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Adoption - Introduction for Applicants

The adoption of a child is subject to certain restrictions and demands extensive preparation, but the basic requirement is that the adoption is in the best interest of the child. Those who are considering international adoptions should consult with the Icelandic Adoption Society.

International Adoptions

International adoption require the prior approval of Icelandic authorities. Approval is issued by the district commissioner of the greater Reykjavík area.

International adoptions are generally handles by a certified adoption agency. In Iceland there is one certified agency, the Icelandic Adoption Society (ÍAS). It provides information regarding procedures, assists applicants and coordinates communication with foreign government agencies.

Under extraordinary circumstances a child may be adopted from a foreign country other than those that ÍAS has agreements with and without the mediation of the agency. These cases frequently concern the adoption of a child that is related to an adoptive parent. Information on such cases is available from the district commissioner of greater Reykjavík area.

Application & Process

Applicants contact ÍAS which then forwards their application for pre-approval, along with the supporting documents, to the district commissioner of the greater Reykjavík area.

The district commissioner then requests a review of the case from the child welfare committee and conducts enquiries to establish whether all legal requirements have been satisfied before a pre-approval is issued. This process takes several months and includes interviews with the prospective adoptive parents and an enquiry into their circumstances.

The adoption itself may take place abroad, or in Iceland after returning to Iceland with the child.

If pre-approval is denied, the ruling may be appealed to the Ministry of Justice.


Pre-approval depends on the age and marital status of the applicants, their personal 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 (i.e., registered as cohabitating) for at least five years.

Note that most countries have their own rules and restrictions about who may and may not adopt.

Support Programs for Adoptive Parents

The adoptive parents in international adoptions are entitled to an adoption allowance if certain requirements are met as set out in the Adoption Act. The allowance is processed by the Directorate of Labor, which can provide further information.

If an adopted child is younger than age 8 at the time of the adoption, the adoptive parents are entitled to paid and unpaid parental leave when the child enters the home.

In addition, a number of trade unions provide grants to their members for adoption.

Adoptions within Iceland

There are two types of adoption within Iceland, namely step-parent adoptions and non-family adoptions.

Adoption by a 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 parents submit their application and supporting documents directly to the district commissioner in the greater Reykjavík area, who makes enquiries to establish that all legal requirements have been satisfied before issuing the permit to adopt.

If the child to be adopted is younger than 18 the case is sent to the child welfare committee for review.

Is the adoption is denied it may be appealed to the Ministry of Justice.

Please consult the district commissioner in the greater Reykjavík area for further information.


For step-parent adoption, the step-parent and primary parent must have lived together for at least five years. This applies both to married couples and couples registered as cohabitating.

In cases of non-family adoption, the couple must have been living together for three years without interruptions if the applicants are married, and for five years without interruptions if the couple is registered as cohabitating.

Single persons are permitted to adopt if it is considered to be in the child's best interest, but certain restrictions on gender and age apply.

In general, applicants must be mentally and physically fit and able to demonstrate sound finances and satisfactory housing.

A child over the age of 12 must personally approve of the adoption.

Keep in Mind

Contact the Icelandic Adoption Society for information on international adoptions.

Apply for pre-approval, required for all adoptions, from the district commissioner in the greater Reykjavík area.

Ascertain your rights to entitlements such as an adoption allowance and paid and unpaid parental leave from the Directorate of Labor.