United Kingdom International Adoption Process and Cost


International adoption from the UK isn’t as prevalent as other countries, but it still does occur.  Between 1999 and 2018 there have been 99 intercountry adoptions to the U.S. 

The UK is a party to the Hague Adoption Convention and the main body responsible for intercountry adoptions from the UK is the Department for Education which oversees social services and adoptions. 

UK Intercountry Adoption

So, if you have a desire to import some UK vibes into your family through intercountry adoption, here is a snapshot of the process and how much it will cost.

  1. Choose a U.S. approved/accredited adoption service provider
  2. Be found eligible to adopt
  3. Apply to the UK authorities to adopt and be matched with a child
  4. Apply to the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) to have your adoptee recognised as an immigrant
  5. Adopt the child in the UK
  6. Get a visa for your adoptee and bring your child home.

The cost to adopt from the UK can vary depending on your adoption service provider. However, there are no exact costs for intercountry adoption set by the UK government.

Now you have a brief understanding of what is required for international adoption from the UK, let’s break the process down and see the documentation and agencies you need to contact to ensure you have a successful adoption! 

The International Adoption Process from the UK

The UK is a party to the Hague Adoption Convention, therefore any adoptions from the UK need to follow the exact order of the international adoption process. If you don’t follow the order, it can affect your adoptee’s immigration visa eligibility. 

All adoptions under the Hague Convention require prospective adoptive parents to hire an adoption service provider who will act as their primary provider for the adoption.

1. Choose a U.S. approved/accredited service provider

As prospective adoptive parents, you need to select a service provider who is officially accredited within the U.S. as well as being legally authorized in the UK as an adoption service provider. The role of your service provider is to ensure that the following services are met (as part of their responsibility as your primary provider):

  1. Identifying a child for adoption and arranging the adoption.
  2. Ensuring that the child’s parents legally consent to the adoption and end their responsibility for the child
  3. Do a background check on the child and carry out a home study on the prospective adoptive parents and reporting the results of these studies
  4. Make a non-judicial decision regarding the adoptee’s best interests and if it is appropriate to place the child in the new environment provided by the prospective adoptive parents.
  5. Monitoring the case of the adoption until the adoption is finalized.
  6. Providing for alternative care for the child in the situation where there is a disruption before final adoption.

Your adoption service provider is there as your guide and mentor. Use them to the full capacity and never be scared to ask them anything regarding your adoption, or the process involved. 

They are also responsible for overseeing any third party agencies involved in your adoption as well as developing a service plan as required by the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR), specifically 22 CFR 96.44

Once you have decided on an adoption service provider, you then have to be declared eligible to adopt. Here’s how you get eligibility…

2. Be found suitable and eligible to adopt

To be declared suitable and eligible to adopt, you must fill out an Application for Determination of Suitability to Adopt a Child from a Convention Country (Form I-800A). When submitting this form you also need to provide:

  • Proof of your U.S. citizenship
  • Proof of your marriage (if applicable)
  • Evidence that any divorces you or your spouse have had are complete and finalized (if applicable)
  • Proof of your spouse’s U.S. citizenship or immigration status (if applicable)
  • Proof of your spouse’s name, identity, and citizenship, if not a resident of the United States (if applicable)
  • Your home study report
  • Evidence you have complied with pre-adoption requirements in the state of the child’s proposed residence (if applicable)

You are also required to submit fingerprints and a background check. With any adoption, whether it’s an international adoption or domestic adoption, the guiding principle for all decisions is around what will provide for the best interest of the child. 

After you have been declared suitable and eligible to adopt you can have a wee celebration. It means you can move forward to the next part of the process: Apply to the UK and be matched with a child! Exciting stuff!

3. Apply to the UK to adopt and be matched with a child

Now that you have your Form I-800 approved, your adoption service provider will send your approval notice, home study and any other documentation required to the central authority in the UK. This authority will then look at your case and consider if you are found suitable and eligible to adopt under UK laws.

If both the U.S. and the UK find you suitable and eligible to adopt the United Kingdom Central Authority for Convention adoptions will refer a child to you only if they have determined that a child is available and that intercountry adoption is in the best interests of the child. 

United Kingdom International Adoption

Your referral is determined by the information provided by you in your dossier and the specific needs of the adoptee. It’s up to you whether you accept or decline a referral. If you have an adoptee with particular health needs or is a special needs child, you need to make a determination as to whether you have the capacity to provide for the medical needs of the child or provide the support needed in the case of those adoptees who are special needs. 

Once you accept a referral, your service provider will inform the central authority in the UK of your decision. 

Because your adoptee isn’t a U.S. citizen, you need to apply for an immigration visa so that you can bring your new family member home.

4. Apply to the U.S. for an Immigration Visa for your adoptee and receive U.S. agreement to continue the adoption

Now that your heart is all twittering with excitement and anticipation for your new adoptee, it’s time to make a way for your child to enter the U.S. To do this you need to get an Immigration Visa for your adoptee.

You need to fill out Form I-800 which is the Petition to Classify Convention Adoptee as an Immediate Relative. The USCIS will then make a determination as to whether your child meets the definition of an adoptee under the Hague Convention.and therefore allowed to enter and live in the U.S.

United Kingdom International Adoption

When you have received provisional approval of your Form I-800 your adoption service provider will submit a visa application to the division of the U.S. Embassy in London which is in responsible for issuing immigration visas to UK children.

The National Visa Center will send you a letter affirming they have received your temporarily approved Form I-800 and assigning you a case number and an invoice number. You can use these numbers to log in Consular Electronic Application Center and submit an Electronic Immigrant Visa Application (DS-260), You can download a sample of Form  DS-260 so you can see how to complete it before you begin. You must fill out all sections of this form under your adoptee’s name. Write “N/A” in any area that isn’t applicable to your case.

A consular staff member will look at your provisionally approved Form I-800 and your visa application. If for some reason, your adoptee is found ineligible to receive an immigration visa, the staff will advise you of what options are available to you as waivers to try and resolve the issue.

When you have approval that your child is able to immigrate to the U.S. the consular officer will send an “Article 5/17 Letter” to the United Kingdom’s Central Authority stating that the child has been declared eligible to immigrate to the U.S, the parents are suitable and eligible to adopt and that the U.S. Central Authority has allowed the adoption to continue.

5. Adopt the Child in the U.K.

With the first four steps neatly tucked away, it’s time to move on to the fifth stage of the international adoption process from the UK. Adopting the child within the UK.

The Department for Education is the Central Authority within the UK that is responsible for adoptions. It is in charge of legislation and policy for adoptions and plays a part in international adoption processing. For adoptions that are between Hague Convention countries the Department for Education only is involved in cases within England. For Convention adoptions concerning Wales, Scotland, Northern Ireland, and the Isle of Man, the respect countries Central Authorities process international adoption applications. 

United Kingdom International Adoption

For international adoptions in the UK with non-Hague Adoption Convention countries, the Department for Education issues Certificates of Eligibility for adoption applications made by adoptive parents who normally live in the UK. 

The Court with the UK has the responsibility for legal rulings regarding adoption cases and the issuing an order under Section 84 of the Adoption and Children Act 2002

An adoption for application typically begins at the Family Court.

Within the UK each local council has a legal responsibility to provide adoption services. There is also an option to use a voluntary adoption service provider. Ask your provider for a copy of all receipts for fees and any donations that you have paid. Any payments that look inappropriate can have a dramatic effect on the successful outcome of your international adoption because it may seem like you are buying a child, go against the applicable laws and jeopardise any possibility of future adoptions from the UK. 

If you feel that an expense or fee looks suspicious, then please ask your service provider for an explanation. You can also report any payments that violate the Hague Convention by referring the information to Hague Convention Registry. It’s all about protecting you and your adoption!

Now that you have legally adopted the child within the UK (or gained custody of the child) it’s time to get an Immigration visa and then the thrill of coming home! 

6. Get an Immigration Visa for your adoptee and bring them home.

To obtain an Immigration Visa for your adoptee you will need to get your child’s Birth Certificate and a Passport. 

How to get a Birth Certificate

A UK Certificate of Adoption (which is comparable to a standard birth certificate) is issued under your adoptee’s new name by the General Register Office, Adoptions Section, Room C202, Trafalgar Road, Southport. You can have either a short-form or a long-form birth certificate. The difference is that the short-form certificate will be sent six weeks after your court hearing and the long-form certificate has to be requested from the General Register Office by one of the adoptive parents. 

Please contact the General Register Office if you have any questions about obtaining a Certificate of Adoption.

Apply for a passport

Now you have in your possession a Certificate of Adoption for your child, it’s time to get a UK child’s passport. 

Anyone who has parental responsibility for the child can apply for the passport. It can take three weeks for you to receive the passport, but if you are urgent you can fast track the delivery so that you can have a passport within a week.

United Kingdom International Adoption

You can apply online through the gov.uk website

Get the Immigration Visa

After getting the passport plus the birth certificate are all set to apply for an Immigration visa for your child. 

You need to visit the U.S. Embassy in London for finalization of your adoption. The Embassy will look at your case one more time and you will be given a U.S. Hague Adoption Certificate or Hague Custody Certificate. Your Form I-800 petition will also receive final approval and you will be issued with an immigration visa for your child.

It’s important that you submit your DS-260 form before you visit the U.S. Embassy for your immigration interview. 

It usually takes 24 hours after your final immigration interview before you receive your adoptee’s Immigration Visa. When you have that….it’s time to come home with your adoptee!

How Much Do International Adoptions From The UK Cost?

Like a lot of things in life, the cost varies when you are adopting internationally. Here is a rundown of some of the costs you can expect to pay:

Form I-800 filing fee $775
Authentication of Documents $5 (for each document)
Passport $0 – $75
Flight Costs $903 – $2,050 (Return trip)
Accommodation Costs $2,000 – 6,800 (Average cost for 2 people)
Adoption Fees There are no precise service fees set by the UK government

Please ask your service provider to give you an itemized account of all the costs and expenses you will have to pay for your intercountry adoption. Typically an international adoption can cost between $20,000 – $40,000 on average.

Are There Any Restrictions On Who Can Adopt From the UK?

There are no specific restrictions around who is eligible to adopt from the UK. However, prospective adoptive parents must be at least 21 years of age and though there is no upper age limit, the courts and respective authorities will make a case-by-case ruling based on whether the adoption will serve the best interests of the child.

United Kingdom International Adoption

Married and single people may adopt. For those who are married, both partners need to sign for the adoption unless one of the partners can’t be located, is incapable of making a decision or if a divorce is being finalized. Unmarried couples cannot adopt, however, it is permissible if one of the partners signs for adoption as a single parent.

Gay and Lesbian couples are allowed to adopt from the UK

Who can be adopted from the UK?

Children under the age of 19 are eligible to be adopted as long as the application was made before the child turned 18-years old. For a child to be classified as a Convention Adoptee a Form I-800 must have been submitted before the child turned 16 years old (or 18 if the adoptee is a sibling of a child that has already immigrated or is in the process of immigrating and adopted by the same prospective adoptive parents).

The UK has no restrictions regarding the international adoption of children with special needs or medical conditions. In such adoption cases, a judgement is made on an individual basis with the primary focus being on what is in the best interests of the child.

There is a 10-week pre-adoption care period where the prospective parent(s) are required to live with the child in the UK. So plan to stay in the UK for at least 10 weeks.

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