The UK authorities allow citizens and residents to adopt children from abroad and bring them to live in the UK. However, there are restrictions on adopting abroad to prevent abuse of the system. Adoption abroad is permitted by the UK Government in cases where the adoption is in the child’s best interests and the adoptive parent or parents have been assessed as suitable by an adoption agency.
The Adoption Procedure
Anyone thinking of adopting a child from abroad should start by contacting their local authority adoption agency or one which is registered with the Office for Standards in Education, Children’s Services and Skills for overseas adoption. Adopting a child from abroad is often referred to in official literature as intercountry adoption.
The UK-based agency will assess the prospective adoptive parents for their suitability. This is an intensive process involving police and medical checks as well as lengthy interviews. If the application to adopt is approved by the adoption agency it will be passed to the Department for Children, Schools and Families.
The Department will check that the application complies with UK law. If satisfied that it does, it will issue a certificate of eligibility to the relevant agency in the country where the adoption is to take place. Once a suitable child has been found the overseas adoption agency will send information about the child back to the Department for Children, Schools and Families.
Depending on the country where the adoption took place the new parents will either obtain an adoption order in that country or will have to apply for one once the child is in the UK.
Immigration Rules for Bringing Adopted Children to the UK
The child will need a visa or entry clearance before being allowed to enter the UK. If the adoption is from a Hague Convention or designated country (see below) the child will generally be given permission to stay in the UK permanently. Otherwise the child will usually be allowed to stay for 12 months so that formal UK adoption procedures can be completed. Visa applications for adoptive children should be made in their original country of residence.
In order to be able to bring a child adopted abroad to live permanently in the UK the adoptive parents must be able to show that:
- They live in the UK and that there is no legal restriction on their stay;
- They can support the child financially;
- When the child was adopted both adoptive parents lived together abroad or that at least one of them lived permanently in the UK;
- The child was adopted because his birth parents could not look after him and the adoption represents a genuine assumption of parental responsibility for the child;
- The child has no ongoing connection with his original family.
The Three Types of Overseas Adoptions
- Hague Convention Adoptions – adoption from a country which has implemented the Hague Convention on Protection of Children and Co-operation in Respect of intercountry Adoption. The adoption will automatically be recognised by the UK authorities and the child will have an immediate right to British citizenship.
- Designated list adoptions – where adoption is from a country which is listed as a designated country in the Adoption (Designation of Overseas Adoptions) Order 1973, the adoption will be recognised but an application will have to be made for the child to obtain citizenship and this will not be granted automatically.
- Other adoptions – if the adoption is from any other country the new parents will have to apply in the UK for an adoption order. If a UK court grants such an order the child will acquire citizenship as a result.
The government may place a temporary restriction on adoptions from a particular country if it considers appropriate to do so – for example to prevent child trafficking.