Minnesota family’s international adoption crisis highlights laws

A Minnesota family failed to secure proof of citizenship for their adopted children and is now facing issues.

Adopting a child is an exciting time, but it is also a period during which Minnesota families must make sure everything is in order. Making even the slightest mistake could delay an adoption or, worse, prevent it from ever taking place. A recent incident involving a Minnesota family illustrates the problems that can occur when details are overlooked.


About 15 years ago, a Lino Lakes couple adopted two children from Russia. According to an article in Fox 9, new parents correctly believed that because they were American, the children would automatically be considered American. For years, they were able to live as a typical family in the country.

However, what the couple did not realize was that they needed to obtain a certificate of citizenship for the international adoption. Nearly a year ago, that mistake caught up with the family when the 16-year-old daughter applied for a learner's permit to drive. She presented a Russian birth certificate and a U.S. Social Security card. However, she needed proof of citizenship, which she did not have.

The family immediately applied for a certificate of citizenship for the 16-year-old daughter and the 18-year-old son, who is currently unable to vote. It has been nearly 10 months, and they still do not have approval. According to the Minnesota Office of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, nine to 10 months is the average length of time something like this can take, but it is admittedly too long.

International adoption tips

The U.S. Bureau of Consular Affairs points out that, thanks to the Child Citizenship Act of 2000, international adoptions are a little simpler because children will be automatically granted citizenship when each of the following conditions is met:

  • The adoption has been finalized.
  • An American citizen parent has legal and physical custody of the child.
  • The U.S. has admitted the child into the country as an immigrant with lawful permanent residence.

Therefore, parents typically will not have to separately apply for the child to be naturalized. However, the child's citizenship must be documented and the parents must have proof of it in order to avoid issues like the Minnesota family is experiencing now. In addition to having trouble getting a driver's license or voting, the child may be subject to deportation.

According to United States Citizen and Immigration Services, parents who do not receive a certificate of citizenship within 50 days of the child getting admitted to the country should contact the agency. It is also important to ensure that the child's name and date of birth matches the information on the certificate and to immediately replace any certificate that has been lost or damaged.

Anyone who has concerns about this topic should speak with a family law attorney in Minnesota.