International surrogacy during a global pandemic
Preparing for the birth of a baby on the other side of the world is a nerve-wracking experience at the best of times. Having to do it during a global pandemic is beyond imagination. If Identilab can help make the exit process easier, we will.
The COVID-19 pandemic saw unprecedented restrictions placed on travel across the globe, with huge implications for international surrogacy. Intended parents faced significant hurdles in getting in to the country where their baby is to be born, and again when trying to get back to Australia.
Babies born via international surrogacy in Georgia, Russia or Ukraine, are considered stateless and the Australian citizen parent must prove a biological relationship between them and the child by undergoing DNA testing as part of the citizenship by descent application process. Identilab is highly experienced in providing DNA evidence to citizenship applicants in these countries, but the pandemic added an extra layer of complexity. The staff at Identilab has worked tirelessly to ensure that the DNA testing process is completed as smoothly and quickly as possible.
One of our first COVID babies was born in March 2020, just as the virus was sending shockwaves around the world and shutting down borders. Sadly, the parents were not able to enter Georgia for the birth of their baby, who remained in the care of the maternity hospital while the DNA testing process was undertaken. The parents worked closely with their surrogacy agency, New Life Georgia, to coordinate the required paperwork for the citizenship application and DNA sample collection. As it was not possible to obtain the official birth certificate due to government closures, the Department of Home Affairs allowed a certificate of live birth issued by the hospital and medical records for both the child and the birth mother to be used instead. Under normal circumstances, the parent is required to sign an affidavit consenting to the sample collection and DNA test, but this had to be done in their absence by giving their agent Power of Attorney to act on their behalf. The baby’s DNA sample was collected 5 weeks after her birth.
Due to diverted and cancelled international flights, the courier network used to transport the sample back to Australia was significantly impacted and it took 3 weeks for the sample to arrive in our laboratory. Identilab processed the samples with the highest priority and provided the results to the parents and the Department of Home Affairs in Turkey (who was responsible for visa and citizenship applications for people in Georgia at the time) within 24 hours. With the help of the Australian government, the family were able to safely return to Melbourne at the end of June.
Thankfully, things have improved since then, with parents now able to attend their baby’s birth and exit back to Australia more quickly. Identilab is grateful for the ongoing assistance offered to us by Sam Everingham of Growing Families, who has helped dozens of families negotiate the international travel restrictions. Growing Families “is a consumer-based non-profit organisation focused on bringing together surrogates, donors, intended parents, families and professionals to network, share their stories and stay informed about best practice in family-building arrangements”. We are proud to be the exclusive provider of DNA testing services for Growing Families, a relationship that has been in place for several years.
Growing Families provides a comprehensive exit support package to intended parents including assistance with travel exemptions, introduction to a specialist travel agent, pre-clearance to leave Australia with airport authorities, assistance with COVID-19 testing, facilitation of priority return flights, and assistance with paperwork for citizenship and emergency travel documents.
Identilab has a special interest in surrogacy DNA testing as our Director, Kate, has been on this path herself. It is our privilege to be able to assist with this part of your journey and we offer special pricing for our surrogacy families. If you are expecting a baby overseas in the coming months and have questions about the DNA testing procedure, please contact us by phone on 1300 114 294 or via email at [email protected].