How to Adopt from United Kingdom


WARNING: The UK is party to the Hague Adoption Convention. Do not adopt or obtain legal custody of a child in the UK before a U.S. consular officer issues an “Article 5 Letter” in the case. Read on for more information.

Adoption Authority

UK Adoption Authority

The Department for Education

The Department for Education (formerly the Department for Children, Schools and Families and the Department for Education and Skills) 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.

The Process

Because the UK is party to the Hague Adoption Convention, adopting from the UK must follow a specific process designed to meet the Convention’s requirements. A brief summary of the Convention adoption process is given below. You must complete these steps in the following order so that your adoption meets 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
  2. Apply to USCIS to be found eligible to adopt
  3. Be matched with a child by authorities in the UK.
  4. Apply to USCIS for the child to be found eligible for immigration to the United States and receive U.S. agreement to proceed with the adoption
  5. Adopt (or Gain Legal Custody of child in the UK.
  6. Obtain a U.S. immigrant visa for your child and bring your child home

1. Choose a U.S. Accredited or Approved Adoption Service Provider

The recommended first step in adopting a child from the UK 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. Only accredited or approved adoption services providers may provide adoption services between the United States and the. The U.S. accredited or approved adoption service provider will act as the primary provider in your case. The primary adoption service provider is responsible for ensuring that all adoption services in the case are done in accordance with the Hague Adoption Convention and U.S. laws and regulations. Learn more about Agency Accreditation.

2. Apply to USCIS to be Found Eligible to Adopt

After you choose an accredited or approved adoption service provider, you must apply to be found eligible to adopt by the responsible U.S. government agency, the Department of Homeland Security, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), by submitting Form I-800A. Read more about Eligibility Requirements.

Once USCIS determines that you are “eligible” and “suited” to adopt by approving the Form I-800A, your adoption service provider will provide your approval notice, home study, and any other required information to the adoption authority in the UK as part of your adoption dossier. The UK adoption authority will review your application to determine whether you are also eligible to adopt under UK law.

3. Be Matched with a Child in the UK

If both the United States and the UK determine that you are eligible to adopt, and the 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 the UK 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 a specific child in the UK. The adoption authority in the UK will provide a background study and other information, if available, about the child to help you decide whether to accept the referral or not. Each family must decide for itself whether or not it will be able to meet the needs and provide a permanent home for a particular child. If you accept the referral, the adoption service provider communicates that to the adoption authority in the UK. Learn more about this critical decision.

NOTE: As described above, the UK is not generally considered a country of origin in intercountry adoption. Adoptions typically involve relatives or those with strong connections to the child.

4. Apply to USCIS for the Child to be Found Eligible for Immigration to the United States and Receive U.S. Agreement to Proceed with the Adoption

After you accept a match with a child, you will apply to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) for provisional approval for the child to immigrate to the United States (Form I-800). USCIS will make a provisional determination as to whether the child meets the definition of a Convention Adoptee and will be eligible to enter the United States and reside permanently as an immigrant.

After provisional approval of Form I-800, your adoption service provider or you will submit a visa application to the Consular Section of the U.S. Embassy in London that is responsible for issuing immigrant visas to children from the UK. A consular officer will review the Form I-800 and the visa application for possible visa ineligibilities and advise you of options for the waiver of any noted ineligibilities.

WARNING: The consular officer will send a letter (referred to as an “Article 5 Letter”) to the UK Central Authority in any intercountry adoption involving U.S. citizen parents and a child from the UK where all Convention requirements are met and the consular officer determines that the child appears eligible to immigrate to the United States. This letter will inform the UK Central Authority that the parents are eligible and suited to adopt, that all indications are that the child may enter and reside permanently in the United States, and that the U.S. Central Authority agrees that the adoption may proceed.

Do not attempt to adopt or obtain custody of a child in the UK before a U.S. consular officer issues the Article 5 Letter in any 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 or Gain Legal Custody of Child in the UK

Remember: Before you adopt (or gain legal custody of) a child in the UK, you must have completed the above four steps. Only after completing these steps, can you proceed to finalize the adoption or grant of custody for the purposes of adoption in the UK.

The process for finalizing the adoption or gaining legal custody in UK generally includes the following:

  • Role of Adoption Authority: The Department for Education (DfE) is the central government department responsible for adoption policy and legislation. The DfE also has a role in the processing of intercountry adoption cases. The DfE issues Certificates of Eligibility for all non-Hague Convention adoption applications made by prospective adoptive parents habitually resident in the UK. For adoptions completed under the Hague Convention, the DfE only processes applications for England. The Devolved Administrations in Wales, Scotland, Northern Ireland, and the Isle of Man Government each have their own Central Authorities under the Hague Convention and process casework for applicants in their respective countries.
  • Role of the Court: The court is responsible for making legal rulings on adoption applications including an order under section 84 giving parental responsibility. An application for an adoption order will usually start in a court that is a designated adoption center. However, every case is different and the court's decision about the next steps will depend on the details of the application.
  • Time Frame: There is no standard time frame.
  • Adoption Application: Please see A Guide to Intercountry Adoption for UK Residents linked to the webpage A guide to intercountry adoption on the Department for Education website for detailed information on preparing an application for intercountry adoption.
  • Adoption Fees: In the adoption services contract that you sign at the beginning of the adoption process, your U.S. agency will itemize the fees and estimated expenses related to your adoption process. There are no specific costs set by the UK government.
1. A detailed home study completed by an approved adoption agency;
2. Medical clearance; and
3. Full police background check. NOTE: Additional documents may be requested.
  • Authentication of Documents: The United States and the UK are parties to the Hague Apostille Convention. U.S. public documents may be authenticated with Apostilles by the appropriate U.S. Competent Authority.

6. Obtain an 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 purpose of adopting the child in the United States), there are a few more steps to take before you can head home. Specifically, you need to apply for three documents before your child can travel to the United States:

1. Birth Certificate

If you have finalized the adoption in UK, you will firstneed to apply for a birth certificate for your child so that you can later apply for a passport.

If you are granted custody for the purpose of adopting 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: UK Passport

Your child is not yet a U.S. citizen, so he/she will need a travel document or passport from the UK.

Information on how to obtain a U.K. child’s passport can be found on the following website:

2. 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 purpose of adoption) is granted, visit the U.S. Embassy for final review of the case, issuance of a U.S. Hague Adoption Certificate or Hague Custody Certificate, final approval of Form I-800, and to obtain your child’s immigrant visa. This immigrant visa allows your child to travel home with you. As part of this process, the consular officer must be provided the “Panel Physician’s” medical report on the child if it was not provided during the provisional approval stage.

To learn more about the Child Citizenship Act please read The Child Citizenship Act of 2000.

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