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
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
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
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
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