Forming Families – International Adoption

In international arrangements the only way you can be certain of bringing your child home safely is by ensuring you have a clear understanding of the UK’s immigration and nationality law before taking any permanent steps.

International adoption

International adoptions are highly complex and it is essential that you seek specialist advice before considering adopting a child from abroad. We can advise in relation to cross-border recognition of adoption orders and our experienced immigration team can advise you on the immigration aspects of bringing a child into the UK.

Once you have identified the country from which you intend to adopt, you need to know whether that country is:

• A Hague Convention Country: if the country from which you want to adopt has signed up to the 1993 Hague Convention on inter-country adoption then an adoption order from that country would be recognised in the UK (and vice versa). If you are British, your child will obtain British nationality upon the grant of an adoption order in one of these countries;

• A country on the ‘recognised list’: if the country from which you intend to adopt is on this list of countries then you could obtain an adoption order in that country and not need to re-apply for an adoption order in the UK. However, your child would not automatically obtain British citizenship and so you would need to take immigration advice from our specialist immigration team;

• Neither Hague Convention nor on the recognised list: If you adopt from a country which does not fall into either of the above categories then you might need to apply for adoption in both your destination country and in the UK, and you would certainly need to take immigration advice. In those circumstances, we can offer you the added advantage of both a specialist family and a specialist immigration team both working collaboratively.

As with surrogacy, there are a few situations where the child may automatically acquire citizenship, namely if one or both parents are British and it is adopted in a country on a set list.

However, there are otherwise a variety of factors that will affect the route the parents take to bring their child home. The factors that come into play include: –

  • Child’s birth country;
  • Location and role (if any) of birth parents;
  • How far adoption has proceeded e.g. is it complete, has interim / entrustment order been made?
  • Country of adoption – the UK does not recognise orders made in various countries, meaning the child has no legal relationship under UK immigration law to its adoptive parents;
  • UK immigration status of adoptive parents i.e. British citizens / permanent residents? If not, what type of UK visa do they hold;
  • Domicile and financial status of adoptive parent(s);
  • Genetic relationship (if any) between child and adoptive parent;
  • Is the child is living with adoptive parents/in their effective care;
  • How long the child has lived with the adoptive parents;
  • If the adoption is complete, how long ago it took place;
  • Whether the adoption has been approved by a UK adoption agency and a Certificate of Eligibility has been issued.

If your child is not eligible for a British passport, then you will need to apply for a visa to bring him or her back to the UK. There are a number of visa options available, including those issued so a child can be adopted once they arrive in the UK, those where a “de facto” adoption has taken place, and those where the child has already been adopted and no further proceedings are needed. 

How can we help?

  • Advise generally those considering international adoption and whether this is suitable;
  • Advise those considering international adoption on nationality and immigration issues that may arise in the process
  • Provide written opinions and advices for those living abroad seeking to adopt in their countries of residence about whether and how UK adoption law applies to them.
  • Advise on whether an adoptive child is a British citizen or eligible for citizenship, or whether they will need a visa
  • Advise you on the visa application with the greatest chance of success
  • Advise and guide you through the UK application process if the child needs a visa to come to the UK
  • Prepare and represent you at an appeal if your child’s visa application has been refused
  • Represent prospective adoptive parents in proceedings for an adoption order;
  • Represent parents in proceedings here to have recognised an adoption order made overseas;
  • Act in proceedings for permission to remove a child from the UK for the purposes of adoption abroad;


Make a quick and free online enquiry

  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.

Who to contact

For more information the following lawyers will be able to help with Forming Families – International Adoption.

Karma Hickman
More »