It is considered “birth tourism” when a woman travels to another country while pregnant with the sole intention of giving birth there, thus gaining citizenship of that country for their newborn child.
President Trump has recently announced new rules aimed at preventing birth tourism in the United States, where the practice is especially prevalent.
In this article you will find out how rules surrounding birth tourism are changing in the U.S. and how these changes will affect pregnant women applying for a visa.
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.
Women travel to the United States to give birth from across the world, however, the practice is most common amongst those from:
In March 2015, for instance, 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.
Although there are no official figures on birth tourism, estimates are available.
The Center for Immigration Studies suggests that between the second half of 2016 and the first half of 2017, somewhere in the region of 33,000 babies were born to women on a temporary tourist visa.
In January 2020, The Trump Administration announced new rules on traveling to the U.S. to give birth.
The latest changes affecting pregnant women entering the United States reflect the stricter stance on immigration in general taken by the current U.S. government.
Before the implementation of tighter restrictions, women were able to access the U.S. right up to the birth of their child. Now, however, pregnant women may be refused access to the U.S. if consular officials suspect them of Birth Tourism.
Consular officials now will have the power to deny a visa to anybody who they believe is traveling to the U.S. with the intention of giving birth there and therefore gaining U.S. citizenship for their child.
The U.S. government plans to make it more difficult for pregnant women to obtain a tourist visa for the United States by requesting they meet new criteria: pregnant women applying for a visa now have to provide evidence of a medical need to give birth in the U.S. as well as sufficient financial resources to pay for it.
The Trump administration claims that the new restrictions are necessary in order to protect U.S. security and public health.
The government has said that such rules are required to ease the burden that birth tourism places on hospital resources and target the criminal activity linked to the practice, including tax invasion and fraud.
Although unpopular with the Trump administration, birthright citizenship is under the fourteenth amendment to the United States Constitution, which is unlikely to change:
“All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the state wherein they reside.”
These changes will only apply to women requiring a tourist visa or other visa to enter the United States. Women from visa-waiver countries will not be affected.
Citizens of 39 countries can apply for a U.S. visa waiver online to travel to the United States for tourism purposes, including short-term medical treatment.
However, with tighter restrictions coming into force in January, pregnant women should consider the timeline of their pregnancy and be aware that they may be restricted from entering the country if officials suspect them of birth tourism.
Parents traveling to the U.S. with children can complete the ESTA parents’ application online which, as simple as applying for a single permit, can save time and money.