- BY Hanspeter Tschupp
- POSTED IN Blog
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Probably not. (I try not to leave my audience in unnecessary suspense)
The good news—if you can call it that—is the federal government’s temporary closure will likely have little to no long-term impact on the vast majority of surrogacy cases. Most surrogacies are handled almost entirely at the state and local level, and have very little interaction with the federal government. Some cases, however, especially those involving intended parents from overseas, are beginning to feel the effects.
Approximately 25% of the United States federal government is temporarily closed due to a budget standoff between the two majority parties. Presently, this is the longest federal government shutdown in American history, and there doesn’t appear to be any end in sight to it. The standoff largely relates to differences the two major parties hold over current US immigration policy, none of which has anything to do with surrogacy. Nevertheless, as a result of the partial government shutdown, certain federal agencies that are deemed “nonessential” are temporarily closed and are not providing government services, while other agencies that are apparently more essential are providing some services.
Passports and Visas
International intended parents typically come to the United States once or twice during the entire surrogacy process. In order to enter the United States, the intended parents must have a passport from their home country and, unless they are from visa waiver countries, a visa issued by a US Embassy or Consulate.
Currently, while many embassy functions are on hold, visas are still being issued in most places. Therefore, at least for now, international intended parents will be able to hold meetings with consular agents, as well as apply for and receive US visas, just as they would during any other time.
For those intended parents whose children will be US citizens, the State Department is continuing toissue passports at passport agencies and through the mail, as long as the agency is not in a building that is closed during the shutdown. The passport application process can take four to six weeks, however, and these services may be suspended if the State Department runs out of funding before the shutdown ends.
Traveling to the US
International intended parents are able to travel into the United States and go through the normal customs and immigration security checks, even with the shutdown. This is because the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) and Customs and Border Protection (CBP) workers at the airport are considered “essential” government staff. As a result, airports continue to remain open and functioning during the shutdown.
However, traveling into and out of the United States may come with significant delays. Even though they are required to be there, TSA airport workers are not currently being paid. As a result, up to 10% of TSA’s workforce has called out sick. Moreover, some news outlets like Time are even reporting that the government shutdown has caused some TSA workers to quit their jobs entirely and find employment elsewhere.
Needless to say, intended parents, whether domestic or international, are recommended to expect travel delays and to plan ahead. Pregnancies almost never happen according to schedule, so cutting things too close is probably not smart in any surrogacy; even less so during a time when all government functions are not fully operating.
Court Services and Vital Records
Depending on the situation and the state, in order to establish parentage, intended parents usually need to obtain a pre-birth or post-birth order (or both), or go through some formal process, be that formal adoption or simply working with a state agency vested with jurisdiction over such matters. (The specific procedures vary drastically by state). Fortunately, because these parentage services are not handled at the federal level, their funding is not directly affected by the shutdown. The same holds true for the issuance of vital records, such as birth certificates. Such matters are handled at the state and local level so those respective offices should not be significantly affected, if at all, by the federal government shutdown.
- Get your paperwork done early. Apply for your visa(s), passport, plane tickets, etc. as soon as you can.
- Expect to wait. Everyone is feeling some pinch from the federal government shutdown. That might mean total closure of certain agencies, or just a slowdown due to a diminished and/or disgruntled workforce.
- Keep track of your records. Shutdown cause a certain degree of chaos. To be safe, do not rely that the government will keep track of everything they should, especially if you are traveling from out of the country. Make copies of everything related to your surrogacy case and keep them safe because you never know when you might need them