01/04/2014 10:37 BST | Updated 31/05/2014 06:59 BST

Building a Family Through International Surrogacy

I had no idea it would be this complicated'.

We hear these words all too often from parents who find themselves caught up in the more complex processes of international surrogacy. Here at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) we are seeing more and more couples looking overseas to explore alternative routes to parenthood. In our embassies and consulates across the globe - from the US to Georgia to India - we are increasingly being asked by parents-to-be for support and advice about international surrogacy. Too often this is when they have already started the process and are facing difficulties.

For many families the process can be very complicated and varied. So that's why we've issued new guidance to help them.

If you're dreaming of growing a family it's understandable that you're likely to be preoccupied with the excitement that goes with that. So it may be all too easy to forget that every country has different laws, and the intricate legal requirements can be very difficult to navigate. Is surrogacy even legal in that country? What type of surrogacy arrangement are you considering? Is the surrogate mother married? These are just some of the questions you will face and they should be considered carefully. Getting independent legal advice from an expert in the field can help you get to the bottom of these questions.

Choose your clinic with care. Solid research will help to ensure you are dealing with a safe, responsible and reputable organisation. Try looking for testimonies from other families or research the country's licensing bodies to help ensure the clinic you choose is safe and legitimate (for you, your baby and the surrogate mother).

Perhaps the easiest part of the process to forget comes after your baby has been born. It's not uncommon when longing for a child to find yourself totally focussed on the process up to the birth. But getting passports and confirming nationality for your child can be long and complex. Preparing for this process in advance will mean you're able to get home quicker and will help you avoid unexpected financial difficulties and upset. Our guidance on international surrogacy and the Government's online information about passports and visas explains what documents you'll need, how to apply for them and how long they take. And don't forget that all important expert legal advice. You'll need that to help you get the documents in place for the UK court orders you need to transfer parental rights from the surrogate mother to you.

Building a family should be a time of excitement, anticipation, exhilaration and all sorts of other emotions. By taking a few small steps to prepare beforehand there is no reason why international surrogacy can't be a safe and happy start to parenthood.