The adoption of a child is subject to certain conditions and demands extensive preparation, but the basic requirement is that adoption is for the best of the child. Those who want to adopt a child from another country must first contact the Icelandic Adoption Society.

Adoptions of foreign children

  • When planning to adopt children from abroad, the prior approval of the Icelandic authorities is required. Such approval is issued by the District Commissioner, greater Reykjavík area.
  • The adoption of children from other countries is generally subject to the mediation of a certified adoption society. In Iceland there is one such society operating, the Icelandic Adoption Society (ÍAS). It provides information regarding procedures, assists the applicants and organises contacts with foreign government agencies.
  • Under extraordinary circumstances a child may be adopted from a foreign country other than the ones that ÍAS collaborates with and without the mediation of the society. Such instances frequently concern the adoption of a child that is related to the adoptive parent. Information can be obtained regarding the proceedings in such cases from the District Commissioner, greater Reykjavík area.

Application and process

  • The applicants contact IAS which then sends an application for pre-approval, along with the accompanying documents, to the District Commissioner, greater Reykjavík area.
  • The District Commissioner then requests the opinion of the child welfare committee and conducts enquiries to find out whether the legal requirements are met before the pre-approval is issued. This process takes several months and includes interviews with prospective adoptive parents and an enquiry into their circumstances.
  • The adoption itself may take place abroad, or in Iceland after the return to Iceland with the child.
  • If the issue of pre-approval is refused, the ruling may be appealed to the Ministry of Justice.


  • The issuing of pre-approval is dependent upon the age and marriage status of the applicants, their social circumstances and their health status. Under Icelandic law, single persons, can obtain pre-approval for adoption.
  • Married couples must have lived together consecutively for at least three years, and a couple in common-law marriage for at least five years.
  • It must be taken into consideration that the countries from where an adoption is made may have special rules.


  • The adoptive parents of foreign children are entitled to an adoption allowance if the requirements of the Adoption Act are met. The allowance is processed with the Directorate of Labour, where you can obtain further information.
  • If an adopted child is younger than 8 years old at the time of the adoption, the adoptive parents are entitled to a maternity/paternity leave and parental leave when the child enters the home.
  • A number of trade unions provide grants to their members for adoption.

Adoptions of Icelandic children

  • There are two types of adoption with respect to the adoption of Icelandic children, namely step-parent adoptions and primary adoptions.
  • Adoption by step-parent means the adoption of a spouse's child.
  • An adoption can take place even though the child involved is older than 18 years of age.

Application and process

  • Prospective adoptive parents send in their application and the accompanying documents to the District Commissioner, greater Reykjavík area, who makes enquiries to find out if legal requirements are met prior to the issuing of the permit to adopt.
  • If the child to be adopted is younger than 18 years the case is sent to the child welfare committee for their opinion.
  • Refusals for the issues adoption permits may be appealed to the Ministry of the Interior.
  • Instructions and further information will be provided by the District Commissioner, greater Reykjavík area.


  • In the case of adoption by a step-parent, the step-parent and the genetic parent must have cohabited for at least five years. This applies equally for marriage, registered cohabitation and cohabitation.
  • In the case of primary adoption, the cohabitation must have continued uninterrupted for three years if the applicants are married or in a registered cohabitation, and for five years if the applicants are cohabiting.
  • Single persons are permitted to adopt if it is unequivocally considered to be for the child's benefit and there are special circumstances.
  • The applicants must be mentally and physically healthy, have sound economic circumstances and satisfactory housing.
  • A child older than 12 years must personally approve the adoption.

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