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You must first be sure that you would be eligible to adopt in the UK which means that you must be:
Over 21 years of age
Habitually resident in the UK
Not been found guilty of or cautioned for a prescribed offence. These are generally offences against or involving children.
Other countries have their own eligibility criteria and IAC’s and Advice Line will be able to provide information about these. They are often more extensive than the UK eligibility criteria. Some countries have upper age limits, they might accept single applicants or only married couples, they might be specific on what health grounds an application might be excluded and they might prioritise applications according to the prospective adopter’s proven links to the country.
You can adopt from overseas if you are not a British Citizen but you must have indefinite leave to remain in the UK, or permanent residence. If you do not have you should seek legal advice on whether you are eligible to sponsor a child to enter the UK in intercountry adoption.
If you are habitually resident in the UK then you must comply with UK Adoption Regulations and undergo an assessment of your suitability to adopt. If you are unsure whether or not you are habitually resident you should take legal advice.
If you are resident in the UK, there are steps you must take here before you adopt a child in an overseas country. Intercountry adoption is governed by UK legislation and regulations in order to safeguard children, birth families and prospective adopters. If you circumvent the intercountry adoption procedures you may commit an offence. The process is set out briefly in Getting Started and also in our publication, “A Guide to Intercountry Adoption” and, should you wish to discuss this in person, you may contact the Advice Line. In addition, Information Sessions, provide a detailed introduction to the process and to some of the issues which arise for families adopting from overseas.
The approval process takes up to 6 months from the time IAC accepts your Registration of Interest to your being approved as suitable adopters.
How long you would wait for a match with a child will vary from country to country and on a case by case basis and for adoption from some countries you could wait for several years.
If you need to adopt in the UK after having completed the procedures in the overseas country, the child must have lived with you for 10 weeks (for adoptions from countries which are Convention countries), 6 months for adoption from non-Convention countries (or 12 months if the proper procedures have not been followed) before you can apply to the Court in the UK. An adoption order might not be made for a further 6-9 months.
Adopting a child from overseas is a long and complex process and it is important to understand that before you start on the journey.
The UK’s population is diverse and adopters may therefore have close links with a country. However, not all countries place children overseas for adoption and it is not currently possible to adopt from some countries due to the UK placing restrictions on those countries. The Advice Line can offer information as to which countries might be a possibility for you. Whichever country you choose it is important to only make arrangements through an accredited agency or body in that country.
The profile of children varies from country to country depending upon the social context. Their ages vary from under one year old to much older. They can be male or female, healthy or have special health or other additional needs. It is important to understand however that even children who are deemed healthy at placement may have health, developmental, or emotional needs as a consequence of their early life experiences and for this reason IAC would view all children adopted from overseas as being children with special needs. You will learn more about the children’s needs both short and long term during preparation and assessment.
We would strongly suggest that you do not identify a child before receiving your Certificate of Eligibility as there can be no guarantees that you will be approved as prospective adopters. You should also be aware that some countries do not permit the adoption of a child who has been identified by prospective adopters before all the required procedures in the UK and that country have been followed.
Even if you are related to a child you wish to adopt you must follow the same process outlined above. There are some differences in this requirement in Scotland and Northern Ireland and if you live in those countries you should seek further advice. You should also be aware that it must be demonstrated that the child is in need of adoption. Immigration rules also apply to children being brought into the country by relatives and this can be a complicated matter. IAC Advisors would be happy to discuss with you some of the issues that arise in adopting a related child from overseas.
You will need to travel to the country overseas on at least one occasion. For some countries you would need to travel there on more than one occasion or be prepared to remain in the country for a period of time. You must also accompany the child into the UK on your return and if you are adopting as a couple both of you must accompany the child into the UK. It is not possible for the child to be brought to the UK by a carer or other party. Under UK regulations there are clear rules relating to the process from the point of being assessed through to being matched, meeting a child and returning to the UK.
Most Local Authorities and Voluntary Adoption Agencies will charge prospective adopters for an assessment of their suitability to adopt from overseas. Charges vary and you should contact your local authority for more information. There are many other fees you will also have to meet and these need to be properly researched from the outset. IAC’s fees are outlined in the Information Pack for Intercountry Adoption.
IAC’s Advice Line is open to all callers, whether you live in the UK or outside of the UK. In addition if you are wishing to adopt a child from overseas, are yourself living overseas but are British Nationals and are still habitually resident in the UK IAC may also be able to assist with the Approval Process. These situations need to be considered on a case by case basis so please contact the Advice Line.
Please note that habitual residence is a legal concept and it may be that you will need to seek legal advice to determine if you are still habitually resident in the UK whilst living overseas.