Canadian Surrogacy during a Pandemic. How our approach differs from the United States.

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As our COVID-19 Crisis response to those International clients, with babies being born imminently winds down, and moves into a process guided by Global Affairs Canada, and lawyer Stephen Green, I can catch my breath, and put into words how proud I am of my colleagues, for what we have been able to pull off in the past two weeks. In the U.S, stories like this are common:

Surrogacy: new parents stuck in US amid Covid-19 shutdown

Due to coronavirus, the US authorities would only be issuing passports for life-or-death emergencies. Everyone else would have to wait. As a result, Washington and his husband, Rob, 36, and their 11-day-old baby are stuck in an Airbnb in Portland, Oregon.

Under normal circumstances, the Washingtons would have applied for a US passport for their son, taken him home and applied for a parental order through the British courts. (Both men are British citizens.) But they cannot now get the US passport, and the British passport office will not issue emergency travel documents as UK law does not yet recognise their son as a British citizen. (Technically, his surrogate mother and her husband are his legal custodians.) “We are stuck,” said James.”
“There are hundreds of families currently stuck, or about to be stuck, in the US right now because of coronavirus,” said Robin Pope, an Oregon family lawyer and assisted reproduction specialist.

In Canada, our approach was simple, work diligently as an industry, reassure our clients abroad, and care for our surrogate moms here in Canada.

Our approach was simple, but the work attached to the approach certainly wasn’t. Working with Global Affairs Canada to create a system which would allow intended parents to travel into Canada, to be present for the births of their babies. Global Affairs Canada didn’t have us on their radars, but Cindy Wasser took the lead for our working group, and got busy educating the Canadian government on the stories of these families who were essentially separated by borders being closed, with very little notice.

The system is now in place, and we have seen it work – Clients travelling in, and out of Canada with babies. All of this while Passport Canada offices across the country are closed, other than for urgent issues.  We were able to plead on behalf of our clients that these were in fact urgent issues.

We are so grateful to the Canadian Government, Global Affairs, and Passport Canada for working with our industry and making our intended parents and their children a priority.

Here is some additional information from regarding foreign nationals entering Canada, and information on how the United States is currently handling this during COVID-19 pandemic:

Canada’s restrictions and exemptions for foreign nationals:

Foreign nationals arriving from the U.S. without symptoms of COVID-19 will be allowed to enter Canada only for essential travel.

Foreign nationals, excluding those arriving from the U.S., will not be allowed into Canada. However, there are exemptions to these restrictions for foreign nationals arriving from other countries.

Exemptions include, but are not limited to:
– immediate family members of a Canadian citizen or a permanent resident, which refers to a:
— spouse or common-law partner
— dependent child of the person or of the person’s spouse or common-law partner
— dependent child of a dependent child
— parent or step-parent of the person or of the person’s spouse or common-law partner
— guardian or tutor

International parents-to-be aren’t allowed to travel to the U.S. for the birth.

On March 14, President Donald Trump issued a travel ban that barred all noncitizens from entering the U.S. The ban exempted noncitizens with children living here who are under 21 and unmarried.

But what about parents who are expecting children here? So far, the State Department, which enforces the ban, doesn’t consider them to be exempt.

“Someone at the State Department has interpreted this exception to apply only once the child is born. It’s possible they aren’t aware of the surrogacy issue,” said Stan Brenner, a surrogacy attorney who represents the Sanchez family. “I know of many intended parents stuck in this situation.”

In a statement emailed to NBC News, a State Department official cited the department’s authority to determine when to grant visa exceptions, and indicated visas for surrogate parents are deemed routine, not emergency.

-Leia Swanberg, CEO and Founder of Canadian Fertility Consulting