Adopting a child from overseas
You can adopt a child from overseas if:
- they cannot be cared for in a safe environment in their own country
- the adoption would be in their best interests
- the adopter has been assessed as eligible and suitable to adopt from overseas by an adoption agency in the UK
If you want to adopt a child from overseas, you should contact a UK adoption agency through:
- your local council in England and Wales
- your local health and social care trust in Northern Ireland
- a voluntary adoption agency that deals with overseas adoption
There is a different process for overseas adoption in Scotland.
The adoption process is similar to a UK adoption and will be done by a UK adoption agency that may charge a fee.
If you’re assessed and approved as suitable to adopt a child by a UK adoption agency, they will let you know what you need to do and guide you through these steps.
Your application will be sent to the Department for Education (DfE) or your relevant UK Central Authority to check it meets eligibility criteria.
DfE or your relevant UK Central Authority will issue a Certificate of Eligibility to Adopt and send it with your adoption application to the relevant overseas authority – some countries require adoption applications and supporting documentation is notarised, legalised and translated.
Once matched, you need to visit the child in their own country and confirm in writing that you’ve visited them and want to proceed with the adoption.
You may need to go through adoption court processes in the country you’re adopting from and the UK.
Once the placement has been finalised, you will need to arrange entry clearance for the child to enter the UK.
The DfE charges a non-refundable fee of £1,975 for processing an application to adopt a child from overseas. The fee is exempt from VAT.
The fee will be £2,500 for applications processed on or after 1 April 2023.
You’ll be contacted by DfE about how to pay the fee once your application has been accepted.
The fee includes case management but does not include legalisation, notarisation or translation costs.
Contact the relevant authority to find out about fees and procedures in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.
The UK has restricted adoption from the following countries:
You can read about the reasons for the restrictions for each country.
How to make an exception request
If you want to adopt a child from a restricted country, you will need to set out the reasons in writing why your case is exceptional (for example, adopting a family member) and provide supporting evidence. Find out how to make an exception request to adopt a child from a country on the restricted list.
You’ll need to follow a different process for dealing with restricted countries in Scotland. Contact the Scottish Government for enquiries about restrictions in Scotland.
Scottish Government intercountry adoption team
If you live abroad
You must follow the adoption laws of the country you’re in if you’re normally resident in that country and want to adopt.
You must follow UK adoption law if you’re normally resident in the UK, the Isle of Man or the Channel Islands. This is sometimes called ‘habitual residence’ and can apply even if you’re living abroad at the time of the adoption. If you’re unsure of your residence status, you should get your own independent legal advice before proceeding with an adoption.
You may have to give a sworn statement in front of a solicitor that you’re no longer habitually resident in the UK, the Isle of Man or the Channel Islands if the country asks for a ‘no objection’ letter from the UK government. You must send this statement, along with a copy of your passport, either to the Intercountry Adoption Team at the DfE or the nearest British embassy.
If you’ve adopted a child – either in the UK or overseas - and then travel or move to a third country, the adoption may not be recognised in that country. If you have any doubts you should get independent legal advice.
Registering an adoption
You can apply to register an overseas adoption in the Adopted Child Register for England and Wales if:
- the adoption took place in certain overseas countries
- the parent or parents were habitually resident in England and Wales at the time of the adoption
- the parent or parents can provide all the supporting documents
You should read the guidance notes before filling in the form to register with the General Register Office (GRO).