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International Surrogacy: How Long Will it Take to Bring Baby Back to the UK?

View profile for Karma Hickman
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The answer to this question depends on the route you are using to bring your baby back to the UK and the country your baby was born in.

In my previous blog, International Surrogacy and how to bring Baby back to UK, I looked at the potential routes available (referenced below) for parents bringing a surrogate-born baby back to the UK.

However, one of the most common misconceptions I encounter is how long these processes might actually take. The reality is there is a vast array of waiting times ranging from a few weeks up to several months.

Route 1: Apply directly for British passport 

If you are able to apply directly for a British passport, then this is potentially one of the quicker routes - but it is still not fast. I generally recommend waiting until baby is at least 6 weeks old before making the application. This is so you can show the UK passport authorities that you comply with the requirements for a Parental Order and so that one is likely to be made in your favour. This ensures the application is more likely to succeed.

I suggest you then allow a further couple of weeks to allow the application to be received by Her Majesty’s Passport Office.

Waiting times thereafter vary greatly from country to country. Bearing in mind that the advertised application processing times are the minimum you should expect and that the checks carried out in surrogacy cases are extensive, you can look up current waiting times here.

Route 2: Apply for the baby to be registered as British and then apply for a British passport

In this route, you must wait at least 6 weeks before you can apply for your baby to be registered as British.  

Once the application has been sent, the Home Office will ask you to enrol baby’s biometrics. This basically means you have to attend a local visa centre to have baby’s digital photograph taken. How long this will take is very hard to predict, as it depends on how long it takes for the Home Office to send the letter, how long it takes the letter to reach you and what the biometrics appointment waiting times are like. However, it is generally another 2-8 weeks.

Once the Home Office has the biometrics data, its turnaround times on registration applications with the right documentation is usually fairly quick, about a couple of weeks. 

Once the baby has a Registration Certificate, you can then apply for a British passport for the baby. The waiting times explained under Route 1 will then apply although without the recommended 6-week wait at the outset.

Route 3: Apply for a non-British passport for the baby and then apply for a visa for the baby to come to the UK / obtain permission at UK airport

This is most commonly an option where the parents are living in the UK but are not British, or in cases where neither intended parent has a genetic connection to the child. However, there are occasions where even though the baby may be eligible for a British passport, parents choose to bring their baby back to the UK on a foreign passport.

If baby requires a visa before travel

If the baby is travelling on a passport that requires an advance visa in order to come to the UK (e.g. Indian), then you will normally need to make a discretionary visa application for the baby beforehand. Waiting times vary wildly from country to country but current processing times can be found here.

If no visa is required before travel

If the baby is eligible for a passport that does not require an advance visa in order to come to the UK, then there are two further possible scenarios you may face.

Scenario 1: If no entry permission is required at all because the baby holds a European passport, then you should just be able bring your baby back to the UK as soon as you obtain the passport.

Scenario 2: If your baby holds a passport that can be issued with entry permission on landing in the UK, then your baby may be given leave to enter as a “visitor”. This can be a risky strategy because strictly speaking your baby is not a visitor to the UK and an immigration official is entitled to refuse entry at the border. However, this is a route that has worked for some parents whose baby has been born in certain countries (e.g. USA).

If your baby is eligible for a foreign passport that does not require a visa at all then this will almost certainly be the fastest route for bringing them back to the UK.

What nationality will my baby be?

However, there is a common misconception that a baby will automatically be able to obtain the passport of the country they were born in. This is simply not the case.

The passport your baby will be entitled to depends on a complex interaction between British nationality and surrogacy laws, as well the nationality laws of the country in which s/he is born, and that country’s approach to surrogacy.

Babies born in the USA, for example, are entitled to a US passport regardless of the parents’ nationality or status.

Babies born in Greece, by way of contrast, would almost never be able to obtain a Greek passport in cases where the intended parents are British.

There is a morass of incorrect and conflicting information out there and it is essential you understand what your baby’s nationality and visa status will be at the earliest stage possible so you can plan appropriately and prepare for time spent abroad.

Read more on our Forming Families pages.

If you would like any advice surrounding this topic please contact our Forming Families team on 020 7091 2700.