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Estonia

Official Name: Estonia Last Updated: January 1, 2012

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Hague Adoption Convention Country? Yes

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  • Hague Convention Information

    WARNING: Estonia is party to the Hague Adoption Convention. Do not adopt or obtain legal custody of a child in Estonia before a U.S. consular officer issues an "Article 5 Letter." See the "How to Adopt" section for more information.

    Estonia is party to the Hague Convention on Protection of Children and Co-operation in Respect of Intercountry Adoption (Hague Adoption Convention). Therefore, all adoptions between Estonia and the United States must meet the requirements of the Convention; the U.S. implementing legislation, the Intercountry Act of 2000 (IAA); and the IAA implementing regulations. 

    Note: Special transition provisions apply to adoptions initiated before April 1, 2008. Read About Transition Cases. There is no current agreement with the United States  promoting domestic adoption.

  • Who Can Adopt

    Adoption between the United States and Estonia is governed by the Hague Adoption Convention.  Therefore to adopt from Estonia, you must first be found eligible to adopt by the U.S. Government.  The U.S. Government agency responsible for making this determination is the Department of Homeland Security, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).  Read more on Who Can Adopt.

    According to the Estonian Family Law only those children whose parents are deceased or whose parents have had their parental rights taken away may be adopted.  There are few such children and long waiting lists of Estonian families who by law take precedence.  Consequently, identifying a child for adoption can be lengthy (several years or more) as the number of children that can be adopted by foreigners is quite limited (only about 20 children a year).  Since foreign parents with Estonian background are given preference over foreigners with no Estonian heritage, prospective adoptive parents should explain their ties to Estonia.

    In addition to these U.S. requirements for prospective adoptive parents, Estonia also has the following eligibility requirements for prospective adoptive parents:

    • Residency Requirements: There are no residency requirements for prospective adoptive parents in Estonia.
    • Age Requirements: A prospective adoptive parent must be at least 25 years old. In exceptional cases, the Court may give permission to a younger person.
    • Marriage Requirements: Both single individuals and legally married couples can adopt. Married couples must have the written consent of the spouse. Per the Estonian Family Law Act, an adoption can occur without the consent of the spouse if the conjugal relations of the spouses have terminated and they live apart.
    • Income Requirements: Estonia does not have any income requirements for intercountry adoptions.
    • Other Requirements: Same-sex couples cannot adopt in Estonia.
  • Who Can Be Adopted

    Because Estonia is party to The Hague Adoption Convention, children from Estonia must meet the requirements of the Convention in order to be eligible for adoption.  For example, the Convention requires that Estonia attempt to place a child with a family in Estonia before determining that a child is eligible for intercountry adoption.  In addition to Estonia’s requirements, a child must meet the definition of a Convention adoptee for you to bring him or her back to the United States. 

    ELIGIBILITY REQUIREMENTS:

    • Relinquishment Requirements: No known relinquishment requirements
    • Abandonment Requirements: According to the Estonian Family Law only those children whose parents are deceased or whose parents have had their parental rights taken away may be adopted.
    • Age Requirements: No known age requirements
    • Sibling Requirements: No known sibling requirements
    • Requirements for Special Needs or Medical Conditions: Unknown
    • Waiting Period: Unknown
  • How To Adopt

    WARNING: Estonia is party to the Hague Adoption Convention. Do not adopt or obtain legal custody of a child in Estonia before a U.S. consular officer issues an "Article 5 Letter." Read on for more information.

    Estonia's Adoption Authority
    Ministry of Social Affairs
    (Sotsiaal Ministeerium)

    The Process

    Because Estonia is party to the Hague Adoption Convention, adopting from Estonia must follow a specific process designed to meet the Convention’s requirements.   A brief summary of the Convention adoption process is given below.  You must complete these steps in the following order so that your adoption meets all necessary legal requirements.

    NOTE:  If you filed your I-600a with Estonia before April 1, 2008, the Hague Adoption Convention may not apply to your adoption.  Your adoption could continue to be processed in accordance with the immigration regulations for non-Convention adoptions. Read about Transition Cases for more information.

    1. Choose an Accredited Adoption Service Provider
    2. Apply to be Found Eligible to Adopt
    3. Be Matched with a Child
    4. Apply for the Child to be Found Eligible for Adoption
    5. Adopt the Child (or Gain Legal Custody) in Estonia
    6. Bring your Child Home
    1. Choose an Accredited Adoption Service Provider:

      The first step in adopting a child from Estonia is to select an adoption service provider in the United States that has been accredited.   Only these agencies and attorneys can provide adoption services between the United States and Estonia.  We provide a list of Accredited Adoption Service Providers on our website.

      Adoption Hope International is currently the only registered U.S. adoption agency working in Estonia.  The address and website for Adoption Hope International is:

      Adoption Hope International, Inc.
      284 Shoreward Drive
      Myrtle Beach, SC 29579

    2. Apply to be Found Eligible to Adopt

      After you choose an accredited adoption service provider, you apply to be found eligible to adopt (Form I-800A) by the U.S. Government, Department of Homeland Security, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).  Read more about Eligibility Requirements.

      Once the U.S. Government determines that you are "eligible" and "suitable" to adopt, you or your agency will forward your information to the adoption authority in Estonia. Estonia's adoption authority will review your application to determine whether you are also eligible to adopt under Estonia's law.

    3. Be Matched with a Child:

      Once prospective adoptive parents have been approved to adopt, the Ministry places them on a list and begins the process of locating a suitable match  Once a match is found, the Ministry notifies the prospective adoptive parents (through the adoption agency).

      According to the Estonian Family Law only those children whose parents are deceased or whose parents have had their parental rights taken away may be adopted.  There are few such children and long waiting lists of Estonian families who by law take precedence.  Consequently, identifying a child for adoption can be lengthy (several years or more) as the number of children that can be adopted by foreigners is quite limited (only about 20 children a year).  Since foreign parents with Estonian background are given preference over foreigners with no Estonian heritage, prospective adoptive parents should explain their ties to Estonia.

      The Ministry of Social Affairs cautions that prospective adoptive parents should not visit orphanages to locate a child since it is unlikely that the child they choose will be permitted to be adopted by foreigners. According to the new adoption law, international adoptions may be processed through an adoption agency in the parents’ home country which has signed an agreement with the Ministry.

    4. Apply for the Child to be Found Eligible for Adoption:

      After you accept a match with a child, you will apply to the Department of Homeland Security, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) for provisional approval to adopt that particular child (Form I-800).  USCIS will determine whether the child is eligible under U.S. law to be adopted and enter the United States.

      After this, your adoption service provider or you will submit a visa application to a consular officer at the U.S. Embassy.  The consular officer will review the child’s information and evaluate the child for possible visa inelegibilities.

      If the consular officer determines that the child appears eligible to immigrate to the United States, he or she will send a letter (an “Article 5 Letter”) to the Estonian Central Authority.  Do not adopt or obtain custody of a child in Estonia before a U.S. consular officer issues the Article 5 Letter.  

      Remember: The Consular Officer will make a final decision about the immigrant visa later in the adoption process.

    5. Adopt the Child (or Gain Legal Custody) in Estonia

      Remember: Before you adopt (or gain legal custody of) a child in Estonia, you must have completed the above four steps.  Only after completing these steps, can you proceed to finalize the adoption or grant of custody for the purpose of adoption in Estonia.

      The process for finalizing the adoption (or gaining legal custody) in Estonia generally includes the following:

      • Role of The Adoption Authority: The Ministry of Social Affairs prepares the entire package of adoption documents for approval first by the Minister of Social Affairs and then for the county or city court to make the adoption decision.

        Once prospective adoptive parents have been approved to adopt, the Ministry places them on a list and begins the process of locating a suitable match  Once a match is found, the Ministry notifies the prospective adoptive parents (through the adoption agency).

      • Role of The Court: Estonian adoption law requires court approval of international adoptions and the adoptive parents' presence at the court hearing when the adoption is finalized. The Domiciliary County Government's Children Protection Officer represents the child's rights and will release the child into the adoptive parents' custody.
      • Role of Adoption Agencies: The adoption agency sends a letter of interest, on behalf of the prospective adoptive parents, to the Ministry of Social Affairs indicating the sex and age of the child(ren) they would be interested in adopting as well as information regarding the prospective adoptive parents' age and profession. Once a child is identified, the adoption agency notifies the prospective adoptive parents. The adoption agency then notifies the Ministry of Social Affairs of the prospective adoptive parents' decision to accept or decline a proposed child. (It should be noted that no more than three successive children will be offered to the prospective adoptive parents.)
      • Time Frame: Once a child has been identified, the adoption process takes approximately one year.  This estimate includes matching the child and prospective parents, documentation, and the court hearing. 
      • Adoption Application: The adoption agency forwards the letter of interest and the adoption application to the Ministry of Social Affairs.
      • Adpotion Fees: While there is no official adoption fee in Estonia, some fees prospective adoptive parents should anticipate include court fees ($10 USD) and new Estonian passports ($25 USD).

        In the adoption services contract that you sign at the beginning of the adoption process, your agency will itemize the fees and estimated expenses related to your adoption process. 
      • Documents Required: The following is a list of documents needed for adoptions in Estonia:
        • Home study
        • Medical examination indicating the prospective adoptive parents' state of health;
        • o Documents pertaining to the financial condition of the prospective adoptive parents;
        • Copy of marriage certificate;
        • Copies of the prospective adoptive parents' passports;
        • o Any other information the parents feel would be useful for the MSW to know, including family heritage, ties to Estonia, letters of reference, etc.; and
        • Documents determining that there is no open criminal record of the prospective adoption parents.

        NOTE: Additional documents may be requested. You may be asked to provide proof that a document from the United States is authentic. Read more on Traveling Abroad to learn about Authenticating U.S. Documents.

    6. Bring Your Child Home

      Now that your adoption is complete (or you have obtained legal custody of the child), there are a few more steps to take before you can head home. Specifically, you need to apply for several documents for your child before he or she can travel to the United States:

      • Birth Certificate
        You will first need to apply for a new birth certificate for your child, so that you can later apply for a passport.  Your name will be added to the new birth certificate. 

        After the adoption is approved, the adoptive parents have the right to change the child’s name and apply for a new birth certificate.

      • Estonian Passport
        Your child is not yet a U.S. citizen, so he/she will need a travel document or Passport from Estonia.
      • U.S. Immigrant Visa

        After you obtain the new birth certificate and passport for your child, you also need to apply for an U.S. visa from the United States Embassy in Tallinn for your child.  After the adoption (or custody for purpose of adoption) is granted, visit the U.S Embassy for final review and approval of the child’s I-800 petition and to obtain a visa for the child.  This immigrant visa allows your child to travel home with you.  As part of this process, the consular officer must be provided the “Panel Physician’s” medical report on the child.  Read more about the Medical Examination. Specific questions may be addressed to the U.S. Embassy in Tallinn, Estonia.

        Visa issuance after the final interview now generally takes at least 24 hours and it will not normally be possible to provide the visa to adoptive parents on the day of the interview.  Adoptive parents should verify current processing times at the appropriate consulate or embassy before making final travel arrangements.

    Child Citizenship Act

    For adoptions finalized abroad:  The Child Citizenship Act of 2000 allows your child to acquire American citizenship when he or she enters the United States as lawful permanent residents. 

    For adoptions to be finalized in the United States: The Child Citizenship Act of 2000 allows your child to typically acquire American citizenship when the U.S. state court issues the final adoption decree.  We urge your family to finalize the adoption in a U.S. State court as quickly as possible.

    *Please be aware that if your child did not qualify to become a citizen upon entry to the United States, it is very important that you take the steps necessary so that your child does qualify as soon as possible.  Failure to obtain citizenship for your child can impact many areas of his or her life including family travel, eligibility for education and education grants, and voting. 

    Read more about the Child Citizenship Act of 2000

  • Traveling Abroad

    Applying for Your U.S. Passport

    A valid U.S. passport is required to enter and leave Estonia. Only the U.S. Department of State has the authority to grant, issue, or verify U.S. passports.

    Getting or renewing a passport is easy. The Passport Application Wizard will help you determine which Passport form you need, help you to complete the form online, estimate your payment, and generate the form for you to print—all in one place.

    Obtaining Your Visa

    In addition to a U.S. passport, you also need to obtain a visa. A visa is an official document issued by a foreign country that formally allows you to visit. Where required, visas are attached to your passport and allow you to enter a foreign nation.

    To find information about obtaining a visa for Estonia, see the Department of State's Country Specific Information.

    Staying Safe on Your Trip

    Before you travel, it's always a good practice to investigate the local conditions, laws, political landscape, and culture of the country.  The State Department is a good place to start.

    The Department of State provides Country Specific Information for every country of the world about various issues, including the health conditions, crime, unusual currency or entry requirements, and any areas of instability. 

    Staying in Touch on Your Trip

    When traveling during the adoption process, we encourage you to register your trip with the Department of State. Travel registration makes it possible to contact you if necessary. Whether there’s a family emergency in the United States, or a crisis in Estonia, registration assists the U.S. Embassy or Consulate in reaching you.

    Registration is free and can be done online.

  • After Adoption

    What does Estonia require of the adoptive parents after the adoption?

    Estonia does not have any post-adoption requirements.

    What resources are available to assist families after the adoption?

    Many adoptive parents find it important to find support after the adoption. Take advantage of all the resources available to your family -- whether it's another adoptive family, a support group, an advocacy organization, or your religious or community services.

    Here are some good places to start your support group search:

    Note: Inclusion of non-U.S. Government links does not imply endorsement of contents.

  • Contact Information

    U.S. Embassy in Estonia
    Kentmanni 20
    Tallinn, Estonia
    Tel: 011-372-668-8100
    Fax: 011-372-668-8267
    Email: ACSTallinn@state.gov

    Estonia's Adoption Authority
    ESTONIAN NATIONAL SOCIAL INSURANCE BOARD
    Endla 8
    10592 Tallinn
    Estonia
    Email:  info@sotsiaalkindlustusamet.ee
    Emaill: Ly.Ruus@sotsiaalkindlustusamet.ee /* 

    Embassy of Estonia
    2131 Massachusetts Ave, N.W.
    Washington D.C. 20008
    Tel: (202) 588-0101
    Fax: (202) 588-0108

    Consulate General of Estonia
    600 Third Avenue, 26th Floor
    New York, N.Y. 10016-2001
    Tel: (212) 883-0636
    Fax:(212) 883-0648
    Email: nyconsulate@nyc.estemb.org
    Internet: http://www.nyc.estemb.org

    Office of Children's Issues
    U.S. Department of State  
    CA/OCS/CI  
    SA-17, 9th Floor
    Washington, DC 20522-1709
    Tel: 1-888-407-4747
    E-mail: AskCI@state.gov
    http://adoption.state.gov

    U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS)
    For questions about intercountry adoption and related immigration procedures, call the USCIS National Benefits Center (NBC) 1-877-3424-8374.