Travel.State.Gov > Intercountry Adoption > Country Information > United Kingdom Intercountry Adoption Information
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Last Update: Reissued with updates to COVID-19 information.
United Kingdom is a party to the Hague Convention on Protection of Children and Co-operation in Respect of Intercountry Adoption (Hague Adoption Convention or Convention). Intercountry adoption processing in Convention countries must be done in accordance with the requirements of the Hague Adoption Convention; the U.S. implementing legislation, the Intercountry Adoption Act of 2000 (IAA); and the IAA’s implementing regulations; as well as the implementing legislation and regulations of United Kingdom.
The UK is generally not considered a country of origin in intercountry adoption. Most intercountry adoptions in the UK are by UK residents who adopt from other countries however it is possible to adopt a child from the UK through intercountry adoption. The information provided below is intended primarily to assist in rare adoption cases from the UK, including adoptions of UK children by relatives in the United States. This information may also be useful to U.S. citizens living in the UK considering adoptions from the UK or other countries.
Note: If any of the following occurred prior to April 1, 2008, (the date on which the Hague Adoption Convention entered into force with respect to the United States), the Hague Adoption Convention may not apply to your adoption: 1) you filed a Form I-600A, Application for Advance Processing of an Orphan Petition, identifying United Kingdom as the country where you intended to adopt and the approval is still valid; 2) you filed a Form I-600, Petition to Classify Orphan as an Immediate Relative, on behalf of a child from United Kingdom, or 3) the adoption was completed. Under these circumstances, your adopted child’s adoption could continue to be processed as a non- Convention intercountry adoption, provided the child’s country of origin agrees. For more information, read about Hague Transition Cases. Please contact email@example.com with the details of the case if this situation applies to you.
To bring an adopted child to the United States from United Kingdom, you must meet certain suitability and eligibility requirements. USCIS determines who is suitable and eligible to adopt a child from another country and bring that child to live in the United States under U.S. immigration law.
AAdditionally, a child must meet the definition of a Convention adoptee under U.S. immigration law in order to be eligible to immigrate to the United States with an IH-3 or IH-4 immigrant visa.
In addition to being found suitable and eligible to adopt by USCIS, prospective adoptive parents seeking to adopt a child from United Kingdom must meet the following requirements of United Kingdom:
Because United Kingdom is party to the Hague Adoption Convention, children from United Kingdom must meet the requirements of the Convention in order to be eligible for intercountry adoption. For example, the adoption may take place only if the competent authorities of United Kingdom have determined that placement of the child within United Kingdom has been given due consideration and that an intercountry adoption is in the child’s best interests.
In addition to qualifying as a Convention adoptee under U.S. immigration law, a child must meet the following requirements of United Kingdom:
Caution: Prospective adoptive parents should be aware that not all children in orphanages or children’s homes are available for adoption. In many countries, birth parents place their child(ren) temporarily in an orphanage or children’s home due to financial or other hardship, intending that the child return home when possible. In such cases, the birth parent(s) have rarely relinquished their parental rights or consented to the adoption of their child(ren).
Warning: Do not adopt or obtain legal custody of a child in United Kingdom before: 1) USCIS has approved your Form I-800A, Application for Determination of Suitability to Adopt a Child from a Convention Country, 2) the Central Authority of United Kingdom has determined the child is available for intercountry adoption, 3) USCIS has provisionally approved your Form I-800, Petition to Classify Convention Adoptee as an Immediate Relative, and 4) a U.S. consular officer has issued an “Article 5/17 Letter” in the case. Read on for more information.
United Kingdom’s Central Adoption Authority
The Department for Education
The Department for Education is the UK Central Authority for the Hague Adoption Convention and is responsible for children’s social services, including adoption policy. However, each adoption case is handled by the relevant council or voluntary adoption agency in the area where the adoptive child is located. Contact information for the local councils and local adoption agencies is available on the Department for Education’s webpage A guide to intercountry adoption: Apply to adopt a child through your council, and Apply to adopt a child through a voluntary adoption agency.
Complete contact information for the Department for Education is listed below.
Note: Special transition provisions may apply to adoptions initiated before April 1, 2008. Read about Hague Transition Cases.
Because United Kingdom is party to the Hague Adoption Convention, adoptions from United Kingdom must follow a specific process designed to meet the Convention’s requirements. A brief summary of the Convention adoption process is provided below. You must complete these steps in the following order to meet all necessary legal requirements. Adoptions completed out of order may result in the child not being eligible for an immigrant visa to the United States.
1. Choose a U.S. Accredited or Approved Adoption Service Provider to Act as Your Primary Provider (That Has Been Authorized by United Kingdom’s Central Authority] to Operate in United Kingdom)
The first step in adopting a child from United Kingdom is to select an adoption service provider in the United States that has been accredited or approved to provide services to U.S. citizens in Convention cases (and that has been authorized by the Government of United Kingdom). A primary provider must be identified in each Convention case and only accredited or approved adoption service providers may act as the primary provider in your case. Your primary provider is responsible for:
Learn more about Agency Accreditation.
2. Apply to USCIS to be Found Suitable and Eligible to Adopt
After you choose an accredited or approved adoption service provider, you must be found suitable and eligible to adopt by USCIS by submitting Form I-800A, Application for Determination of Suitability to Adopt a Child from a Convention Country. You will need to submit a home study, fingerprints, and a background check as part of this application. Read more about Suitability and Eligibility Requirements.
3. Apply to United Kingdom’s Authorities to Adopt and be Matched with a Child
Submit Your Dossier to the Central Authority
After USCIS determines that you are suitable and eligible to adopt and approves the Form I-800A application, your adoption service provider will provide your approval notice, home study, and any other required information to the adoption authority in United Kingdom as part of your adoption application. United Kingdom’s adoption authority will review your application to determine whether you are also suitable and eligible to adopt under United Kingdom’s law.
Receive a Referral for a Child from the Central Authority
If both the United States and United Kingdom determine that you are suitable and eligible to adopt, and United Kingdom’s Central Authority for Convention adoptions has determined that a child is available for adoption and that intercountry adoption is in that child’s best interests, the Central Authority for Convention adoptions in United Kingdom may provide you with a referral for a child. The referral is a proposed match between you and a specific child based on a review of your dossier and the needs of the child. The adoption authority in United Kingdom will provide a background study and other information, if available, about the child to help you decide whether to accept the referral or not. We encourage families to consult with a medical professional and their adoption service provider to understand the needs of the specific child but family must decide for itself whether or not it will be able to meet the needs of, and provide a permanent home for, a specific child and must conform to the recommendations in the home study submitted to USCIS for the number of children and capacity to deal with any special needs of an adoptive child Learn more about Health Considerations. If you accept the referral, the adoption service provider communicates that to the central authority in United Kingdom. Learn more about this critical decision.
4. Apply to USCIS for the Child to be Found Provisionally Eligible for Immigration to the United States as a Convention Adoptee and Receive U.S. Agreement to Proceed with the Adoption
Submit a Petition for a Determination on the Child’s Immigration Eligibility
After you accept a match with a child, you will apply to USCIS for provisional approval for the child to immigrate to the United States by filing the Form I-800, Petition to Classify Convention Adoptee as an Immediate Relative. USCIS will make a provisional determination as to whether the child appears to meet the definition of a Convention adoptee and will likely be eligible to enter and remain in the United States.
Submit an Immigrant Visa Application
After provisional approval of Form I-800 petition, you or your adoption service provider will submit a visa application to the consular section of the U.S. Embassy in London responsible for issuing immigrant visas to children from United Kingdom.
You should receive a letter from the National Visa Center (NVC) confirming receipt of the provisionally approved Form I-800 petition and assigning a case number and an invoice ID number. Use this information to log into the Consular Electronic Application Center (CEAC) to file the Electronic Immigrant Visa Application (DS-260) for your child. An adoptive parent should fill out these forms in your child's name. Answer every item on the form. If information is not applicable, please write “N/A” in the block. Please review the DS-260 FAQs, our Online Immigrant Visa Forms page, or contact the NVC at NVCAdoptions@state.gov or +1-603-334-0700 if you have questions about completing the online DS-260 form. A consular officer will review the provisionally approved Form I-800 petition and the visa application and, if applicable, advises you of options for the waiver of any ineligibilities related to the visa application.
The consular officer will send a letter (referred to as an “Article 5/17 Letter”) to United Kingdom’s Central Authority in any intercountry adoption involving U.S. citizen parents and a child from United Kingdom if all Convention requirements are met and the child appears eligible to immigrate to the United States. This letter will inform the United Kingdom’s Central Authority that the parents are suitable and eligible to adopt, that the child appears eligible to enter and reside permanently in the United States, and that the U.S. Central Authority agrees that the adoption may proceed.
Warning: Do not attempt to adopt (or obtain custody) of a child in United Kingdom before you receive provisional approval of your Form I-800 petition AND a U.S. consular officer issues the “Article 5/17 Letter” for your adoption case.
Remember: The consular officer will make a final decision about a child’s eligibility for an immigrant visa later in the adoption process.
5. Adopt the Child in United Kingdom (or Obtain Legal Custody of Child for Purposes of Emigration and Adoption of the Child)
Remember: Before you adopt (or obtain legal custody of) a child in United Kingdom, you must have completed the above four steps. Only after completing these steps can you proceed to finalize the adoption (or a grant of legal custody by United Kingdom for the purposes of emigration and adoption).
The process for finalizing the adoption (or obtaining legal custody) in United Kingdom generally includes the following:
6. Obtain a U.S. Immigrant Visa for Your Child and Bring Your Child Home
Now that your adoption is complete (or you have obtained legal custody of the child for the purposes of emigration and adoption of the child in the United States), there are a few more steps to take before your child can head home. Specifically, you need to apply for three documents before your child can travel to the United States:
If you have finalized the adoption in United Kingdom, you will first need to apply for a birth certificate for your child so that you can later apply for a passport.
If you have been granted custody for the purposes of emigration and adoption of the child in the United States, the birth certificate you obtain will, in most cases, not yet include your name.
Adoptive parents may obtain UK Certificates of Adoption, the equivalent of a birth certificate issued in an adopted person’s new name from the General Register Office, Adoptions Section, Room C202, Trafalgar Road, Southport PR8 2HH. The short form birth certificate will be sent approximately six weeks after the court hearing. If a long form birth certificate is required the adopting parent will need to request one from the General Register Office, at the following website: gro.gov.uk/gro/content/certificates/default.asp.
United Kingdom Passport
Your child is not yet a U.S. citizen, so he/she will need a travel document or passport from United Kingdom.
Information on how to obtain a U.K. child’s passport can be found on the following website: ips.gov.uk/passport/apply-child.asp.
U.S. Immigrant Visa
After you obtain the new birth certificate and passport for your child, you also need to finalize your application for a U.S. visa for your child from the U.S. Embassy in London. After the adoption (or custody for purposes of emigration and adoption) is granted, visit the U.S Embassy for a final review of the case, and if applicable, the issuance of a U.S. Hague Adoption Certificate or Hague Custody Certificate, the final approval of the Form I-800 petition, and to obtain your child’s immigrant visa. This immigrant visa allows your child to travel home with you and be admitted to the United States as your child. As part of this process, you must provide the consular officer with the Panel Physician’s medical report on the child if you did not provide it during the provisional approval stage. Read more about the Medical Examination.
Before coming for your child’s immigrant visa interview, please be sure to complete an Electronic Immigrant Visa Application (DS-260) online at the Consular Electronic Application Center (CEAC). You should receive a letter from the National Visa Center (NVC) confirming receipt of the provisionally approved Form I-800 petition and assigning a case number and an invoice ID number. You will need this information to log into CEAC to file the DS-260 for your child. An adoptive parent should fill out these forms in your child's name. Answer every item on the form. If information is not applicable, please write “N/A” in the block. Print and bring the DS-260 form confirmation page to the visa interview. Please review the DS-260 FAQs, our Online Immigrant Visa Forms page, or contact the NVC at NVCAdoptions@state.gov or +1-603-334 -0700 if you have questions about completing the online DS-260 form.
Visa issuance after the final interview generally takes at least 24 hours. It is usually not possible to provide a visa on the same day as the immigrant visa interview. Adoptive parents should verify current processing times with the U.S. Embassy in London before making final travel arrangements.
Child Citizenship Act
For adoptions finalized abroad prior to the child’s entry into the United States: An adopted child residing in the United States in the legal and physical custody of the U.S. citizen parent pursuant to a lawful admission for permanent residence generally will acquire U.S. citizenship automatically upon entry into the United States if the child otherwise meets the requirements of the Child Citizenship Act of 2000, including the child is under the age of eighteen.
For adoptions finalized after the child’s entry into the United States: You will need to complete an adoption following your child’s entry into the United States and before the child turns eighteen for the child (if he or she otherwise meets the requirements of the Child Citizenship Act of 2000) to automatically acquire U.S. citizenship.
Read more about the Child Citizenship Act of 2000.
Applying for Your U.S. Passport
U.S. citizens are required by law to enter and depart the United States on a valid U.S. passport. Once your child has acquired U.S. citizenship, s/he will need a U.S. passport for any international travel. Only the U.S. Department of State has the authority to grant, issue, or verify U.S. passports.
Getting or renewing a passport is easy. The Department of State’s Passport Application Wizard will help you determine which passport form you need, help you to complete the form online, estimate your payment, and generate the form for you to print—all in one place.
Obtaining a Visa to Travel to United Kingdom
In addition to a U.S. passport, you may also need to obtain a visa to travel abroad. Where required, visas are affixed to a traveler’s passport and allow him or her to enter a foreign nation. To find information about obtaining a visa for United Kingdom, see the Department of State’s Country Specific Information.
Staying Safe on Your Trip
Before you travel, it is always a good practice to investigate the local conditions, laws, political landscape, and culture of the country. The Department of State provides Country Specific Information for every country in the world about various issues, including health conditions, crime, unusual currency or entry requirements, and any areas of instability.
Staying in Touch on Your Trip
When traveling during the adoption process, we encourage you to enroll with the Department of State through our Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP) to receive important information from the Embassy about safety conditions in your destination country. Enrollment makes it possible for the U.S. Embassy or Consulate in United Kingdom, to contact you in an emergency, whether natural disaster, civil unrest, or family emergency. Whether there is a family emergency in the United States or a crisis in United Kingdom, enrollment assists the U.S. Embassy or Consulate in reaching you.
Enrollment is free and can be done online via the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP).
Post-Adoption/Post-Placement Reporting Requirements
Once an adoption order has been granted, you are legally the child’s parent with the same rights and responsibilities as if they were born to you. Post-adoption reporting requirements will be determined by a UK local authority.
We urge you to comply with United Kingdom’s post-adoption/post-placement requirements in a timely manner. Your adoption service provider may be able to help you with this process. Your cooperation will contribute to that United Kingdom’s history of positive experiences with U.S. citizen adoptive parents.
Many adoptive parents find it important to find support after the adoption. There are many public and private nonprofit post-adoption services available for children and their families. There are also numerous adoptive family support groups and adoptee organizations active in the United States that provide a network of options for adoptees who seek out other adoptees from the same country of origin. Take advantage of all the resources available to your family, whether it is another adoptive family, a support group, an advocacy organization, or your religious or community services. Your primary provider can provide or point you to post- placement/post-adoption services to help your adopted child and your family transition smoothly and deal effectively with the many adjustments required in an intercountry adoption.
Here are some places to start your support group search:
Note: Inclusion of non-U.S. government links does not imply endorsement of content.
If you have concerns about your adoption process, we ask that you share this information with the Embassy in London, particularly if it involves possible fraud or misconduct specific to your child’s case. The Department of State takes all allegations of fraud or misconduct seriously.
Our Adoption Comment Page provides several points of contact for adoptive families to comment on their adoption service provider, their experience applying for their child’s visa, or about the Form I-800 petition process.
The Hague Complaint Registry is an internet based registry for filing complaints about U.S. accredited or approved adoption service providers. If you think your provider's conduct may have been out of substantial compliance with accreditation standards, first submit your complaint in writing directly to your provider. If the complaint is not resolved through the provider's complaint process, you may file the complaint through the Hague Complaint Registry.
U.S. Embassy in United Kingdom
24 Grosvenor Square
London, W1K6AH, United Kingdom
Tel: (44) (0) 20 7499-9000
United Kingdom’s Adoption Authority
The Department for Education
Intercountry Adoption Team
Embassy of United Kingdom
The British Embassy
3100 Massachusetts Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20008
Tel: (202) 588-7800
United Kingdom also has consulates in: Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, Houston, Los Angeles, New York, Orlando, San Francisco, and Seattle.
U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS)
For questions about filing a Form I-800A application or a Form I-800 petition:
USCIS National Benefits Center (NBC):
Tel: 1-877-424-8374 (toll free); 1-913-275-5480 (local); Fax: 1-913-214-5808
For general questions about immigration procedures:
USCIS Contact Center
Tel: 1-800-375-5283 (TTY 1-800-767-1833)
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