The coronavirus pandemic has not only halted all types of international travel for those travelling for business and leisure but for those wanting to travel home with their newborn children. These new global travel restrictions will cause serious problems for potential and actual parents of babies born and to be born, through surrogacy.
Many new parents are stuck abroad amid the Covid-19 shutdown, whilst others are unable to travel to the country where the arrival of their baby via surrogate is imminent.
This is particularly worrying for all involved, especially for those new parents who will need to make an application for a parental order in the UK, within 6 months of the date of birth of the child and there is a fundamental assumption that the court has no power to extend the 6 month time limit.
Given the current prohibition on commercial surrogacy within the UK, there are many couples and individuals who wish to become parents via surrogacy and take advantage of countries with less restrictive regulatory regimes such as in India and the US. Therefore those parents who have recently had a child via surrogacy must still apply for parental orders in the UK despite any arrangement which has been agreed overseas. The trouble however that many new parents are now facing is how to return home with their new arrival in time to make such application.
In USA for example, in an effort to reduce the spread of Covid-19 the Department of State’s domestic passport agencies have restricted passport services to those with life or death emergencies travelling within 72 hours only making it almost impossible for new parents to secure safe passage home to the UK.
Given the extraordinary times we are living in at the moment, it is hoped that leave will be granted by the Court, allowing an extension of time for new parents to make their application relying on the fact that the application is made in the best interests of the child and exceptional circumstances prevented them from making the application within the requisite time frame, in the first instance.
British parents of children born via surrogate abroad can make an application to the Home Office for a British nationality registration, thereby entitling the child to emergency travel documentation, but this process can take up to six months. “They can’t be stuck there for six months,” Gamble said. She has written to the home secretary, Priti Patel, asking her to intervene and make emergency travel documents available to these children.