Surrogacy in the US for International Intended Parents

Eran Amir

CEO and Founder of GoStork

A Q&A for a safe and legal journey

It’s understandable that international intended parents often have many questions when they begin their surrogacy journey. Below we’ve gathered answers to some of the more frequently asked questions from international intended parents who are considering creating a family through surrogacy in the US. 

As with any local surrogacy arrangement, the surrogacy journey for international intended parents is one that shouldn’t be navigated alone. Surrogacy agencies, assisted reproductive technology attorneys and fertility clinics can guide you through each step for a legal, safe, and secure surrogacy journey. 

Each year, a growing number of international intended parents pursue surrogacy in the US. Out of 18,400 babies born through gestational carriers between 1999 and 2013, 16% were born to international intended parents. This means that many intended parents have experienced this life-changing process before and US fertility providers are there to support you through it.

Is surrogacy in the US safe? 

Surrogacy in the US is safe. While some countries allow commercial (also known as compensated) surrogacy, not all have a clear legal framework in place. This leaves space for abuse and questionable practices. Most US states, however, have a robust legal system that offers clear safeguards, both for you as an intended parent, and your gestational carrier (surrogate). It’s good to know though that each state has its own surrogacy and family law: some states are considered ‘surrogacy-friendly’ while others are less so. You can view our map for a more detailed overview. That said, surrogacy agencies in the US have long-standing experience in surrogacy arrangements and follow strict gestational carrier screening practices. The US is also home to some of the best IVF clinics and experienced surrogacy attorneys. These elements, together with supportive laws, ensure that surrogacy in the US is safe and reliable.

Why do we need a surrogacy agency? 

Making a surrogacy arrangement independently, without an agency, a lawyer or a formal contract is very risky. When you work through an agency, you can rest assured that there are stringent requirements in place to ensure that your gestational carrier is physically and psychologically ready for a gestational pregnancy and that all parties involved experience a safe process that also meets all legal requirements. 

As an international intended parent, you should look for an agency with experience working with other international intended parents. You can find this specification listed on GoStork for all agencies with this experience.

If you choose to go solo, there’s no guarantee of parental rights, especially if there is no legal documentation in place. Each state in the US has its own laws on surrogacy, and your home country might also have specific legislation permitting or not permitting the registration of births through surrogacy – so that’s another factor to consider. Overall, having the right support to navigate through all these elements is imperative.

How much does international surrogacy cost?

Surrogacy fees vary from one agency to another, as well as between states. You will also have to take your own personal situation into account – Do you need an egg donor? Do you already have embryos? The cost of a surrogacy journey in the US can range from $70,000 to $180,000. This excludes in vitro fertilization to create your embryos and other fertility clinic fees, your travel expenses and your newborn’s insurance. 

Check out our article ‘How Much Does Surrogacy Cost’ for a complete breakdown of surrogacy costs. While surrogacy in the US is more expensive than other international options, you have the added assurance of better regulatory frameworks, a leading health system and trained surrogacy professionals for a successful journey.

Can we pursue surrogacy in any US state?

It depends – as we’ve already noted, there is no federal law on surrogacy, so each state has its own legal framework. Check out our guide for a thorough overview of gestational surrogacy laws by state. 47 out of 50 US states permit commercial surrogacy, but there may be limitations based on relationship status or the baby’s genetic connection to the intended parents (if you’re using donor egg, donor sperm, or donor embryo). This means that legal representation is a must on any surrogacy journey. An ART attorney prepares the surrogacy agreement – a contract signed by you and the gestational carrier – and ensures that it is in compliance with the law of the state where your gestational carrier lives, and that your parental rights are legally established. Learn more about surrogacy contracts and what they cover, here.

How many times do we have to travel to the US?

You should expect to travel to the US a minimum of two times – first to create the embryo (if you need to do so), and then for the birth of your baby. Some intended parents prefer to plan additional trips to meet the gestational carrier, and to be present for the embryo transfer and eventually, the 20-week scan. 

How frequently you visit is up to you and your gestational carrier – as well as how easy it is for you to travel to the US. You should also take into account any Covid-19 travel restrictions, and vaccination and quarantine requirements, although these remain immensely fluid and can change with time.

How long do we need to stay in the US after the baby is born?

Since due dates are simply estimates, there’s no saying if the baby will arrive on time, later – or even earlier. Generally though, international intended parents stay in the US for two to four weeks after the baby’s birth to allow ample time for all the necessary paperwork to go through, and to sort out the baby’s passport and visa, if required. The length of your stay also depends on the type of birth order filed. A pre-birth order is obtained during the pregnancy and is effective once the baby is born. In post-birth states, the birth order can only be filed once the baby is born.

It’s important that your attorney starts coordinating with the hospital at around the 28-week mark, so that when the baby is born, all questions are answered and all documents have been presented. This expedites the process.

Will our baby be a US citizen?

As Richard Vaughn, Esq., founding partner of International Fertility Law Group, explains, “any child born in the US is automatically a US citizen and can receive a US passport”. Your baby will receive a birth certificate and you can then apply for a US passport for travel purposes. You can use an expediting service to obtain a passport if you intend to travel back home earlier than 6 weeks post-birth.

Will our home country grant citizenship to a baby born through surrogacy in the US?

The answer – and process –  depend on the laws in your home country. As Richard Vaughn explains, “Getting the child recognized and/or naturalized in the intended parent’s home country will normally take place once the parents and child are back home in the home country; however, it is critical that the intended parents seek advice from an attorney in their home country before getting matched with a surrogate in the U.S. and that there be some degree of collaboration between the IPs’ US and home country attorney. Some countries have requirements that the surrogate be unmarried in order for the intended parent/parents to be recognized; some require that the surrogate be listed on the initial birth certificate; some countries require specific wording in the US parental order; other countries require certain post-birth documentation; and some countries require their citizens to initially register the birth in their home country’s US Embassy/Consulate. Whether the home country allows dual citizenship is also something the home country attorney can help to confirm before the IPs commence their journey in the US. These sorts of issues need to be discussed ahead of time so that the IPs can be appropriately matched and so that the legal work in the US can be prepared in a way that will not hinder what they need to do for their home country.”

Will the gestational carrier’s insurance policy cover our newborn?

Your newborn will not be insured under your gestational carrier’s policy – you will need to purchase a separate policy that covers your baby in the US from birth. If your gestational carrier delivers early, or complications arise, your baby may be admitted to NICU and your medical bills can easily reach thousands of dollars. Communicate with your insurance provider for options available to you – but note that you don’t need to be alone in this; you can ask your surrogacy agency to help you navigate this step of the process (again, it’s good to research your surrogacy agency to make sure they have experience working with international intended parents). Options for international newborn policies are rather limited, so it’s important you research this early on in the process.

Final Thoughts

The first step in your international surrogacy journey is to find a US surrogacy agency with experience working with international clients, a US ART attorney, and an attorney experienced with the legal and citizenship requirements of your home country. With these professionals on board, you can then prepare for a safe and legal journey that will hopefully lead you to your baby. 

Find the right US surrogacy professionals for you

At GoStork, we’re here to support you as you research your options, connect with providers that may be your ideal match, and make your final decision about which to move forwards with. Join us today to keep learning about your fertility options, and to find the ideal providers to help you on our journey. Start by creating your account here.