Giving birth to a child can be one of the most gratifying experience that a woman can have.
There’s nothing like the experience of bringing a new life into the world and motherhood can be a great achievement for many women all over the world.
Deciding exactly where that child should be born is normally decided long in advance, as this tends to be the home country of both parents. Some women, however, choose to travel to the U.S. to give birth, a phenomenon known somewhat pejoratively as birth tourism.
The United States is one of the few countries in the world that automatically grants citizenship to people who are born within its territories, a practice known as jus soli citizenship. Birth tourism is essentially when a person visiting the United States purposefully gives birth on American soil in order to make sure their child becomes an American citizen.
But is the practice of birth tourism legal in the U.S.?
Like any other traveler to the U.S., pregnant women must also fill out an ESTA application form prior to arriving in the country. However, women who are intent on giving birth in the U.S. with a tourist visa often also misrepresent or directly lie about the advanced state of their pregnancy in order to connect with groups that help women take advantage of American citizenship laws.
Under normal circumstances, giving birth in the U.S. for foreigners is more complicated than simply having a child on American soil. Often, pregnant women are screened and those with advanced pregnancies or that raise the suspicion of immigration authorities may be denied entry into the country in order to prevent birth tourism.
In fact, U.S. immigration services warn travelers that they will take many factors into consideration, including a woman’s due date, travel plans, and medical insurance for the U.S.A. when making admission decisions.
Birth tourism and traveling to the U.S. specifically to give birth are considered technically illegal in the United States. In fact, in March 2015, authorities in California raided a series of “maternity centers” that helped wealthy, pregnant Chinese women travel to the United States to give birth to their children in the hopes of gaining American citizenship. The women reportedly paid $50,000 for travel and lodging in the United States while they waited to have their children.
While there are no set penalties for women who participate in birth tourism, the U.S. is reportedly considering placing limitations on its unconditional birth citizenship. Moreover, if a woman is caught intending to participate in birth tourism, this can lead to other consequences, including being barred for life from the United States.
It’s best to consider the timeline of your pregnancy before you arrive. If you are travelling with a partner and other children, you may also fill out the ESTA parents’ application which can also save you time and money.