Australian Embassy

Adoption laws in Cambodia

Visas and Migration > Adoption Laws in Cambodia


On 1 April 2011, the Cambodian government will implement new laws relating to intercountry adoption (the laws were originally passed in December 2009). These new laws will have an effect on both “expatriate” adoption and any decision to establish an intercountry adoption program.

In the past, some Australians living overseas have been able to adopt children in Cambodia and obtain an Australian permanent visa (a subclass 102 Adoption visa) for the child through migration legislation relating to private (or expatriate) adoptions.

Under Cambodia's new laws, expatriate adoption is no longer open to people living outside Cambodia, meaning that, for Australians living outside Cambodia, it is no longer possible to adopt a child from Cambodia and subsequently apply for and be granted a subclass 102 Adoption visa.

It is not yet clear what impact the new laws will have on adoptions by Australians living in Cambodia, but it is likely that expatriate adoption may also no longer be possible for this group. Australians living in Cambodia are urged not to commence adoption arrangements until this matter is clarified.

Children adopted by Australian citizens or permanent residents via expatriate adoption arrangements are not automatically entitled to visas for entry to Australia. There are very strict legal requirements which need to be met before a visa can be granted. For example, Australian immigration officials may need to confirm the authenticity of the child’s adoption documents or background information, and a visa application may be denied if there is uncertainty about these documents. If a visa is not granted, the adoptive parents will have established a legal parent-child relationship in the overseas country without the child being able to reside permanently in Australia.

Given the changing adoption requirements in Cambodia, prospective adoptive parents are encouraged to apply particular caution and are strongly encouraged to seek legal advice in both Australia and Cambodia prior to pursuing an expatriate adoption from Cambodia.

Intercountry adoption is a formal process which occurs when an Australian citizen or permanent resident, residing in Australia, uses Australia’s designated adoption authorities to adopt a child from abroad. As the adoption is facilitated by the applicant’s State or Territory Central Authority, there are a number of safeguards in place to protect both the prospective adoptive parents and the child being adopted.

The Australian Government Attorney-General’s Department is the Australian Central Authority for intercountry adoption under the Hague Convention on the Protection of Children and Co-operation in respect of Intercountry Adoption. The Convention establishes principles for countries to follow that focus on the need for intercountry adoptions to occur only where it is in the best interests of the child, and with respect for his or her fundamental rights. Australia will not pursue an intercountry adoption program unless it is satisfied that the principles and standards of the Hague Convention are met.

Australia has never had an intercountry adoption program with Cambodia. The only adoptions of Cambodian children by Australians have been adoptions by expatriate Australians living overseas (see information on expatriate adoption above).

Like many other countries, Australia is monitoring the practical implementation of the new Cambodian intercountry adoption laws and framework in Cambodia, including the extent to which the Cambodian framework will support intercountry adoption practices that are consistent with the principles and standards of the Hague Convention.

Any important announcements about intercountry adoption, including about potential new country programs, are published on the Australian Attorney-General’s Department website,

If you have any questions about intercountry adoption from Cambodia, please email the Attorney-General’s Department intercountry adoption mailbox ([email protected]). You can also request to be added to the intercountry adoption mailing list to receive notifications when new announcements are posted on the website.

Please do not contact the Cambodian authorities directly, as this is contrary to the principles and standards of the Hague Convention.