We are testing a new beta website for gov.scot go to new site


This content is no longer being updated. You can find the latest looked after children content on https://beta.gov.scot.

Frequently asked questions

The answers to many frequently asked questions are provided below. To make it easier to find what you're looking for they are divided into the following sections:

About intercountry adoptionCosts | Eligibility | Hague Convention | Designated List | Application and assessment | Role of the Scottish Government | Matching with a child | Children from other countries | Bringing the child back to the UK / Immigration | Post adoption

About intercountry adoption

Q. Why does the Government allow intercountry adoption when there are children in the UK who need new families?

Although there are many children in the UK looking for an adoptive family, there are still many children in other countries who need homes. Intercountry adoption may be their only opportunity to belong to a permanent family. For humanitarian reasons, the Government allows intercountry adoption to proceed where:

  • the child cannot be cared for in any suitable manner in his/her country;
  • the adoption would be in the best interests of the child and with respect to the child's fundamental rights as recognised in international law;
  • the prospective adopter has been approved as suitable to adopt a child habitually resident outside the British Islands by an adoption agency (a local authority or an adoption society registered by Ofsted and whose condition of registration includes intercountry adoption).
Q. Can I adopt from any country in the world?

In theory, yes, but eligibility criteria will differ between countries and restrictions may be in place. Find out more about country specific requirements and the countries on the restricted list.

It is worth noting that:

  • A suspension of intercountry adoptions from Cambodia was introduced in June 2004.
  • A suspension of adoptions from Guatemala was introduced on 6 December 2007.

Before considering an application, prospective adopters should always check with a UK adoption agency, the UK Embassy or Consulate in the country you are interested in adopting from and the country's own authorities about requirements and restrictions.

Q. How long does it take to adopt a child from abroad?

It can take anything from 1-5 years to adopt a child from another country, depending on the adoption system in the other country and the availability of suitable children.

Q. I would like to adopt a relative from overseas. Is this possible and how do I do it?

You must first contact your adoption agency/local authority, as current legislation states that all prospective adopters (related or not) are required to undergo an assessment by an adoption agency to ensure that they are suitable to adopt the named child. Therefore you will still be required to meet certain requirements in the overseas country, and also the immigration requirements of the UK Border Agency (if applicable).

Q. Can I have concurrent applications?

The Scottish Government strongly advises prospective applicants not to have concurrent applications to adopt (including 1 domestic and 1 overseas), due to the scenario of being matched with a child from each country within a short space of time. The assessment of the application sent to adoption agencies was given on your current status. It would therefore be incorrect to pledge your wishes to adopt from one country to then be matched with a child from another country, or for you to decline the other child due to your circumstances changing.

Q. I've already found the child I want to adopt. What do I do now?

You should contact your local authority's adoption department or an independent adoption agency registered to handle intercountry adoptions. They will be able to advise you about the process and steps you will need to take.

Although you may already know which child you wish to adopt, you are strongly advised not to enter into any agreements (formal or informal) with foreign authorities before first contacting your local authority or an adoption agency in Scotland.


Q. How much does an intercountry adoption cost?
Due to the variable nature of the charges involved (see question below) it is impossible to give an estimate for the total cost. However it is fair to say that the costs can be considerable.


Q. What charges should I expect to pay?

Within the UK you should expect to pay for:

  • the home study assessment (variable charge)
  • the notarisation of documents (variable charge)
  • the legalisation of documents by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (£28.80 per document as of October 2010)
  • the legalisation of documents by the Embassy of the child's country of origin (variable charge)
  • travel to the child's country (variable charge)
  • (In non-Designated List and Hague Convention cases) Court fees to adopt the child in Scotland. Currently there is a fee payable on commencement of the adoption application. If in the course of the adoption proceedings some other application to the Court is necessary - such as an application for directions on a particular legal point - a further fee will probably be payable. If you are unsure about the court fee payable for your application, or you think that you may be exempt from paying all or part of the fee, you should contact the Court for further information.
  • (Where applicable) Nationality fees for the child to become a British citizen (variable)

Within the child's country of origin you can expect to pay for:

  • the fees of the adoption agency or lawyer (variable)
  • hotel and food costs
  • the notarisation of documents
  • any court fees
  • fees for entry clearance

The list above is only a guide. It does not constitute a complete list of the charges you may have to pay. There may be other costs, particular in respect to the child's own country. For example in China prospective adopters are expected to make a donation to the child's orphanage.


Q. How much does an assessment cost?
The fee is a matter for each individual adoption agency. The fee charged covers the costs the agency incurs carrying out the home study assessment. However, the agency must not make a profit from the work involved and it must ensure that you understand how the fee is arrived at before you agree to it.
Q. Is there any way to reduce the costs involved?

The expenditure listed in the answer above are essential and cutting corners in intercountry adoptions should be avoided. You are strongly advised to deal only with approved adoption agencies or recognised charitable organisations abroad, and not through intermediaries who are not properly authorised.

However before you agree to any fee charged you should ensure that you have been provided with a clear explanation about what the payment is for, and (where possible) a breakdown of costs. You will then be able to query any expenditure about which you are doubtful.





Q. Is there an upper age limit?
There is no upper age limit for adopters in the UK. However some countries do operate upper and lower limits and also specify an age difference between the adopters and the child (i.e. the older the adoptive parents, the older the child likely to be offered for adoption).
Q. Can single people adopt from overseas?
Some countries popular with prospective adopters - such as India, Russia and the USA - allow single adopters, but generally the situation varies from country to country. Check with the country's Embassy or Consulate in the UK if you are in any doubt about its legal position on this issue.
Q. Can unmarried couples adopt from overseas?
The situation varies between countries, so you should check with a country's Embassy or Consulate in the UK or a country's central adoption authority.
Q. Can gay couples adopt from overseas?
Gay couples are entitled to adopt domestically or from overseas. However, while some other countries do allow gay couples to adopt, many do not. If in doubt, you should check with a country's Embassy or Consulate in the UK or with the country's central adoption authority.

Hague Convention

Q. What is the Hague Convention?

The 1993 Hague Convention on the Protection of Children and Co-operation in respect of Intercountry Adoption establishes an international system of co-operation that aims to prevent the abduction, sale and illegal trafficking of children. The Convention requires that intercountry adoption happens only when it is in the child's best interests, that all adopters are assessed and approved as suitable to adopt and that no profit is made from the adoption process. The UK implemented the Convention with effect from 1 June 2003.

Prospective applicants should note that if the UK has objected to a particular country's accession to the Hague Convention then the Convention is not then 'in force' between the two countries. Adoptions from that country would not be recognized in the UK as Hague Convention adoptions. At the present time the UK has objections lodged to the accession of Cambodia and that of Guatemala.

Q. Which countries have brought the Hague Convention into force?

An up to date list of countries which have brought the Hague Convention into force can be found at: www.hcch.net/index_en.php?act=conventions.status&cid=69

Q. What difference does adopting from a Hague Convention country make?

Where an adoption has been completed under the Hague Convention:

  • the child will automatically receive British Citizenship if you or your partner are a British citizen and both of you are habitually resident in the UK;
  • the adoption will be automatically recognized in the UK and other contracting States;
  • the adoption of a child under the Hague Convention can be registered on the Adopted Children's Register managed by the Registrar General.
Q. Can I adopt from a non-Hague Convention country?

Yes, but should the adoption order you have obtained not be recognised in the UK you will be required to re-adopt the child in a UK court for the adoptive relationship to be legally recognised.

Q. What's the process for adopting from a Hague Convention country?
Consult our step-by-step guide to intercountry adoption.

Designated List

Q. What is the designated list?

The Designated List refers to a list of countries that are named on the Adoption (Designation of Overseas Adoptions) Order 1973. The UK automatically recognises an adoption made in any of the countries named on the Designated List.

The Designated List is currently being reviewed under the provisions of the Adoption and Children Act 2002.

Q. Which countries are on the designated list?
Read through the full list of countries on the designated list.
Q. What will it mean if I adopt from a country not on the designated list?
If the child was adopted in a non-designated list country, you will need to re-adopt the child in a UK court. An adoption order made in this country will then automatically confer British Citizenship on the child if either you or your partner is a British Citizen at the time the adoption order is made.

Application and Assessment

Q. What should I do if I want to adopt a child from abroad?

You should discuss your intentions with your local authority adoption team or an adoption agency registered to work on intercountry adoptions. You will need to be assessed and approved as eligible and suitable to adopt in the UK before any moves can be made to adopt a child from overseas. The law allows only local authorities and voluntary adoption agencies registered to deal with intercountry adoption to assess prospective adopters who want to adopt from abroad.

Useful contact details.

Q. Why do I have to be assessed by a UK adoption agency if I want to adopt from abroad?

The assessment ensures that you are suitable to provide a safe, secure and stable home to a child. It will also provide valuable information to the overseas adoption agency, that will help them to match you with a child that meets your and the child's requirements.

Although of great value in itself, prospective adopters should remember that assessment by a UK adoption agency is mandated by law. Failure to secure an assessment may lead to the adoption not being recognised in the UK.

Q. Do I need to be approved by an adoption agency before I can adopt from overseas?
If you intended to bring the child back to the UK, yes. The procedure for an intercountry adoption are very similar to those for adopting a child in Scotland, except that the adoption agency may charge you for your home study assessment and you will be required to meet certain requirements of the overseas authority.
Q. What is the assessment procedure for those wanting to adopt from overseas?

Once you have expressed an interest in intercountry adoption, you and your partner (where appropriate) will be invited by your adoption agency (whether local authority run or independent) to take part in a preparation course. The course will cover issues and questions arising from intercountry adoption, and you will be asked to evaluate what you have learnt on each day.

If you still wish to proceed with the adoption application, you will then have an assessment carried out by the adoption agency. This will involve detailed interviews with a social worker; interviews between the social worker and your nominated referees; assessment of your family relationships (including those with any other children you may have and your spouse/partner), your employment and economic status and the standard of living in your home. The assessment will review medical reports and include a police check (Protecting Vulnerable Groups).

The assessment (or 'home study') will be used by the adoption agency panel and decision maker to decide whether or not to approve your application to adopt.

Q. Can I arrange for a private assessment?
No. The law allows only for local authorities and adoption agencies registered to work on adoption to carry out assessments.

Role of the Scottish Government

Q. What is the role of the Scottish Government in intercountry adoptions?

Once you have been approved by an adoption agency, your application - including the assessment and supporting documents - will be forwarded onto the Scottish Government.

The Scottish Government's Intercountry Adoption Team is required to check that your application is complete and that it complies with Scottish law. If there are queries or your documentation is incomplete the casework team will contact the adoption agency and your application may be delayed.

At each stage of the process, the Intercountry Adoption Team need to be satisfied that your documentation is correct and that both Scottish legislative procedure and the foreign country's requirements have been met.

When all documents and assessments have been received the Intercountry Adoption Team pass them onto an independent social work professional for verfication. Once the Team are content that the application is complete and meets the requirements laid out in Scottish law and those of the overseas authority, we will issue a ' Certificate of Eligibility' that you are suitable to adopt. The prospective adopter and adoption agency will be notified. Please Note: receipt of this certifiate of eligibility is a legal condition that must be met before you are allowed to bring a child into the UK for adoption.

Applications will then have to be procesed in line with the requirements of the country you are adopting from. This may include getting your documents processed through your Notary Public, the Legalisation Branch of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and, if necessary, the foreign country's Embassy in the UK. When the necessary paper work is complete, the Intercountry Adoption Team will send your application (via courier) to the relevant authority in the child's country.

Q. Why does the Scottish Government send my application to another social worker?

An independent social work professional is needed to ensure that good social work practice has been carried out by both the lead social worker and the local authority.

In the event that an application is declined at this stage, the application will be returned to the adoption agency with comments. If fault has been identified with the social work practice this will be identified. If the applicants have been considered unsuitable to adopt, explanation will be given.

Q. What would happen if I went straight to the foreign adoption agency, missing out the adoption agency assessment and Scottish Government steps?

For an adoption to satsify the requirements of the Hague Convention adopters must be assessed and approved by a UK adoption agency registered for intercountry adoptions, and the application processed by the Scottish Government.

In Designated List cases adopters must obtian an adoption agency assessment but do not have to process their application through the Scottish Government. The Scottish courts will recognise adoptions made in countries on the Designated List, but this recognition does not confer British citizenship on the child nor guarantee entry into the UK.

While it may be possible to adopt a child overseas without first obtaining approval from an adoption agency in the UK, prospective adopters should note that it is illegal in some countries for foreign nationals to approach adoption agencies before they have been assessed as suitable to adopt by their home authorities. Moreover, without prior approval from a UK adoption agency there is no guarantee that a Scottish court would grant an adoption order (necessary for the adoption to be recognised in the UK), the child allowed into the UK or citizenship be awarded.

Matching with a child

Q. How do foreign authorities match me with a child?

When the relevant foreign authorities have received your application they will review your file and seek to match you with a child. This involves finding a child to match your requirements, but most importantly it involves matching you to a child's requirements.

The Scottish Government or foreign adoption agency will advise you of the procedure for the country in question.

Q. How long does it take to be matched with a child?
This can take anything from 6 months to 5 years although could take longer, depending on which country you are adopting from.
Q. What happens after a match has been made?
Once a match has been made the foreign authority will send details of the child (including the child's health assessment, photographs and any background information) to the Scottish Government. This information will be passed to the adoption agency and applicant to discuss the match. When a decision by the couple has been made, this will be passed onto the overseas authority via the Scottish Government.


Q. I have received a match from a foreign authority; what do I do now?
Procedures vary from country to country, so you should contact the Scottish Government or your adoption agency for advice.
Q. Do prospective adopters have to meet the child before adopting them?
Yes. The regulations governing intercountry adoptions into Scotland state that a prospective adopter must visit the child in the state of origin (Regulation 4(2C)). Where the prospective adopters are a couple, both of them must visit the child.

Children from other countries

Q. Will children adopted from abroad come with medical or emotional problems

It is the case that some children available for intercountry adoption face health and developmental difficulties. Many will have gone through harmful experiences, which may have lead to permanent physical or mental impairment. But prospective adopters should not assume that all children available for adoption come with medical or emotional problems. Most are simply children in need of a permenant home. If the intercountry adoption procedures are followed fully, adoption agencies in UK will be provided with a recent medical report on the child (after a match has been made).

Older children adopted from other countries may have spent the majority of their lives in institutional care. The conditions in institutions vary considerably (from country to country and within countries), but regardless of the conditions there are implications for a child's emotional and social development from prolonged periods in institutional care. The longer the period of care, and the more deprived the environment, the more likely the children are to suffer long term developmental difficulties. In these cases, the children will often need compensatory nurture.

Q. How old is the child likely to be?

This varies from country to country, but depends in large part on the recommendation made by your UK adoption agency.

It is worth noting that some countries specify an age difference between the adopters and the adopted child; for instance the older the adoptive parents, the older the child matched with them has to be.

Q. Should I identify a child before starting the application process?

Prospective adopters are strongly advised to wait until they have been approved as suitable to adopt, and had your application processed by the Scottish Government, before you identify a child.

If you have identified a child first, you may find yourself in a situation where you have to return to the UK and leave the child for several months while the assessment is carried out and your application processed. It is possible that you may not be recommended as suitable to adopt. Moreover, in some countries it is illegal to identify a child without having been assessed and approved in the UK.

Bringing a child back to the UK

Q. What do I need to do before I bring the child back to the UK?

Once you have adopted the child you should make an entry clearance application at the UK Embassy/ Consulate/ High Commission nearest to where the child is living. The Entry Clearance Officer (ECO) will consider the application and if they are satisfied that the requirements have been met they will ask the Scottish Government to confirm whether the adopter has been assessed and approved lawfully. The ECO will also check any papers available relating to the child and how he/she became available for adoption. If there are any inconsistencies or concerns, these will be investigated beforet the child is allowed to leave its country of origin.

Q. What will I have to provide to the UK's Entry Clearance Officer?

You must ensure that the following documents are supplied to the Entry Clearance Officer (ECO) when submitting the application:

· the child's original (if available) and new birth certificate;

· parental consent (only valid if given 6 weeks after the birth of the child) or a certificate of abandonment from the relevant authorities;

· an adoption/ guardianship order; if there is no adoption/ guardianship order, written permission from the relevant authorities of the country concerned that they are content for the child to leave the country and travel to the United Kingdom to be adopted by the prospective adopter(s);

· a recent medical report on the child. It is recommended that you use the BAAF Adoption and Fostering intercountry adoption medical form which you can get from the BAAF Adoption and Fostering website (www.baaf.org.uk);

· If the child is 7 years old or more, a report of the interview with the child in which the child's view and understanding of the proposed adoption is clearly stated.

Documents must be translated into English and notarized. If you or your adoption agency does not forward the child's details to the Scottish Government for consideration before you apply for Entry Clearance (EC), the process will take longer; the British Embassy/ Consulate/ High Commission will need to forward on the details to the Scottish Government, who then advise on whether to grant the EC application.

Post adoption

Q. Once we're back in the UK, is there anything more I need to do?

If you adopted from a country which has not ratified the Hague Convention, or from a country not on the Designated List, you will need to apply to re-adopt the child in a UK court for the adoptive relationship to be legally recognized. This can only be done 12 months after the child's date of entry into the UK, however you are eligible to apply to the court for an adoption order within the 12 months.

Most countries also require Post-Placement Reports to be sent to them at regular intervals. These progress reports are usually required to be completed by the local authority or voluntary adoption agency you used to carry out the intercountry adoption. It is important therefore that you maintain contact with your local authority or voluntary adoption agency.

Q. How long do I need to wait before I can adopt a second child?
Good social care practice recommends that you wait at least 12 months after adopting the first child before you start the process of adopting a second.
Q. How can I get in touch with other intercounrty adopters, and access further support?

All local authorities are required to provide a comprehensive adoption support service. Intercountry adopters and children adopted from overseas are entitled to an assessment of their needs for adoption support.

Services which may be provided include counselling, advice, information, therapy, services to ensure the continuation of a relationship and services to assist in case of disruption of adoption placements. You should contact your local authority for more information.

You will also meet both prospective intercountry adopters and those already with experience of intercountry adoption at the Preparation Course your local authority or voluntary adoption agency arranges for you to attend once you have expressed an interest in proceeding with an application.

The British Association for Adoption and Fostering Scotland (BAAF Scotland) maintains an telephone enquiry line for adopters (0131 226 9270) and can also be reached by e-mail: scotlandl@baaf.org.uk.

The Scottish Adoption Association can be contacted on 0131 553 5060, and by e-mail at info@scottishadoption.org.