The Indian Home ministry has imposed new regulations that prevent gay and single foreigners becoming surrogate parents to children from India.

In order to legally become surrogate parents foreigners will now be required to apply for a medical visa, rather than a tourist visa. To be granted the medical visa applicants will be asked about their marital status.The new regulations on surrogacy require potential surrogates to be “a man and a woman” who have been married at least two years.

According to the home ministry, attempts to enter into surrogacy without the medical visa will now be punishable by law.

A circular with the new rules was issued to embassies on 17 December 2012. However, the changes were not publicised and were only picked up by the Indian media on Friday.

Couples will also be required to provide a letter from their country’s embassy stating that they recognise surrogacy. Previous attempts to bring home surrogate children had been thwarted by states not recognising surrogate children, as was the case with a gay man who was prevented from bringing twin babies to Norway for two years.

India had previously been a popular choice for gay couples and singletons looking to adopt. Despite the conservative nature of the country, which only decriminalised consensual gay sex in 2009, a lack of regulation made it a relatively straightforward route to parenthood.

Surrogacy is a growing industry in India and proposed legislation has yet to pass through parliament. The Home ministry’s new visa regulation has been seen as a stop-gap addressing this problem, but also criticised for not doing enough to protect Indian women from exploitation.