Importing and exporting donor material
How do I import or export donor material (eggs, sperm or embryos) into or out of Victoria?
You need to apply for and receive VARTA’s written approval to move donor material into or out of Victoria.
Please note: Travel restrictions have caused a surge in applications to VARTA this year. It takes 4-6 weeks for VARTA to process an application once it has received complete paperwork from a clinic. You can read more about the process below.
How to apply – information for individual applicants
- Submit a complete import application form or export application form and all supporting documents (such as invoices or receipts for reimbursements) to your Victorian clinic (click here for a list of accredited fertility clinics). If you are applying with your partner, you only need to submit one application together.
- Your Victorian clinic will review your application for completeness. They will submit your application and a signed declaration form to VARTA on your behalf.
- VARTA will send a confirmation email to your Victorian clinic once we receive your complete application, supporting documents, and a signed clinic declaration. VARTA may request further information from your clinic, if necessary. Your clinic will contact you if more information is required.
- The VARTA Board will consider and make a decision about your application once your Victorian clinic has provided all information required. The Board may request further information about your application. If your application is approved, the approval may include specific conditions.
- VARTA will notify you and your Victorian clinic of its decision as soon as possible.
For comprehensive information about the individual import or export application process, please refer to the VARTA Guidelines for Importing and Exporting Donor Material – Individual Applications.
How does VARTA process applications and how can I check on my application?
When a clinic submits an application and supporting documents, VARTA staff review it to ensure that it satisfies Victorian law. If VARTA has any questions about the application or if something is missing, VARTA staff will contact the clinic to find out more.
Once VARTA has a complete application, all relevant supporting documents, and responses to its questions (if any), the application is presented to the VARTA Board for a decision. In certain cases, the VARTA Board may ask for more information about an application during its meeting. From the time VARTA has a complete application, it takes an average of 4-6 weeks for a decision to be made and for VARTA to contact you about its decision.
If you have questions about the progress of your application, please contact your clinic. VARTA staff are working hard to process applications as quickly as possible and are not in a position to provide a status report to individuals or clinics prior to 6 weeks from receipt of a completed application.
What can I do to ensure my application is processed as quickly as possible?
VARTA encourages you to provide as much detail about your application and circumstances as possible or available to you. This will help minimise follow-up queries that may delay your application being processed.
VARTA recommends attaching invoices, receipts of payment, or other relevant supporting documentation for all expenses (such as medical fees, storage/freezing, lab tests) that you or any of the clinics paid to the donor for their donation. If you provide bank or credit card statements, label the expenses clearly. If any payments were made in a lump sum, please break down the expenses as much as possible. Consider itemising this information in an Excel spreadsheet as an addendum to your application, if necessary.
Please also ensure that your application is complete and all included information is correct. There is a high risk that your application will be delayed if incomplete or missing any information.
Application process – information for Victorian clinics
- Review the information in the individual application.
- To avoid delays in processing, ensure that the application is complete and that all relevant supporting documents (if required) are attached. Supporting documents will generally be required if:
- the donor has been paid or received reimbursements in relation to their donation – evidence of all relevant payments made (or to be made) needs to be provided
- the donor material will be exported for use overseas
- the donor material will be imported for use in a surrogacy arrangement in Victoria
- the donor material will be exported for use in a surrogacy arrangement outside Victoria, or
- any unusual circumstances arise and VARTA may need further information to consider an application.
- If all relevant legislative requirements are satisfied, the designated officer needs to complete and sign a clinic declaration to this effect.
- Complete applications, supporting documents (if required), and signed clinic declarations should be packaged together and sent to firstname.lastname@example.org.
What does VARTA consider when reviewing my application?
When reviewing applications, VARTA considers several requirements set out in the relevant legislation and national guidelines, including the Assisted Reproductive Treatment Act 2008 (ART Act).
As part of the approval process, VARTA considers the following guiding principles:
- the welfare and interests of persons born or to be born as a result of treatment procedures are paramount
- at no time should the use of treatment procedures be for the purpose of exploiting in trade or otherwise the reproductive capabilities of men and women or children born as a result of treatment procedures
- children born as a result of the use of donated gametes have a right to information about their genetic parents
- the health and wellbeing of persons undergoing treatment procedures must be protected at all times, and
- persons seeking to undergo treatment procedures must not be discriminated against.
In addition to the guiding principles, other considerations include (but are not limited to):
- whether the donor provided appropriate consent
- whether the donor received the appropriate counselling about their rights and obligations as a donor
- whether the donor provided the necessary non-identifying and identifying information to be recorded in the Central Register
- compliance with Victoria’s family limits, and
- the nature of any payments or reimbursements made to donors for the donation of their donor material.
Please note that this is a non-exhaustive list. VARTA considers all relevant circumstances regarding individual applications.
Can VARTA grant any exemptions?
In extremely limited circumstances, VARTA may exempt an individual from compliance with specific provisions in the ART Act if it is satisfied that:
- the procedures that have taken place (or will take place) outside Victoria are consistent with Victorian legislation, and
- there are special circumstances that warrant the exemption.
Please note that both requirements must be satisfied. VARTA’s obligation to interpret and apply Victorian legislation consistently under the first requirement limits its power to grant exemptions under the second requirement. This means that VARTA cannot grant exemptions due to special circumstances alone.
The following are examples where VARTA does not have the power to grant an exemption, regardless of special circumstances:
Under Victoria’s ‘Right to Know’ legislation, all donor-conceived people in Victoria have the right to know their genetic heritage. This means that all donors are required to provide identifying information to record in Victoria’s Central Register.
If a donor is anonymous and identifying information is not available to record in the Central Register, VARTA cannot approve the import application or grant any exemptions.
Worldwide 10-woman limit for use of donor material
VARTA cannot approve or grant exemptions to import or export applications where the use of donor material in treatment may result in more than 10 women having children who are genetic siblings. This limit includes the donor’s own family.
Paying and/or reimbursing donors
A donor cannot be given ‘valuable consideration’ (i.e. gifts or money beyond ‘reasonable expenses’) for their donation. ‘Reasonable expenses’ are expenses that the donor incurs directly in connection with their donation (e.g. medical, counselling, or legal expenses) and can be verified with receipts or other documentation.
If a donor has been paid or reimbursed beyond reasonable expenses for their donor material, VARTA cannot approve the application or grant any exemptions.
Can I acquire donor gametes from an overseas sperm or egg bank and import them into Victoria?
VARTA does not recommend acquiring donor gametes directly from an overseas sperm or egg bank because there is a high risk the individual arrangement will not satisfy Victorian legislative requirements. If you do not meet Victorian requirements, you will not be able to import the donor material into Victoria.
The standard practice is for a registered fertility clinic to enter a class import arrangement with an overseas sperm or egg bank to import donor material on behalf of a class of applicants. Seeking approval for a class import application is a two-step process and is subject to a range of conditions to ensure the gametes or embryos comply with Victorian law. For further information about this process please refer to the Guidelines for class applications to import donor gametes from an overseas sperm or egg bank.
Approval of a specific arrangement between a registered Victorian clinic and an overseas sperm or egg bank does not give the overseas sperm or egg bank authorisation to directly supply donor gametes (or embryos produced from donated gametes) to Victorian recipients outside of that specific arrangement.
Consider speaking to your clinic directly about how they can support your access to donor material and/or whether they already have a class import arrangement in place.
Should I beware of entering into an arrangement with overseas agencies that offer to connect me to an egg donor?
VARTA does not recommend that you enter into an arrangement with overseas agencies that offer to connect you with an egg donor. These overseas agencies may purport to provide an international egg donor program that matches intending parents and egg donors, at considerable cost to you as the recipient. Some agencies include a business model that involves flying donors into the country of the intending parents or recruiting donors locally. These agencies may be based outside of Australia and the information published on their website indicates that their practices will not necessarily comply with either Australian or Victorian legislative requirements or guidelines for egg donation.
In carrying out its functions, VARTA must ensure that the recruitment of egg donors does not result in the exploitation in trade or otherwise of the reproductive capabilities of women. Applications to import or export donor eggs obtained through overseas agencies, or embryos created from such eggs, cannot be approved by VARTA if you as the applicant cannot demonstrate that all Victorian requirements have been satisfied. If you are looking to find an egg donor, VARTA strongly urges you to do so through your Victorian clinic or by obtaining approval from the Victorian Minister for Health to advertise for a donor locally (read more on your options here).
What if my application is unsuccessful?
If your application is unsuccessful and you believe that there was an error in VARTA’s decision making, you may lodge a complaint with the Victorian Ombudsman. You must lodge this application within 12 months of receiving your decision letter.
The Victorian Minister for Health is not able to intervene in decisions made by VARTA about individual applications.
INFORMATION FOR CLINICS
Clinics seeking approval from VARTA to import or export donor sperm or eggs under a class arrangement can access relevant information as follows: