International Surrogacy Options
Not all surrogacy programs are created equal. There are secure and easy commercial surrogacy programs in the United States or Eastern Europe. There are “Altruistic” programs that offer ethical options for qualifying couples in various countries. And there are cheap unregulated programs in developing countries without legal protections. Here is our ranking of the most popular international surrogacy options.
SENSIBLE recommends only programs in countries with a secure legal framework supporting your surrogacy contract. While we offer insights on most available options — that doesn’t mean that we recommend every option. We often issue warnings or advisories about popular programs that have relatively high risks.
We believe you should understand the benefits and drawbacks inherent in every surrogacy destination before you can make an informed and secure choice about your reproductive rights.
Below are the international surrogacy destinations most widely publicized. Click through to the page for each country for a summary of what you can expect. The information and opinions are compiled by the personal experience of our consultants. Surrogacy laws change, and the information presented here is updated as we are able. General information about the costs of surrogacy are available in SENSIBLE’s Surrogacy Cost Guide. If you find any of the information inaccurate, let us know and we will do our best to verify and update the article.
The United States is the gold standard of surrogacy destinations worldwide, and the costs reflect that position. Typical surrogacy programs in the U.S. range from $95,000 to $150,000 or more. There are additional and unpredictable costs for medical insurance and emergency medical care for the surrogate or child. For this reason the United States has been a popular surrogacy option for wealthy couples in Europe and China, but not often an option for “average” couples.
An often-overlooked option is an Independent Surrogacy program. In an “Indy” program, the Intended Parents take on some of the responsibilities of the program themselves, eliminating the need for a Surrogacy Agency. This saves from $20,000 to $30,000 in agency fees and administrative costs. Independent programs can cost as little as $70,000 USD. Adding a consultant to find your surrogate and support your journey can cost about $13,000 additional.
For couples that qualify, surrogacy in Ukraine is now the most affordable, legally secure and stable option for childless couples starting their own family. The country has the most supportive legal framework of any jurisdiction worldwide (more than so-called “surrogacy friendly” destinations like California or Nevada).
Surrogacy in Kiev has been a popular option for European couples, which has a long history in facilitating international adoption. Since 2009 the country has been growing as a hub for overseas surrogacy. Clinics are well practiced and offer a variety of program surrogacy options. Guarantee programs are available for surrogacy in Ukraine from some clinics and agencies.
Surrogacy in Georgia
Gestational Surrogacy is permitted since 1997 in Georgia. Both commercial and altruistic agreements are supported, as are known egg and sperm donation. The law requires that Intended Parents be a heterosexual married couple with diagnosed infertility. Although legally limited only to married couples, many clinics do not require a marriage certificate or other proof of marriage, and so unmarried couples often pursue surrogacy in Georgia. Georgia has become a popular market for intended parents from USA, UK, Australia, China, Israel and other countries.
Although the laws in Georgia are similar to those in neighboring Ukraine, the cost of surrogacy is somewhat lower. However, there is also a somewhat lower quality of medical services in the country (as rated by the WHO and the CIA Factbook).
For both married and unmarried couples, surrogacy in Colombia is becoming an increasingly popular option. The medical services are highly rated, cost of surrogacy is low, and the country has a very progressive record on gay rights. Same-sex couples enjoy marriage, adoption and other “procreation rights”. Explicit laws in the country have criminalized any form of discrimination against LGBT persons.
However there is no explicit legislation supporting surrogacy Colombia — instead the legal framework is established by a 2009 ruling by the Constitutional Court. That ruling extended the constitutional protection for all families conceived “through scientific methods” to gestational surrogacy. Protected surrogacy agreements must be altruistic, and follow international best practices.
Like the UK or Australia, the birth certificate is initially issued with the names of the Intended Father and the surrogate mother, but an amended certificate can be issued after a court process that concretely establishes the genetic relationships of the parents.
Surrogacy in the UK is legal on an altruistic basis, meaning the surrogate is allowed payment only for “reasonable expenses”. As a result it is uniquely difficult to find a surrogate mother in the UK, which is why many of the 3.5 million UK couples struggling with infertility have surrogacy procedures overseas. Would-be parents in the UK are not allowed to advertise their need for a surrogate, and surrogates are not allowed to advertise their availability. UK law also prohibits any profit from surrogacy services, so there are no professional agencies to connect would-be parents and surrogates.
To make matters worse, UK law does not recognize surrogacy agreements as binding, so the surrogate mother and her husband (or legal partner) automatically will be the legal parents of the new-born. This can make intended parents nervous, and compounds the difficulty of finding a surrogate mother who is reliable and will not hesitate to hand the baby to its genetic parents.
Like the United Kingdom, surrogacy in Canada is only permitted on an altruistic basis. However government restrictions are loosely enforced, and many clinics and “consultancies” sidestep the laws. Clinics regularly provide commercial agency-type services and offer surrogates lucrative salaries. On occasion, Canadian consultancies have overstepped the line and have been shutdown and fined for violating surrogacy restrictions.
In 2019, the Canadian government announced important changes to the way surrogates are paid. Starting in 2020, a surrogate will only receive payment for expenses for which she can show a receipt. This is a drastic change in the way surrogacy functions in Canada, and will reduce the financial incentive for potential surrogates. Under the new rules, finding a surrogate may become nearly impossible for many clinics.
Even so, surrogacy in Canada is still a popular option for U.S. couples because of its convenient location. Canada allows surrogacy in several of its provinces. Canadian law does not support pre-birth orders, so the surrogate will be named as the legal mother upon the birth of the child. The birth certificate is easily amended in the few weeks following the birth, and such a legal process is often a mere formality. Canada also has the benefit of providing a Canadian passport for surrogacy children born in that country.
Surrogacy in Greece
Surrogacy has been legal in Greece since 2002 and it is one of the few countries worldwide (and the only one in EU) where surrogacy agreements are enforceable. Surrogacy is regulated by Law 3089/2002 and Law 3305/2005, as amended by Law 4272/2014, which permit altruistic gestational surrogacy only. All surrogacy agreements must be authorized by the judiciary before conception. Intended parents are automatically recognized as the child’s parents from birth. The process is open to heterosexual couples (married, unmarried or in a legal partnership), single women and people who need double donation
The court authorization is a formality, and there is no mechanism for the Greek judges to verify that commercial activities are not happening. The court examines the written surrogacy contract, the IPs’ declaration of a medical need for surrogacy, and the altruistic nature of the agreement. In practice, Greek judges have rarely refused permission for surrogacy if there is a medical need.
Surrogacy in Mexico continues to be possible for many couples, although the options have changed dramatically since the laws changed in 2016. The new options range from creative solutions to navigate the lack of regulation, to downright dangerous programs to be avoided.
A new option in Mexico has circumvented the risk of “unregulated” surrogacy by promising a Court Order upholding the terms of the surrogacy contract before the surrogate is even pregnant. The court order adds much needed security, but the downside is that it adds 4 months or more to the surrogacy journey, and there are significant legal costs added to the total budget.
Surrogacy in Russia
Russia offers legal surrogacy for heterosexual couples with diagnosed infertility. Couples considering surrogacy in Russia will need to show they are medically incapable of carrying a pregnancy themselves. Although Intended Parents need to be in a heterosexual relationship, Russia is unique in that couples do not need to be married. This opens the door to single men pursuing surrogacy in Russia with a “female friend” who is willing to sign the surrogacy contract and be named the baby’s legal mother.
Note that in Russia, there is a 30-day window following the birth where the surrogate is legally allowed to change her mind and request parental rights. This makes Russia a somewhat risky option even for heterosexual couples, but much more so for single men seeking illicit surrogacy programs.
While still a low-cost option for some couples, Sensible Surrogacy has issued an advisory regarding surrogacy in Kenya. We advise clients to be cautious of surrogacy options in Kenya, and to consider other options if financial resources permit.
While surrogacy in India is restricted to only Indian citizens, final laws regulating the treatment have not yet been passed by the full government. This has created a short-term opportunity for Indian citizens to begin a surrogacy journey this winter 2019 and be exempt from the upcoming restrictions.
Surrogacy in Nepal
Many agencies that had been operating in India announced new services in Nepal when Mumbai closed its doors to foreign couples. This was a short opportunity, as the Nepali Supreme Court quickly ordered a stay on surrogacy services until the government provides comprehensive legislation to regulate the practice. In June 2016 (three weeks after the country’s Supreme Court issued its stay on surrogacy services) a meeting of government ministers decided not to contest the Court’s ban, and thus leave the prohibition against surrogacy in place. As a result, surrogacy is no longer possible in Nepal.
Surrogacy in Thailand
In recent years Thailand had taken center stage as the destination for gestational surrogacy worldwide. Unfortunately, a few popularized scandals involving surrogacy in Thailand have resulted in new oversights, restrictions, and a complete government ban on surrogacy for any foreign nationals. New legislation now enforces a total ban on commercial surrogacy, including any business that support surrogacy for foreigners. Altruistic surrogacy is legal, but is strongly restricted only to couples where there is a direct blood relationship between the commissioning parents and the surrogate mother. This effectively eliminates the possibility of legal surrogacy for all foreign couples.
As of November 2016, Surrogacy in Cambodia is banned by the Ministries of Health and of Justice. Changes in the regulations in that country have outlawed surrogacy and local actions by the authorities have made it clear that the prohibition will be treated seriously.
Surrogacy in Laos is possible due to a lack of official regulation on the topic. But it would be difficult to imagine more unfriendly destination for Western couples for surrogacy than communist Laos.
SPECIAL NOTE ABOUT GAY SURROGACY:
At this moment, there are limited international destinations for same-sex parents considering surrogacy: The United States, Colombia, Mexico, and Canada. Which you choose will depend on cost, security and availability of surrogates. In Canada and the UK (where paying surrogates is prohibited and advertising for/by surrogate mothers is illegal) finding a suitable surrogate can take years.
Some more details about Gay Surrogacy options worldwide.
Surrogacy in Western Europe
In most Western European countries a surrogacy arrangement that is either commercial or altruistic is unlawful and is not sanctioned by the government. In France, Germany, Switzerland and Italy the governments have been quite vocal about not supporting surrogacy agreements.
In the United Kingdom, Ireland, Denmark, Belgium and the Netherlands, altruistic surrogacy is legal while commercial surrogacy is illegal. In these countries there is a legal framework for the transfer pf parental rights from the surrogate to the Intended Parents. But the parental transfer must be approved by the local courts, and there are restrictions that must be met. In the UK for example, there is a limit to the amount of compensation that can be paid to the surrogate in order for the Parental Transfer to be considered.
In Sweden, surrogacy is not clearly regulated. Surrogacy is treated similarly to adoption of a child from a living parent. Thus a court process is required, and the surrogate mother has the right to keep the child if she changes her mind before the adoption, while the biological father may also claim right to the child. Generally speaking however, the Swedish government has been helpful to parents bringing surrogacy babies home from overseas.
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