Ask the Surrogacy Experts

“Thanks Bill. I saw your video on international surrogacy. I’m a single woman, so I need a sperm donor to have a baby. But I’m also unable to donate eggs myself. Can I have surrogacy if I am using both donor eggs and donor sperm?


Good morning Sarah.

If you’re using donor eggs and sperm, you can still pursue a surrogacy program… but your options are really limited. In most cases, your journey must happen in the same country where the baby will permanently live (or at least the baby must be born in that country). If you’re American and the baby will live with you in the United States, then your surrogacy journey should happen only in the US.

Here’s Why Surrogacy Babies need a Genetic Parent

Babies born in foreign countries need to travel internationally in order to return home with their parents. This requires the baby to get a passport; and the passport requires that you first establish the baby’s citizenship. If the baby has no citizenship — no passport and no travel.

You may not realize, but citizenship isn’t automatic. Part of the surrogacy process is establishing the baby’s legal status, and that includes the baby’s citizenship. This final legal step is critical to every surrogacy journey.

The baby is almost always eligible for the citizenship of its biological parents — and most parents just assume that the baby can easily get a passport and go home. But this is not true. For the baby to inherit its parents’ citizenship, you need to prove that the baby has a genetic link to the parents. Citizenship is conferred only after evidence (usually DNA evidence) proves that the baby is genetically the offspring of a proven citizen.

If your baby is conceived using donor eggs and sperm, it won’t have any genetic relationship to you, and so will not be able to inherit your citizenship. Without citizenship, the baby isn’t eligible for a passport and won’t be able to travel home.

Applying for Local Citizenship

Alternatively, the baby also could be born in a country where he can apply for local citizenship. Many countries will grant citizenship to babies born on their territory. Then the parents can get a passport, but that still may not be enough. Even with a valid passport, the baby may need to apply for a visa to enter their home country. Travel visas from some developing countries are difficult to get. To get a visa, the parents need to work with their own embassy; and if the embassy is unfriendly to surrogacy — they may deny the visa for that reason alone.

There have been many examples of surrogacy babies born overseas that were practically trapped in a foreign country. Ukraine is a popular surrogacy destination, but the local government will not bestow Ukrainian citizenship on babies born there. If the parents live in a “surrogacy unfriendly” country (like Italy, for example) the baby won’t be granted citizenship there either. So these surrogacy babies are left “stateless” — belonging to no country whatsoever. The parents’ home country refused to acknowledge them, and they also aren’t Ukrainian citizens. The babies were unable to leave the country, but they also had no rights under Ukrainian law either.

What to Look for…

One of the benefits of surrogacy in the United States is that babies born in the US are eligible for US citizenship. American citizens enjoy visa-free travel to much of the world. Even when a visa is required, US citizens often have an easier time qualifying than others. There’s a lot to be said for the benefits of American citizenship.

Similarly, surrogacy babies born in Colombia are eligible for Colombian citizenship… and there is visa-free travel for Colombians traveling to Europe. So European parents can very easily take their babies home with them. (Of course, they still need to establish permanent citizenship once they get home — usually through the standard citizenship process, requiring family affiliation and physical residency.)

Permanent Citizenship for your Surrogacy Baby

Of course getting the baby home is just one step in the process. The baby may arrive on a tourist visa, but they still need to get permanent status to legally live in the country. For that, you will still need to prove the baby is your legal child (under your local laws) and can live with you under a Family Visa. That’s an uphill battle in some unfriendly countries, and you should be prepared for a long drawn-out legal battle. Once the baby is able to live with you legally, then you can start the process of applying for permanent citizenship.

So if you are unable to donate either sperm or eggs to your IVF cycle, my general advice is to consider surrogacy in North America. You might find some alternatives where the baby can apply for a local passport, but keep in mind the difficulty of getting the baby’s visa and the challenge of establishing the baby’s permanent residence and citizenship once you get home. Unfortunately, a program in Eastern Europe would not be possible.

If you’re interested in a surrogacy journey in North America, we work with a lot of clinics to manage those arrangements. Send us a message and I’ll share the latest info on surrogacy programs in the United States. I’m also available to chat about the programs in general if you like.

I hope this is helpful,
— Bill

About the authors

  • Bill-Houghton
  • Author: William Houghton

    Bill Houghton is the founder of Sensible Surrogacy, author of the Sensible Surrogacy Guide, 2x surrogacy dad, and a dedicated advocate for secure, legal and ethical Gestational Surrogacy. Read Bill's Biography

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