When toddlers attack

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Thus spake Nancy

Preparations, preparations...

We had planned to book American Airlines via Chicago to Delhi, using our frequent flier miles to upgrade to first class.  American, in the throes of bankruptcy, announced in January they were axing a number of less profitable routes -- among them Burbank, the closest airport to our house, and... wait for it... Delhi.

So, at the urging of a pair of other travel-obsessed friends, I've defected to United Airlines and Star Alliance.  As I said before, we booked on Singapore Airlines, flying out 30 May, arriving 01 June, flying back 02 July via Tokyo and Singapore.  As of now, the babies' due date is 24 June, so if they're punctual we'll likely have to extend our stay -- but Singapore offers a changeable "Flexisaver"fare that's not much more than its base.  We'll have to pay whatever difference in fare there might be, but at least there's no change fee.  We've already changed once free of charge.  In spite of my efforts to cajol them into booking two as-yet nameless children so we could get the coveted bulkheads with their bassinette seats, the reservations agent remained steadfast.  My diabolical solution:  on the return, I've reserved a window and aisle seat with one still-empty seat in between.  Naturally, anyone getting caught between two dads, each with a newborn in his lap, will ask to be moved as quickly as possible and we'll have a whole row to ourselves -- ha ha!  With our luck, though, our row-mate will be a sumo wrestler who just adores babies.  I'm obsessively checking the seatmap to make sure that seat is still empty.

Even though we'll be flying in steerage (though even steerage on Singapore is pretty nice), there is an upside to not using our miles for the upgraded flight to Delhi.  It dawned on me that we could use them for a hotel -- so it turns out our miles are paying for our entire month at Svelte Hotel, with breakfast buffet and pool, where we can... uh, enjoy the sticky heat and monsoonal downpours.

We got our visas in record time... well, record for us, anyway.  When we went last year, we sent our visas together to Travisa in San Francisco, which processes Indian Visas for U.S. citizens.  Mine was done in about four days, but I didn't get it back until Adrián's was ready, some three weeks later.  I think they may have even sent his passport to the Indian Embassy in Madrid.  This time, he was biting his fingernails, worried he wouldn't have it back in his hands in time for a trip back to Alicante to visit his family at the end of this month.  Once again, he got an email from Travisa after about four days that mine was ready... and two days later both our passports arrived in the mail.   Not sure if the quick turnaround was due to his having gotten permanent residency last year, or just to the fact that we were already in the system.

And, after word from Bernadette of RastaLessTraveled that the U.S. Embassy is once again requiring DNA tests for SCI clients, I contacted Nancy Hamilton with the embassy's American Citizens Services unit.  She didn't quite go into what lead to the change in policy -- my guess is that there was a problem with one of the other clinics and that, therefore, that's making it more difficult for everyone.  She sent back some very helpful information:
The important thing to be aware of right now are the citizenship transmission requirements. In order to transmit U.S. citizenship to your babies at birth, you, the genetically related parent, must be a U.S. citizen at the time of the babies’ birth and must have lived in the U.S. for at least five years prior to the birth of the babies. When you come to the Embassy to complete the passport and Consular Report of Birth Abroad (CRBA) paperwork, you will need to show evidence of that five years physical presence. This can be done through current and old passports, tax records, bank statements, educational documents, social security statements, etc. If you are a born U.S. citizen you shouldn’t have any trouble with this requirement. When filling out the passport, CRBA and Social Security applications, only provide information for the genetically related parent and leave the other places blank.

In general, you should allow yourself about 3 weeks from the time the baby is discharged from the hospital to complete everything. Factors that influence how long it takes are the availability of appointments, waiting for DNA results to come back and the time it takes to obtain an Indian exit visa.

Right now surrogacy in India is an unregulated commercial business that is going through a major growth spurt and although there are many very good, reputable clinics, unfortunately there are just as many not so good, disreputable ones. Our experience and the collective experience of other foreign Embassies in India is that, because of the nature of surrogacy in India right now, no clinic or lab is totally above the possibility of making a mistake and the only way we can be absolutely certain of a genetic relationship between a baby and a parent, a legal requirement that we are obligated to confirm, is to do DNA. Unfortunately there continue to be cases occasionally where children born through surrogacy are found not to be genetically related to the parent they were supposed to be related to. And because the transmission of citizenship is based on a genetic relationship, not a legal relationship, these children do not acquire citizenship at birth and sometimes find themselves stateless.

The language on our website is meant to reflect the changing circumstances of surrogacy in India and encourage parents to contact the Embassy for current, relevant information rather than depend on outside sources or posted information that may be outdated. I don’t mean to paint a bad picture of surrogacy in India, because by far the majority of parents who leave India with new babies are very happy (more like ecstatic) and are completely satisfied with the services they received. But there is a dark side that has to be acknowledged and taken into consideration when handling these cases and adjudicating citizenship. I hope this background helps you understand why we do DNA testing.

When you are ready to order the DNA kits (no need to do it too far in advance, 2-4 weeks prior to the delivery date is fine) remember to order one kit for each person to be tested, in your case that would be three. We will try to schedule your passport and CRBA appointment on the same day as the DNA collection to save you a trip to the Embassy. Below are some links to our website where you will find more information and the necessary forms.

Your husband is welcome to accompany you to all of your appointments here at the Embassy. He just needs to be sure to bring a photo ID with him to get past security. With twins you’ll need the extra pair of hands! (I was worried he'd have to stay outside like I did once when he had a visa renewal appointment at the U.S. Embassy in Madrid).

http://newdelhi.usembassy.gov/service/reporting-births-and-citizenship-questions.html (CRBA and passport instructions)

http://newdelhi.usembassy.gov/service/reporting-births-and-citizenship-questions/surrogacy-a.r.t.-and-dna-testing (surrogacy information)

http://newdelhi.usembassy.gov/service/reporting-births-and-citizenship-questions/surrogacy-a/dna-testing-procedures.html (DNA kit ordering instructions)

Word has it she's leaving soon, which is a pity -- seems like she's eased the way for generations of American IPs.

So, bah!  An extra five or so days and 700 odd dollars for me, two babies and expedited service.  But as Adrián says, más se perdió en Cuba (which is a reference to 1898, when the U.S. swallowed what was left of the Spanish Empire -- fortunately for me, he bears no grudge).
The good news is that SCI is no longer recommending hiring an attorney to untangle the complications of getting the baby out:

Once you get the Baby Passports from your embassy you directly go to the FRRO Office (which is 30 mins away from our office), fill out their forms, pay fees which is generally few thousand3-4000/- INR and submit the form with the documents we will give you. The FRRO is giving the exit visa in a day.
Along with the passport of your bab/ies you need the following documents which SCI provide:
1. Surrogacy agreement.
          2. Undertaking from surrogate mother.
3. Birth certificate of child.

4. Copy of passport of child.

5. Copy of passport of foreign parents.

Rahul or one of the drivers know where to go and can walk you through it.

So the preparations for our return trip to India are laid.

But is anything else even remotely ready? 


Has construction begun on the house?  Nope.  No photos of a beautifully materializing nursery HERE.

Am I worried? 



  1. It sounds like you have a good handle on the exit requirements. THANKS for keeping us updated on the changing information from Delhi!

    Our trips will also overlap, with me arriving just after midnight on June 13th and leaving on June 27th. I'll be at the Hilton, next door, so hopefully we can get together while we're both indoors avoiding the heat! LOL!

  2. Sounds like a lot of work but worth it. And way to go on the miles for the hotel. SWEET!

  3. The puzzles of citizenship continues to evolve! It does sound like it's all a bit more organized now but I am nonetheless happy that part of our journey is WAY FAR in the rear view mirror.
    P.S. Bring a bottle of febreeze with you to the MHA and FRRO

  4. When you apply for your visa to go to Delhi ,to you apply as a tourist or medical and how for in advanced can you apply for the visa

  5. We have a lot of travel experience trying to get that extra seat between two people. You are right the sandwich seat is the last to go. BUT almost all flights out of Delhi are full. Here is the dilemma: There is only one extra oxygen mask in each row. That means in a row of three seats you cannot have three adults and two babies (5 people). Unfortunately if the flight is full they will split you and your husband up into different rows. We found this out the hard way, and now book ourselves two aisle seats across from each other. That way you are still close and all of the baby supplies are together.

  6. I have heard of a couple of cases of the child not being genetically linked to the parents but NEVER SCI. It would be heartbreaking for those IP's to say the least!! Glad you are getting some good advise on the exit process!!

  7. @Allie: Room parties!

    @Chad: Oh, right... go and burst my bubble! :) We had two-by-two seats on the top level of the A380, but I gave them up for this harebrained scheme...

  8. One free month at Svelte sounds great. We'll try to book using miles as well...assuming through AAdvatange?

    It would've been great to get together with you guys in Delhi but sounds like you'll be there about a month and a half before us. Let us know if you're ever in the Seattle area. Ahhh.. only 102 more days. We're so excited for you guys!

    1. Yep, we used AAdvantage miles. We may switch back at some point since they offer better service to Spain via Iberia.

      We're up there from time to time... we'll let you know!

  9. Here's hoping that you have a very smooth exit. Be aware that with flexible fares you might not even get a ticket to get out. We have been caught three times now with Singapore Airlines in Delhi( I do like them to travel though normally) as when we tried to change flights they were completely booked out for an entire 10 days due to festivities (different times of the year) which meant to get home earlier or later (whatever the case was) we had to purchase 3 entire lots of new tickets with another airline and it wasn't refunded. Very expensive process to say the least but bad luck on our behalf. Good luck.

  10. I would be a complete mess. And that is why I keep Fred around. He's good under pressure when it comes to detail like this.
    Take care!

  11. Thanks for all the updates! We are currently 21 wks and Nancy has advised us the same, CRAP is all I can say. Let us know if you really neeeded to do the test or not while you are in india PLEASE..if they do not ask fot it then we may chance it :) well knowing my hubby we aint chancing anything LOL


  12. I was lost until I saw "meh" at the end. It sounds like you know what you have to do but you're not stressing about it. That's perfect. Hope it all goes smoothly. And you're right not to worry. If your babies (and you) are happy and healthy then the rest is just paperwork and waiting. That's easy compared to makin' 'em.

  13. Yep, that's it exactly. There's a certain freedom that comes with lack of control!

  14. Wow what a lot to go through! I didn't understand a word of my IP's explanations about their citizenship paperwork, etc... but it sounds like some rounds to go through as well. They also have found a very helpful contact to whom they are very grateful for making things a little easier. It sounds similar, in a way, but reversed. They are in Spain, with a surrogate in the US, but the biological father of this baby was not born in Spain OR the US, so he has to go through the courts of various countries for paperwork. Oy!

  15. @anonymous -- I think most people go on tourist visas. Anyone else want to chime in here?

  16. I love how organised you are. But hey you have to be dont you? 101 days til your bub is born. You must have 101 things to buy for bub. Cant wait to hear your news towards end of June 2012. Thanks also for sharing your experience about your own family and their reaction to your news. It helps so much to share this with other IP's. All the best

  17. Hi Guys,
    We booked the Singapore Airlines Flexisaver last year for our journey. Our 3 babies were born in Feb 2011 via SCI. We had to add the babies to our booking after they were born, we called the Singapore Airlines office in New Delhi- cost 10% of adult fare for each child plus tax.
    We had some problems with the FRRO ("where is your wife", "are you a gay" etc) and we had a lawyer. A nightmare of a time really, I still can't laugh about it. But everything seems to have become easier since we did it. So the minute we had the exit stamps in the kids passports we called Singapore Airlines in Delhi for a flight leaving the same night. They were fantastic it was almost a full flight (no chance of baby cribs) but they blocked the seat between us. And they went all out to ensure that we had the three crib seats for second leg of our journey (Singapore - Australia).
    On a funny note we used Valco baby carriers for the kids and at each of the many checkpoints at the airport they kept trying to have me place them in on the conveyer belt to be x-rayed, thinking that I was carrying hand luggage. I kept saying "NO X-RAY BABY" then we'd all laugh.

    Svelte is a great hotel with a very nice shopping centre below it - lots of baby shops.


  18. Hey Brad,

    That's good to know. I'm not as concerned about the flight from Delhi to Singapore, but it's going to be a long trip across the Pacific if my plotting backfires. But it's encouraging that they managed to block the seat between you, and that you had the baby seats for the trip back to Australia.