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. They will ensure that it is done properly and safely. They will also be responsible for making special direction applications, if necessary. 


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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 update you on 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 they will ensure 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 the 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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Page last updated: 30 April 2014

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