International Surrogacy & COVID-19

For those planning to grow their family through international surrogacy, lockdown has had a huge impact on plans that cannot simply be put on hold. Surrogacy lawyer Jeetesh Patel examines the impact of Covid on surrogacy across the globe; and discusses what intended parents need to be aware of in the current climate.

Restrictions have had a huge impact on international surrogacy, and undoubtedly put extra strain on families who are already under emotional pressure and may also be under financial pressure. In normal circumstances, intended parents have their hands full preparing to bring their baby home and trying to navigate complex international laws on nationality and immigration. But in recent months, they have also faced rapidly changing travel restrictions, paperwork delays and the threat of infection.

These circumstances have had a huge impact on the fertility industry as a whole, and it is important to consider these changes in order to have the best outcome to your surrogacy journey.

If you are unsure if any part of your surrogacy journey has been affected by COVID, please get in touch so we can give you personalised and tailored advice.

Travel delays

Over the last year, international commercial surrogacy arrangements (ICSA) have seen delays due to travel restrictions. Intended parents will need to be aware of the particular restrictions which affect them, and keep a close watch for any changes. For example, in Ukraine, temporary travel restrictions introduced because of Covid left an estimated 500 babies stateless – without a nationality – and their parents unable to collect them as they struggled to get into the country.

And bans from entering certain countries are not the only reason for delays. In the US, for example, the passport office closed, and stopped issuing passports to babies born via surrogacy. This prevented families from being able to travel home together. Parents had no choice but to remain abroad while waiting for the British Consulate to issue an emergency passport, which can take between 1 and 4 weeks.

Despite the changeable circumstances, many families have been able to have successful surrogacies during the pandemic. Depending on where your surrogacy arrangement is taking place, you may need a lawyer to help you seek special permission to travel from the British government. Having an organised team around you and starting to work with a lawyer before these issues even arise will be key in making your family’s journey as smooth as possible.

Added time and cost

Quarantine and self-isolation measures have also added extra time and cost to international travel, which should be accounted for. Intended parents shouldn’t leave it too late to travel out – and your legal team should prepare well in advance any documents you’ll need to complete the legal formalities. One example is the popular commercial surrogacy destination Ukraine, where intended parents were required to self-isolate for 14 days when they arrived in the country. We would advise you and your team to research these restrictions and factor any quarantine period into your timeline and budget.

Attending the birth

As we have seen in the UK, COVID may present a logistical issue if you’re planning to attend the birth. As well as having to unexpectedly change your travel plans, many parents have had to consider who would care for the baby if they were not present. It is not advisable to leave the baby under the care of the surrogate. We would recommend that parents take steps in these circumstances to legalise their relationship with the child. At Laurus, we have a network of lawyers outside the UK who will be able to assist if the need arises.

Under UK law, parental responsibility lies with the surrogate until you can obtain a Parental Order from the courts. Parental responsibility includes making decisions about your child’s health and medical care, so it is very important to consider your options at such an uncertain time, such as appointing a guardian.

Our team can help with any stage of the process. If you’re facing an issue or need help to navigate what can be a complex situation, we’re here. You can read more about our surrogacy services here, or get in touch with our team using the details below.

If you need advice on a surrogacy arrangement, or any other aspect of family law, feel free to get in touch with our Family Team on 020 3146 6300, or for friendly, professional and strictly confidential advice.