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Adopting a child from abroad

Adopting a child from abroad is also called ‘intercountry adoption’. 

Who can adopt a child from abroad

You must be 21 years or over to apply to adopt. 

There’s no upper age limit or any rules about things like:

  • marital status
  • sexuality
  • race 
  • religion 
  • disability 

As long as you’re 21 or over you can apply to adopt. Your council carries out an assessment to decide if you’re suitable to adopt. 

But the country you want to adopt from may have other rules about who can adopt there. For example age, sexuality or marital status. 

You should always research the country you want to adopt from. 

Get legal advice 

If you’re thinking of adopting a child from abroad, the first thing you should do is get legal advice. It’s important you do this first as the process might be different depending on the country you want to adopt from. For example if the country is part of the Hague Convention

Help finding a lawyer 

You can: 

If you live abroad

You must follow the adoption laws of the country you’re in if you’re ‘normally resident’ in that country. ‘Normally resident’ means it’s your main home. 

You must follow Scottish adoption law if you’re normally resident in Scotland. This is sometimes called ‘habitual residence’. It can apply even if you’re living abroad at the time of the adoption. 

If you’re unsure, you should get legal advice before going ahead with an adoption.

If you adopt a child (either in Scotland or abroad) and then travel or move to another country, it may not recognise the adoption. If you have any doubts you should get legal advice.

Research the country of adoption

You should research the country you're adopting from and what fees they ask for. If you need help getting information you can ask for help from the country's embassy or consulate. 


Country restrictions

Scotland has restricted adoption from the following countries:

  • Cambodia
  • Guatemala
  • Nepal
  • Haiti
  • Ethiopia
  • Nigeria

You can read about the reasons for the restrictions for each country.

How to make an exception request

To adopt a child from a restricted country, you need to explain in writing why your case is exceptional. For example, if you’re adopting a family member. You need to also provide supporting evidence. 

Find out how to make an exception request to adopt a child from a country on the restricted list.

How to adopt a child from abroad

You need to apply through your local council adoption team. 

Aberdeen City CouncilAberdeenshire CouncilAngus CouncilArgyll and Bute CouncilClackmannanshire CouncilComhairle nan Eilean Siar (Western Isles Council)Dumfries & Galloway CouncilDundee City CouncilEast Ayrshire CouncilEast Dunbartonshire CouncilEast Lothian CouncilEast Renfrewshire CouncilEdinburgh CouncilFalkirk CouncilFife CouncilGlasgow CouncilHighland CouncilInverclyde CouncilMidlothian CouncilMoray CouncilNorth Ayrshire CouncilNorth Lanarkshire CouncilOrkney CouncilPerth & Kinross CouncilRenfrewshire CouncilScottish Borders CouncilShetland Islands CouncilSouth Ayrshire CouncilSouth Lanarkshire CouncilStirling CouncilWest Dunbartonshire CouncilWest Lothian Council

Adoption process

When you apply the local council will assess whether you’re suitable to adopt. They’ll check things like:

  • medical history
  • criminal record
  • finances
  • references from someone who knows you personally and from your employer
  • home – to make sure it's a safe environment for a child

They’ll make a decision about whether you can adopt after speaking to the 'adoption panel'. This is a group of experts, for example social workers. They’ll also invite you to the panel. You can choose if you want to go or not. 

Fees and other costs

If the local council says you’re suitable to adopt you’ll need to pay fees to take the next step. 

Intercountry adoption fee

You may need to pay an Intercountry Adoption Fee to the Scottish Government, depending on your household income: 

£25,000 or below 

No fee. 

£25,001 to £45,000

You need to pay £837.50 (50% of full fee).

£45,001 and over

You need to pay £1675. 

Local council fees

Your local council will also charge a fee to assess you for adoption. 

The fee varies between councils. You should contact your local council to check this. 

Other costs

You may have other costs for things such as:

  • legal fees
  • translation services
  • immigration
  • travel to the child’s country 

Once the Scottish Government check your application they’ll issue a certificate saying you're able to adopt from abroad. This is called a 'certificate of eligibility'.

Matching you with a child

If the country you want to adopt from are happy with your application, they’ll try to match you with a child.

Matching you with a child can take many years. It depends on the number of applications the country gets and how many children are available for adoption.


The child will need entry clearance (immigration approval) to enter the UK.

Making the adoption legal

You’ll either:

  • get an adoption order in the country you're adopting from
  • bring the child back to Scotland and adopt them here

The adoption team and your lawyer will give you advice on this process.

Adoption pay and leave

When you take time off to adopt a child you may be eligible for:

  • Statutory Adoption Leave
  • Statutory Adoption Pay

Find out more about adoption pay and leave.

You may also be able to take Shared Parental Leave and Pay.

Further help

If you need further help email:

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