International surrogacy for UK citizens – Options & legal issues

Although surrogacy is legal in the UK according to the HFE Act, the requirements and conditions do not fit the expectations and preferences of all British intended parents for the following reasons:

  • Firstly, because the surrogacy agreement is not legally binding, which means that the surrogate can decide to keep the child following birth.
  • Secondly, because the legal mother is the surrogate until the intended parents apply for a Parental Order.
  • Thirdly, because only altruistic surrogacy is allowed, which leads to a shortage in the number of women willing to carry someone else’s child.

For this reason, surrogacy abroad is increasingly becoming a very common option among UK intended parents who seek legal certainty.

What follows is a comprehensive guide to the main destination countries for undergoing surrogacy abroad. It should be noted that this list only includes those countries where surrogacy is allowed to international patients by law.

The various sections of this article are assembled in the following table of contents.

United States

The first thing to keep in mind before choosing the USA as our destination country for surrogacy is that there is no federal law that governs surrogacy arrangements across the country, but it varies by state. For this reason, our advice is that you pay special attention to the legality of this treatment in the US state of your choice according to your family type.

States where surrogacy is allowed

Currently, surrogacy arrangements are legal in the following territories: Nevada, California, Texas, Arkansas, Illinois, Virginia, Florida, New Hampshire, Delaware, New Jersey, Tennessee, Utah, and Washington.

Surrogacy-friendly states

By surrogacy-friendly states we refer to those US states where no law governs surrogacy arrangements currently, but case law indicates that courts are usually favourable to their performance. We recommend that you pay special attention when doing it in one of these states, as the risk for complications to arise is higher. Alaska, Georgia, Colorado, Idaho, North Carolina, Minnesota, Maryland, Montana, New Mexico, North Dakota, Rhode Island, and Wyoming are included in this group.

States where surrogacy is not allowed

Those states that have not been mentioned in none of the sections listed above are the ones that ban surrogacy arrangements, including Arizona, Michigan, New York, Indiana, Kansas, Louisiana, and Nebraska. Surrogacy is even considered a criminal offence in some of them.

The US states classified into the first and the second groups grant either post- or pre-birth orders to establish the parental rights of intended parents. They are key items when undergoing surrogacy in the USA.

In the USA, a birth order is the legal document used to assign parentage to a child.

The function of pre- and post-birth orders is the same, but differs in the moment when each is issued. So, while pre-birth orders can be started in the fourth month of pregnancy, post-birth orders are granted on day 3 or 5 following birth.

Even if the name of both intended parents appears on the US birth certificate, British citizens must apply for a Parental Order in the United Kingdom within 6 weeks following birth, and not earlier.

How much does it cost?

Perhaps the main disadvantage of the USA as a destination country for surrogacy overseas is the high cost of the treatment, which ranges from £72,000 to £220,000. The fact that the US healthcare system is run by private businesses contributes to this drawback.

Canada

Canada is a valid destination for all kinds of family structures as well: Opposite-sex couples, same-sex couples, and single parents. What’s more, legal parenthood is determined by a court ruling, which makes the process easier for intended parents.

Main characteristics

Only altruistic surrogacy arrangements are allowed in Canada. This means that the only pay given to surrogates is a reimbursement for the expenses incurred during pregnancy. Also, intermediaries cannot accept any kind of financial compensation for their services.

On the other hand, the main disadvantage of this destination is that, given the impossibility of compensating the surrogate financially, finding a surrogate can be difficult. This forces intended parents to be on a waiting list for a long time period.

How much does it cost?

The fact that the Canadian healthcare system is publicly funded and surrogates do not receive any kind of payment makes the price lower than in the USA. It can range from £42,000 to £55,000.

Russia

In Russia, surrogacy is allowed only to straight couples and single females, as long as they are able provide a medical certificate that proves their inability to carry a pregnancy to term.

Firstly, one should take into account that, even though the Russian law permits it, single females have to be very careful when choosing Russia as their destination country for a surrogacy arrangement, as legal parentage might not be assigned to them in the United Kingdom.

In fact, British single females who need a surrogate to have a child have no alternative but to apply for an Adoption Order if they undergo surrogacy abroad, as there is no father to whom parentage would be assigned as in the case of single males, heterosexual couples, or gay couples (man and man) as long as they have a genetic link to the child.

How much does it cost?

Russia is cheaper than other countries, as the cost of surrogacy there varies from £32,000 to £41,000.

Ukraine

The situation of surrogacy in Ukraine is quite similar to that of Russia, although it is regulated with an even stricter law: Only married heterosexual couples have access to this fertility treatment.

Moreover, the intended mother must prove that there is a medical reason behind the need for a surrogate pregnancy, preventing her from either getting pregnant or carrying a pregnancy to term.

Main characteristics

As in the case of Russia, if a British heterosexual couple undergoes surrogacy in Ukraine, the intended father has to be British, and have a genetic link to the baby born as a result. This will allow them to apply for a Parental Order in the UK—within 6 weeks after birth and not earlier—and become the legal parents of the child.

An advantage of Ukraine is that we can choose a family member or a friend as our egg donor. Unless is not a relative or a friend, the donor must remain anonymous by law. Moreover, gender selection through PGD (preimplantation genetic diagnosis) is permitted. Surrogates cannot claim maternity rights even if they wanted to following birth.

How much does it cost?

In Ukraine, the cost of surrogacy is £25,500-£36,700. However, this price does not include the fees of surrogacy consultants, and other professionals involved in the surrogacy process.

Georgia

In the country of Georgia, located in Eastern Europe, only married heterosexual couples can have a baby via surrogacy, where the partner has to provide consent beforehand.

Basic requirements

The intended mother must provide proof that there is actually a medical condition that prevents her from getting pregnant. A valid medical certification is required to this end. The Law includes as medical causes the absence of uterus as well as the presence of uterine malformations.

After the birth of the child, the name of the intended parents is automatically included on the baby’s birth certificate. However, this is useless under UK law for the reasons listed below:

  • UK law will consider the gestational carrier as the legal mother of the baby, and her husband (if she is married).
  • If the gestational carrier is single, widowed, or divorced, the process will be easier as the baby will be considered a British citizen automatically, as long as the intended father is British and genetically linked to him or her.
  • Irrespective of the marital status of the gestational carrier, a Parental Order must be applied for within 6 months following birth to become the legal parents under UK law.

How much does it cost?

Georgia is also a cost-affordable option: The price of a surrogacy process in this country can range from £27,000 to £37,000.

Greece

Surrogacy is allowed to foreign patients since July 2014. The average cost is £32,000-£46,000, and payments to the gestational carrier above £11,000 are forbidden.

Main characteristics

Currently, only heterosexual couples and single females can access surrogacy in Greece. However, a new law that would allow gay marriage is envisaged, which might allow this fertility treatment for this family type as well.

The Greek law specifies that the age limit for intended mothers is set at 50 years. Moreover, to be accepted into a surrogacy programme, women have to provide medical justification to prove that they are infertile or experience trouble getting pregnant.

Also, one should keep in mind that a person who fails to comply with the law can be sentenced to 2 years of imprisonment, and a fine of £1,300 or more.

On the other hand, a Greek court must authorize the embryo transfer to the gestational carrier beforehand. This court ruling can include the acknowledgement of legal parentage in favour of the intended parents.

Unfortunately, it is useless for patients from the UK: Even if their names are included on the Greek birth certificate of the baby, a Parental Order has to be applied for within 6 weeks following birth, and not earlier.

Failing to do this would mean that the surrogate and her husband, if any, are the legal parents of the baby under UK law. Single females must apply for an Adoption Order.

Cost of surrogacy abroad

The truth is, the cost of surrogacy abroad varies by country, so determining a fixed sum with accuracy is quite difficult. However, it is estimated that, currently, it can range from £23,000 to £200,700 approximately.

To undergo a fertility treatment, it is essential that you rely on the professionalism and the care quality of the clinic you choose. Since each clinic is unique, The Calculator will help you select a clinic out of those that have passed our rigorous selection process. Also, you will receive cost estimates and the conditions of each clinic so that you can compare between them and make a well informed choice.

Finally, it will let you know if these clinics offer special prices or promotions you could benefit from in your fertility treatment cycle.

FAQs from users

What are the pros and cons of international surrogacy?

International surrogacy allows prospective parents from the UK to create a family under safe legal conditions. So, a major advantage of international surrogacy is that it brings these families the chance to have a family, who would otherwise be unable to.

As for the disadvantages, probably the number of legal issues related to this practice are the main complication derived from this option. One should be well informed about the law in each country before making the final decision, including the law in the UK. Otherwise, you may experience serious trouble, with the child being rendered “stateless” in the worst-case scenario.

Is international surrogacy an option for gay couples as well?

Yes, but they should be aware that only a few countries allow this family type to enter into surrogacy arrangements. Nowadays, UK intended parents are advised to pursue surrogacy only in the USA and Canada, where this family structure is explicitly included in the laws.

Should overseas surrogacy be banned or legalised?

There exist many opinions on this issue. The truth is, we do not believe that there is going to exist an international law governing surrogacy arrangements in all countries, but each country will develop its own legal framework, either to ban or to legalise it. From our point of view, surrogacy is a reality today, so regulating it would prevent patients from entering into illegal actions, with the subsequent risk for the parties involved (parents, surrogate, and children).

How dangerous is international surrogacy?

The dangers of surrogacy abroad are directly related to the legal part of this process above all. All intended parents who decide to pursue surrogacy overseas should study very carefully the law governing this infertility treatment in the countries they are interested in, and also seek legal advice to discover how to proceed to obtain legal parentage following birth.

If they do not meet the legal requirements in the UK and/or the destination country, surrogacy should not be considered in any case.

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