A Guide to Adoption in Dubai and UAE
Want to adopt a child while living in the UAE? Here's our guide on what to know
17 April 2019
Bringing a new child into a family is always emotional.
But if you throw in the complexities of adoption into the mix, it can be very overwhelming for prospective parents - and especially for expatriates living in the UAE.
The common misconception for expats living here is that adoption is simply not possible - but the reality is far from it. In fact, expatriate residents in the UAE can adopt while living here as per the laws of their country/ies of citizenship, and that of the child's.
If you're thinking about adopting a child while living in Dubai and UAE, here's our complete guide with everything you need to know to help...
Is adoption illegal in the UAE?
Despite some beliefs, adoption is technically not illegal.
Emiratis and other Muslim residents living in the UAE cannot adopt a child, as adoption is not recognised in Islam. The UAE is a Muslim country, and thus Islamic law is in place here.
However, these individuals are permitted to raise, care for, sponsor or foster an abandoned child or orphan when done through licenced charitable organisations like the Emirates Red Crescent Authority. But the child must keep the family name of their biological father - and must not take the family name of their carers.
For expatriates, adoption is not illegal - but intended parents must not adopt from within the UAE. There are systems in place to allow expats to adopt a child from overseas.
Unmarried, cohabiting couples or individuals are not permitted to adopt under UAE law.
Adopting a child as an expatriate
As we've mentioned, adoption is available for expatriate resident couples, but only outside the UAE. Adoptions are not conducted within the UAE, but adoptions carried out abroad are accepted in the country. As a result, the conditions of adoption are subject to the national law of the adopting parent and to the national law of the adopted child.
When returning to the UAE, the adopted children will receive the same rights and protection as biological children. This is because adoption orders issued elsewhere can be recognised in the UAE if the child has the same name as the adoptive parents.
For instance, if adoption is conducted in the UK and the child's name is duly changed to the same surname as the adoptive parents, this adopted child can then come to the UAE and receive a residency sponsorship as their legal offspring and will be protected under the UAE law as their child. The UAE's laws will not differentiate between a biological child and an adopted child.
In unlikely circumstances, adoption cannot be pursued if the national law of both spouses prohibits it.
How to adopt a child when living in UAE
Before going ahead with the adoption process, prospective parents must contact their embassy to seek advice on adoption laws in their respective home countries, and to ensure that adoptive children can obtain citizenship.
From there, the first step is a home study programme - all international adoptions require a home study. In Dubai, this is conducted by the Human Relations Institute and Clinics (HRIC) for instance. This is a comprehensive, psychological report that is approved and signed by a licenced psychologist to say that you have been "trained, checked and approved" as potential parents.
This process typically takes eight to ten weeks and consists of 'homework' and weekly therapy sessions, which are used to aid intended parents in preparing to raise an adoptive child. The main purpose of doing this is for the child, not the parents.
Help with choosing an adoption agency
Whilst the home study process takes place, most parents are already in touch with an adoption facilitator or agency in their selected country, who set-up the adoption and take care of the paperwork.
It is recommended that you choose a country carefully, and go with a reputable agency who have facilitated lots of adoptions. For example, The Adoption Support Group Dubai is a great place to seek advice from families who have already been through the process with various agencies.
Once parents are matched with a child, the agency helps to set a court date, fill out the paperwork and obtain exit documentation. Upon returning to the UAE, an application for residency must be submitted as well as an application for citizenship in the parent's home country.
The steps in an adoption process for UAE expats
Please bear in mind that the following is a useful guide and that every case is different.
- Complete the home study with the HRIC
- Have a home assessment
- Gather and submit paperwork, which should be certified by three countries
- Contact an adoption facilitator in your chosen country
- Wait to be matched to a baby/child
- Fly out to meet the child, and complete further paperwork
- Await court date and fly out to child's birth country again
- Apply for a visa and bring child back to UAE
- Apply to your country of origin for citizenship
- Frequent reports back to birth country on the development and wellbeing of your child up to 18 years old