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November 04, 2012
The laws of the UAE prohibit adoption within the UAE by non-Emirati couples. This means that only Emirati citizens holding UAE passports may adopt abandoned children in the UAE. Expatriate couples residing in the UAE must look abroad to adopt children. The adoption process for expatriates can still be conducted from the United Arab Emirates, regardless of the nationality of the parents.
Abandoned children that have been born in the UAE can obtain UAE citizenship and a UAE passport. This is set out in Article 2(e) of the Federal Law 10 of 1975, which amends the Federal Law No. 17 of 1972, Concerning Nationality and Passports. The law states that a child found in the UAE is deemed to be born in the UAE unless proven otherwise.
Under the Sharia law, it is encouraged for parents to care for a child that is not their biological child and nurture that child as if he was their own. However, it is prohibited for those parents to give the child their surname. The Federal laws of the UAE, which are based on the Sharia, circumvent this issue by allowing the adoptive parents to nominate the child’s first name, whereas the Court would order the child’s surname.
In practice, the children being adopted within the UAE are always abandoned, since their true identity at the time of adoption is not known. It is therefore possible for the Court to nominate the child’s new surname, making it the same as the adoptive father.
The above information might not apply if both parties are non-muslim. Starting from the 1st of February 2023, UAE issued specific family law to be applied between non-muslim expatriate residents in case none of them wanted to apply his/her home country's law in the UAE. To know more information about this law, please feel free to click this link.