Traveling to Russia As a Russian Adoptee Can Be Challenging

Information Provided by Elena Hall, Gladney Russian Adoptee,

International Adoption

The adoptee can either travel as a Russian citizen on a current Russian passport (a birthright that all Russian-born adoptees have) or as a USA citizen on a USA VISA (once the adoptee has formally renounced Russian citizenship). Children adopted from Russia remain Russian citizens until they are 18 years of age, at which point they can choose to renounce citizenship. If no steps are taken to renounce citizenship, Russian citizenship is retained by default.

You cannot travel to Russia on a USA visa- because you are a Russian citizen. 

If your adopted child is currently under the age of 18-years-old, they can formally renounce citizenship or they can update and renew their Russian passport at the consulate.  If they formally renounce citizenship, then they can travel to Russia on a USA visa.

Renouncing citizenship is not an automatic process once the child becomes a USA citizen.  An individual can choose to renounce citizenship or not.  If the adoptee does NOT formally renounce citizenship before the age of 18, then they are assuming dual citizenship unless they renounce it later. If the Russian adoptee wants to renounce citizenship after 18-years-old (or after their original RU passport expired), it takes more steps.

ACCEPT CITIZENSHIP: (if original RU docs are expired) First, the adoptee must first prove they were born in Russia and have the Russian consulate see if they are still a citizen or not. This involves providing copies of documents, a current photo size 3.5 x 4.5 cm on a bright monophonic background, $117 money order paid only to ‘Consulate General of Russia’ and your original expired RU passport. Then, after the consulate general of Russia confirm you are a citizen of Russia and invited you back, you can either accept citizenship and apply for a new Russian passport and then renounce RU citizenship.  The passport requires a separate passport application.  

RENOUNCING: renouncing can take at least 6 months. To renounce Russian citizenship, one must have a valid (not expired) Russian passport. So, you still have to ‘accept’ it first. Renewing a Russian passport usually takes an additional 3 months. If someone in this dual-citizen situation is planning to study abroad in Russia at any point, or simply travel to Russia, this issue should be addressed to the Consulate as soon as possible.

DEPLOYMENT:  It is unlikely that your male adopted child will be drafted.  In Russia, one can only be drafted if they have both an international and domestic RU ID.  So, unless your adoptee is also a Russian resident, it is unlikely.  

RISKS: The USA does not acknowledge dual citizenship and neither does Russia, so if you are standing in the USA, you’re an American citizen. If you are in Russia, you are only a Russian citizen.  If you are in another country, let’s say Italy for example, you are a dual citizen.  If you obey the rules, respect the country, and stay out of trouble, you will have a wonderful trip to your birth country!  Get a translator, a trusted tour guide, and enjoy the beautiful country.  

CONSULATES: You must go to the Consulate that correlates to your location.

[Washington DC, Seattle, Houston, and New York.] Check here to see what consulate is for your territory.

PASSPORTS: Parents have to complete an online application for a 5-year passport or a 10-year passport and arrange an appointment with the Consulate General employee by email: for their child if they are a minor.

A trip back to Russia can be both a wonderful and emotional experience for Russian adoptees.  It is important to consider what is best for you as a Russian adoptee.  Don’t forget to take a lot of pictures, and do not plan a trip less than 15 months in advance because the whole process of reclaiming citizenship and getting my new passport can take over a year.

*All links have translations, open in CHROME and it should provide you with a translation option.

*If you call the consulate, make sure to look up when the English speaker works, also make sure you are not calling on a Russian holiday or else it will be closed.  If someone answers, just speak English and if no one is helpful you can ask for “angl-E-ski” for “English”.  Most of the time, the English speakers do not work every day.