Serbia

Last Updated: May 2014

Hague Adoption Convention Country?

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Hague Convention Information

Serbia is party to the Hague Convention on Protection of Children and Co-operation in Respect of Intercountry Adoption (Hague Adoption Convention or Convention). Intercountry adoption processing in Convention countries is done in accordance with the requirements of the Convention; the U.S. implementing legislation, the Intercountry Adoption Act of 2000 (IAA); and the IAA’s implementing regulations, as well as the implementing legislation and regulations of Serbia.

Serbia places a priority on domestic adoption. Generally, only children with special needs are available for intercountry adoption.

U.S. IMMIGRATION REQUIREMENTS FOR INTERCOUNTRY ADOPTIONS


To bring an adopted child to the United States from Serbia you must meet eligibility and suitability requirements. The U.S. Department of Homeland Security, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) determines who can adopt under U.S. immigration law.

Additionally, a child must meet the definition of Convention adoptee under U.S. law in order to immigrate to the United States on an IH-3 immigrant visa following a final adoption.

Who Can Adopt

In addition to the U.S. requirements, Serbia obliges prospective adoptive parents to meet the following requirements in order to adopt a child from Serbia

  • Residency: There are no residency requirements for adoption.
  • Age of Adopting Parents:  Prospective adoptive parents must be at least 18 years older and no more than 45 years older than the child.
  • Marriage:  If there are two prospective adoptive parents, they must be married. A common-law marriage can qualify. Single prospective adoptive parents are also eligible to adopt a child in Serbia with special approval from the Central Authority. Although Serbian family law does not explicitly prohibit LGBT individuals from adopting, the Central Authority has in the past not placed children with an LGBT prospective adoptive parent or couple.
  • Income: Serbian Family Law does not specify income requirements. The adoption authority relies on the U.S. home study when determining the eligibility of prospective adoptive parents.
  • Other:  Prospective adoptive parents who have been diagnosed with a mental disorder or infectious disease are disqualified from adopting. Prospective adoptive parents with other serious health conditions must demonstrate to the Central Authority their ability to raise the child. Persons who have been convicted of serious crimes are ineligible to adopt.

Who Can Be Adopted

Because Serbia is party to the Hague Adoption Convention, children from Serbia must meet the requirements of the Convention in order to be eligible for adoption. For example, the adoption may take place only if the competent authorities of Serbia have determined that placement of the child within Serbia has been given due consideration and that an intercountry adoption is in the child’s best interests. In addition to Serbia’s requirements, a child must meet the definition of Convention adoptee to be eligible for an immigrant visa that will allow you to bring him or her to the United States.

ELIGIBILITY REQUIREMENTS:


  • Relinquishment:  The Serbian Family Act allows for the relinquishment of children by giving consent for adoption, although it does not specifically use the term “relinquishment.”  In domestic adoptions under the Family Law, parents may give consent with or without designating the adopting parents – but this provision does not apply to intercountry adoptions. Children available for intercountry adoption are already wards of the state under the legal guardianship of a social worker from the Centers for Social Work. It is the legal guardian social worker who provides any consent required for intercountry adoption. Parents or legal guardians may not consent to the adoption of a child younger than two months of age, and may rescind their consent within 30 days.
  • Abandonment:  Parental consent is not required for children who are abandoned; who do not have living parents; whose parents are unknown or whose whereabouts are unknown; or children whose parents have had their parental rights terminated. A legal guardian must still consent to the adoption in cases of abandonment. The legal guardian in intercountry adoption cases is always a social worker from the Center for Social Work.
  • Age of Adoptive Child: Children between ages of two (2) months and 18 years of age are eligible for adoption.
  • Sibling Adoptions: Serbian Family Law does not specifically address sibling adoptions. However, adoption authorities may try to place siblings together if they determine that it is in the best interests of the siblings.
  • Special Needs or Medical Conditions:  These subjects are not specifically addressed in the Serbian Family Law, but in practice, because Serbia gives preference to domestic adoption (i.e., adoption by Serbian citizens), only children with special needs have become available for intercountry adoption. Serbian citizens who are resident in the United States can adopt under the procedures for domestic adoptions.
  • Waiting Period or Foster Care:  A foreign citizen may adopt a child in Serbia only after the child has been registered for adoption for at least one year and no domestic adopters (i.e., Serbian citizens) have been found.

How To Adopt

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

Serbia’s Adoption Authority
Ministry of Labor, Employment, Veteran, and Social Issues

Note: If any of the following occurred prior to April 1, 2014 (the date on which the Hague Adoption Convention entered into force with respect to Serbia), the Hague Adoption Convention may not apply to your adoption: 1) you filed a Form I-600A identifying Serbia as the country where you intended to adopt; 2) you filed a Form I-600; or; 3) the adoption was completed. Under these circumstances, your adopted child’s visa application could continue to be processed in accordance with the immigration regulations for non-Convention adoptions. For more information, read about Transition Cases. Please contact adoptionusca@state.gov with the details of the case if this situation applies to you.

The Process


Because Serbia is party to The Hague Adoption Convention, those adopting from Serbia 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. Adoptions completed out of order may result in the child not being eligible for an immigrant visa to the United States.

1. Choose a U.S. accredited or approved adoption service provider
2. Apply to USCIS to be found eligible to adopt
3. Be matched with a child by authorities in Serbia
4. Apply to USCIS for the child to be found eligible for immigration to the United States and
receive U.S. agreement to proceed with the adoption
5. Adopt a child in Serbia
6. Obtain a U.S. immigrant visa for your child and bring your child home

1. Choose a U.S. Accredited or Approved Adoption Service Provider

The recommended first step in adopting a child from Serbia is to select an adoption service provider in the United States that has been accredited or approved to provide services to U.S. citizens in Convention cases. Only accredited or approved adoption services providers may provide adoption services between the United States and Serbia. The U.S. accredited or approved adoption service provider will act as the primary provider in your case. The primary adoption service provider is responsible for ensuring that all adoption services in the case are done in accordance with The Hague Adoption Convention and U.S. laws and regulations. Learn more about Agency Accreditation.

2. Apply to USCIS to be Found Eligible to Adopt

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

Once USCIS determines that you are “eligible” and “suited” to adopt by approving the Form I-800A, your adoption service provider will provide your approval notice, home study, and any other required information to the adoption authority in Serbia as part of your adoption dossier. Serbia’s adoption authority will review your application to determine whether you are also eligible to adopt under Serbia’s law.

3. Be Matched with a Child by in Serbia

If both the United States and Serbia determine that you are eligible to adopt, and the Ministry of Labor, Employment and Social Policy has determined that a child is available for adoption and that intercountry adoption is in that child’s best interests, the Ministry of Labor, Employment and Social Policy in Serbia may provide you with a referral for a child. The referral is a proposed match between you and a specific child based on a review of your dossier and the needs of a specific child in Serbia. The Ministry of Labor, Employment and Social Policy in Serbia will provide a background study and other information, if available, about the child to help you decide whether to accept the referral or not. Each family must decide for itself whether or not it will be able to meet the needs and provide a permanent home for a particular child. If you accept the referral, the adoption service provider communicates that to the Ministry of Labor, Employment and Social Policy in Serbia. Learn more about this critical decision.

4. Apply to USCIS for the Child to be Found Eligible for Immigration to the United States and Receive U.S. Agreement to Proceed with the Adoption

After you accept a match with a child, you will apply to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) for provisional approval for the child to immigrate to the United States (Form I-800). USCIS will make a provisional determination as to whether the child meets the definition of a convention adoptee and will be eligible to enter the United States and reside permanently as an immigrant.

After provisional approval of Form I-800, your adoption service provider or you will submit a visa application to the Consular Section of the U.S. Embassy in Belgrade that is responsible for issuing immigrant visas to children from Serbia. A consular officer will review the Form I-800 and the visa application for possible visa ineligibilities and advise you of options for the waiver of any noted ineligibilities.

WARNING: The consular officer will send a letter (referred to as an “Article 5 Letter”) to Serbia’s Central Authority in any intercountry adoption involving U.S. citizen parents and a child from Serbia where all Convention requirements are met and the consular officer determines that the child appears eligible to immigrate to the United States. This letter will inform Serbia’s Central Authority that the parents are eligible and suited to adopt, that all indications are that the child may enter and reside permanently in the United States, and that the U.S. Central Authority agrees that the adoption may proceed.

Do not attempt to adopt or obtain custody of a child in Serbia before a U.S. consular officer issues the “Article 5/17 Letter” in any adoption case.

Remember:  The consular officer will make a final decision about a child’s eligibility for an immigrant visa later in the adoption process.

5. Adopt a Child in Serbia

Remember: Before you adopt a child in Serbia, you must have completed the above four steps. Only after completing these steps, can you proceed to finalize the adoption.

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

  • Role of Adoption Authority: The Ministry for Labor, Employment and Social Policy (Ministry) and the Centers for Social Work in each of Serbia’s municipalities share responsibilities for the adoption process in Serbia. The Ministry is the main point of contact in intercountry adoptions. The Ministry determines the eligibility of prospective adoptive parents, registers the prospective adoptive parents who are determined to be eligible, and matches the registered prospective adoptive parents with the child. The municipal Centers for Social Work conduct the adoption ceremony and issue the adoption decree. The social workers from these Centers are also the legal guardians of the children eligible for adoption and must consent to the adoption. The Centers for Social Work also arranges for issuance of a new birth certificate and passport for the child after the adoption is finalized.
  • Role of the Court:  The adoption process in Serbia is an administrative process overseen by the Ministry and courts do not have jurisdiction over the process.
  • Role of Adoption Agencies: There is currently only one U.S. adoption agency authorized to provide adoption services in Serbia. U.S. accredited agencies need to work directly with the central adoption authority.
  • Time Frame:  The length of the adoption process varies greatly. Once consular officers issue the “Article 5” letter and prospective adoptive parents travel to Serbia, the process is generally finished within three weeks.
  • Adoption Application:  There is no specific application form. See the “Documents Required” section below.
  • Adoption Fees: The adoption authorities in Serbia do not charge any fees during the process. The only fee is for the issuance of the child’s passport, currently about $25.00 in local currency.

    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:  
    • Written request with justification signed by at least one of the prospective adoptive parents (a short explanation or cover letter explaining the reasons and circumstances of the adoption).
    • Short biography of prospective adopting parents;
    • Home Study;
    • Prospective adoptive parents' birth certificates;
    • Marriage Certificate, if applicable;
    • Criminal Records/Police Certificates;
    • Medical report on adoptive parents’ general health condition;
    • Evidence of employment, income, assets and property;
    • Evidence that prospective adoptive parents meet the U.S. adoption requirements;
    • Evidence of U.S. citizenship (passport);
    • Photographs of adoptive parents (two 3.5 by 4.5 cm passport photos of each parent).

    Note: Additional documents may be requested. All documents must be translated into Serbian by a court certified translator.

  • Authentication of Documents:  The United States and Serbia are parties to the Hague Apostille Convention. U.S. public documents may be authenticated with Apostille by the appropriate U.S. Competent Authority.

6. Obtain an Immigrant Visa for your Child and Bring Your Child Home

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

Birth Certificate
If you have finalized the adoption in Serbia to the adoption authority will arrange for issuance of a birth certificate for your child so that you can later apply for a passport.

How to obtain a new birth certificate for the child in Serbia

The Serbian adoption authorities arrange the issuance of a new birth certificate for adopted children. Following the adoption, local authorities will also replace the names of the biological parents in the registry books with the names of the adopting parents. Please note that the child's first name cannot be changed in Serbia. Should the U.S. adoptive parents wish to change the child's first name, they must do so through a separate U.S. court process after returning to the United States. The Center for Social Work will issue an Adoption Decree (Resenje o usvojenju), and arrange for issuance of the birth certificate and Serbian passport.

Serbia Passport
Your child is not yet a U.S. citizen, so he/she will need a travel document or passport from Serbia.

How to obtain a Passport for the child in Serbia

The Serbian Center for Social Work or Ministry will arrange the issuance of a new Serbian passport for the adopted child. The passport fee is currently equivalent to approximately $25 in local currency. The Ministry of Internal Affairs issues the passport and generally expedites passport applications for adopted children. In most cases it takes two business days for passport issuance.

U.S. Immigrant Visa

After you obtain the new birth certificate and passport for your child, you also need to finalize your application for a U.S. visa for your child from the U.S. Embassy in Belgrade.  After the adoption is granted, visit the U.S Embassy for final review of the case, issuance of a U.S. Hague Adoption Certificate, final approval of Form I-800, and to obtain your child’s immigrant visa. 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 if it was not provided during the provisional approval stage. Read more about the Medical Examination.

Child Citizenship Act

For adoptions finalized abroad prior to the child’s entry into the United States: A child will acquire U.S. citizenship upon entry into the United States if the adoption was finalized prior to entry and the child otherwise meets the requirements of the Child Citizenship Act of 2000.

*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/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
U.S. citizens are required by law to enter and depart the United States on a valid U.S. passport. 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 a Visa to Travel to Serbia
U.S. citizens do not need visas to stay in Serbia for up to 90 days within a 180-day period.  If you want to stay in Serbia longer than 90 days during any 180-day period, you will need to apply for a temporary residence permit at the local police station with authority over the place where you are staying in Serbia.  You cannot apply for a residence permit while outside of Serbia. 

If you are staying in a private home, you must register with the local police station with authority over the area where you are staying within 24 hours of arriving in Serbia. If you do not register, you might have to pay a fine, go to jail, or be deported.  If you do not register you may also have difficulty with the airport police when you try to leave the country. If you are staying in a hotel or other public place, it is customary that management will register you with the police. You can learn more about registering with local authorities on the Government of Serbia website. To find information about obtaining a visa for Serbia see the Department of State’s Country Specific Information.

Staying Safe on Your Trip
Before you travel, it is always a good practice to investigate the local conditions, laws, political landscape, and culture of the country. 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 enroll with the Department of State. Enrollment makes it possible to contact you if necessary. Whether there is a family emergency in the United States or a crisis in Serbia, enrollment assists the U.S. Embassy or Consulate in reaching you.

Enrollment is free and can be done online via the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP).

After Adoption

Post-Adoption/Post-Placement Reporting Requirements

Serbia requires post-adoption reporting but does not specify the frequency or format of the reporting. The Ministry of Labor, Employment and Social Policy has indicated that they are particularly interested in reports on the child’s medical, educational, and developmental situation and that they prefer to receive reports two times per year.

We strongly urge you to comply with Serbia’s post-adoption requirements in a timely manner. Your adoption agency may be able to help you with this process. Your cooperation will contribute to that country’s history of positive experiences with U.S. citizen parents.

Post-Adoption Resources

Many adoptive parents find it important to find support after the adoption. There are many public and private nonprofit post-adoption services available for children and their families. There are also numerous adoptive family support groups and adoptee organizations active in the United States that provide a network of options for adoptees who seek out other adoptees from the same country of origin. Take advantage of all the resources available to your family, whether it is another adoptive family, a support group, an advocacy organization, or your religious or community services.

Here are some 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 Serbia
92 Bulevar kneza Aleksandra Karadjordjevica
11040 Belgrade
Serbia

Tel: +381 11 706 4000
Fax: +381 11 706 4481
Email: Belgradeadoptions@state.gov
Internet: serbia.usembassy.gov/

Serbia’s Adoption Authority
Ministry of Labor, Employment, Veteran, and Social Issues
Nemanjina 22-26
11000 Belgrade
Serbia

Tel: +381 11 3631448 
Email:  socijalna_zastita@minrzs.gov.rs
Internet: minrzs.gov.rs/cms/en/home

Embassy of the Republic of Serbia
2134 Kalorama Rd.,
NW Washington, DC 20008

Tel: (202) 332-0333
Fax: (202) 332-3933
Email: info@serbiaembusa.org
Internet: serbiaembusa.org/

Serbia also has consulates in New York and Chicago

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
Email: AdoptionUSCA@state.gov
Internet: adoption.state.gov

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS)
For questions about immigration procedures:
National Customer Service Center (NCSC)
Tel: 1-800-375-5283 (TTY 1-800-767-1833)
Internet: uscis.gov

For questions about filing a Form I-800A or I-800 petition:
National Benefits Center
Tel: 1-877-424-8374 (toll free); 1-816-251-2770 (local)
Email: NBC.Adoptions@DHS.gov