End to Travel Bans, Naturalization Reforms Are Good News for International Surrogacy

With the recent lifting of COVID-19-related travel bans, effective in November 2021, as well as long-needed reforms to U.S. naturalization procedures, most intended parents who travel abroad for IVF and surrogacy will find the process of establishing their babies’ U.S. citizenship and bringing them back home a little bit easier.

The Biden administration announced September 20 that it will ease Covid-19 travel restrictions to allow non-citizens who are fully vaccinated to travel to the United States from most other countries, as reported by The New York Times.

Effective in “early November,” non-U.S. citizens entering the United States from another country will be required to show proof they are “fully vaccinated” against COVID-19 as well as proof of negative COVID tests before and after entry, the White House announced.

The action will end an 18-month ban on most travel from scores of countries, implemented by the Trump administration in an effort to slow the spread of the COVID-19 virus—first restricting travel to the U.S. from China in January 2020, then from a wide swath of nations in March 2020. In April 2021, President Joe Biden placed new restrictions on travel from India and reversed plans from the Trump administration to lift European restrictions.

The new eased restrictions will apply to visitors from the U.K., the 26 nations of the European Union, Ireland, China, Iran, Brazil, South Africa and India, according to The Guardian. Under the existing restrictions, only U.S. citizens and immediate families, green card holders and people with national interest exemptions are allowed to travel directly to the United States from one of those countries

COVID-19 Travel Bans Cause Chaos for International Surrogacy

The implementation of the COVID-19 travel bans in spring 2020, mirrored by other countries, instantly threw thousands of lives into chaos, in some cases splitting families or preventing foreign nationals from returning to their homes in the United States. The American Society for Reproductive Medicine (ASRM) reported that nine out of 10 people on earth at the time were living in a country with closed borders.

Among those most impacted were would-be parents who had traveled to another country for in vitro fertilization (IVF) and surrogacy and the surrogates who were, in many cases, already pregnant.

The global community of assisted reproduction professionals sprang into action. As much of the world went into lockdown, ASRM in the United States and the British Fertility Society (BFS) and the Association of Reproductive and Clinical Scientists (ARCS) in the U.K. issued advisories for fertility clinics not to begin any new procedures and to suspend in-progress fertility treatment in most cases where pregnancy had not yet been achieved, as we reported at the time. The interruption was necessary but heartbreaking for thousands whose dreams of parenthood were put indefinitely on hold.

But in hundreds of cases globally, surrogates already were pregnant with babies whose parents had gone abroad for in vitro fertilization and surrogacy.

As international flights were cancelled, intended parents who had planned to attend their babies’ birth in another country had no way to get there — raising the dilemma of who would assume custody and ongoing care of their babies in the interim. In other cases, parents were stranded in foreign countries with their newborns, unable to take them home.

The pandemic created other obstacles for intended parents and surrogates as well. Emergency safety protocols put in place to prevent infection and spread of COVID-19 banned visitors, including birthing partners, in hospital maternity wards. Even if parents were able to travel, in many cases they were not allowed to be present in hospital maternity wards when their babies were born.

The COVID lockdowns also meant that government agencies responsible for issuing birth and travel documents were short staffed or, in some cases, closed. Visas and ESTAs (Electronic System for Travel Authorizations) were systematically cancelled as well.

Almost immediately, our firm, International Fertility Law Group, began receiving calls for help from around the world. Our team of fertility lawyers and paralegals worked tirelessly to help our clients and others navigate the U.S. bureaucracy, gathering documentation to obtain emergency visas, ESTAS and travel authorizations based on U.S national interest and humanitarian grounds, and working with attorneys in parents’ home countries to obtain passports or other emergency travel documents (such as “laissez passer”) for their newborns. Ultimately, we assisted several hundred families from at least 28 countries.

New Rules Require Foreign Visitors to be Fully Vaccinated

With the end of U.S. travel bans in November will come a new set of rules. All non-U.S. citizens traveling to the U.S. by air will be required to show proof they are "fully vaccinated" for COVID-19 before boarding their flights and to show proof of a negative COVID test within three days of arrival, according to The New York Times. No quarantine will be required. There will be exceptions for children too young to be vaccinated. At this time, the new rules do not pertain to travelers via U.S. land borders with Mexico and Canada.

The U.S. CDC also will require airlines to compile contact information from U.S.-bound travelers for contract tracing purposes, The Guardian reports, while U.S. citizens who are not “fully vaccinated” can expect stricter requirements for travel. (Find the definition for “fully vaccinated” in this helpful New York Times Q&A.)

As the easing of pandemic travel bans makes international surrogacy easier and more affordable for many intended parents, other recent Biden administration reforms to immigration and naturalization processes will give babies born abroad using assisted reproduction the same rights to U.S. citizenship as those born abroad via natural conception.

Established in 1952—decades before the birth of the first baby using in vitro fertilization—the U.S. Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) required that, in order to receive U.S. citizenship, a baby born in another country must be genetically related to at least one parent who was a U.S. citizen.

Dated Immigration and Naturalization Rules Discriminated Against LGBTQ Parents

Decades later, with assisted reproductive technology (ART) increasingly effective and popular as a way to create families, that arcane requirement meant if a parent whose genetic material was used to conceive was not a U.S. citizen, the baby would not be a U.S. citizen, even if the parents were legally married.

As we reported earlier, although the rule had adverse impacts for many U.S.-citizen single parents and heterosexual intended parent couples, the rule was applied in a way that more frequently discriminated against same-sex parents, forcing many to undergo lengthy and costly legal battles to establish the U.S. citizenship of their children.

During my time as chair of the American Bar Association’s ART Committee, working with Professor Holly Cooper from UC Davis and the ABA Commission on Immigration, we drafted a resolution, formally adopted by the ABA House of Delegates, urging this and other reforms to the INA. A few weeks later, Donald Trump was elected U.S. President, and our push to implement more humane policies for foreign surrogacy babies and their parents was effectively derailed for the foreseeable future.

Under the newly reformed rules, children born abroad to married parents, at least one of whom is a U.S. citizen—regardless of parents’ gender or sexual orientation—will be U.S. citizens from birth, as long as they have a genetic or gestational tie to at least one of their parents and meet the INA's other requirements

The strategic lifting of pandemic travel restrictions and new, more equitable rules for citizenship demonstrate the positive impact of rational, humane policies on international travel and immigration. Just as these reforms reaffirm the need for equal legal protections for all families and ease the way for intended parents whose babies are born via surrogacy abroad, we are counting on our nation’s leaders to defend the hard-won reproductive freedoms now under attack in conservative statehouses and in our nation’s courts.

For more information about travel and naturalization procedures required for international surrogacy, contact our experienced, multi-lingual team of fertility lawyers and paralegals. 





Richard Vaughn

Attorney Rich Vaughn is founder and principal of International Fertility Law Group, one of the world’s largest and best-known law firms focused exclusively on assisted reproductive technology, or ART, including in vitro fertilization (IVF), surrogacy, sperm donation or egg donation. Rich is co-author of the book “Developing A Successful Assisted Reproduction Technology Law Practice,” American Bar Association Publishing, 2017.

Peiya Wang
Paralegal (律师助理)

Peiya Wang joined IFLG as a paralegal in 2015, where she manages surrogacy, egg donation and parental establishment cases and provides translation services for many of IFLG’s international clients. Peiya moved to the United States in 2012 to attend Northeastern University in Boston, Massachusetts, receiving a Master of Science degree in Global Studies and International Affairs in 2014. Peiya moved to Los Angeles in 2015, received her paralegal certification from UCLA Extension, and obtained her second Master of Science degree in Legal Studies from Loyola Law School. Peiya relocated back to her hometown, Beijing, China in 2019 and works from IFLG’s Beijing office. When away from the office, Peiya is a dragon boat paddler and a ballroom dancer, where she favors Rumbas and Cha-chas. She is fluent in Mandarin and English.

Luis Sosa

Luis R. Sosa joined IFLG as a paralegal in 2016, where he enjoys pursuing his passion for family and reproductive law. While working toward his bachelor’s degree at Florida International University which he received in 2013, Luis worked as a paralegal and legal assistant for family law litigation firms in Miami and Washington, D.C. As a paralegal and case manager for IFLG, Luis, who is bilingual in English and Spanish, manages surrogacy, egg donation and other reproductive law cases. Luis has worked for IFLG in both Los Angeles as well as San Francisco, and is currently based in Dallas, Texas. In addition to spending time with husband Randy and dog Marty, Luis enjoys being outdoors and appreciating the arts.

Toni Hughes

After receiving her B.S. in Business Management, Toni joined IFLG to pursue her dream of working in the legal field. As a Paralegal with over 10 years of experience in the assisted reproduction technology field, Toni is our Managing Paralegal, responsible for training and managing our paralegal staff. From drafting legal documents to assisting our clients with post-birth matters, Toni embraces the challenge of learning something new in this field each day. Besides spending time with her son, Jordan, Toni enjoys exploring new things, cooking, spending time with family and friends, and serving as a Youth Advisor for “Next Generation.”


Kim has over 30 years of experience in the legal field and has worked exclusively in surrogacy and assisted reproduction law since 1999. Kim is a senior case manager responsible for managing parental establishment cases and interacting with IFLG’s Of Counsel attorneys across the country. With three children of her own, Kim understands the importance of family and finds working in this area of law a rewarding experience.

Rich Vaughn

Attorney Rich Vaughn combined his personal passion as a father of twin boys born via assisted reproductive technology (ART) with more than 20 years of experience in business and technology law to build International Fertility Law Group. Today IFLG is one of the most successful and best-known law firms in the world focused exclusively on fertility law, helping thousands of intended parents through empathetic listening, compassionate guidance, and unmatched legal expertise. As an advocate for reproductive freedom, Rich also contributes his knowledge and time to improving the understanding and practice of ART law, most recently as a founder of and speaker at the first Cambridge University International Surrogacy Symposium held in June 2019, as immediate past chair of the American Bar Association ART Committee, and as a popular presenter to law schools, faculty and advocacy organizations all over the world.

Elizabeth Tamayo

Elizabeth received her Bachelors of Science degree in Criminal Justice from California State University of Los Angeles. Shortly after graduating, she continued her education at the University of California, Los Angeles where she obtained her Paralegal certificate. Elizabeth is fluent in Spanish and has been in the legal field since 2009. She is excited to be a part of the IFLG Team helping families realize their dreams.

Sunny Chien

Sunny joined IFLG as a paralegal in 2017, where she manages surrogacy, egg donation and parental establishment cases for many of IFLG’s international clients. She holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in Philosophy from California State University of Los Angeles, where she graduated cum laude. Sunny is bilingual in English and Mandarin and has extensive experience as a legal assistant and paralegal at Los Angeles-area law firms. She is excited to be part of the IFLG team. In her spare time, Sunny enjoys spending time with her family and their dog, going to the beach, cooking, and being outdoors.

Los Angeles

5757 Wilshire Blvd., Suite 645

Los Angeles, CA 90036

Phone:  +1 323 331 9343

Email:  info@iflg.net

Website:  www.iflg.net

New York

501 Fifth Avenue, Suite 1900

New York, NY 10017

Phone:  +1 844 400 2016

Email:  info@iflg.net

Website:  www.iflg.net

Molly O'Brien

Fertility law attorney Molly O’Brien began working in the field of assisted reproduction technology (ART) in 2005, at an egg donation agency and a surrogacy agency where she became familiar with all aspects of in-vitro fertilization, egg donation and the financial aspects of surrogacy. Since becoming an attorney in 2011, Molly has drafted and negotiated surrogacy, egg donation, sperm donation embryo donation agreements for hundreds of her clients all over the world.

Phoebe Sadler

Fertility law attorney Phoebe Sadler has a background in family law and has been practicing exclusively in the area of assisted reproduction technology (ART) law since 2018.

Rubina Aslanyan

Rubina has an extensive background in the legal field as a paralegal in Family Law and has worked in surrogacy and assisted reproduction law since 2012. Her area of focus is in managing and assisting clients with surrogacy, egg donation, and parental establishment cases for many of IFLG’s domestic and international clients. During her spare time, Rubina enjoys spending time with her family and dog Bella, traveling and cooking.

Alexander Espinoza
Legal Assistant

Alexander joined IFLG as a legal assistant in 2019, where he manages surrogacy, egg donation and parental establishment cases. Alex is bilingual in English and Spanish and has been in the legal field for 23 years. Alex is excited to join the IFLG team and pursuing his will to help others in the reproductive law process. In his spare time he loves spending time with his family and friends, being outdoors, road trips, loves music and dancing.

Cara Stecker
Senior Paralegal

After receiving her paralegal certificate in 2005, Cara began working in assisted reproductive law. During the fifteen years Cara has worked in this field, she has gained a wide range of experience and knowledge that she uses to help better assist clients and those involved in the assisted reproductive journey. Cara’s primary roles involve managing parental establishment matters and coordination with IFLG’s Of Counsel attorney network, drafting contracts and parental establishment court documents and providing support to other team members. Cara finds great joy in being a small part of a team of caring people who help others achieve their dream of having a family. In her spare time, Cara enjoys spending time with her husband and three children, watching her children play the sports they love, and she enjoys, running, cycling and exploring the outdoors in the sun.

Stephanie Kimble

Stephanie received her BS in History and Political Thought from Concordia University Irvine in 2015 and her Paralegal Certificate from University of San Diego later that same year. She has been working as a Paralegal since 2016 in Family and Reproductive Law. She is excited to be part of International Fertility Law Group working on managing Surrogacy, Egg donation and Parental Establishment Cases.

Trish Pittman
Assistant Financial Coordinator

With more than 20 years of experience in the field of accounting, Trish joined the IFLG team in 2019 as Assistant Financial Coordinator. Her client-facing focus at IFLG is to assist with all client trust accounting. Trish is the mother of two daughters and enjoys spending time teaching and learning new things from them. In her free time, she loves long walks in the park and reading suspense and mystery novels.

Katie Deaquino
Senior Paralegal

Katie is a Senior Paralegal with IFLG and has dedicated over sixteen years to the areas of surrogacy and reproductive law. She received her Paralegal Certificate from Coastline Community College and has worked with some of the top law firms in the assisted reproduction community. Katie is also a commissioned Notary Public. With IFLG, Katie manages Surrogacy, Egg Donation, and Parental Establishment cases and provides support to other IFLG team members. Katie truly enjoys helping others build their families through assisted reproduction and is thankful she has had the rewarding experience of assisting IFLG clients. Katie often spends her free time with her Husband, four young children and her bulldog “Bella”.

Elsa Jimenez
Legal Assistant

Elsa joined IFLG as a Legal Assistant in 2019, bringing more than 35 years of experience working in the legal profession (concentrating in tort and litigation matters). At IFLG she assists surrogates with their surrogacy and parental matters. The oldest of five siblings, born and raised in East Los Angeles to Mexican immigrant parents, Elsa loves “seeing the beauty of families forming” through assisted reproductive technology. She and her husband Carlos have four children and one grandson. Elsa enjoys jazz and ’80s music, being outdoors in nature, collecting teacups and tea pots, and spending time with her close-knit family.