Adopting a child from abroad

Last updated: 18 March 2019

You can adopt a child from abroad if you're:

  • aged 21 or older (there's no upper age limit)
  • single or in a couple
  • a gay man or woman, either on your own or with your partner or spouse
  • a parent already
The country you are adopting from may have other conditions about who can adopt (for example age, sexuality or marital status).

Preparing to adopt from abroad

You should research the country you're adopting from and what fees they ask for. You can ask for help from the country's embassy or consulate if you're struggling to find information.

There is a list of consulates in Scotland on the VisitScotland website and embassies in London on the GOV.UK website.

How to adopt from abroad

Your first step is to contact a registered Scottish adoption agency.

The adoption agency will check whether you're suitable to adopt – this assessment is called a 'home study'. It will include checking your:

  • 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 will make a decision about whether you can adopt after speaking to the 'adoption panel'. This is a group of experts, for example social workers. You'll be invited to the panel and can choose whether you want to attend or not.


If the agency decide you can adopt, you will need to pay a fee of £1,675 to the Scottish Government. If your household income is less than £45,000 you'll be able to get a discount. You'll pay:

  • nothing if your household income is less than £25,000
  • 50% of the full fee (£837.50) if your household income is between £25,000 to £45,000

You'll need to fill in a means test form if you're applying for the discount.

Household income is the amount of money people living in your house earn.

You may also have to pay for:

  • travel and accommodation to the country for the visit
  • a police check
  • court fees for the adoption order

Once your fee has been paid

Your application will be checked by the Scottish Government and they will issue a certificate saying you're able to adopt from abroad (called a 'certificate of eligibility').

If the country you want to adopt from are happy with your application, they will 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.

Visiting the child

Once you're matched with a child you must visit them in their country. If you apply to adopt as a couple, both people must visit the child.

Some countries may want you to go through an adoption court process. You should get help with this from the government of the country you're adopting from.

The country you're adopting from will advise you on getting a visa for the child.

After the visit

Once you have returned home you must:

  • confirm in writing to the adoption agency that you've visited the child and want to go ahead with the adoption
  • give the adoption agency any additional reports and information you receive on or after the visit
  • let the adoption agency know when the child is meant to arrive in the UK


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

You will either:

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

Your adoption agency 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 on the GOV.UK website.

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

Find your nearest adoption agency

Further support

Centre for Adoption

There's more information about adopting overseas on the Centre for Adoption's website including:

The organisation also has a helpline: 0208 447 4753 (Monday to Friday from 10am to 1pm with call backs made by advisors until 4pm)

Adoption UK

Adoption UK offers advice, support and information to families who want to adopt or who have already adopted.

The organisation's Scottish helpline: 0131 201 2489 (Monday to Friday from 10am to 2.30pm)