IFLG - U.S. Surrogacy During COVID-19 Update for International Intended Parents - Rich Vaughn

U.S. Surrogacy During COVID-19: Update for International Intended Parents

It’s hard to believe it has been eight months since the first time we wrote about the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on international intended parents planning surrogacy in the United States.

The bad news, of course, is that all of us are still dealing with the pandemic and the many ways in which it has disrupted lives worldwide—even as promising new vaccines appear to be a light at the end of the tunnel.

The good news is that our IFLG team of assisted reproductive technology lawyers and paralegals has learned so much over the past eight months about how to help intended parents navigate and surmount the additional obstacles the pandemic has placed on their paths to parenthood.

For surrogacy agencies, third-party matching services and intended parents planning surrogacy in the U.S., here are six things you should know:

1) International surrogacy continues, even during the COVID-19 pandemic.

First of all, don’t panic. Surrogacy, particularly surrogacy in another country, already involves an extraordinary amount of time, effort and planning. Intended parents are experts at it.

Even in the middle of a global pandemic, successful international surrogacies are still occurring.

To date, every parent who has applied to travel to the U.S. for surrogacy, at least through our IFLG office, has been able to get here for the birth of their children, and some have been able to travel for reproductive medical procedures in the U.S. as well.

2) Travel ban exceptions are available for intended parents.

As always, in order to travel to the U.S. from another country, you must have a valid passport and a visa or ESTA (Electronic System for Travel Authorization) or be traveling from a visa waiver country.

However, during the COVID-19 pandemic, the U.S. has implemented travel bans from several countries where cases have spiked, including China, U.K., Northern Ireland, Brazil, Iran and parts of Europe.

The presidential proclamations prohibit travel to the U.S. if the traveler has been physically present in one of those countries in the 14 days prior. So, for intended parents who reside in one of those countries, one way around the ban is to travel to a country where U.S. travel is not prohibited, shelter there for 14 days, then continue on to the U.S.

Those who don’t have the luxury of a 14-day side-trip and who must travel from a country under U.S. travel ban can still be granted an exception to the ban.

One exception we have used successfully applies to parents or guardians of a child under the age of 21 who is a U.S. citizen. If your surrogate has already given birth in the U.S., you are now the parent of a U.S. citizen child.

The other exception to the travel ban we have used with great success is what’s called a “national interest exception.” The basis of this exception is that it is in the national interest of the United States that you be allowed to travel to the U.S. to be present for the birth of your child so that you can make medical decisions for the child and take the child from the hospital as soon possible… preserving U.S. healthcare personnel and resources for medical emergencies, including the ongoing emergency of the pandemic.

3) Prepare parentage and surrogacy documentation for travel ban exception.

Typically, we begin working with clients about three months before the due date to prepare a file of documents to support a petition to the U.S. Embassy or Consulate for an exception to the travel ban. It usually takes four to six weeks to gather the documents, and our goal is to submit the file, about six weeks before the birth, to the U.S. Embassy or Consulate closest to the city from which the intended parents will travel.

The file will include copies of passports, ESTAs and visas; the surrogacy contract (if applicable); a pre-birth order establishing the parent-child relationship if it is available; a letter from our law firm; and a letter from a medical professional (in most cases the IVF doctor) explaining the national interest exception and why the applicants should be allowed to enter the U.S.

Also included is a signed COVID-19 statement attesting to the intended travelers’ health status, including whether they’ve ever had COVID-19, have it currently or have been treated for it in the past and what their isolation and quarantine plans are upon arrival in the U.S.

The timing of the application for exception is critical, as we’ve learned from experience, for two reasons.

First, currently embassies and consulates all over the world are overwhelmed with travel requests and exceptions to travel bans that have impacted individuals in all kinds of situations. Because of the surge of petitions, requests that are not considered to be an emergency go into a “non-urgent” pile. We don’t want our application to end up in the non-urgent pile; we want to go to the “urgent” pile. So we time our submission carefully to about six weeks before the due date.

The other thing affecting the timing is that the national interest exception is only valid for 30 days from the date it is granted. If we apply too soon and receive the exception within a day or two—and some embassies have been that quick—your window for entry into the U.S. is only good for 30 days. So it is important to schedule carefully around the time you plan to arrive for your baby’s birth.

4) The pandemic has impacted hospital birth and delivery visitor policies.

During the first surge of the pandemic, many U.S. hospitals began allowing only patients in need of medical care to enter hospitals, prohibiting nearly all visitors, including parents who were having babies born to surrogates.

Over the course of the pandemic, each hospital has modified its own policies, which are subject to additional restrictions when infections spike locally.

The best way for intended parents to prepare for this uncertainty is to check hospital labor and delivery department policies very close to their travel departure time, and be prepared for the possibility they may not be allowed in the delivery room or in the hospital, depending on how things are going with the pandemic.

5) It takes longer to get a newborn passport.

 

You made it in time, all went well, and now you’re ready to take your baby home.

When the pandemic first broke out, the U.S. State Department essentially closed all its passport offices. The only way to apply was by mail, and with an existing backlog, getting a passport could take as long as 16 weeks. Expedited passports were not available at all except in case of life-or-death medical emergency.

This situation has improved significantly since March 2020. In September, the State Department began processing expedited passports again. Pre-pandemic, an expedited passport typically took three to five days; currently, the processing time is about 10 days—much better than the previous 10 to 16 weeks!

To apply for the expedited passport, you must appear in person, by appointment, at one of the U.S. State Department regional passport offices. Appointments are limited. Intended parents can call or apply online for an appointment or use a passport and visa expediter service.

Should the U.S. State Department shut down passport processing again, alternatives would be to apply to the home country for the child’s home country passport, or to apply for a laissez passer passport, a one-time emergency document that will allow the baby to make one trip (only to the home country), even without a passport.

6) Travel bans continue in effect even after President-elect Biden takes office.

Taking office in the middle of a global pandemic and economic crisis, President Biden may be focused on other issues initially. So far, we’re hearing that no nationwide lockdown is planned. I suspect the new administration will re-examine whether there needs to be a travel ban from these specific countries, in response to a pandemic that is global. Our best guess is there will be a slow rollout of new passport and visa procedures. But in the meantime, the presidential proclamations instituting the travel bans remain in effect.

We at IFLG are thrilled with our success in helping dozens of intended parents navigate the extra hurdles posed by the COVID-19 pandemic to be at the birth of their babies in the U.S. For more information about traveling for surrogacy during the pandemic, see my recent video chat with Richard Westoby of the San Diego Fertility Center.

 

Richard Vaughn
rich@iflg.net

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
PEIYA WANG(王培娅)
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.

Katie Deaquino
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”.

Luis Sosa
LUIS SOSA
Paralegal

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.

Alexander Espinoza
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.

Toni Hughes
TONI BOONE
Paralegal

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
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 DEVEREAUX
Paralegal

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
RICHARD B. VAUGHN
Founder

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 TAMAYO
Paralegal

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 CHIEN
Paralegal

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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Phone:  +1 844 400 2016

Email:  info@iflg.net

Website:  www.iflg.net

Molly O'Brien
MOLLY O'BRIEN
Partner

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
PHOEBE S. SADLER
Associate

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 ASLANYAN
Paralegal

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.

Cara Stecker
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 KIMBLE
Paralegal

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
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.

Elsa Jimenez
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.