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International Adoption

The adoption of a child that is habitually resident in another country.

In most cases, adopting a child from another country takes a great deal of time and commitment from the prospective adopters. Legally, it is very complex. Before taking the decision to adopt a child from another country, it is advisable to carry out careful research and to take some legal advice to get you on the right track.

It is not advisable to identify the child that you wish to adopt before proceeding with the adoption process. If you are in this position, you should seek immediate legal advice.

First steps

This is a very broad summary of the first important steps you will need to take. They can vary depending on the circumstances:

  1. If you decide to go ahead with the adoption process, you and your partner will have to be assessed by an adoption agency. There is no restriction on same sex couples or single people adopting children in Britain, but some other countries take a different view. If you are in a same sex couple, or you are planning to adopt as a single person, you should check the rules in the country from which you would like to adopt.
  2. You and your partner will be assessed by an adoption agency in this country. This is an in-depth assessment that looks at all aspects of your personal and professional life. The purpose of it is to establish whether you have the ability and resources to meet the needs of a child. It also helps to match you with the right child.
  3. Once completed, the assessment will make a recommendation as to whether you should be accepted as an adopter. It will be considered by an adoption panel and then by an agency decision maker who will make the final decision as to whether you are approved. In most cases, the assessment report will be sent to adoption agencies in the country from where you hope to adopt to match you with a child.

When is an international adoption recognised in the UK?

An overseas adoption is recognised in the UK if the child’s country of origin is a signatory to the Hague Convention. The legal process for adoption will take place in the child’s country of origin and not in Britain. The adopted child will be granted British citizenship so long as you (or your partner) are a British citizen and both of you are habitually resident in the British Isles.

An overseas adoptions from a country listed in the Adoption (Designation of Overseas Adoption) Order 1973 will also be recognised in British law. However, the child will not automatically be entitled to British citizenship.

Adoption from countries that are not signatures to the Hague Convention or on the designated list will not be recognised in the UK. In those cases, the prospective adopters would have to apply for an adoption order in the British courts after going through the legal process in the child’s country of origin. If the adoption order is made in Britain, the child will automatically be entitled to British citizenship, as long as one of the adoptive parents is a British citizen.