Importing sperm, eggs or embryos

Importing sperm, eggs or embryos from abroadOn this page:


 

Why import donor sperm, eggs or embryos?

As donated sperm, eggs and embryos can be hard to find in the UK and waiting lists can be long, using imported sperm, eggs or embryos may speed up your treatment.

However, it is important to realise that:

  • the clinic has to apply for an import licence, and they may charge you for it
  • if the sperm, eggs or embryos do not meet UK standards, the application will not be granted.

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What are the risks when importing donor sperm, eggs or embryos?

When considering importing sperm, eggs or embryos, bear in mind the following points.

  • The HFEA inspects clinics in the UK regularly, and licensed clinics have to abide by the HFEA Code of Practice. We do not regulate clinics in other countries. These may be subject to local standards and regulations, which vary from country to country.

    Make sure you understand the standards of treatment you can expect from a clinic you are considering.
  • In the UK, donors are not paid and are required to give informed, written consent. They must also be offered counselling and provide information about themselves. This is not standard practice outside the UK.

    Ask the clinic about their donor recruitment processes, and what information about the donor will be available to you and to any child born from the donation.
  • In the UK, the donor has no legal responsibility or rights in respect of children born as a result of their donation – this may not be the case in other countries, so you will need to seek independent legal advice.

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What is the procedure for importing sperm, eggs or embryos?

The procedure for obtaining sperm, eggs or embryos from abroad depends on whether the donations are coming from within the European Economic Area (EEA) or from outside it:

Importing sperm, eggs or embryos from within the EEA

If you are considering obtaining sperm, eggs or embryos from within the EEA, the donations will need to meet the following criteria:

  • The EEA country from which the transfer is being made must have implemented EEA-wide quality and standards known as the EU Tissues and Cells Directive (EUTCD).
  • The clinic from which the transfer is being made must be licensed or accredited under the laws of that EEA country.
  • The sperm, eggs or embryos transferred must meet UK requirements on screening, as set out in HFEA licence conditions and the HFEA Code of Practice.
  • The donor of the sperm, eggs or embryos:
    • is identifiable
    • has consented to the transfer of their sperm, eggs or embryos to the UK  o has been made aware of the legal position in the UK on identifying donors (including the implications for the donor).
  • The donor of the sperm, eggs or embryos must have only received reasonable expenses or reimbursement for loss of earnings. No inconvenience payments should have been made to the donor.

The UK clinic receiving the donation must make sure that the EEA clinic providing the donation has met these criteria before the transfer takes place.

If they cannot assure themselves that the criteria have been met then the clinic will need to apply to the HFEA for a Special Direction.

 

Importing sperm, eggs or embryos from outside the EEA

If you are considering obtaining sperm, eggs or embryos from outside the EEA your clinic can organise this on your behalf and then notify the HFEA after the event.

For this to be done your clinic must ensure that certain requirements are met. Clinics are familiar with these requirements which include: 

  • The overseas clinic must meet the laws or other measures in its own country in regards to quality and safety.
  • The overseas clinic must demonstrate that it can meet equivalent standards to those laid down in the EUTCD Directive.
  • The sperm, eggs or embryos transferred meet UK requirements on screening, as set out in HFEA licence conditions and the HFEA Code of Practice.
  • The donor consented to send their sperm, eggs or embryos to the UK and is aware of the laws on identifying donors.
  • The donor must have only received reasonable reimbursement for loss of earnings, or for expenses. No inconvenience payments should have been made to the donor.

If the overseas clinic does not meet all the conditions, the clinic will need to apply to the HFEA for special permission on your behalf to import from that country.

These special applications will be considered by an HFEA Licence Committee - this could take between four - eight weeks.

 

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Page last updated: 28 March 2009

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