BACKGROUND: The quantity and the reasons for seeking cross border reproductive care are unknown. The present article provides a picture of this activity in six selected European countries receiving patients. METHODS: Data were collected from 46 ART centres, participating voluntarily in six European countries receiving cross border patients. All treated patients treated in these centres during one calendar month filled out an individual questionnaire containing their major socio-demographic characteristics, the treatment sought and their reasons for seeking treatment outside their country of residence. RESULTS: In total, 1230 forms were obtained from the six countries: 29.7% from Belgium, 20.5% from Czech Republic, 12.5% from Denmark, 5.3% from Slovenia, 15.7% from Spain and 16.3% from Switzerland. Patients originated from 49 different countries. Among the cross border patients participating, almost two-thirds came from four countries: Italy (31.8%), Germany (14.4%), The Netherlands (12.1%) and France (8.7%). The mean age of the participants was 37.3 years for all countries (range 21-51 years), 69.9% were married and 90% were heterosexual. Their reasons for crossing international borders for treatment varied by countries of origin: legal reasons were predominant for patients travelling from Italy (70.6%), Germany (80.2%), France (64.5%), Norway (71.6%) and Sweden (56.6%). Better access to treatment than in country of origin was more often noted for UK patients (34.0%) than for other nationalities. Quality was an important factor for patients from most countries. CONCLUSIONS: The cross border phenomenon is now well entrenched. The data show that many patients travel to evade restrictive legislation in their own country, and that support from their home health providers is variable. There may be a need for professional societies to establish standards for cross border reproductive care.