Many Australians adopt children from other countries. There are two types of overseas adoptions - intercountry adoption and expatriate adoption.
There are legal implications surrounding overseas adoptions both in Australia and in the child's country.
If you're going overseas to adopt a child (expatriate adoption), you must ensure you fully understand and comply with the laws in the child's country. Failing to comply could see you suspected of child trafficking. You could be arrested or jailed overseas.
Intercountry adoption is when an Australian living in Australia adopts a child from overseas through authorities in their Australian state and territory.
The relevant government authority in the child's country administers the arrangement overseas. This process is guided by the Hague Convention on intercountry adoption under which Australia has formal adoption arrangements.
Australia has agreements with 13 partner countries. These are:
- Hong Kong
- South Africa
- South Korea
- Sri Lanka
Intercountry Adoption Australia (ICA) provides comprehensive information about the process. ICA has a range of resources and services to help Australians adopting children from overseas.
Expatriate adoption is when an Australian living overseas adopts a child from the country they’re living in.
Expatriate adoption occurs through the overseas country's processes and is finalised in that country.
The adoption may include a third country. An Australian living in Country B may adopt a child from Country C.
Australian state and territories are not responsible for expatriate adoptions. They do not assess or approve applications for such adoptions.
Expatriate adoptions may not meet legal requirements in Australia.
Refer to the Intercountry Adoption Australia website for more information.
Visas and citizenship
The Department of Home Affairs manages immigration and citizenship requirements for adoptions. They:
- assess and decide on visa applications
- can grant a visa to a child adopted by an Australian
Refer to the Department of Home Affairs Adoption visa page.
Consular services and adoption
Australian embassies and consulates provide limited support to Australians adopting overseas.
Read the Consular Services Charter for what we can and can't do.
What we can do
- We can process passport applications and issue the child's Australian passport once they're an Australian citizen.
- We can provide a list of local lawyers that speak English if you have other legal or compliance issues or are arrested or jailed.
- We can provide a list of local hospitals and doctors if you or your child needs medical assistance while you're away, or to vaccinate your child
What we can't do
- We can't process applications for the child's visa. Refer to the Department of Home Affairs for immigration and citizenship matters.
- We can't provide legal advice on any matter. This includes advice to comply with local intercountry adoption laws.
- We can't get you out of trouble if you're arrested or jailed.
- We can't represent you in court or in other legal matters. You need a local lawyer.
Final tips before you go overseas to adopt a child
- Find out the local laws about adoption, if unsure get legal advice.
- Arrange adequate travel insurance for you and your adopted child.
- Arrange emotional and practical support from friends and family, for while you're away and when you return home with your child.
- Read the travel advice for your destination, know what the risks are for you and your child so you can stay safe.
- See our general advice for people travelling with children.
- See our page on international surrogacy.
- Get travel insurance for you and your child before you go.
- Make sure you've got the right vaccinations for your destination.
- Find out what to do if you're arrested or jailed.
- For more information about overseas adoptions, see Intercountry Adoption Australia.
- Read the guide for Hague Convention on intercountry adoption
- The Department of Home Affairs is responsible for Australian visas and citizenship. See their information for children adopted outside Australia by an Australian citizen.