Bishop & Sewell
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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 has signed up to the 1993 Hague Convention on inter-country adoption, then an adoption order from that country will 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. However, it is important to note that this will only apply if the adoption was an inter-country one, i.e. organised with the assistance of the UK authorities. Merely adopting a child in a Hague country will not automatically make the adoption one recognised under the Convention.

A Country On The ‘Recognised’ Or ‘Designated’ Lists: If the country is on one of these two lists (depending on when it took place) then you can obtain an adoption order in that country and need not 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. It is important to note that the child would not automatically be eligible for a visa and the exact circumstances of the adoption will affect the type of visa and its prospects of success.

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 specialist family and immigration teams 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. These include the child’s birth country, the location and role (if any) of birth parents; the involvement of adoption agencies in the UK; how long the family can stay outside the country; and the domicile and financial status of adoptive parent(s), among other things.

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.

International adoption is an extremely complex area in which prospective parents run the risk of committing a criminal offence under UK law if they attempt to bring children back to the UK without taking certain steps in advance. It is essential that you understand the exact requirements of the country in which you are adopting and how the UK authorities will view that adoption in order to minimise the amount of time you spend abroad, ensure the adoption is recognised in the UK, and bring your child safely back home.

How We Can Help

  • Advise those considering international adoption and whether this is suitable;
  • Advise on nationality and immigration issues that may arise in the process;
  • Advise 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 on the visa application option with the greatest chance of success;
  • Guide you through the UK visa application process;
  • 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 UK proceedings 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.

Next Steps

For initial advice or to arrange a meeting with one of our team, please email family@bishopandsewell.co.uk or contact 020 7631 4141 and ask to speak to our Forming Families team.

International Adoption Legal Team

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