the time the application is filed, 3) is either under age 18 if not enrolled in school or under 19 if enrolled in school, or is disabled before age 22; and 4) is dependent on the entitled individual. 42 U.S.C. § 416(d)(1) (2000). The definition of "child" includes "the child or legally adopted child of an individual." 42 U.S.C.§ 416(e)(1) (2000) (emphasis added). This opinion addresses only the issue of whether the R~ children are "legally adopted" for purposes of § 216 and thus eligible for benefits provided they satisfy all other criteria.
The Social Security Act does not define legal adoption. But the Commissioner of Social Security may "prescribe such rules and regulations as the Commissioner determines necessary or appropriate to carry out the functions of the Administration." 42 U.S.C. § 902(a)(5) (2000). According to 20 C.F.R. § 404.356 (2003), the agency applies "the adoption laws of the State or foreign country where the adoption took place, not the State inheritance laws described in § 404.355," to determine whether an individual is the insured's legally adopted child (emphasis added). POMS GN 00306.135 provides that "to be legal, an adoption must be valid under the law of the state where it took place." By some state statutes, adoptions finalized in foreign countries are automatically recognized as valid or can be "validated" and a new court order issued proving the adoption. See Colo. Rev. Stat. § 19-5-205 (2003), Mont. Code Ann. § 42-2-101 (2003), N.D. Cent. Code § 14-15-17 (2003). However, the Utah code contains no such provision. Because the R~ family resided in Utah at the time of the adoptions, only Federal regulations, agency policy, and Russian adoption law are applied to resolve this issue.
POMS GN 00307.220 specifies that evidence of a legal adoption in a foreign country can be an adoption decree, acceptable only if "there is a precedent opinion on the requirement for such an adoption." After this opinion was requested, a precedent opinion was issued regarding the validity of a child adoption in Russia by American parents. See POMS PR 01325.302. The research conducted by the Library of Congress and used to craft PR 01325.302 was forwarded to our office for analysis in this case and is current as of March 2003. We were advised by central office that it was not necessary to seek further information from the Library of Congress or Russian Consulate unless we doubted the authenticity of the documents themselves. Based upon this research and the available facts as explained below, it appears that all of the adoption decrees are valid under Russian law.
The requirements for a valid Russian adoption are extensive. Russian adoption procedures are regulated by the Federal Law of the Russian Federation on Acts of Civil Status of November 15, 1997. Sobr. Z~ RF, 1997, No. 47, Art. No. 5340. First, the adoption must be registered with the civil registry authorities within one month upon the entering of the order in force. In this case, all four adoption decrees were recorded within one month of the individual adoption orders being entered. The adoption certificate certifies the fact of the adoption registration. Id. Second, the adoption must be registered in the same jurisdiction where the court decision was passed. Based upon conversations with the translator of the documents submitted to the field office when the claims were filed, the adoptions took place and the certificates were issued in the City of Murmansk. Third, the adoption certificate must be issued to the adopters. Id. All adoption decrees and certificates of birth were issued to the adoptive parents in this case, so now it must be determined whether the decrees themselves are valid.
To be valid, the certificate itself must 1) be issued in Russian; 2) bear the seal of the territorial bureau of civil registry, and be signed by the bureau chief; 3) contain the first, middle and last name of the child both before and after the adoption; 4) contain the place of birth of the child;
5) include the names of the adopters; 6) include the date and number of the registration entry;
7) include the place of the state registration of the adoption or official name of the civil registry institution that conducted the registration; 8) and finally, include the adoption certificate's issuance date. A new birth certificate must be issued on the same day and include the names of the adoptive parents. Id.
The adoption decree for Jonathan R~ appears to satisfy the requirements of Russian law. The adoption decree is printed in Russian, bears the seal of the civil registry and is signed. His name before the adoption is listed as Emil C. K~, and his new name after the adoption is Jonathan E. R~. It specifies Murmansk as his place of birth, and lists the names of Gerald and Debra R~ as the adoptive parents. It also lists the date of the registration entry as October 8, 2002, and the entry number as 501448. It includes the City of Murmansk as the civil registry, and bears the issuance date of October 8, 2002. A new birth certificate was issued on October 8, 2002, the same day, and also bears the names of the adoptive parents.
Likewise, the adoption decree for Tatyana R~ also appears to satisfy Russian legal requirements. Her adoption decree is also printed in Russian, bearing the seal of the civil registry and signature of the bureau chief. Her name before the adoption is Tatyana A. K~, and her new name is recorded as Tatyana S. R~. Murmansk is listed as her birthplace, and Gerald and Debra R~ are listed as her parents. The date of the registration is October 8, 2002, and the entry number listed is 501447. Murmansk is the civil registry, and the document was issued on October 8, 2002. The new birth certificate was issued on October 8, 2002, the same day and also includes the names of Gerald and Debra R~ as her parents.
The adoption record of Marina R~ also appears to meet the Russian legal adoption requirements. It contains all information in Russian and bears a seal and signature. Her name before the adoption is Marina M. K~, and her new name is Marina N. R~. Murmansk is listed as the place of birth, and Gerald and Debra R~ as her parents. The registration date is listed as December 11, 2001. The document lists the entry number of 501079, Murmansk as the civil registry, and the issue date as December 11, 2001. A new birth certificate also bearing the names of the adoptive parents was issued on the same day as the adoption decree.
Finally, Karina R~' adoption decree also appears to satisfy Russian adoption law requirements. It is in Russian, bears the seal of the civil registry and signature. Her former name is listed as Karina A. K~, and new name is listed as Karina A. R~. Murmansk is listed as her place of birth, and Gerald and Debra R~ are named as her parents. The registration date is listed as December 11, 2001, and the entry number is 501080. Murmansk is included as the civil registry and the issue date listed as December 11, 2001. A new birth certificate was issued on December 11, 2001, the same day, and Gerald and Debra R~ were recorded as her parents.
Accordingly, we advise that the aforementioned adoptions were valid under Russian law and comply with POMS GN 00306.135 and GN 00307.220. Thus all of the children discussed herein appear to be entitled to benefits provided they meet all other factors of eligibility.
Yvette G. K~
Regional Chief Counsel
Michael A. T~
Assistant Regional Counsel
B. PR 03-114 Validity of Russian Adoption by Number Holder: Jerry E. H~, SSN: ~; Claimant: Collin M. H~
DATE: March 31, 2003
The NH, who died domiciled in Pennsylvania, had adopted the child claimant in Russia. SSA must determine whether the adoption was valid under Russian law. In this case, based on information provided by the Law Library of Congress, the adoption was conducted in accordance with existing procedures, and therefore would be considered legal and valid under Russian law. Accordingly, the child should be considered the legally adopted child of the NH for purposes of surviving child's benefits.
An application for surviving child's benefits was filed on behalf of Collin M. H~ on the account of the deceased wage earner Jerry E. H~, who was domiciled in Pennsylvania at the time of his death. Although you requested an opinion as to whether there was a parent-child relationship between Jerry E. H~ and Collin M. H~ under Pennsylvania law, the regulations governing adoption require that we consider whether the adoption was valid under the laws of the state or country where the child was adopted. See 20 C.F.R. § 404.356. Since Collin M. H~ was adopted in Russia, we need only determine whether the adoption was valid under Russian law.
For the reasons explained below, we conclude that the adoption of Collin M. H~ was valid under Russian law and that a parent-child relationship existed between Collin M. H~ and the Number Holder, Jerry E. H~, at the time of his death.
Jerry E. H~, the number holder, died on October 19, 2002. Prior to his death, Jerry E. H~ and Patricia A. H~, adopted Collin, who was born in Russia.
Collin (whose original name was Sergei M. K~) was born on October 5, 1998. Jerry E. H~ and his wife, Patricia A. H~, adopted Collin in Bryansk City, Russia. An adoption certificate was registered with the Registry of Vital Records and Statistics in Bryansk City on June 30, 1999. The adoption certificate shows that Collin was adopted by Jerry E. H~ and Patricia H~ and that he was given the name, Collin M. H~. A new birth certificate was also issued on June 30, 1999 and it too was registered with the Registry of Vital Records and Statistics. The new birth certificate indicates that Jerry E. H~ and Patricia A. H~ are Collins' mother and father.
On November 7, 2002, Patricia A. H~ filed an application for surviving child benefits for Collin on Jerry E. H~'s record.
20 C.F.R. § 404.356 governs the determination of whether an adopted child is the deceased wage earner's child for purposes of entitlement to child's insurance benefits. Under this regulation, SSA applies the adoption laws of the State or foreign country where the child was adopted, not the intestate succession laws of the State in which the deceased wage earner was domiciled at death, as is the case for natural born children. Therefore, we must determine whether Collin's adoption was valid under Russian law.
Based on information provided to us from the Law Library of Congress (copy attached), we learned that Collin's adoption was conducted in accordance with existing procedures and, therefore, would be considered legal and valid under Russian law. We also forwarded a copy of Collin's birth certificate and adoption certificate to the Library of Congress, and were informed that these documents appeared genuine and in compliance with Russian regulations on issuance of civil registry documents.
We note that, among other things, Russian law requires that the adoption certificate be registered with the civil registry authorities and that it include: the first, middle, and last names of the adopted child before and after the adoption; his/her date and place of birth; names of the adopters; the date and number of the registration entry; the place of state registration of the adoption; and the adoption certificate's issuance date. The law also requires the issuance of a new birth certificate and that the names of the adopters be included in the new certificate as the names of the child's parents. Furthermore, the adoption certificate and the new birth certificate must be issued on the same day. All of these requirements, as noted by the Library of Congress, were apparently followed in this case.
Accordingly, Collin should be considered the legally adopted child of Jerry E. H~ because his adoption appears to have satisfied all of the legal requirements for a valid adoption under Russian law.
We conclude that SSA may consider Collin's adoption as final and valid according to Russian law. We also conclude that because Collin was legally adopted in June 1999, a parent-child relationship existed between Collin and Jerry E. H~ prior to the death of Jerry E. H~ in October 2002. Hence, Collin would be eligible for surviving child's benefits, as well as any appropriate retroactive benefits, provided you determine that all the other requirements for these benefits are met.
James A. W~
Regional Chief Counsel
Assistant Regional Counsel