We chat with a partner and a senior associate at Watson, Farley & Williams about the law firm’s services. But first, let’s have small snapshot of what they did.
- Tackling complex surrogacy issues – we offer clear, concise advice so that you fully understand your options and rights. No legal jargon.
- Navigating immigration and nationality law – we deal with immigration law on a daily basis and can provide solutions based on a wealth of experience.
- Bringing your baby to the UK – we can help with the legal process so that you can focus on what matters most.
Watson Farley & Williams is a city law firm that offers a tailored service to each and every client.
Our UK Immigration and Employment team provide supportive and effective solutions, helping clients to navigate their way through complex legal issues, including international surrogacy.
If you are considering embarking on surrogacy in a foreign country, we can coordinate specialist law advice in the UK, and the surrogate’s country, from the very outset of the process to ensure that it is as streamlined, efficient and straight-forward as possible.
Now, moving on to the interview.
Angharad Harris is a partner and Anna Robinson a senior associate at international law firm Watson Farley & Williams. Angharad and Anna both trained at the firm and have worked together for over 11 years. They are both specialist immigration and employment lawyers and over the years they have been involved in lots of challenging and interesting legal cases.
Is it unusual for a London City law firm like Watson Farley & Williams to be involved in this type of work?
One of the professional rewards of specialising as an immigration and employment lawyer with WFW has been the breadth and variety of legal cases that we have been able to support. Alongside this we have been able to observe first-hand the transformative power that legislation has in shaping and bringing about changes in society and in the workplace. Angharad commented that since qualifying as a solicitor in 1993 she has seen a whole raft of equality laws enacted, which now prohibit discrimination on grounds of sexual orientation, disability, age, religion or belief and gender reassignment.
Why does this area of the law appeal to you so much?
Assisting people with their individual problems is what motivates us to practise this area of the law. There is huge satisfaction derived from finding practical and effective solutions and helping clients to navigate their way through complex legal issues. One such area is international surrogacy.
What would your recommendation be to people contemplating international surrogacy?
There are complex legal issues to be considered before embarking on surrogacy in a foreign country and this requires effective planning from the outset. Careful thought needs to be given to the UK immigration and family law considerations as well as the legal status of the child in the surrogate’s country.
The circumstances of the “commissioning couple” in each case will be determinative of various issues including the jurisdiction where the surrogacy arrangement takes place. If, for example, you were a same sex couple resident in the UK, where one of you was British, and the other was Russian, then from a UK nationality perspective it would be preferable for the genetic parent to be the British national.
There are some very practical issues to be addressed in some locations, such as having the correct entry visas to enable couples to be resident in the country of the surrogate for the period before and after the birth. In the latter case, depending upon the location, there could be a delay of many months whilst waiting for a passport for your baby. Of course, this might require one or both parents to stay in the overseas country for a prolonged period with potential financial and employment ramifications for the couple.
In parallel with the immigration requirements, family law must be considered from the outset. The application for a parental order can be started once the baby is born and before you have returned to the UK. There are various criteria which must be met in order to be able to obtain a parental order and gathering consents and the correct documents from the surrogate is crucial.
We appreciate the magnitude of these events in our clients’ lives and we work as a team to deliver an efficient and successful outcome.
What is the immigration status of a child under UK nationality law?
UK nationality law considers the surrogate mother to be the child’s legal mother. The child’s ability to acquire British citizenship will depend on the surrogate mother’s marital status and the biological father’s nationality.
For many commissioning parents, the end goal is bringing their child to the UK. A British passport can be obtained where the child has an automatic right to British citizenship. However, where, as is often the case, the child is not automatically British, then the process first requires the submission of a discretionary registration application, followed, if successful, by a British passport application. Any application will need to be accompanied by comprehensive supporting documentation. In addition, the surrogate mother will need to be a party to the application process in conjunction with the commissioning parents.
An important point to note is that obtaining British nationality and a right to settle in the UK for a child born through surrogacy does not terminate the parental rights of the foreign born surrogate and, if applicable, her husband or civil partner. Neither does it give rights equivalent to adoption to the commissioning parents. In either case such rights must be conferred by the UK court in the form of a parental or adoption order.
What additional services can you provide to same sex couples?
We are specialists in discrimination law and can advise on unlawful discrimination whether based on the terms of employment; in the opportunities for promotion, transfer, training or any other benefit; or where an employee is dismissed, harassed or subjected to any other detriment.
The other area that we frequently advise on is in relation to family-friendly rights and claims that can arise when a parent returns to work following family leave to look after their child. This might include where a parent is made redundant whilst on leave or where they are unable to return to the same job on their return or where they want to return to work part-time after their leave. Additionally, in the case of international surrogacy, the employees might need to spend periods abroad before and after the birth of the baby and might need to negotiate special leave of absence. Another important area of advice that we assist with is in relation to adoption leave and shared parental leave.
What would be your best recommendation for anyone considering international surrogacy?
Without doubt, planning and due diligence is the most valuable advice we can give. Look at all the options and potential paths that the process could take so you are fully prepared. From the outset you need to understand and put in place all the paperwork that will enable you to bring your baby back to the UK and ensure that you are able to apply for a parental order giving you sole legal status as parents.