On 20 March 2020 the US Passport Office closed its doors to in-person passport applications as a result of the escalating COVID pandemic, meaning that a number of our parents with newborn surrogate babies (who usually rely on the US passport to travel back to the UK) were stranded. At the same time travel restrictions globally started escalating, with parents of newborn surrogacy babies stuck in Ukraine and Georgia. With the emerging advice from the UK’s Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) that Brits should get home as soon as possible, we started working urgently to help get these babies home.
Two of the families we were supporting told their stories to the media:
James and Rob Washington talked to The Guardian (26 March 2020) about being stuck in Oregon with a newborn and no travel documents. The Guardian also quoted us:
Brilliant Beginnings, a British surrogacy agency, has eight babies due to be born via US surrogates in the next six months, and three babies, including the Washingtons’ son, currently stuck there. “Their parents are extremely worried about how they will get to the US in time for their birth,” said Natalie Gamble, of NGA Law, a UK expert in fertility and surrogacy law. “These babies are their babies and they need to be responsible for them from birth.” Gamble is also aware of a British couple struggling to bring home their daughter born via surrogate in the nation of Georgia. “It’s the same problem, because the baby is not automatically British,” Gamble said. “If they could get emergency travel documents, they’d be able to get their baby home.”
Lara Hill and Andrew Jackman wrote their own story in The Telegraph (28 March 2020) about being stuck in the state of Georgia, writing:
After having our new daughter Emily via a surrogate, we assumed we’d be able to bring her home without any problems. But she was born in Jannuary in Georgia, and now we find ourselves stranded out here, unable to obtain her a passport or fly her out of the country. Due to the coronavirus pandemic, services have ground to a halt and there are currently no flights to the UK.
But why were things so particularly hard for surrogacy families, and what was the end of these stories?
The hurdle with international surrogacy during COVID-19
Due to the strange workings of UK surrogacy law, if a surrogate is married a child will not automatically inherit British nationality from their intended/biological parents. In such cases the solution is to register them as a British citizen through the Home Office’s discretionary policy – a process which can usually take up to 6 months.
We got British nationality for a surrogacy baby in the US in 1 week, instead of 6 months
James and Rob (and their baby son) are now home, thanks to the efforts of the Home Office and our team. We managed to get British nationality granted within days of the US passport office closing and an emergency passport for their son within one week of applying.
We got an emergency passport for a surrogacy family stuck in Georgia
Since then we have had an increasing number of British surrogacy families reach out to us who are stranded in Georgia and Ukraine, where a British passport would usually be applied for in person and on the ground (where surrogates are usually unmarried, and the children are therefore born British) and the UKVI centres have closed due to the lockdown.
Andrew and Lara are also now home with both their children. They were granted an emergency passport for their daughter and home within 4 days of us reaching out to the Home Office.
Working to support more families in the coming months
We are currently working with over 40 families who are either in the country of birth waiting for their child to be born, or stuck in the UK without a way to travel.
The problem of parents not being able to get to the country of birth to care for their newborn children is looming fast, and we are doing all we can to persuade the UK government to find a solution to support these families.
Can we help you?
We are keeping the Home Office up to date with any family who is affected and will need support so please do get in touch at firstname.lastname@example.org if you would like to be added to this list.
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