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Importing and exporting sperm, eggs and embryos

If you have eggs, sperm or embryos in storage, it’s possible to move them both into and out of the UK, providing you use a licensed clinic. Find out more about importing or exporting your eggs, sperm or embryos.

What is importing and exporting?

Importing and exporting is when you move eggs, sperm and embryos outside of the UK (exporting) or into the UK (importing). This could be for storage or to use in fertility treatment. If you’re moving eggs, sperm or embryos between UK clinics this is not import/export.

Why do some people import or export eggs, sperm or embryos?

You might want to consider importing or exporting your eggs, sperm or embryos if:

  • You’re moving to the UK, or you’re moving overseas and you want to take your frozen eggs, sperm or embryos with you.
  • You’re using donor eggs or sperm from another country, but you want to have fertility treatment in the UK.
  • You want to go abroad for fertility treatment, but you have frozen eggs, sperm or embryos in the UK that you want to take with you to use in treatment.

There are rules on how long you can store material imported to the UK.

There are rules on how long you can store material imported to the UK

How do I import/export my eggs, sperm or embryos?

You’ll need to find a UK licensed fertility clinic (if you don’t already have one) to ensure your eggs, sperm or embryos are moved safely.

There are strict requirements for importing/exporting and your clinic will need to be happy those requirements have been met before they allow your eggs, sperm or embryos to be moved.

View our requirements on importing/exporting in our Code of Practice.

Please note that not every fertility clinic offers this service and some clinics may charge for it.

Search for licensed fertility clinics

How long does it take to import/export?

It depends on whether your clinic has previously imported to/exported from the relevant clinic abroad.

If they have, it may be quicker for them to carry out all the relevant checks than if they haven’t worked with a clinic before.

If the clinic abroad doesn’t meet our requirements, your clinic would also need to apply to us for permission to import/export your eggs, sperm or embryos, which would involve submitting information to us for our Statutory Approvals Committee to consider (see below for more information).

Find out more about the standards clinics have to meet in our Code of Practice.

How are the sperm, eggs or embryos transported?

They’d need to be frozen (cryopreserved) in a tube first and then shipped in a container that is designed for the transport of biological materials and that maintains the safety and quality of the eggs, sperm or embryos.

Clinics will often work with specialist courier companies to ensure that all material is kept safe during transit, but if you have any concerns you should talk to your clinic about their transportation processes.

There are different rules if you’re importing/exporting to European countries or further afield,

There are different rules if you’re importing/exporting to European countries or further afield

How long can I store them for?

If you’re importing your own eggs, sperm or embryos into the UK then you can usually store them for a maximum of 10 years in the UK – this applies even if you’ve previously had them in storage in another country.

In certain cases, storage can be extended for up to 55 years – talk to your clinic about whether you might be eligible for an extension.

If you’re importing donor sperm, eggs or embryos then the donor would also need to have given consent for their donation to be stored for 10 years.

Find out more about sperm freezing

Find out more about egg freezing

Find out more about embryo freezing

If you’re exporting to another country then length of storage depends on the relevant laws or restrictions within that country (if there are any).

What if my import/export doesn’t meet requirements?

If your clinic doesn’t believe your import/export meets the requirements, they can apply to us for special permission on your behalf.

This involves the clinic completing an application form explaining why we should allow your eggs, sperm or embryos to be moved either into or out of the UK. Please note, you cannot apply to us directly.

Their application will be reviewed by our Statutory Approvals Committee (SAC), who will make a decision about whether or not to approve your request.

Find out more about our committees and panels

Again, it’s up to your clinic whether they want to put in an application for you and they may charge for this.

Why might an import/export not meet requirements?

There are strict UK and EU laws that need to be met for eggs, sperm or embryos to be moved across borders. These include ensuring that the clinic abroad is licensed or accredited by a relevant authority and has processes in place to minimise the possibility of contamination.

The requirements vary depending on whether patients intend to import or export, and whether this will be from/to the European Economic Area or further afield. If one of the requirements can’t be met, then it’ll be turned down.


Review date: 5 May 2022

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