Rich Vaughn, IFLG: International Intended Parents, Babies Stranded by Covid-19 Travel Bans

U.S. Must Help International Intended Parents, Babies Stranded by Covid-19

As the coronavirus covid-19 crisis wears on, the dilemma of intended parents from other countries planning to have babies through surrogacy in the United States has made for compelling headlines: International intended parents unable to travel to be present at their babies’ births. Babies born to U.S. surrogates with no legal parents in the country to take custody. Parents and babies stranded in the U.S. by pandemic-related travel bans and unable to return to their home countries. But a growing chorus of medical and legal professionals is urging the U.S. State Department to find a solution.

As reported by The Washington Post, currently nine in 10 people live in countries with pandemic-related restrictions on international travel. In addition to the impact on international surrogacies, international adoptions also have been disrupted by the crisis.

Surrogacy professionals and fertility specialists are advising all clients not to begin fertility treatments or schedule any new donor or IVF procedures until social distancing policies and prohibitions on non-essential services have been relaxed. But that advice obviously comes too late for intended parents and surrogates who are already expecting. And a large proportion of intended parents who live in countries where surrogacy is banned choose to come to the U.S., where, in most jurisdictions, they are able to obtain pre-birth parentage orders.

Babies born to surrogates in the United States are U.S. citizens and must obtain a U.S. passport in order to go home to their and their parents’ home country. But due to the covid-19 outbreak, U.S. passport processing has been temporarily suspended except for emergencies. Infant passports for babies born via surrogacy are not considered to be emergencies, although there is a growing chorus of surrogacy professionals calling on the U.S. State Department to make an exception. A recent New York Times article cites a State Department spokesperson who indicated officials are considering a policy change to accommodate international intended parents.

For the past several weeks at International Fertility Law Group, our team has been helping international clients navigate cancelled flights, accelerated travel plans and temporary guardianship arrangements for intended parents unable to reach the U.S. for their babies’ births. As The New York Times reports, letters from international clients requesting special permission to enter the U.S. for their babies’ birth have been successful on a case-by-case basis—at the mercy of individual U.S. immigration officials who may be more or less sympathetic to the circumstances.

While none of us can know how long the travel restrictions and hospital visitation crackdowns will continue, we do know the crisis will pass eventually, and life will return to normal. In the interim, we encourage intended parents to use the time to obtain attorney and physician letters and other essential documents, ahead of what is certain to be a flood of pent-up demand post-pandemic.

While surrogacy agencies and fertility lawyers are working frantically to help intended parents and surrogates develop alternate travel plans and arrange temporary guardianships, the media spotlight on families in crisis may spur U.S. authorities to do more to help ease the bureaucratic hurdles that are an unforeseen consequence of public health efforts.

For more information and resources on the covid-19 pandemic for intended parents and surrogates, see our videos, featuring me and ART attorney Molly O’Brien, on travel to the U.S. for surrogacy and on getting back home with your baby, as well as our full archive of coronavirus-related articles, videos and webinars.


Rich Vaughn
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 received her bachelor’s degree from Beijing Technologies and Business University, where she majored in Marketing. She moved to the United States in 2012 to attend Northeast 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 and received her paralegal certification from UCLA Extension. 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, 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. 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.”

Miesha Cowart
Financial Coordinator

Miesha Cowart joined IFLG as a financial specialist in 2014 following a successful career in development and business finance. Miesha previously worked for 10 years in the construction industry as a controller and for 13 years as Development Coordinator for the non-profit U.S. Fund for UNICEF. In her free time, Miesha works with “Next Generation” at her church. “They are my heartbeats!” she says of the youth in her community.


Kim has over 25 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 of surrogacy and egg donation cases, and is also 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.

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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.