If you and your partner are unable to conceive a child on your own, or you have fertility issues that prohibit you from carrying a child, finding a surrogate to carry your child for you is a great option. Despite a lack of federal regulation, the United States has by far the most robust and safe surrogacy system in the world. Unfortunately, it is also extraordinarily expensive.
The cost of an entire American surrogacy process, including surrogate compensation, In Vitro Fertilization (IVF), legal fees, travel and medical expenses, and agency fees can wind up being around $150,000. For most people, this cost is far from manageable. Luckily, there are a number of other countries--albeit small--that allow international intended parents.
Similar to how the surrogacy laws of US states can vary a lot, these countries can also have quite different laws. There are not very many of them and so the differences are small in number.
What Do I Need To Know About International Surrogacy
Even though the actual process of surrogacy is the same for every country, there are still important things to know about how your surrogacy journey may vary. Also, although there are institutions in these countries that regulate assisted reproductive technologies (ART) such as surrogacy, they are almost always far less robust than the US.
Pros of International Surrogacy
- Cost: The US has by far the world’s most expensive surrogacy programs. After all costs are taken into account, the average cost of surrogacy tends to be just under $150,000. This makes other countries whose surrogacy programs can range from $40,000 to $80,000 far more attractive.
Cons of International Surrogacy
- Quality of Medical Care: The US has the most expensive surrogacy programs, but for good reason. Sure, you will need to compensate the surrogate more because of a higher cost of living, but you are also paying for the best assisted reproductive services in the world. US doctors and surrogacy agencies have far more experience than other countries and so will provide you with the best care that you can get.
- Distance: Many intended parents want to foster some sort of relationship with the surrogate mother, or at least be able to check in on them. When you use an international surrogate, this will be nearly impossible. You may be able to call or video chat to check in, but this simply doesn’t offer the same reassurances that an in-person meeting will.
- Language Barrier: Even if you are able to get in touch with the surrogate mother, there may be a thick language barrier. Also, should you want to communicate with the doctors or surrogacy agency, you will likely have a tough time doing so.
- Citizenship: While most countries that allow surrogacy should make it relatively easy to get your child citizenship, it is still very much an added obstacle. You may need to wait weeks before your child can get the proper documents to return to the US. The US Department of State also forces you to complete a number of tests to ensure that you are the biological parent of the child.
- Ethical Concerns: One of the main reasons international surrogacy is so much cheaper is simply because the surrogates are compensated less. They may not have as much of an interest in staying healthy or caring for the child if they believe they are underpaid. Also, the surrogate mother may have no say at all. In some countries, they may be forced by their husband or family to become a surrogate for financial reasons.
Similar to how US surrogacy laws vary by state, there are also several legal aspects of international surrogacy that you should know.
Altruistic vs Compensated Surrogacy
A short glance online may reveal that there are many countries that allow surrogacy. However, almost all of these countries only allow for altruistic, or uncompensated, surrogacy (although Colombia has a bit of a grey area here which we’ll explore below). They also typically restrict surrogacy to local citizens.
All of these countries require that the intended parents be medically unable to have a child on their own. Either the male or female must be infertile or have other diseases or conditions that prevent them from having a child. Evidence of this must be provided.
Rights of Parenthood
Most countries that allow international surrogacy grant parenthood to the intended parents upon conception. Others, such as Russia, make you wait until the child is born to be granted parenthood. They also may require the surrogate mother to sign off on this transfer.
Same-Sex Couples and Marital Status
Every country besides Colombia requires that the intended parents be in a heterosexual relationship. If you are in a same-sex couple, your only options are the US and Colombia. Some countries also require that the intended parents be married.
The US Department of State’s policies on Assisted Reproductive Technology (ART) and surrogacy abroad outline a number of requirements for your child to become a US citizen. They state that they make the decision on the child’s citizenship after their birth and regardless of what the local law states.
For your child to become a US citizen, they state:
- One or both of the biological parents must be a US citizen.
- The child cannot be born entirely from donor gametes.
- Biological relatedness must be confirmed via DNA test or other method.
- The parents must meet certain transmission requirements outlined by INA Sections 301 and 309.
- Parents must provide evidence of the child’s identity and birth.
- Parents must provide evidence of their own identity and citizenship.
- If local law stipulates that the gestational carrier (surrogate mother) has legal rights over the child, they must consent to passport issuance.
Which Countries Allow Foreign Surrogacy?
If you’ve decided that the benefits of international Surrogacy outweigh the costs, there are a few options available to you--although the number seems to be getting smaller. Surrogacy in Thailand, surrogacy in India, surrogacy in Cambodia, and surrogacy in Nepal have all recently been outlawed for foreigners. Just a few years ago, these were some of the most popular destinations for international surrogacy.
Ukraine is one of the most popular spots for foreign surrogates. Surrogacy in Ukraine is highly regulated and there are a number of resources available to you to ensure that the process is safe and legally protected.
One such law states that the intended parents are the legal parents of the child from the moment of conception. This means that you won’t have to go through the hoops of having the surrogate mother sign legal documents to transfer parenthood.
Surrogacy law in Ukraine also states that one or both parents may be donors, although the US will not grant the child citizenship if neither parent is biologically related to the child. It also states that the parents must be heterosexual.
The surrogacy laws in Ukraine also state that a potential surrogate must be 20-35 and have had a kid before; although, unlike other countries, their marital status is irrelevant.
Cost of Surrogacy in Ukraine: Roughly ~$15,000 for the surrogate fee, up to $50,000 after all expenses.
This small Eastern European country has recently become a major international hub for surrogacy. Recent laws have made it very conducive for foreigners seeking a surrogate, although their health care system is far behind that of the US.
Surrogacy law in Georgia states that there is no need to travel to their country to sign documents. You can mail in an "Apostille Power of Authority” document to allow the surrogacy agency to sign on your behalf. This means you will only have to travel there to pick up the child.
Surrogacy in Georgia also grants the intended parents legal parenthood upon conception. It also makes no mention of surrogacy on the birth certificate.
Unfortunately, the law also states that the intended parents must be heterosexual. Due to the country’s legal system, it may also take a couple weeks after birth to get the child’s travel documents.
Cost of Surrogacy in Georgia: About $25,000 for the surrogate fee, ~$40,000 after all expenses.
Although it is nowhere near the US, Russia has the best health care system of any of these countries. As a result, however, it is also the most expensive of the bunch.
Surrogacy law in Russia states that the intended parents must be heterosexual (or a single mother) and have medical problems that make them unable to have their own kid.
Surrogates in Russia also have parental rights over the child upon birth and must then sign the rights over to the intended parents. Surrogacy in Russia does not allow for any sort of pre-birth order.
Similar to other countries, the surrogate must be 20-35 and have already had a kid.
Cost of Surrogacy in Russia: $35,000-$55,000 for the surrogate, up to $70,000 after all expenses.
Belarus is another Eastern European country that allows for surrogacy. Although their system is not quite as robust as some other countries, they do have a number of policies that are very much in your favor.
For example, surrogacy law in Belarus requires that the surrogate mother undergo a full medical exam prior to conception. They also legally require that the surrogate follow certain health and safety guidelines to ensure the safety of your child.
Surrogacy in Belarus allows for donor egg or donor sperm to be used, but it also states that the intended mother must be unable to conceive or carry a child on her own.
In Belarus, the surrogate must be 20-35, have had kids, and be married.
Belarus’ surrogacy programs are not as experienced as other countries, and there are far less resources than other countries.
Cost of Surrogacy in Belarus: ~$13,000 for the surrogate fee, anywhere from $27,000-40,000 after all expenses.
Although technically speaking Colombia only allows for altruistic surrogacy, there is a huge grey area that allows for compensation. The law simply states that there is a cap on the amount that a surrogate can be compensated. So in reality Colombia allows compensated surrogacy, although the future of these laws are in question.
Colombia is the only country outside the US where foreign same-sex couples can find a surrogate. They have very liberal laws that do not discriminate on the basis of gender or sexuality.
Surrogacy in Colombia also states that upon birth, the surrogate and biological father will be legal parents of the child and you will need to have the surrogate sign over rights. However, after embryo transfer and conception, the surrogate mother may be obligated to give up the child.
Surrogacy law in Colombia states that the surrogate must also be of a young age and have had a kid before, although marital status is not relevant.
Cost of Surrogacy in Colombia: ~$15,000 for surrogate fees, up to $60,000 after all expenses.
Other Countries That Allow Surrogacy
The countries listed above are not the only countries that allow surrogacy. Surrogacy in Albania, surrogacy in Guatemala, surrogacy in Nigeria, and surrogacy in Kazakhstan are all legal. However, these countries have very underdeveloped healthcare systems and very little experience with Assisted Reproductive Technology and so we highly recommend not using them for surrogacy.
Surrogacy Laws in Other Major Countries
Despite many countries having more progressive governments that value reproductive rights, most countries have yet to implement any sort of surrogacy policies. If they do, they are either highly restrictive or ban the practice outright.
Surrogacy in the Netherlands and surrogacy in Belgium are both legal, although they only allow altruistic surrogacy and are extremely restrictive, making it almost impossible for non-locals to participate.
Surrogacy in the UK and surrogacy in Canada are legal but are limited to only local citizens.
Surrogacy in Australia is a bit more complicated since the federal government has left it up to states to legislate. Although the laws regarding who may be a surrogate and the legal process vary by state, all states limit surrogacy to altruistic causes. They are much more strict than Colombia for example, and so it can be extremely difficult for a foreigner to find a willing surrogate.
Surrogacy in China, surrogacy in France, surrogacy in Germany, surrogacy in Sweden, surrogacy in Denmark, surrogacy in Norway, and surrogacy in most other major countries is illegal. Violation of these laws can lead to extensive jail time and fines.
How To Find an International Surrogate
Every country with legal surrogacy has several local agencies that can help you with the surrogate process. Here at Modamily, we have connections with dozens of surrogacy agencies across the globe that will help you find a surrogate that works for you. We have a team of experts ready to help you through the entire process and we will be with you every step of the way.
To find a surrogate, simply sign up for our search service or a free consultation. We also offer premium guidance that includes customized searches, expert surrogacy client management, and access to rare or specialized surrogates. For more information on these click here.