Ukrainian Adoptions: When Adopted Children Are 18: Facts On Citizenship, Passports, Military Service

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 old.

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 citizenship.)

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 registering.

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: 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 age.

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 valid passport.

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 indefinitely.

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.

Satria Permadi

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