FAQs about transferring, importing and exporting from abroad

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As a patient, can I apply to import/export sperm, eggs or embryos from abroad?

Imports and exports should be dealt with by a licensed clinic on your behalf.

 

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I want to find out about my application. Who do I need to talk to?

You should discuss this with your clinic and not the HFEA. They should be able to tell you the progress of the application.

 

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Can you give me a list of sperm banks that clinics have previously used to acquire sperm?

Your clinic will be able to provide this as they are responsible for deciding which non-UK sperm banks they use to obtain sperm for your treatment and ensuring that imported sperm complies with UK law and HFEA guidance.

 

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Do you regulate sperm banks outside of the UK?

No, the HFEA is a UK regulator and therefore does not regulate establishments outside the UK. With the introduction of European Union legislation, clinics providing donated sperm within the EU (including the UK) now have to comply with European standards.

 

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Rules and procedures for importing and exporting:


What are the rules about importing and exporting embryos, sperm and eggs to and from European clinics?

The HFE Act 1990 was amended with effect from 5th July 2007 to bring theĀ EU Tissues and Cells Directive (EUTCD) into UK law. The Directive sets out a common European-wide system of standards of quality and safety for patients and aims to ensure a high level of health protection within the European community.

The law says that the transfer of sperm, eggs and embryos within the European Economic Area (EEA) can only occur between clinics 'accredited, designated, authorised, or licensed' under the laws implementing the EU Tissue and Cells Directive (EUTCD). This means that both the sending and receiving clinics must be accredited to the standards set by the EUCTD by the by the relevant national body in each country. In the UK all clinics are accredited through the HFEA.

These requirements on importing and exporting from accredited clinics have been in place since the Directive was incorporated into UK law from 5 July 2007.

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What is the procedure for sending sperm, eggs or embryos to a clinic in the EEA?

If you are considering sending sperm, eggs or embryos to another clinic within the EEA, your clinic will organise this on your behalf.

For this to be done the following requirements need to be met:

  • The clinic to which the transfer is being made is licensed or accredited in accordance with the Directive
  • The person who provided the sperm, eggs or embryos has consented to the transfer of their sperm, eggs or embryos
  • The person who provided the sperm,eggs or embryos is aware that the law governing the use of sperm, eggs or embryos and the parentage of any resulting child may not be the same in the country to which the sperm,eggs or embryos are to be exported as it is in the UK.
  • 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 sperm, eggs or embryos must not be transferred if they could not lawfully be used in licensed treatment services in the UK in the manner or circumstances in which it is proposed that the sperm, eggs or embryos be used by the receiving centre
  • The period for which the sperm, eggs or embryos may remain stored in accordance with the storage consent (s) is not less than 6 months from the date on which they are to be exported

The UK clinic planning to transfer the sperm, eggs or embryos must make sure that these criteria are met in order for the transfer to take place.

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What is the procedure for importing sperm, eggs or embryos from another EEA country?

If you are considering obtaining sperm, eggs or embryos from within the EEA, your clinic will organise this on your behalf.

For this to be done the following requirements need to be met:

  • The clinic from which the transfer is being made is licensed or accredited in accordance with the Directive.
  • The donor of the sperm, eggs or embryos:
    • is identifiable,
    • has consented to the transfer of their sperm, eggs or embryos to the UK and
    • 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 sperm, eggs or embryos to be imported must meet the UK requirements on screening as set out in HFEA licence conditions and the Code of Practice

The UK clinic receiving the sperm, eggs and embryos must make sure that the supplying EEA clinic has met these criteria in order for the transfer to take place.

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Page last updated: 28 August 2009

What are in-vitro derived gametes?

In-vitro derived gametes are sperm and eggs derived in the laboratory from alternative sources (embryonic stem cells for example).

Find out more about in-vitro derived gametes and see how their use is regulated by the HFEA.

...more about in-vitro derived gametes